Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Carol Mattingly


Recently, composition scholars have shown interest in examining their own language. My study furthers this interest by providing a historical analysis of the terminology commonly used in composition studies. The historical focus allows an analysis of how our vocabulary has changed in relation to specific schools of thought in composition studies, thus encouraging an awareness of the influence of context--professional, institutional, cultural, and personal--on the scholarship in composition studies. Such influences, I argue, are often ignored to the detriment of our discipline. Chapter one further explains the scope and purpose of my study. Chapters two and three analyze in-depth two terms, audience and authority, both of which have been both elusive and problematic in the field. I follow the developments and changing uses of these terms as seen in composition studies' major publications since the 1960s, the decade of the "paradigm shift" to process theories of writing. Audience and authority serve as case studies to illustrate the importance of reading our disciplinary scholarship and our disciplinary history with a critical eye and with an awareness of the different contexts from which they emerge. In chapter four, I put into practice the suggestions offered in the above chapters. In this section, I provide a glossary of frequently used terms in composition studies. Each definition is divided into four sections. In section (a), I provide a brief, historical explanation of the term, giving a working definition of the term as well as knowledge of past roles the term has played in conversation. I also indicate negative and/or position connotations of the term. Section (b) includes definitions of the term offered by established composition scholars, and section (c) provides examples of the word in context. Section (d) includes names often associated with the concept. By looking at the terms historically and by looking at the various meanings, I attempt to put our language in context and to encourage diverse voices from various locations to take part in the composition conversation.