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Title:Using Complexity Theory to Investigate Disciplinarity: A Historical, Theoretical, and Ethical Inquiry Into Composition's Ethical Turn
Author(s):Massey, Lance M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mortensen, Peter L.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Abstract:This dissertation aims to understand and address the problem of disciplinary conflict. I advance three arguments---one theoretical, one historical, and one ethical. In the theoretical argument, I articulate a theory of disciplinarity based on the science of complexity, in which disciplines, disciplinary knowledge, and "the disciplined" are understood as complex adaptive, ecological systems---both in their own rights and taken as a whole. As I do so, I draw on and synthesize theories from such diverse theorists as Michel Foucault, Mark Taylor, Niklas Luhmann, and Bibb Latane. In the historical argument, I use the lens of complexity/ecology to analyze composition's ethical turn, looking at it in its emergence in the late 1980's and its maturity in the late 1990's. I pay particular attention to the rhetoric and reception of Stephen North's The Making of Knowledge in Composition---to how it reveals in the late 1980's a discipline in a chaotic state of oscillation between modernist and postmodernist attitudes and, simultaneously, a discipline that is composed of relatively stable alignments around humanistic modes of inquiry. I also analyze in detail the explicit conflicts between "ethicists" like Gesa Kirsch and "empiricists" like Davida Charney, arguing that the apparent incommensurability of such arguments can actually be a force for productive change in composition. In the ethical argument, I synthesize the theoretical and historical arguments to offer a vision of the liberal arts and sciences as "the sciences of the human and the humane sciences" that both allows those of us in conflict to see potential common ground and, even more importantly, clearly explains why processes of disciplinary factioning (and even conflict) are not only inevitable in such complex social formations but also vital to their continued existence. I conclude by calling for a new kind of interdisciplinary study, "polygraphy," that allows new, more fluid forms of academic inquiry to emerge from locally-focused, problem-oriented research projects designed to both aid the communities on which they are focused and to illuminate the local, regional, and national ecologies of physical and social space we all inhabit.
Issue Date:2005
Description:263 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3199080
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2005

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