What is a writer? : historicizing constructions of the writing life in composition and creative writing

Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (ix, 325 pages) : illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Charles Shepherdson

Committee Members

Robert Yagelski, Susan Doe


Composition, Creative Writing, Creative writing, Authorship, English language, Authors

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Rhetoric


As Kelly Ritter notes in To Know Her Own History, "the politics of creative writing versus composition is in large part undertheorized" (159). The dissertation takes up this theoretical task by comparing the versions of the writer that have been assumed by composition and creative writing. Through a Foucauldian sociohistorical analysis of the rhetoric produced by academic and nonacademic literary writing cultures in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the project shows that the identity of the writer is one site where creative writing and composition contest their disciplinary identities, and constructions of the writer on both sides of the disciplinary fence have problematic implications. This study traces constructions of the writer-subject in the aesthetic tradition that considers the life of the artist to be part of invention. It shows how discussions of creative writing comprise what Foucault calls "techniques of the self" that cultivate practices and modes of feeling associated with the literary writer. Creative writing's discursive practices produce forms of subjectivity and the recognition of the writer-self that run in contrast to the constructions of the writer that are found in composition.

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