Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Patrick Slattery

Committee Member

David Jolliffe

Second Committee Member

Robert Cochran


Social sciences, Education, Composition, Developmental, Ethnography, Missouri, Ozarks, Rural education


This dissertation describes a year-long ethnographic study of rural basic writers in the Missouri Ozarks. Using Richard Hofstadter's concept of "anti-intellectualism" as a theoretical lens, I explored the attitudes of students towards writing and academic culture. This exploration was conducted by means of questionnaires, interviews, writing samples, and several experimental courses.

Using all these data-collection mechanisms, I was able to identify three characteristics of these students. They were likely to demonstrate a dualistic ("right/wrong") epistemology. Accordingly, they expected their academic reading to make matter-of-fact truth claims. Finally, students were unlikely to understand the transformative nature of any educational enterprise, hoping instead to acquire discrete skills and knowledges that could be used to secure higher-paying, more stable employment.

In addition to describing the study, this dissertation proposes a curriculum for guiding similar students through their introductory writing courses. Following in the footsteps of James Paul Gee, David Bartholomae, Patricia Bizzell, and others, I argue that basic writers need to be introduced to academic discourse through a process of "acculturation." Finally, I explore the ethical implications of both ethnographic classroom research and the acculturation of student groups.