Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Creative nonfiction illuminated: Cross-disciplinary spotlights
by Sharp, Leta McGaffey, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2009, 157; 3366225
Abstract (Summary)

Creative nonfiction is abundant and popular. There are many names and definitions for this fluid, multimodal genre, which has played a role in its marginality in academia. This dissertation examines creative nonfiction in composition, creative writing, and journalism. I argue that distinct beliefs and values of each discipline have led to compartmentalized, disciplinary-specific definitions and uses of creative nonfiction. To understand why this is, and to develop and a cross-disciplinary understanding, I use Amy Devitt’s rhetorical genre theory to illuminate cultural beliefs and values that influence the names, definitions, subgenres, and views of the genre in each field. A rhetorical understanding of genre reveals the purpose of creative nonfiction, the themes it conveys, and perhaps why it is so persuasive and powerful. In examining composition I analyze the historical development of creative nonfiction, its definitions, and current beliefs and values about teaching composition. I argue composition limits its view of creative nonfiction by too often equating it with the personal essay. A personal-expressive pedagogy would help teach creative nonfiction. In creative writing I analyze the definitions of creative nonfiction and the AWP’s statements about creative writing education. I argue creative writing has inclusive definitions, if not rhetorical, but the culture of literature limits the genre for students. A strength of creative writing is the teaching of craft that I argue is beneficial for teaching creative nonfiction. In journalism I analyze the culture of objectivism from which literary journalism emerged. I argue literary journalists have developed definitions that identify the purpose of literary journalism and narrative form. I express concerns about the separation of journalism from composition and creative writing that has limited discussions about creative nonfiction and literary journalism. Finally, I argue each discipline should value one another’s views and agree on dissensus instead of focusing on denying one another or trying to find a single name and definition. I suggest narrative nonfiction as a subset of creative nonfiction that would benefit students in composition. Creative nonfiction engages students in writing and examining the sociopolitical world from a personal perspective, which aids them in becoming writers for life.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hea, Amy Kimmea
Commitee: Enos, Theresa, Hall, Anne-Marie
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Language arts, Journalism, Rhetoric
Keywords: Composition, Creative nonfiction, Creative writing, Literary journalism, Literary nonfiction, Nonfiction, Teaching
Publication Number: 3366225
ISBN: 9781109270419
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