Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Speech Communication

First Advisor

Daughton, Suzanne


AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF Lisa J. Raser, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Speech Communication, presented on October 30th, 2013, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: EPISTOLARY PEDAGOGY: COMMUNICATING CARE IN THE UNIVERSITY CLASSROOM MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Suzanne M. Daughton While many scholars have affirmed the importance of communicating care in pedagogical settings (Noddings; Bubeck; Held; Ruddick; Monchinski; hooks; Palmer) there is a need for more scholarly discussion about what the communication of care between teachers and students looks like as a daily, tangible practice. Geneva Gay writes that educators "are hard-pressed to characterize [caring] in actual practice, to put a functional face on it that goes beyond feelings of empathy and emotional attachment" (48). In this dissertation, I examine letter writing in the classroom as one practice of communicating care between teachers and students. As a teacher who seeks to communicate care to my students, I am interested in what pedagogical care looks like, in action. Since I have employed my own "epistolary pedagogy" of writing letters to my students at the beginning of each semester, I want to know how my letter might communicate the giving of care and how the letters written by my students might communicate the receiving of care. Therefore, the data for this project consists of my letter that I wrote to my students at Southern Illinois University as well as a sample of thirty letters that I received back from my students in response to my letter. For analysis, I utilize a version of generic rhetorical criticism combined with a nonviolent communication lens as a method for revealing and understanding the communicative patterns that exist across this collection of letters. The textual evidence across the letters from my students suggests the rhetorical patterns of: self-disclosure, hopes and contributions, assessment, and connection with my letter. These patterns help me to understand ways that my students may be receiving my letter as care. This project explores how an epistolary pedagogy functions as care-in-action because it opens a space for communication between teacher and student, leads to feelings of comfort in the classroom, and provides an opportunity for teacher and students to build a continuing relationship.




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