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Re-Assembly Required

Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery


Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs

Entering the academy as an older woman, the author had not foreseen the challenges that awaited her when she left behind a successful career as a public school Spanish teacher/department head to pursue a Ph.D. She took for granted her position of power and privilege in an educational setting, not at all prepared for the rapid demotion of respect, self-confidence, and salary that she soon faced as an older Ph.D. student/Spanish adjunct faculty member at a research university that would serve as her academic, and later professional, career home for the rest of her working years. In this critical autoethnography, she troubles her journey through the Ph.D. and the tenure process, as well as in her position as a tenured professor. She describes a process that led her into/through the murky waters and mire of academic machinations into the light of spiritual discovery to affirm wholeness and celebration of Self. What sets this book apart is the author’s refreshing willingness to critically interrogate her Self throughout the process.

Re-Assembly Required: Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery can be used in graduate and undergraduate courses in arts-based research writing, advancements in qualitative inquiry, autoethnography writing, creative non-fiction writing, women’s studies, and critical pedagogy. This book provides a methodological explanation of critical autoethnography and serves as an exemplar for how autoethnography can be combined with critical pedagogy to perform writing that examines the university as institution through the lens of personal narrative. This compelling creative non-fiction narrative is appropriate for both academic and non-academic audiences.

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Chapter 1. Write a Book About What?!


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We must develop a compelling vision of later life, one that does not assume a trajectory of decline after fifty but recognizes this as a time of potential change, growth, and new learning, a time when our “courage gives us hope.” (Lawrence-Lightfoot, 2009)

How It All Started

“You look great! What have you been doing?” Shirley Steinberg, editor for the Peter Lang Critical Qualitative Research Series, had watched my progress through much of the tenure process. She had observed firsthand the toll it had taken on me as I moved through the process of returning to school as a mature woman with an established public school career, and subsequently going through a grueling tenure process at a research university. She had witnessed my weight gain during times of stress, and my weight loss during the happy times. She had observed my unhealthy skin, my lackluster eyes, and my defeated posture. She had heard not only the sadness in my voice, but also my constant laments, insecurities, fears. She had been aware of the monkey of anxiety who rode on my shoulder (Tilley-Lubbs, 2014). Now she apparently saw my recovered spiritual and physical self. ← 1 | 2 →

I have to stop and think. I do feel very different from the way I was when I saw Shirley about six months ago.

I finally reply, “I am back to me. After...

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