Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Lu, Min Zhan

Author's Keywords

Evangelicalism; Talal Asad; Materialism; embodiment; Translingualism; Representation; Hegemony


Religious literature--Authorship; English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching; Creative writing--Study and teaching


This dissertation argues for closer attention to the material conditions of student writing on religion. Writing scholars in recent years have called for the inclusion of students’ religiously inflected perspectives, values, experiences, genres, and texts in the classroom, but I argue insufficient attention has been paid to the broader social contexts in which composition students must write about religion. In the first chapter, I outline the basic principles of my theoretical approach and attempt to articulate the generalized exigency of this work in terms of our current political and religious climate. I contend that a clearer understanding of how changing conditions create and transform religions can better prepare educators to intervene in and alter potentially counterproductive understandings and assumptions held by students and instructors alike. In the second chapter, I illustrate this, demonstrating how approaches to religious students previously forwarded by rhetoric and composition scholars fail to adequately address the material conditions of the writing classroom and larger American religious culture in which students and teachers interact. The third and fourth chapters draw on scholars outside rhetoric and composition to offer a materialist case-study of American evangelicalism, exploring how its representations are distributed through various channels including institutional policies, celebrity representatives, research definitions, classroom interactions, and political platforms; and how these representations come to shape a society’s religious ideas, commitments and identities. I also examine the discourse of alternative forms of evangelicalism to demonstrate how religious formations are contested and change in response to changing social contexts, such as recent shifts in American attitudes towards homosexuality and women’s rights. In chapter five, I draw on translingual pedagogies emphasizing the critical use of students’ personal resources in the classroom to point out several ways students could employ their diverse religious resources in writing so as to interrogate and intervene in these changing religious contexts. Vital to these pedagogical recommendations is a focus on the role of disciplinary relationships, bodily practices, and material objects in religion, areas of study that have increasing value as rhetoric and composition looks to acknowledge these critical dimensions of learning and writing.