Within the past two decades, theorists have begun to look back to the classical rhetorical past for answers to modern dilemmas in composition teaching. Several textbooks have been published that focus their teaching of college composition on the classical tradition. While the movement to revitalize classical rhetoric is gaining strength in universities, however, the benefits of this movement have not yet reached, in any real way, the levels of elementary, middle school, or high school education. This thesis shows how the classical rhetorical curriculum generally, and a specific part of that curriculum, the progymnasmata, accomplish important aims of modern composition approaches, while at the same time providing answers to modern deficiencies in composition instruction, especially at the secondary level. The thesis compares the progymnasmata and their accompanying pedagogy with the most prevalent and up-and-coming approaches in composition teaching, including current-traditional, expressivist, and social epistemic—including genre theory—approaches, and process-based, or cognitive, composition pedagogy. Modern theorists are finding value in the classical rhetorical curriculum because, since the 1800s, advances in composition instruction are now recognized as reinventions of the classical past, recovering vital elements once present in rhetorical instruction and then lost. The classical curriculum also provides solutions to problems in modern composition approaches. Because modern theoretical approaches are partial reiterations of the classical rhetorical tradition, and because the classical tradition can enable students in ways modern approaches cannot, exploring the possibilities of teaching the progymnasmata in secondary schools is worthwhile.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Document Type





rhetoric, composition, progymnasmata, classical rhetoric, current-traditional rhetoric, expressivism, cognitivism, genre theory