Composition and Rhetoric Graduate Courses

Current Courses – Fall 2018

ENG 720 A: Issues in Digital Composition: Race, Rhetoric, and Technology (Dich)

Race is a multifaceted concept and reality that can function as a representation or a mediating cultural and political technology. Indeed, Chun and many critical race scholars argue that race is a significant organizing force in our everyday lives. In effect, race is similar to rhetoric and digital technologies in the way they mediate our perceptions of and actions in the world. Conversely, both rhetoric and digital technologies have central roles in developing race and racism in the 21st century. This seminar will explore how race, rhetoric, and technology are interconnected in fundamental ways for writing. Questions we will discuss include the following: 

  • What are the connections between race, rhetoric, and technology?
  • How do these “things” change each other as we subject them to different frames of analysis? For example, what is race, through rhetorical considerations? How do new technologies change they ways that rhetoric is employed and identities mediated?
  • What does it mean that race is a technology?
  • How will our insights gained from examining race, rhetoric, and technology help us think about the teaching of writing?

This course will draw on work from a variety of fields such as Communications, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, and artistic/critical productions from popular culture. Students will be encouraged to create intersections between readings and their own scholarly interests.

English 760: “Rhetorics and Pedagogies of Social Change” (Palmeri) 

In this course, we will explore rhetorical scholarship about a diverse range of social movements from the 19th century to the present—with a particular (though not exclusive) emphasis on feminist, LGBTQ, disability, and anti-racist activist movements. Correspondingly, we also will engage with works of composition scholarship that focus on teaching for social change—considering ways that teachers of writing might learn from and contribute to social justice movements. Some key questions we will engage include: What theories and research methods can we use to analyze the evolving rhetorical work of social movements over time in diverse contexts?  How might taking a “social movement” perspective necessitate rethinking common approaches to analyzing and teaching rhetoric? How do particular technologies both constrain and enable possibilities for social change? How might we redesign writing pedagogies in ways that challenge persistent material inequalities and enhance access for all students?  Possible authors include Dolmage, Kynard, Rhodes and Alexander, Royster and Kirsch, Shor, Villanueva, and Yergeau (to name just a few). Interested students are encouraged to email the instructor to suggest possible topics and/or readings for us to explore. Writing assignments include regular research journals, reading responses / dialectical notebooks, and multiple drafts of a final research project composed with a particular conference or journal in mind. 

Recent Courses

English 770: Issues in Professional Writing, Dr. Lockridge

ENG770, Issues in Professional Writing, offers students an overview of the field of professional writing & communication, focusing on the field’s history, scope of research, theoretical orientations, and relationship to professional practice. We will consider professional writing’s disciplinary boundaries, its research questions, its approaches to methods and methodology, and its relationship to the broader field of Rhetoric & Writing. We will also take a close look at the work of professional writing in digital contexts, and we will use that lens to examine histories of technical writing as well as contemporary approaches to content management and user documentation, software studies, web authoring, and User Experience (UX).

Students will contribute to weekly discussions; write regular, substantial responses to weekly writing assignments; and produce a seminar project related to their research interests. Course readings include works by Rude, Selber, Johnson-Eilola, Spinuzzi, Potts, Sullivan, Porter, Simmons, Hart-Davidson, Swarts, and many others.

English 735: Research Methods for Writing Studies, Dr. McKee

In this course, we will examine a variety of methodological and ethical approaches for conducting empirical studies of writing, writers, and writing contexts. We will focus primarily on qualitative, person-based methods, but we will consider the important and productive relationship between qualitative and quantitative studies and the ways in which archival work is person-based research as well. We will read and analyze studies of writers and writing in a variety of contexts, including k-12, post-secondary, civic, community, workplace, and online. Because the best way to learn about research is by doing research, we will each design, conduct, and report on a small person-based research study that we each develop. Through our research in and for this class, we will have the opportunity to not only build our own knowledge but to also contribute knowledge to the persons and communities with whom we research and to the broader fields of rhetoric and writing studies.

