Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Eric Garberson

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Hodges

Third Advisor

Jorge Benitez

Fourth Advisor

Michael Keller


Multimodal writing refers to texts that use more than one communicative mode to convey information. While there is much scholarship that examines the history of alphabetic writing instruction and the alphabetic composing processes of students, little research explores the historical origins of multimodal composition and the processes in which students engage as they compose multimodal texts. This two-part project takes a fresh approach to studying multimodal writing by exploring the multimodal pedagogies of ancient Greek and Roman rhetoric and writing teachers, analyzing the role of mental and physical images in modern writers’ composing practices, and investigating contemporary students’ processes for composing multimodal texts.

In Part I, I re-imagine the history of multimodal writing by exploring the multimodal pedagogies that instructors of rhetoric and writing developed during Greek and Roman Antiquity, and I show how contemporary students use an array of multimodal composing processes that rely on both mental and physical images to write alphabetic text. In Part II, I share the results of a case study in which I investigate the processes students use to compose audio- and video-essays while enrolled in a multimodal writing course. This study explores what students know about multimodal writing before beginning the course, how they learn the software needed to compose these projects, the challenges students experience as they compose, and the similarities and differences students perceive between their own processes for composing alphabetic and multimodal texts.

Ultimately, I argue that composition teachers must acknowledge our long history of teaching with multimodal pedagogies and our experience composing alphabetic text through multimodal processes. Recognizing this lengthy history will decrease the anxiety that many composition teachers experience when tasked with teaching multimodal writing because, while typically only time and experience can grow confidence, in this case, a recognition of how much we already know will allow us to teach with the self-assurance we have earned.


© Jessica B. Gordon

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Available for download on Saturday, December 10, 2022