Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The development of "composition" out of larger rhetorical studies in American

colleges and universities has narrowed the scope of rhetorical training our students

receive, most notably excluding the political and social dimensions of persuasion. This

dissertation is an attempt to recover the larger political and civic scope that was the

original focus of rhetoric. I join a growing chorus of voices seeking to bring classroom

practice to bear on the larger social and civic lives of our students. My approach is

original in that it blends classical rhetoric with contemporary ideological theory to derive

a pedagogy that will allow students to see the importance of rhetoric and persuasion in

their lives and provide them with a techne, a set of skills that can be used to analyze and

generate discourse for a variety of audiences, including academic ones.

I begin by showing that current-traditional composition methodologies and

theories do not allow for students to productively generate social and civic discourse, a

significant change in rhetoric study. Because of the lack of civic and ideological focus,

students tend to parrot the arguments they are exposed to without truly examining their

underlying principles. The origin of this "formalist" approach lies in the peculiar

response to an expanding student population and a new model of the university that

began to take shape in The United States in the nineteenth century. Increasingly undertrained

students were faced with a curriculum that demanded an ever-increasing

specialization of its scholars. As a result, remedial efforts at training newer students to

write "academic" prose became standard practice.

As an alternative, I propose a composition course based on classical rhetorical

principles. Concepts such as ethos, pathos, and logos; decorum; enthymemic reasoning;

and audience analysis are central to argumentation in both the contemporary era and in

the classical age. However, contemporary understandings of ideology as the underlying

motivation for most human belief and behavior must be taken into consideration. By

incorporating contemporary ideological theory into classical rhetorical theory, this project

will provide a pedagogical model that will allow students to participate more fully in the

civic arena, and give them a set of skills that can be used in academic settings, thus

remaining true to the larger civic nature of rhetoric, while fulfilling institutional goals for

composition classes.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.