English Ph.D. Dissertations


Rhetorical Embodied Performance in/as Writing Instruction: Practicing Identity and Lived Experience in TA Education

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Daniel Bommarito (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sue Wood (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Other)


This dissertation explores how a group of first-year graduate teaching associates (TAs) at Bowling Green State university (BGSU) accounts for embodied performance in teaching first-year writing (FYW). Guided by a feminist community-based teacher-research methodology, I conducted a mixed-methods case study of BGSU’s Fall 2017 composition practicum course, ENG 6020: Composition Instructors’ Workshop, in order to understand how TAs performed embodiment as they taught for the first time locally, and for some, for the first time overall, in BGSU’s FYW program, General Studies Writing. By analyzing TAs’ teaching portfolio documents, including teaching philosophy statements, performance narratives (a video-recording of the TA teaching plus a written reflection), and observation memos, plus individual interview conversations with four TAs, I hoped to learn how first-year TAs representing a range of English sub-disciplines and experience levels demonstrated embodiment and performance, as well as teacherly identity construction, in their teaching portfolios. Through this study I concluded that my TA co-researchers practice what I term rhetorical embodied performance in their FYW instruction—they perform their bodies so as to construct themselves as the teacher. Moreover, I identify three modes through which the TAs demonstrate rhetorical embodied performance in their teaching: embodied engagement, embodied authority, and embodied reflection; and I explore how each of my co-researchers individually cultivates their teaching identity by referencing their rhetorical embodied performance in their teaching philosophy documents. I use this analysis to propose a pedagogy of rhetorical embodied performance for TA education, which would contribute to scholarly conversations in rhetoric and writing surrounding the theoretical and practical divide in TA preparation and development. Therefore, this dissertation project contributes to disciplinary conversations on the intersections of teacher preparation/development and identity, bringing embodiment and performance to the discussion and prompting further conversation on how writing program administrators (WPAs) might juxtapose approaches to teacher preparation and development with an enhanced understanding of how teachers represent and learn from their embodied performance of teaching writing.