English Ph.D. Dissertations


The Construction of Self in the Contemporary Creative Writing Workshop: A Personal Journey

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Sue Wood (Advisor)


After receiving an MFA in Creative Writing, I continued graduate study in Rhetoric. Before entering this new degree program, the views I'd developed in respect to my writing process were shaped, primarily, by the conventional “rhetorics” of the MFA program. The construction of my identity-my “style,” or “voice,” or self-was one of a staid, concrete centeredness, oftentimes described as the authentic or autonomous self. For this reason, I viewed the formation of voice in writing as a practice involving the speaking of this authentic self. And since mine was a product-centered process, I viewed the rhetorical situation as somehow grounded in the poems I produced, as in, my writing had its own reason for being. Finally, this product-centered speaking of an authentic self relied wholly upon “inspiration,” and I viewed my creative processes as individual and autonomous. Ideas I'd formed concerning the writing process, the construction of the self through writing, the formation of “voice,” the rhetorical “situation” (as the impetus for creation), and the nature of creativity would soon be revised in light of research in contemporary composition pedagogy. Pedagogical practices in the creative writing classroom must recognize the students' processes, in the construction of the self in writing, in the construction of aesthetic perspectives, and in the ongoing growth all writers-both students and teachers-must assimilate during the writing process. The purpose of this dissertation project is to define the workshop as a site for identity construction, and to illustrate how the construction of self is more complicated than has oftentimes been assumed. To do this, I will overview notions of self in Classical and contemporary rhetoric, and then explore ways these notions influence the teaching and practice of creative writing. The end goal of this dissertation is to suggest a pedagogical model based upon a revised notion of identity. This dissertation is written as a personal and intellectual journey and so many of its assumptions and conclusions are drawn directly from my own practice as a writer, and from my experience as a teacher.