Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Patrick A. Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Laurel J. Black, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

James W. Kirkland, Ph.D.


This dissertation serves as a gathering place for the disparate strands of life writing, storytelling, folklore, and heritage literacy as they can or cannot be applied to composition courses, especially the first-year composition class. A wealth of knowledge surrounds students that could be used for research and essay material, yet students' background knowledge can be disparaged. In addition, interdisciplinary information may be limited by discipline boundaries or discipline-specific conferences and journals where the results are not generally known within the field of composition, especially by first-year teachers. The knowledge of the ordinary person and an understanding of how that knowledge and wisdom is passed is worthy of academic study in the first-year writing course. The topics generated from this study should tap into a student's insider knowledge and into the generational passing of knowledge within a community. Researching and writing about topics within a first-year learner's sphere of reference may ease the acquisition of academic discourse. My experience as a literacy educator, a storyteller, and an author informs my research.