English 881/781: Narrative Inquiry — The Story of Narrative Scholarship

Theoretical Foundations

  • John Dewey
    • American Philosopher
    • The importance of lived experience for learning
  • Mikhail Bakhtin
    • Russian philosopher
    • Develops the concept of “heteroglossia”: All language carries social, political, historical experience unique to each individual
    • “Dialogism”: The word is half someone else’s; all discourse and knowledge are created collaboratively
  • Lev Vygotsky
    • Russian linguist
    • Thought is external language which we internalize
    • All learning is socially based
  • Jerome Bruner
    • Actual Minds, Possible Worlds
    • Acts of Meaning
    • We make sense of our lived experience through narrative

Ethnography and Thick Description

  • Clifford Gertz
    • Ethnographer
    • To understand culture, we must study and describe it in vivid detail
  • Shirley Brice Heath
    • Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms (1983)
    • Seminal study of how literacy development is impacted by cultural background
    • Discusses some cultures as privileging storytelling which negatively impacts how the kids perform in school
  • James Paul Gee
    • Linguist
    • “Discourse communities”: To understand culture, we must study not just language but how that language is lived by the group

Autoethnography (1970s)

Literary Journalism/Gonzo Journalism

  • Truman Capote
    • In Cold Blood
    • First journalist to use creative writing elements to report a story
  • Hunter S. Thompson
    • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)

Important Memoirists/Autobiographers

  • James Frey
    • A Million Little Pieces (2003)
    • This book on drug use became a best seller and an Oprah Book Club pick
    • After Frey went on Oprah, an investigative report revealed that Frey had “fabricated” some parts of the book which created controversy and led, it can be interpreted, to Oprah ending her book club (she later rebooted the club using classic novels, perhaps safer terrain)
    • Frey said in an interview that he “stands by the book as being the essential truth of my life”
  • Johnathan Franzen
    • How to Be Alone (2003)–Includes a fabulous piece in which Franzen writes about his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss
  • Tobias Wolfe
    • This Boy’s Life: A Memoir (2000)–This book helped launch the memoir “craze”

Important Fiction Writers

  • Tim O’Brien
    • The Things They Carried
    • Stories about the Vietnam War
  • Milan Kundera
    • The Art of the Novel
    • “the wisdom of uncertainty”

Narrative Inquiry and Education

  • Jean Clandinin and Michael Connelly (1988/1994)
    • Narrative Inquiry
    • Provided an alternative to the quantitative tradition of educational research
    • Wanted to provide in-depth understanding of learning
    • Three-dimensional inquiry space (chp. 4)
      • Personal/Social: inward/outward
      • Temporal: backward/forward
      • Geographical: situated in place/”physical and topological boundaries of inquiry landscapes” (p. 51)
  • Harold Rosen
    • Stories and meaning making
    • Worked with James Britton
    • Part of development of Expressivism
  • Neil Postman
    • Explored a curriculum based on stories
  • David Schaafsma
    • Eating on the Street
    • Possibly the first narrative inquiry dissertation
    • Use of narrative inquiry to study children’s learning and literacy development in inner city Detroit
  • Roger Shank
    • Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence
    • Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) researcher who worked to build a story that could hold a real conversation with people
    • The computer was programed to think narratively and tell stories that related to the stories humans told it
  • Vivian Paley
    • The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter
    • Educational researcher who used stories to teach and study children
    • Looked at how one boy’s pretending to be a helicopter with a broken wing impacted the class and helped Paley to understand better how to teach him

Narrative Inquiry and Composition Theory


Model IUP English Narrative Dissertations

  • Wallace, Robert Mitchell. (2004). This Wild, Strange Place: Local Narratives of Literacy Use in Appalachian Families over Three Generations.
    • Fantastic dissertation using story and poetry interludes
  • Colvin, Benie Bruner. (2008). Passing the story: A study of personal memoirs—Letters, recipes, and quilts.
    • Great narrative dissertation based on archival materials
  • Graber, F. Elizabeth. (2002). Old Believer Women in a Postmodern World: Changing Literacy, Changing Lives.
    • 2003 Conference on College Composition and Communication James Berlin Outstanding Dissertation Award winner
  • Sohn, Kathy K. (1999). Whistlin’ and Crowin’ Women of Appalachia: Literacy Development Since College.
    • 2001 Conference on College Composition and Communication James Berlin Outstanding Dissertation Award winner

