Motivation

In brief, by proposing this format for my dissertation I am…

  • responding to a broader push to reimagine the dissertation’s function within humanities scholarship
  • responding to the theories and history that inform my dissertation
  • responding to a personal commitment to the open education movement
  • practicing the kind of writing and pedagogical reflection that I want to take up in my alt-ac career

In-depth expansion below.

Theoretical Orientation

My dissertation explores nineteenth-century participatory culture. It feels at odds with my project’s motivating theories for me to engage in these discussions of reader agency and multimodal composition in a form that is static and closed off from wider participation.

In my broader project, I argue that the practice of literary borrowing enabled Victorians to re-negotiate social relationships and take up larger debates about text ownership.

  • Current-day discussions about open education, scholarly publishing, and alternatives to traditional academic texts raise some of the same anxieties the Victorians debated. “What will happen to the quality of educational resources and scholarly texts in the age of self-publishing?” “How do traditional modes of reading or evaluating older forms work with new media?
  • The act of creating an open text forces me to consider some of the questions of authorship and ownership that my primary texts take up. As I consider Victorian perspectives on authorship, I will also be conscious of the ways in which my own document will eventually be open to reuse and appropriation.[1]

I’m interested in the power Victorians perceived others as wielding (for good or ill!) because of increased access to and potential appropriation of texts.

  • I would like readers to feel empowered to borrow and remix aspects of my own work.  

I’m drawn to research the nineteenth century at all because this was a period of significant media in transition, something that shifted power relationships and authorial/audience roles.

  • We’re in our own period of media in transition. I’d like to take part in producing material that casts readers in a more active role. I believe that an open, digital project will help to perform something that my dissertation states: more forms of agency, accountability, vulnerability, and creativity emerge as texts become more open. 

(current dissertation abstract linked here)

Ideological Orientation

I believe in the values of the OER movement. These include a commitment to collaboration, a resistance to profit-motivated corporate platforms, and an enthusiasm for formal experimentation.

Pedagogical Orientation

It’s rare to have the opportunity to get feedback from so many experienced, highly-qualified educators about teaching, and I’d like to take the chance the dissertation offers to do so. I’m interested in my committee’s ideas about the way I translate my academic research into teaching materials. For this reason, I propose to include section that includes some teaching materials related to this work.

Professional Goals

I hope to pursue a role in an institution that focuses on teaching or the public humanities. (For example, I would love to work in a Center for Teaching and Learning or in a center like LSS.)

While a Ph.D. is necessary for many of the careers I’d like to pursue, a traditional humanities dissertation doesn’t speak to the primary skillsets that I would be using in these roles. I believe that a nontraditional dissertation would allow me to demonstrate an investment in the kinds of creative, collaborative projects I’d like to pursue in the long term.


  1. According to the CC-BY license I will attach to my work, those who repurpose or remix this project will need to provide source attribution. But here we already run back into the subject matter I study: my Braddon chapter revolves around a plagiarism and misattribution scandal. 

License