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 Deborah W. Minter. Lincoln, Nebraska: October, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Margarette Christensen


This dissertation articulates a writing pedagogy based on a theory of intermodality to help writing instructors navigate the affordances and challenges of multimodal composition. Drawing from recent discoveries in neuroscience about how the brain makes meaning, I situate this pedagogy of intermodality – literally, “between the modes” – within the Rhetoric and Composition traditions of embodied rhetoric and visual/multi-sensory rhetoric. A pedagogy attuned to intermodality capitalizes on how the senses (“modes”) work together to create meaning when composing with sound, image, movement, and text. In addition to the five senses, intermodality also incorporates the cultural, social, and material aspects of meaning-making.

This study focuses on my own writing classrooms as sites of inquiry for implementing intermodality at key points in the writing process – invention, revision, reflection, and moments of resistance – as students compose digital literacy narratives. The digital literacy narrative provides an ideal opportunity to study intermodality in the writing classroom because of its invitation for students to reflect critically on their perceptions of digital writing specifically and literacy more generally, and its ability to encourage students to (re)position themselves as agents in their own stories. The text describes the synergistic, imagistic, and embodied dimensions of a pedagogy of intermodality and suggests the increased avenues for student expression, analysis, and persuasion when writing digitally. A pedagogy of intermodality reinforces the embodied, sensory aspects of writing by opening students to the affiliative elements of writing such as emotion, memory, and experience. The dissertation argues that, coupled with more traditional rhetorical instruction, a writing pedagogy attentive to intermodality helps students construct and implement effective rhetorical decision-making processes as they compose multimodally.

Advisor: Deborah W. Minter