The Rhetoric Of Writing: A Rhetorical Analysis of Modern Writing Memoirs
Illich, Lindsay P.
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This dissertation analyzes concepts of the writing self in works about writing by professional creative writers (writers, poets, and essayists). Through a rhetorical analysis of these texts, I observe that writers view the writing self as a complex structure that is fully conscious as a rhetorical agent, an embodied self that interacts with the world and actively chooses linguistic representations of that experience, and maintains a concept of self that is subject to influences which the writers do not fully understand (such as inspiration and insight). The discourse used by writers to describe their writing processes challenges recent critiques of expressionism and the model of social construction that pervades contemporary composition scholarship. Chapter II examines Virginia Woolf's use of the central metaphor for invention in A Room of One's Own, a river, which sharply calls into question a unified view of the self which is central to critiques of expressivism by composition scholars. Woolf's concept of invention requires a negation of the self and harmony with nature (widely conceived as the entire world, including texts). Chapter III, an analysis of two writing memoirs by contemporary professional creative writers, Annie Dillard's The Writing Life and Donald Hall's Life Work, finds that Dillard and Hall use metaphors that establish freedom (rhetorical agency) and bodily presence as primary characteristics of their writing processes. Chapter IV, an analysis of two collections of essays about writing by professional creative writers, argues that the writers' use of metaphors of inspiration and instrumental metaphors creates a concept of the writing self that maintains a sense of writerly control (rhetorical agency) alternating with a sense of a diminished control; ultimately, the two concepts coexist in the minds of the writers. Chapter V proposes that the rhetorical situation of the contemporary composition classroom affects students' creativity adversely. The chapter also suggests further analyses of writing memoirs can provide new ways of understanding writing processes (as opposed to one writing process model) and therefore contribute substantially to composition scholarship and pedagogy.