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Reconsidering the fourth canon: rhetoric, memoria, and composition in the digital age




Clark, Meagan, author
Souder, Donna, advisor
Eskew, Doug, committee member
Lopez, Derek, committee member

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In this thesis, I argue that the rhetoric we teach and the context included in composition textbooks should comprise the discourse applicable not only to the academic discipline of composition but be equally relatable to current and modern demands of professional and business communities in which most composition students will be expected to write proficiently in the future. The consideration of the rhetorical cannon of memoria in the modern day writing classroom is one seldom recognized, yet exists as a highly influential area of discourse that has the power to prepare students in a composition classroom to enter any career path, academic in nature or otherwise, in the digital age. The distinct abandonment of memoria is an element that should be recognized and discussed by the field since the creation and selection of first-year composition textbooks relies heavily on disciplinary, institution, and program memoria. In this thesis, I have developed a four-way test by which composition textbooks can be judged, objectively. Through a qualitative study and analysis of five composition textbooks from the top publishing companies, using the four-way test, I have found that the most commonly used first-year composition textbooks rely on memoria. My findings not only provide reason for revisiting how the fourth canon is considered in the field of composition, but also that the current state of first-year writing textbooks do not provide adequate practice or instruction for writing in the digital age.


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