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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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During my senior year of high school, I told my music instructor that I wanted to play trumpet in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign marching band. “You are not good enough for the band,” she said, laughing. I stared at her, deflated by her comment, and then sheepishly agreed. “Okay,” I replied. “You know best.”

I began playing the piano at the age of 8 and the trumpet around 10. I performed many trumpet solos for Catholic masses, participated in an honors band at Bradley University, and regularly served as the lead trumpeter at school concerts and basketball games. Was I great? No. Did I practice enough? No. But I was decent, and when I played, I tried my best.

Yet, having worked with the music instructor for nearly a decade, I trusted her; she was an esteemed mentor. So, at the end of my senior year, I ran away from the trumpet and suppressed any desire for making music.

* * *

Thankfully, I have returned to making music. Only now I use language and a computer keyboard as my instruments. I type as though I am playing the piano again. I try to write rhythmically, often singing the prose to myself to create captivating tunes with words. I sometimes resent my music instructor ← xv | xvi → and reflect on the career that might have been. I am ashamed that I allowed one person to ruin a dream—even if she may...

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