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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Yu, Ning, 1955-

Second Advisor

Dietrich, Dawn Y., 1960-

Third Advisor

Werder, Carmen, 1946-

Fourth Advisor

McDonald, Catherine, 1951-


First-year composition (FYC) holds a peculiar place in the realm of higher education. Frequently, it is the only universally mandated course that students must pass implying the presupposed value of the class. However, while FYC is generally valued highly, it is highly misunderstood. Much of this misunderstanding stems from various fallacious, problematic, or limited views of what writing is, how it is produced, and how it is best taught. This paper seeks to find a place for FYC by discussing what the course can and cannot accomplish. Post-structuralist work in semiotics, like that of Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, and others, provides a foundational discussion on and problematizes the ways language represents the world. Ecocritical theory proposed by Lawrence Buell and Dana Phillips addresses these problems by allowing representation to be reconnected to the space it represents. Beyond the role that space plays, Discourse theory outlined by Barbara Johnstone, among others, demonstrates the relationship between space and Discourse. This paper then moves to genre theory, which stems from the works of Amy Devitt and Anis Bawarshi, among others, providing a focus on the particular genres that individuals must inhabit to emerge into rhetorical situations. This genre becomes a nexus in which the external and internal latent matrices clash and are linked. Genre-awareness, which allows individuals to understand how specific genres respond to the rhetorical situation, plays a critical role in providing choice, and thus agency to the individuals. For this reason, genre-awareness is a key component to a successful FYC course. This paper links ecocriticism with genre theory to suggest that, beyond genre-awareness, rhetorical mindfulness, or a mindfulness of all of the forces within the latent matrices, is another crucial component of FYC. Genre-awareness and rhetorical mindfulness are easily integrated into and central components to an FYC course. These tools allow students to become conscious of their ways of existing rhetorically and gain some degree of choice, and thus, agency, as they move through future rhetorical situations they encounter in their lives.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching (Higher); English language--Composition and exercises--Study and teaching (Higher); Education, Higher--Curricula--United States

Geographic Coverage

United States




masters theses




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