English 720: Issues in Digital Composition, Dr. Lockridge

In this course we will examine the development and adoption of various writing technologies (with a specific emphasis on hypertext/hypermedia), considering how those technologies connect to the broader field of rhetoric and composition. Our primary focus will be one of histories and historiography, and we will look closely at the development of computers and writing, the recurring motif of the literacy crisis, the growth of hypertext and the World Wide Web, and recent calls for computational literacy. Within this frame we will also explore popular conceptions of computing/writing technologies and how issues of power, race, class, gender, and access are inscribed into these narratives. We will also study the spaces for and role of born-digital scholarship in the field and—as time permits—work with a number of digital writing tools. Our readings will include materials from McLuhan, Winner, Engelbart, Nelson, Bolter, Wysocki, Hawisher & Selfe, Vee, Trimbur, Arola, Ball, Yergeau, and other scholars in rhet/comp, media studies, and histories of computing.   

ENG 760C: Intercultural Rhetorics, Dr. Legg

While the origin stories of Rhetoric and Composition are deeply rooted in the Greco-Roman canon, this focus has left out the diverse, culturally-situated, and rich meaning-making practices of those whose stories have become “othered.” Our work in Intercultural Rhetorics does not wish to discard these roots, but rather to constellate and locate intersections of rhetorics, cultures, and disciplinary histories through a survey of non-Eurocentric historical and contemporary voices. By doing this kind of knowledge-making work, our goal is to continue to re-landscape the dappled discipline of Rhetoric and Composition, as Jacqueline Jones Royster asks us to do, and develop culturally aware practices that situate our disciplinary histories and inform our pedagogies. In this course, we will read about and examine the relationships of rhetoric to race, ethnicity, cultures, gender, class, and so on to understand rhetoric’s connection to these constructions and how they intersect and speak to one another. Ultimately, we will come away with a deeper understanding of what it means to complicate and enrich our disciplinary origin stories, what it means to engage in intercultural rhetorics as a scholarly and pedagogical practice, and what it means to understand rhetorics that speak with all our relations and inform our interdisciplinary, intercultural, and activist work.

ENG 760B: Rhetorics of Public Spheres and Civic Engagement, Dr. Simmons

Drawing from interdisciplinary scholarship, we will query notion(s) of public(s), the relationship of private and public spheres, and how counterpublics emerge in response to dominant publics and cultural hegemony. We will examine the intersection of democracy, agency, and public rhetoric as well as consider various methodologies for analyzing and critiquing the circulating and networked discourses of the public sphere. Students will gain a broader understanding of how discursive controversies arise when communal ideals and policies are challenged in response to emerging rhetorical situations as well as how citizens in local communities become active participants in the formulation of policies that affect their lives. This course introduces theories and strategies of civic engagement, how texts engage and encourage participation in communities, and how texts circulate to shape and influence publics. Ultimately we consider how to engage publics to actively participate in deliberations and the power relations, ethics, politics, economics, and history that influence these deliberations.

Eng 760: Comparative Rhetoric, Dr. Mao

For the past few decades we have seen a growing trend in our field to interrogate and broaden dominant rhetorical paradigms and to study non-euroamerican rhetorical traditions in their own contexts. The emergence of comparative rhetoric as a field of study is an integral part of this trend. Comparative rhetoric engages different, non-euroamerican rhetorical practices across time, place, and space and shines a new light on the understanding of dominant rhetorics. ENG760 situates itself in this context and aims to contribute to this comparative turn in our field. We will therefore be reading both current scholarships on comparative rhetoric including methodology and translations of primary materials on non-euroamerican rhetorics with a particular focus on Chinese rhetorical practices.

We will begin this endeavor by first connecting comparative rhetoric to contrastive rhetoric and intercultural rhetoric. Thanks to Robert Kaplan’s work in 1960s and, in particular, to his insight that different cultures have different rhetorical tendencies, attention to and interest in non- euroamerican rhetorical practices began to emerge in English Studies, though the focus then was largely limited to helping to understand and improve the discursive practices of ESL students in the U.S. In spite of this narrow and flawed focus, it was in part Kaplan’s insight that gradually led rhetoricians and writing specialists to begin to study other rhetorical traditions on their own terms and in their own contexts.

