Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



First Advisor

Nedra Reynolds


Until now, histories of composition studies have been predicated on the idea that discipline formation stems solely from textual evidence generated by individual scholars; few histories, however, take into account the influence of social networks formed by the field's professionals. Addressing what Janice Lauer refers to as "loopholes" in composition history, this dissertation constructs a working definition of social networks while it also offers an extended example of their historical significance.

I focus on the 1978-79 NEH Fellowship, "Rhetorical Invention and the Composing Process," directed by Richard Young at Carnegie-Mellon University. From oral and print sources including interviews with or texts written by the fellowship participants, I gathered information concerning the social network that developed from the 1978-79 fellowship. I present this history of the fellowship as a conversation among the participants and the director. In addition, a section of commentary following the conversation indicates social networks' integral position in composition studies.

In composition history, a discussion of discipline development is always complicated by its seemingly dissonant components which include journal formation, professional projects, conference presentations, and the role of networking among the field's professionals. A history of the field based on social networks, however, gathers these components and addresses them in relation to professional activity. This dissertation proposes a new way to examine traditional areas of inquiry within composition history.



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