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Richard Marback


This dissertation provides a theoretical account of how composition studies might enact a rhetoric of activism that sufficiently links literacy education to the work of social justice. In arguing that composition studies has largely failed to institutionalize actions that motivate people to work for social change, I examine the rhetoric and actions of an actual social justice movement, the Catholic Worker Movement (CWM). My examination of the rhetoric and actions of the CWM suggests that establishing a meaningful rhetorical context for encouraging others to engage in the work of social justice requires using literacy to transform the institutional structures governing our interactions with others. Subsequently, through my study of the CWM, I identify a rhetorical principle for composition studies that conceives good rhetoric as a way of being in the world with different "others" in ways that are just. More specifically, this rhetorical principle highlights how people can use language to promote a collective commitment to others who are different for the purpose of sustaining just interactions between the socially privileged and the oppressed. I conclude by suggesting how my analysis of the CWM's articulation of this rhetorical principle can inform the work of critical pedagogy and service learning in composition by providing a more complete context for the rhetorical work of institutions.

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