Thesis Title

An Examination of the Metaphorical Structure of Writing Centers: One Metaphor to Bring Them All to Understanding and Define Them

Date of Graduation

Fall 2002


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Margaret Weaver

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


Looking at the various metaphors that have been used to describe writing centers over the last thirty to fifty years, I classify these metaphors into three distinct categories. Based on the assertion that metaphors can help to create and define perception, many writing center scholars have used metaphor to describe what happens in a writing center in an attempt to communicate the function of a writing center and to encourage writers to use a writing center. I examine the major metaphors used to explain, describe, and understand the function and mission of a writing center. I address several questions: What metaphors have defined the field? How have the metaphors promoted misunderstanding? How have these metaphors influenced the roles of student, tutor, and faculty? Originally, metaphor was invoked by others as a way to describe writng centers. Today, however, more prescriptive approaches are taken to create metaphors that ideally represent what can be done in a writing center. This shift mirrors the epistemological shift in the way we view knowledge and the way we regard writing, from cognitive to collaborative and from product to process. Using subject literature, conference attendance, email conversations, and personal experience, I explore the numerous metaphors associated with writing centers and establish how they influence perceptions of the writing center. I conclude by arguing that we should cultivate popular cultural icons as metaphors to expand and individualize our repertoire, thus allowing a broader audience to make connections with the writing center.


© Sara McCorkendale