English Ph.D. Dissertations


Post-9/11 Rhetorical Theory and Composition Pedagogy: Fostering Trauma Rhetorics as Civic Space

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Advisor)


Though a recent series in JAC (24:1&2, 2004) featured special issue on Trauma and Rhetoric, little to no information is available in the Composition and Rhetoric field that provides instructors a writing curriculum by which to address social traumas. At the same time, only in the last several years has there been a noteworthy surge of theory and practice in the field calling for the inclusion of technology and visual rhetoric in composition production. Add to that lack of training available for teachers to maintain the knowledge to meet the growth of new media and its influences on current literacy demands and classroom practices, and these omissions constitute significant gaps in curriculum needs necessary for the 21st Century, post-9/11 writing classroom. Defining the needs of a post-9/11 writing student is a complicated process and requires a wide scope consideration of both ancient rhetorical traditions and contemporary composition pedagogies. This study uncovers the common characteristics of those traditions and pedagogies that best suit post-9/11 students by first considering the historic role linking rhetorical and composition education while explicitly concentrating on their shared function of teaching citizenry. Next, the text explores rhetorically resonant artifacts from WWII, The Vietnam War, and the Oklahoma City Bombing to indicate the shifts in literacy practices that seem to correlate with traumatic social events. The text triangulates Critical Theory, Culture Studies, and the Post-Process Movement to build a rhetorical theory and subsequent composition pedagogy based on three tenets: 1) the democratic values of traditional rhetorical education, 2) a complex citizenry that is both global- and cyber-responsible, and 3) the importance of multi-modal literacy. In the compilation of Post-9/11 Rhetorical Theory and Composition Pedagogy, it seemed sensible to describe the theory and pedagogy via three areas: literacy, rhetoric, and curriculum while also negotiating alternative production practices, teacher training, and assessment strategies. The result is a complex theory designed to utilize the intricate social and rhetorical situations derived from trauma events to provide students a commonplace by which to produce alternative compositions. Thereby, the theory and pedagogy developed here asks instructors to end the marginalization of students and their cultural and critical ability to engage in an advanced citizenry when met with trauma and rather to encourage them to be more involved in their education, their communities and their democracy.