We will then explore, among other issues, on-going tensions underlying the pursuit of comparative rhetoric between the disciplinary desire to search for a Theory of Rhetoric (Kennedy) and the need of any comparative endeavor to challenge such a desire and to develop local terms and “grids of intelligibility,” and between an appeal to the dominant paradigms of logic and rationality and a call for aesthetic, analogical, or other explanatory frames of ordering (Hall and Ames). We will investigate what it means to represent “the native’s point of view” and to search for a “third” in comparative work. We want to consider such questions as: (1) how knowledge gets produced and disseminated at points of comparison; (2) what are the possibilities and impossibilities of studying the other on its own terms and in its own context; and (3) how the art of recontextualization can serve as a productive heuristic in the global contact zone where boundaries of all kinds are being blurred, conflated, and/or recreated.

English 733: Histories and Theories of Rhetoric, Dr. Porter

ENG 733, Histories and Theories of Rhetoric will examine the theory of rhetoric as it has developed from  the classical era up to The New Rhetoric of the 1950s and 1960s (where the modern revival of rhetoric and its emergence in composition instruction begin). The chief goal of the course will be to help you expand your historical perspective on theories of rhetoric, literacy, and composition. You should emerge from the course with a deeper understanding of "what rhetoric does." We will spend some time in the course examining issues related to the methodology of theory: how does one practice and write theory — and why would anyone want to do it?

We will certainly focus on the Western, academic tradition of rhetoric -- the Heritage School of classical rhetoric -- of which Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian are its origin and The Rhetorical Tradition its designated anthology. This is the dominant tradition influencing Anglo-American literacy education, particularly college-level writing instruction in the United States. This tradition rests on the central assumption that the rhetor is (or will become) a literate, educated citizen (typically, male), with access to power and the means to speak and to persuade others on a more-or-less level playing field. The Heritage School tradition focuses largely on theory, on pedagogy, and on the relationship between the two. Much of value from this tradition has been lost or skewed over time, and we will try to recover that.

But we will also focus on another important tradition, not called a "school," not considered academic, and seldom, until relatively recently, anthologized. Rhetoricians in this tradition -- such as Aspasia, Sor Juana Ines, Frederick Douglass, the Grimké sisters -- address issues pertaining more to the rhetor with limited access to power. For these rhetoricians, the key concerns are establishing one's right to speak in the first place (or to be educated to speak); issues of exclusion, silencing, and censorship; access to communication media and to literacy education; preserving language and rhetorical customs; and basic issues of justice and power. Because access to power cannot be assumed, subordinated and silenced rhetorics have a different focus altogether: establishing the right to speak and to be heard for those who have historically been denied those rights -- particularly women, marginalized ethnic and racial groups, and persecuted religious communities -- in the academy as well as in society at large. In ENG 733 we will study both types of rhetorics, and others. The purpose of studying theory and history is, as always, to understand why we do what we do -- in this case, the teaching of writing -- and to figure out how to do it better.

ENG 732: Histories and Theories of Composition, Dr. Palmeri

In this course, we will survey the evolution of composition studies as an academic discipline and a material institution—placing a special emphasis on methods of historical research in the field. Some key questions we will consider include: How can historical research in the field influence contemporary theory and practice? What does it mean to study and teach writing as a complexly situated social, material, cognitive, and aesthetic activity? What kinds of disciplinary maps and grand narratives have composition scholars employed in order to make arguments about the past, present and future of the discipline? What are the strengths and limitations of current ways of categorizing the field? How have diverse composition theorists articulated the principal outcomes and pedagogical methods of composition and writing studies curricula (at all levels)? What are—and what have been—the key areas of consensus and dissensus in the field? How can the study and teaching of composition work to reinforce and/or subvert material hierarchies of race, sexuality, gender, class, and disability? How can we critically synthesize and adapt diverse theoretical perspectives to develop pedagogical and administrative approaches that meet the needs of students and other stakeholders in particular contexts?

