Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts

Degree Name

Composition, Rhetoric, and Digital Media

First Advisor

Janine Morris PhD

Second Advisor

Molly Scanlon PhD

Third Advisor

Juliette Kitchens PhD


Class and socioeconomic status in composition and rhetoric remains a topic that is felt, yet not often discussed. The language students use is highly indicative of their class background, and everyone has a slightly altered form of discourse they prefer (Zebroski, 2006). My thesis examines the issues working-class students have faced with literacy acquisition and discourse assimilation from 1970s–mid 2000s. My analysis illustrates how composition and rhetoric has evolved from the error-centered and hyper-correct culture of the 1970s to the technologically dominated, media driven production powerhouse that affects every aspect of college and beyond. To most effectively address how working-class student language usage within composition classrooms has evolved, this project includes a metanalysis from the 1970s to mid 2000s of composition and rhetoric scholarship that deals with working-class college students and pedagogical shifts in first-year writing. This analysis reveals that instructors who validate socioeconomic diversity in language employ teaching practices that enable working-class students to draw from their culture and linguistic backgrounds, their narratives of self, and their own lives outside of the classroom. My findings gesture towards another major shift for the future of composition and rhetoric, one that accepts greater student diversity in language and class background; recognizes more varied forms of academic writing that include narratives and collaboration; and encourages the acquisition of different types of multimedia literacies.