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Autoethnography in Undergraduate Writing Courses

Justin B. Hopkins

Autoethnography in Undergraduate Writing Courses blends narrative and analysis in an engaging and applicable account of how the genre of autoethnography can be a valuable addition or alternative to traditional research assignments.

Many writing teachers struggle to motivate and equip students to conduct meaningful and effective research. Practicing autoethnography—the scholarly combination of personal reflection, artistic representation, and social/cultural research—provides an opportunity for students to research and write about something that genuinely interests them: their own experiences.

A genre of personal writing, autoethnography is comparable to pedagogy pioneered by expressivists like Donald Murray, Peter Elbow, and Wendy Bishop, among others. However, combining personal writing with research—as autoethnography does—is more rare. Some compositionists have already used autoethnography in their own research and teaching, but this book demonstrates why more compositionists should consider adopting autoethnography into their pedagogy.

The author shares his own experience teaching autoethnography at the undergraduate level, modeling its potential and demonstrating its impact. Written in a lively, conversational voice, the book presents substantial qualitative research, including samples of student writing, supplemented by student interviews and surveys.

These data indicate that practicing autoethnography can have unusually, if not uniquely, positive effects on students’ lives. Specifically, the author identifies and illustrates eight outcomes of practicing autoethnography: increased reflexivity, improved research and writing skills, greater awareness of ethical issues, critical empowerment, therapeutic catharsis, enjoyment, and the development of a sense of community.

Justin B. Hopkins teaches and serves as Assistant Director of the Writing Center at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He holds a PhD in Composition and TESOL from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has published in a variety of disciplines, including over forty reviews of Shakespeare’s plays.