IUP English Narrative Dissertations about Composition and Literacy

  • Barnett, Stephanie J. (2006). Rock the boat but don’t make waves: The literacy perspectives of working-class, marginalized students and their parents from the Delmarva Peninsula.
  • Campbell, Elizabeth. (2011). Being and writing with others: The possibilities of an ethnographic composition pedagogy.
  • Dorfeld, Natalie Marie. (2007). Broke, bohemian, and burned out: An in-depth analysis of the adjunct lifestyle.
  • Eckard, Sandra J. (2001, October). The Ties That Bind: Storytelling in Composition Classrooms and Writing Centers.
  • Fitzpatrick, Caroline M. (2007). Women’s voices, women’s quilts: A study of discourse practices in a Pennsylvania quilting circle.
  • Glennon, Melanie Beth. (2017). Communicating and cultivating: Exploring the phenomenology of the extracurricular writing relationship through narrative.
  • Glicker, Eric. (2010). The student writer as blogger: A longitudinal study of a blogger’s critical narrative events.
  • Golden, Lara Lynn. (2013). Struggles to reach the disengaged: Narratives of young men who left high school before graduation, and stories from middle-school teachers and GED instructors who try to help.
  • Houp, George Wesley (2006). Public labels, personal literacies: Language and learning in the lives of nine adult education students.
  • Kelly, Elaine M. (2008). In search of one’s pack: A narrative study of a working-class woman in the academy.
  • Mackall, Joe. (1996). Porch Stories: A Narrative Look at the Stories and the Storytelling Traditions of the Places My Students and I Call Home.
  • McBride, Jennifer H. (2006). Trusting narrative beyond theory: One teacher’s story.
  • Mikoni, Dorothy Jane (2003). Silence: A Narrative Case Study of Six Women Practicing Life Writing.
  • Nora, Krystia. (2007). “A new lease on life”: Three narrative case studies from a subsidized senior high rise, participant design writing group.
  • Ramon, Alva N. (2016). Introducing the prison writer to composition: A multilayered, many stranded, nested, and textured 3D metanarrative that begins to unfold the untold story of prison writing.
  • Theis, Richard W. (2003). Mapping the Geography: A Narrative of Long-Term English Adjunct Teaching.

IUP English Narrative Dissertations about Language

  • Contreras-Escalante, Gerardo Ali. (2007). Rural voices winding through the Andes Mountains: A collective creative literacy research project.
  • Duncan, Elizabeth Rafferty. (2011). International mail order brides: A narrative inquiry investigating the lives of six female second language learners, their literacies and their acquisition of the English language.
  • Vallejo, Rosa A. (2004). Living La Vida Writing/Living the Writing Life: A Case Study of a Teacher’s Writing Group.

IUP English Narrative Dissertations with Experimental Forms

  • Mangini, Laura M. (2015). Collaborative dissertations in composition: A feminist disruption of the status quo. (IUP’s first collaborative dissertation)
  • Mangini, Sabatino M. (2015). Composition and the cooperative dissertation study. Our collaborative resistance.
    • The above two dissertations were written collaboratively (the first collaborative dissertation in the field of Composition Studies)
  • Lora Lynn Mendenhall, Lora Lynn (2019). Mitakuye Oyasin and service-learning: A narrative plan for ecological restorative justice, Jasper County, Indiana
    • A dissertation that discusses a model course
  • Petrucci, Michele L. (2005). Collage Literacy and Textual Landscapes: Four Case Studies of Individuals Layered in Words and Pictures.
    • This dissertation blends art and words
  • Stewart, Marjorie (2009). Fear and loathing in the English department: The strange and terrible saga of composition and creative writing.
    • This dissertation includes one chapter that is a fictionalized play