English Ph.D. Dissertations


Audience Matters: Exploring Audience in Undergraduate Creative Writing

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Richard C. Gebhardt (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Wendell Mayo (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Vincent Corrigan (Committee Member)


This study explores undergraduate creative writing instruction with regard to the complex issue of audience in the three areas that converge in the creative writing classroom: rhetoric and writing theory, literary theory, and creative writing pedagogy.

After an overview of the project in Chapter One, Chapter Two reviews scholarship specific to creative writing pedagogy. The core of the study, Chapter Three explores the theoretical approaches to audience from both rhetorical theory and literary theory and creates a theoretical lens in which to examine audience in undergraduate creative writing. Chapter Four shows the methodological approach and the data analysis methods used in a pilot study of undergraduate creative writing syllabi and textbooks. Included in this chapter is a table listing terms that suggest audience developed from the theory built in Chapter Three. This table informs the pilot study.

Chapter Five provides the results of the pilot study, offering evidence of how audience manifests itself within twenty-seven syllabi and twenty-four currently used creative writing textbooks. By tabulating the references to audience and analyzing their contexts, I offer a look into how the reader is considered in undergraduate creative writing instruction. The distinct and interesting patterns that emerged are explained in Chapter Six. Besides revealing the ways and contexts in which audience surfaces in the teaching of creative writing, I offer suggestions on how this important concern to writers can be more transparent. This chapter uncovers the ways in which audience functions-or perhaps can function-within the creative writing classroom.

Given that some creative writing instructors are admittedly apprehensive about having a theoretical foundation for their instruction, this dissertation argues that taking on the single issue of audience may create a more critical approach to student writing, and may create avenues to examine other important writerly matters within introductory creative writing classes.