Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English: English Studies

Committee Chair

Janice W. Neuleib


This study examines the role of face and identity as they arise in a first year composition classroom. Using the illuminating theoretical framework of linguistic politeness theory, new understandings of the social interactions in the composition classroom are unveiled. Specifically, through an analysis of the politeness strategies that students use during the peer review process, it becomes clear that students prefer to temper their critique of others' work rather than openly criticize that work. Additionally, students offer far more positive feedback than their peers' work perhaps merits, minimize the revision work they suggest, and downplay their own authority over each others' texts.

Likewise, the instructor also uses strategies to address the face and identity needs of the students. Through a case study analysis, the role of the composition instructor is examined and is found to be far more complex than initially imagined. The author of this study, through the implementation of a self-study, determined that her own authority and expertise figured heavily into the interactions she had with students through their compositions. By adopting a non-prescriptive writing pedagogy, the instructor found that the balance of expertise between the student and the instructor shifted when students pursued their own topics and genres for their compositions. Ultimately, the findings of this study point to the need for composition instructors to be ever-mindful of the invisible social layer of the composition classroom and how that social layer influences not only the interactions in the classroom, but also the compositions such settings generate.


Page Count