English 731: Theory and Practice of Teaching Composition, Dr. Palmeri

English 731 is an intensive three week summer seminar that offers an introduction to both the theory and reflective practice of teaching composition. In this course, you will learn to:

  • Apply and adapt theories of rhetoric and composing process to the teaching of writing.

  • Reflect critically about your own teaching and writing practices.

  • Design and implement inquiry-based, scaffolded writing assignments that enhance student learning.

  • Integrate digital technologies and multimodal composing into writing pedagogy in meaningful ways.

  • Respond to and evaluate student writing in ways that encourage revision and deep learning.

  • Plan and implement interactive course sessions that help students develop transferable writing skills (e.g, invention and research strategies, audience analysis heuristics, reflective habits, critical reading strategies, revision and editing techniques)

  • Adapt instruction to the individualized needs of students.

  • Develop practical skills in classroom management and course organization.

  • Design a course syllabus that achieves the common outcomes of our 111  curriculum (while also contributing actively to our collaborative culture of innovation).

ENG 730A: Writing Program Administration, Dr. Wardle 

Many, if not most, faculty members with degrees in Rhetoric and Composition will at some point in their careers direct a writing program of some kind. Writing program administration, or WPA, work affects many people—students and instructors in program courses, as well as students’ subsequent instructors, advisors, and administrators responsible for general education, for example. Therefore some scholars argue that graduate programs in the field should provide graduate students with intellectual and practical preparation for doing WPA work in an informed, responsible way. This course will attempt to give you an overview of the work of WPAs as well as equip you with resources and strategies for approaching that work. Most importantly, this course will help you consider your own core principles for undertaking WPA work, and use those principles to help you consider a few of the many dilemmas that WPAs face.

English 730: English as a Second Language: History, Theory and Practice, Dr. Cimasko

Since its founding as a distinct discipline nearly seventy years ago, English as a Second Language (ESL) has grown in its scope and its scholarly and pedagogical complexity, enriched by its interactions with other disciplines and the shifting circumstances of language learners.  ESL has become a significant part of mainstream writing and rhetoric studies with the increased presence of linguistically diverse students in US universities, and with the numbers of second language (L2) users of English worldwide now surpassing native users.

In this seminar, we will begin our examination of ESL from a historical perspective, discussing the discipline’s roots in the surge of demand for English in the wake of World War II.  The new field soon realized the need to conceptualize its practices and the processes of language learning, and turned to linguistics and applied linguistics in the scholarship of Whorf, Politzer, and Krashen, among many others.  Societal shifts toward greater diversity motivated ESL’s turn to sociolinguistics, cultural theory, and critical approaches most famously reflected in the work of Hymes, Halliday, Pennycook, Kachru, and Kramsch.  Second language writing began its emergence around this time with Zamel’s embrace of process approaches, and from this point, we will turn our focus in the seminar to the various strands of L2 writing scholarship.  Silva, Raimes, Spack, and Kroll best represent L2 writing’s foundations, while Leki, Johns, Matsuda, Swales, Belcher, and Kubota represent the rise and expansion of socially-oriented and post-process literature that followed.  Throughout our theoretical explorations, pedagogy will continue to play an important role, and we will devote time to the creation and administration of successful ESL programs.

Students will write short response papers throughout the semester, along with three major projects:  a literature review, a professional manuscript review, and a 20-page research-based proposal.

Intra-disciplinary Seminar in English Studies
ENG 710: Threshold Concepts and Knowledge Transfer Across Disciplines and Contexts, Dr. Wardle 

In this seminar, students will be introduced to two complimentary areas of research and theory. Threshold concepts are concepts critical for epistemological participation in a discipline; they are troublesome for learners, and not easily taught or assessed. However, they are essential for learners who wish to be able to "transfer"--or, more accurately--repurpose and build on what they learn, in order to make meaningful contributions within and across disciplinary communities of practice.  Graduate students from all areas of English Studies who enroll in this seminar will examine their field's threshold concepts, perhaps engaging in crowd-sourced wiki projects with scholars from across the country, and consider how to design courses and assignments in their disciplines that promote deep learning across time and contexts.