Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

John Muckelbauer


My dissertation re-engages a central question of composition and rhetoric – can writing be taught? – as a means of interrogating the relationship between form and response. In so doing, I argue that writing can be trained as a set of capacities and dispositions through repeated practice with rhetorical forms. In advancing this claim, I demonstrate that formal practices, such as modal writing, imitation, and repetition, have been unfairly dismissed as overly rote and mechanical because form has traditionally been understood as a technical means of achieving a particular end. I argue that, instead, repeated engagement with and movement between forms cultivates a rhetorical agility that allows writers to more inventively and ethically respond to the uniqueness of particular writing situations. Beyond the classroom, I argue that the pedagogical power of iterative engagements with form helps shape one’s ability to respond to difference more generally. Along these lines, my argument interrogates the pedagogical consequences of practicing writing program administration and theorizes a means by which to cultivate a rhetorical agility within an institutional context. Thus, I ultimately claim that writing cannot be taught as generalizable products and processes, but can be cultivated at un/conscious, bodily, and affective levels that enable writers and administrators to respond inventively to the singular demands of the rhetorical situations they encounter. This means that, far from functioning as technical skills, writing and rhetoric are enmeshed in a rhetor’s habitual capacity to respond to difference.


© 2016, Nathaniel Street