Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Rachel Spilka

Second Advisor

Alice Gillam

Committee Members

Jane Gallop, Dimitri Topitzes, William Keith


Composition Pedagogy, Composition Studies, Discomfort and Writing, Emotion, Pedagogy of Discomfort, Teaching Discomfort


“Teaching Discomfort: Students’ and Teachers’ Descriptions of Discomfort in First-Year Writing Classes” uses qualitative research in first-year composition classes to argue that the experiences of first-year writing students and teachers complicate composition’s paradoxical reliance upon and avoidance of psychological discomfort in composition classrooms. Students’ and teachers’ values regarding critical inquiry evince a complex link between the potential for discomfort to generate knowledge and unintended emotional consequences that are further complicated by long histories of the value of reason over emotion. Students’ perspectives, in particular, and the challenges they pose, can help the field rethink the role and value of discomfort in our established modes of teaching.