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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English Composition



First Reader/Committee Chair

Mary Boland


Postmodern theory, specifically the death of the agent, naturally troubles concepts of agency, and has drawn the attention of scholars within English Composition. These scholars have worked their way around the need for an agent in various ways however, I would argue that underneath the surface, postmodern theory is making an argument for the death of the self and that these scholars are likewise attempting to come to terms with this. To explore the death of the self, I have delved into postmodern theorists like Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, revealing the areas in their work that most clearly make the argument. To test the argument, and the theory that arises from it, I believe a cross-disciplinary approach that takes into consideration contemporary thoughts about the self offered by evolutionary and experimental psychology is the most effective way to work towards a theory of agency that is both valid and allows for things like meaningful writing projects and social change. As a result of this approach, it appears that the seat of the self is in the unconscious mind, and the death of the self is valid conceptually as we come to realize that the humanist version of the self which is centered in the conscious I, is not congruent with how we know the mind works. With this new knowledge of the self, it is possible to reconceptualize agency in a way that recognizes the agency we all already have and empowers students all at once.