Composition, curriculum, pedagogy, teaching practices, memoir, the personal, personal narrative, teaching writing, student writing


This thesis examines the promise and problems of memoir in the pedagogy and practices of teaching memoir in college composition. I interviewed three University of Central Florida instructors who value memoir in composition, and who at the time of this study, were mandated to teach memoir in their composition courses. The interviews focus on three main points of interest: (1) the instructors’ motivations behind their teaching of memoir, (2) how these instructors see memoir functioning in their classes, and (3) what these instructors hope their students will gain in the process of writing the memoir essay. By analyzing these interviews, I was better able to understand the three instructors’ pedagogical choices and rationales for teaching memoir in their classes. I have also collected data and research from scholarly journal articles, books, and from my experiences teaching memoir in the composition classroom. This thesis challenges the widely accepted notion that memoir and the personal in composition scholarship, pedagogy, and teaching practices are “‘touchy-feely,’ ‘soft,’ ‘unrigorous,’ ‘mystical,’ ‘therapeutic,’ and ‘Mickey Mouse’” ways of meaning-making and teaching writing (Tompkins 214). My findings show that memoir in the classroom is richer and far more complex than it might appear at first, and that the teaching of memoir in composition can, in fact, be greater than the memoir essay itself. Even though each instructor I interviewed values the personal and believes memoir belongs in composition curriculum, it turns out that none of these instructors’ core reasons for teaching memoir was so his or her students could master writing the memoir essay, although this was important; rather the memoir essay ultimately served in the instructors’ classrooms as a conduit through which they ultimately could teach more diverse writing skills and techniques as well as intellectual concepts that truly inspired them. Since the teaching of memoir seems to be even iv more dynamic and versatile in process and pedagogy than many of the other essay genres traditionally taught in college composition, this thesis makes recommendations for how memoir needs to be viewed, written about, and taught in order to harness the promise of this essay genre more consistently in the discussion of composition pedagogy and in the teaching of memoir to our students in the composition classroom.


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Graduation Date





Wallace, David


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program

English; Rhetoric and Composition








Release Date

May 2012

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic, Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities