Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeremiah Dyehouse

Abstract

Particularly in his early 20th century writings, the American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey advocated open-mindedness as a critical value for education. Rather than a passive kind of tolerance that is acquired through intellectual consideration alone, Dewey recommended open-mindedness that is attained through a combination of contemplation and embodied experience. A close reading of Dewey’s personal correspondence from Japan and China between 1919-1921, previously unexplored to this degree, highlights the profound impact that experiencing the different cultures had on Dewey’s understanding of difference compared to considering them from afar.

In particular, this study sought to investigate how Dewey’s experiences in Asia affected his understanding of open-mindedness; how Dewey’s evolving philosophical insight can help educators more fully understand open-mindedness; and how Dewey’s interpretation of open-mindedness can help contemporary educators employ his pragmatic concept of “intelligent practice” to engage writing students in activities that will help them attain openness.

Composition specialists can use Dewey’s discoveries to begin to extend multiculturalism and comparative rhetoric by requiring all students to research and write using rhetorical patterns typical in other cultures. A pragmatic approach to teaching comparative rhetoric can also involve a wider shift in the field’s inquiries, as students approach courses in other disciplines, and even beyond university, with the kind of openness of mind that Dewey comes to realize in Asia.

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