Extra-institutional sites of composition instruction in the nineteenth century.
AuthorWright, William Winfield.
Committee ChairMiller, Thomas P.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractMy argument here revolves around this question. What happens if, as producers and consumers of the history of rhetoric, we decide that informal literary groups, women's clubs, coffee klatsches, quilting societies, back fence conversations, hallway conversions, and letters home offer both instruction in composition and material for the history of rhetoric? This dissertation is a local history of composition instruction in that it concentrates on the extracurricular and extra-institutional instruction available to women in informal student groups and women's clubs in the nineteenth-century United States. I identify the local focus as the area of overlap between the interpretive theories of Clifford Geertz, the transgressive stance of Michel Foucault, and the feminist historiography of Barbara Biesecker, Patricia Bizzell, and Susan Jarratt. I articulate a strategy for reading current histories of nineteenth-century rhetoric that concentrates on examining the relationship between rhetoric and composition in Donald Stewart's focus on discipline, Robert Connors's and Sharon Crowley's concern with didactic history, Albert Kitzhaber's arguments for reconnecting to the rhetorical tradition, James Berlin's concern with ideology, and Nan Johnson's discussion of the cultural pressures on history. A rereading of the relationship between rhetoric and composition in these histories can provide us with definitions of rhetoric that do not reduce it to instruction in style and definitions of composition instruction that expand it beyond the role of assistant to rhetorical inquiry. The discussion of extracurricular instruction in composition focuses on the education in rhetoric and resistance that women college students provided for each other. The discussion of extra-institutional instruction in composition focuses on the activities and argumentative strategies of women's clubs. The conclusion offers a challenge to our assumptions about the top-down relationship between histories of rhetoric and composition instruction. The consequences of this argument include definitions of history that seek to empower readers of history, definitions of rhetoric that reconnect it to cultural critique and human action, and a pedagogy that includes attention to a critique of the academy and critiques of instruction available to students outside of institutions.