Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > A Novel of Education: Stories of Secondary Teaching in North Carolina
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On two evenings during the winter of 2014/2015, a small group of North Carolina secondary teachers gathered in a festive environment to tell stories about their working conditions. Recorded by video cameras, the performance of these stories forms the basis of this dissertation which employs the writings of Russian theorist Mikhail M. Bakhtin to inform both methodological and theoretical frameworks. Bakhtin argued that the novel was the most suitable literary genre for approximating the complexity of life as lived by humans. This life was characterized by heteroglossia; a term that Bakhtin used to describe the “situation” of multiple voices and discursive streams that saturate and constitute human existence. The novel, Bakhtin felt, provided the most faithful artistic representation of the myriad language genres that humans encountered in concrete, daily life. Significantly, he also argued that human beings, in selecting from, or responding to, these language genres, author themselves into the world. Thus, our being itself is imbued with an aesthetic quality that is intimately related to the ethical stances that we take as we respond to external conditions. The stories that the teachers performed reflect varying degrees of the institutional, research, and policy discourses in which their professional lives are immersed. The stories also include less formal discourses reflecting family, community, religion, and their relationships with the students that they teach. A fundamental proposition in the dissertation is that professional educational discourses are inseparable from geographic, demographic, economic, literary, political, and innumerable other categories of situations that are organized through narrative. The combination of these discourses blurs the lines between the teachers’ professional and private identities and indicates that their working conditions are contextualized by much more than the school setting in which they teach. Further, their stories also point to their perceived inability to communicate with the more authoritarian voices in education and this dissertation explores the dynamics of these multiple, hierarchical relationship. Because intersubjectivity is at the heart of Bakhtin’s thinking, this final consideration asks how teachers, located in a multi-vocal context, might maintain a dialogic relationship to the monologic, institutional discourses that govern their work.