Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



In his 1963 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Anti-intellectualism in American Life, historian Richard Hofstadter observes that "Again and again, but particularly in recent years, it has been noticed that intellect in America is resented as a kind of excellence, as a claim to distinction, as a challenge to egalitarianism, as a quality which almost certainly deprives a man or woman of the common truth" (51). This anti-intellectualism has persisted as a theme in American cultural life; it is hardly surprising, then, that as a composition instructor, I encounter it in my students. In order to understand this attitude in my students, I examine the role that antiintellectualism has played and continues to play in American life. I include the observations of a number of culture critics and educators regarding depictions of intellect and intellectuals in popular culture and also conduct some of my own analyses of these images. I conclude that American popular culture both reflects and reinforces antiintellectualism. In reviewing the relevant literature within composition studies, I find little treatment of the role anti-intellectualism plays in the college composition classroom. Despite compositionists' failure to address this issue, I argue that the college composition classroom provides an opportune forum for introducing students to the history and existence of anti-intellectualism in America and its pervasiveness in their own lives. Finally, I propose ways of challenging anti-intellectualism that can help students combat its influence and can help cultivate an atmosphere in the classroom conducive to their intellectual development.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Popular culture -- United States English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching United States -- Intellectual life



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University