Date of Graduation

Spring 2010


Master of Arts in Writing



Committee Chair

Margaret Weaver


writing center, Composition, Socratic Method, elenchus, collaboration, writing center, composition, Socratic Method, elenchus, collaboration, power exchange in collaboration, D/s

Subject Categories

Creative Writing


The Socratic Method, originally known as elenchus, has long been taken as a “given” in writing center theory and practice. This thesis seeks to question the method’s usefulness. I explore the origins of elenchus to determine its original purpose, and then trace its evolution and appropriation by Expressivist Composition pedagogy. Next, I study the assumptions that must be made in order for the Socratic Method to work and where these assumptions fall short to bridge the gap between ideals and reality. I examine the power relationship between tutor and writer, which is not as egalitarian as it may first appear, and then I suggest a different model of tutor/writer interaction that is not based upon an assumption of equality, but upon the admission that there is an inherent inequality in the interaction between participants in a session. This model uses BDSM (Bondage/domination/submission/sadism/masochism) to study this inequality and explains how it may be purposeful and productive. In the end, elenchus is a method developed in a specific rhetorical situation for a specific purpose, and that purpose may not be in line with what Composition seeks to accomplish.


© Sarah F. Viehmann

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