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Recovering a "Lost" Genre: The Essay

In this dissertation I argue that faculty and scholars in rhetoric and composition could improve their pedagogy and scholarship by "reclaiming" the genre at the heart of composition curricula nationwide: the essay. Why do we need to "reclaim" it if it is already so central? Because the closer we examine the essay historically, in all its glorious suppleness and subjectivity, the less it resembles the essay that writing faculty and scholars teach, write, and valorize in academia today.In chapter one, "W(h)ither the Essay?", I contrast the essay with the article and suggest that the former genre is antithetical to and superior to the latter. I make the case that the essay enables writers to explore their thoughts and advance an argument simultaneously. I conclude the chapter by focusing on the development of a compelling essay by an undergraduate composition student.In chapter two, "Psychic Distance and a Call for Craft," I examine the reasons rhetoric and composition has neglected expressivism, and I argue that the discipline should focus more attention on issues of craft--particularly psychic distance, a concept that I contend offers a valuable way for writers to think about their prose essayistically.In chapter three, "Toward a Pedagogy of Psychic Distance," I articulate several strategies for teaching psychic distance to composition students.In chapter four, "Shushes and Whispers in the Parlor: Questioning the 'Conversation' Metaphor in Rhetoric and Composition," I make the case that the ubiquitous metaphor of writing as joining an ongoing conversation masks ulterior disciplinary motives that too often go unexamined.In chapter five, "The Importance of Autopsies: The Death of the General-Interest Magazine in Publishing and the Death of the Essay in Academia," I explore parallels between the two deaths and argue that we should mourn the losses of these bygone forms of literacy. Finally, I reflect on the future of the essay and speculate on the pedagogical promise of the multimedia essay.
Date January 2008
CreatorsEllis, Erik
ContributorsEnos, Theresa, Hall, Anne-Marie, Enos, Theresa, Hall, Anne-Marie, Miller, Thomas P.
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
Source SetsUniversity of Arizona
Detected LanguageEnglish
Typetext, Electronic Dissertation
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.

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