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ERIC Number: EJ1140756
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 23
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1534-9322
Learning How to Feel: Conversion Narratives and Community Membership in First-Year Composition
Kurtyka, Faith M.
Composition Studies, v45 n1 p99-121 Spr 2017
This article examines the rhetoric of the conversion narratives told by a group of women joining a new social sorority on campus. I argue that these sorority conversion narratives are of interest to composition scholars because they document the emotional work involved in entering a community in one's first year of college. My close analysis of the movement of emotion in these conversion narratives shows that conversion narratives are not a 180-degree turnaround, but in fact reflect a gradual process of positive affective accumulation that challenges the speaker's initial emotional state. Narrating conversion allows the speaker to cultivate an engaging story from the tangled, messy, and often difficult-to-articulate web of emotion that characterizes entering a new community; thus, conversion narratives are a rhetorical response to an experience of emotional learning that solidifies the speaker's new place in a community. Composition instructors can challenge students to articulate their emotional histories with writing and listen deeply to these histories. We can help students value not knowing how to feel or feeling both positive and negative feelings at the same time, for this ambivalence is important to becoming effective writers.
University of Cincinnati. Department of English, P.O. Box 210069, Cincinnati, OH 45221. Tel: 513-556-6519; Fax: 513-556-5960; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A