English, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Joy Ritchie and Professor Deborah Minter. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2010
Copyright (c) 2010 Renee McGill


This dissertation examines the college and professional writing of Annie Prey Jorgensen, who attended the University of Nebraska during the 1890s as both an undergraduate and graduate student. Annie’s collection of papers, housed in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, offers composition and rhetoric significant insights about women college students’ rhetorical practices at the end of the nineteenth century. Specifically, Annie uses personal experience and narrative techniques to deploy a feminist rhetorical strategy that allows her to inscribe gendered experience into academic writing. Annie’s collection offers a cross-section of writing from three sites of inquiry—the papers she wrote as an undergraduate student, the master’s thesis she wrote as a graduate student, and a published essay she wrote as a teacher at Thrall Academy in South Dakota. Close readings and critical analysis of Annie’s papers at these sites of inquiry allow me to consider the rhetorical strategies that Annie employed at diverse moments during her student life and teaching career. I locate my research and methodology in archival documents, including campus newspapers, yearbooks, curriculum reports, university bulletins, and Annie’s writing to draw conclusions about women students’ understandings of their own identity and the availability of occasions for writing about gendered experiences within the academic curriculum. I situate Annie’s papers within broad patterns of nineteenth-century writing instruction and the more specific context of the University of Nebraska’s English curriculum during the 1890s. This study also merges nineteenth-century writing pedagogy with women’s rhetorical theory. The dissertation thereby participates in a feminist project of recovery which underscores the connection between writing instruction that theorizes gendered experience and women students’ development of rhetorical agency.