Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Harker

Second Advisor

George Pullman

Third Advisor

Scott Lightsey


This dissertation evaluates the nature of Aristotelian rhetoric’s use in early 21st century First-Year Composition (FYC) classes and proposes an alternative reading of On Rhetoric that portrays Aristotelian rhetoric as a theory in alignment with Kenneth Burke’s portrayal of new rhetorics. Although Aristotle’s ideas about rhetoric exist in their current form as a result of a complex and speculative textual history, they continue to have a significant role in the writing classroom. The persist despite attempts to provide alternative models of rhetoric that better align with Kenneth Burke’s concept of new rhetorics. In 1987, Kathleen Welch proposed that this is, at least in part, due to shortcomings of textbooks. The second chapter of this dissertation demonstrates that Welch’s critique remains true about the state of FYC textbooks more than 30 years later. Furthermore, it draws attention to an Aristotelian Pedagogical Bias (APB) where FYC textbooks written to support rhetoric-centered pedagogies abandon Edward Corbett’s original proposal that explicitly acknowledges several classical models of rhetoric for a summarized version of Aristotelian rhetoric.

Upon further investigation into the nature of the APB and Aristotelian rhetoric’s representation in FYC textbooks, several issues become apparent regarding the representation of Aristotelian rhetoric outlined in FYC textbooks. This frequent truncation of Aristotelian rhetoric in FYC textbooks that disregards the assumed knowledge of On Rhetoric’s original, intended audience situates the ideas in On Rhetoric in a way that presents them as a guide to persuasion instead of tools that “give power to the truth” (On Rhetoric 1355a). Therefore, this dissertation concludes by determining that, although the APB itself is not inherently problematic, the way in which Aristotelian rhetoric is frequently represented to FYC students must change. If writing scholars indulge Ellen Quandahl’s reading of On Rhetoric as a guide to interpretation rather than invention, then Aristotelian rhetoric can then function as a non-modern, new rhetoric that is better aligned with Burke’s description of a new rhetoric model.


File Upload Confirmation