Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Olinger, Andrea

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Member

Griner, Paul

Committee Member

Mayers, Timothy

Author's Keywords

composition; creative writing; pedagogy; disciplinarity; literate development; semiotic becoming


This dissertation develops a theoretical and empirical approach to the study of professional creative writers and teachers. Specifically, it examines how these writers developed their knowledge of creative writing and writing pedagogy and how that knowledge informs their work as instructors of composition. Despite the common practice across writing programs of hiring formally-trained creative writers (M.A., M.F.A, Ph.D.) to teach first-year composition and related courses, little scholarship in the field of rhetoric and composition or writing studies more broadly specifically focuses on the disciplinary and professional development of these writer-teachers. Through case studies of graduate students, contingent faculty, lecturers, and professors, this dissertation shows that these writers become professionals not only through acts of literate and disciplinary uptake primarily characterized by curricular-based advancement in a field, but also through complex negotiations with communities, institutions, values, and practices outside the domains of colleges and universities. In writing studies and the field of creative writing, the act of writing creatively tends to be viewed, respectively, as either undertheorized or without need of scholarly theorizing. Attendant to this view is one that, by extension, holds that creative writers’ practices and habits of mind are likewise either undertheorized or without need of being theorized. In contrast, sociocultural approaches to studying writing practices address the need for research into this demographic of instructor by identifying the complex relationships that exist across their writing practices, institutions of disciplinary sponsorship, and semiotic action. This dissertation argues that these relationships may account for, provide perspectives on, or offer insights into both these instructors’ practices in the composition classroom and their professional situatedness in the programs for which they work.