Composition and Rhetoric Graduate Courses

Current Courses – Fall 2017

Intra-disciplinary Seminar in English Studies
ENG 710: Threshold Concepts and Knowledge Transfer Across Disciplines and Contexts, Dr. Wardle T 1:15 – 4:05 p.m.

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.    

ENG 732: Histories and Theories of Composition, Dr. Palmeri M 1:15-4:05 p.m.

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?

ENG 760B: Rhetorics of Public Spheres and Civic Engagement, Dr. Simmons R 1:15-4:05 p.m. 

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. 

Recent Courses

English 770: Writing Program Design, Development, and Administration (McKee)

Whether working in the academy, in industry, or in the community, rhetoric and writing specialists are often called on to design, develop, and administer writing programs.  In addition to first-year composition, such programs may include: digital writing collaboratives, writing minors and majors, writing centers, WAC/WID programs, NWP sites for k-12 educators, community literacy projects, and employee training programs.  In this class we will study the theories and practices for creating and sustaining writing programs. In addition to articles from an interdisciplinary range of journals, we will also read from such books as:  What We Are Becoming: Developments in Undergraduate Writing Major; Community Literacy Programs and the Politics of Change; Technological Ecologies and Sustainability; Performing Feminism and Administration in Rhetoric and Composition; Building Writing Center Assessments That Matter; Writing Programs Worldwide: Profiles of Academic Writing in Many Places; Assessment in Technical and Professional Communication.

We will have a number of guest speakers from around the country share their administrative experiences with us.  And we will also engage in primary and secondary research to explore in greater depth specific programs and issues of interest to individuals or teams of people.

Major assignments in addition to online and class discussions will include reading journals, program profiles, interview reports (conducted with current program administrators), and a journal article manuscript and accompanying presentation.

English 770: Issues in Professional Writing (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.

Eng 760: Rhetoric of Public Spheres (Simmons)

Public sphere theories provide a useful lens for studying a variety of areas in English studies. 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. Ultimately we consider how to enable publics to actively participate in deliberations and the power relations, ethics, politics, economics, and history that influence these deliberations. Course goals include: understanding the connections between our responsibilities in the academy and our responsibilities in the public sphere; bringing to light spaces where rhetoricians can identify and work to dismantle unequal power relations; creating spaces where we can enable just deliberation and enact positive social change in our communities.

Students will lead weekly discussions of texts, develop an annotated bibliography, and produce an 18-20 seminar paper and present on that research. Among the authors we will discuss are Michael Warner, Jurgen Habermas, Seyla Benhabib, John Dewey, Bruno Latour, Michel Foucalt, Michel de Certeau, Gerard Hauser, Nancy Fraser, Ian Bogost, and Iris Marion Young.

Eng 760: Comparative Rhetoric (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 (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.

English 732: Histories and Theories of Composition (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 developments since 1963. Some key questions we will consider include:

  • 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 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 approaches that meet the needs of students and other stakeholders in particular contexts?

In addition to discussing and responding to readings, you also will complete a series of scaffolded writing assignments designed to prepare you to ask and begin to answer theoretical questions in the field. Readings will include works by Miller, Harris, Kynard, Yancey, hooks, Shipka, Jordan, Lynch, Alexander, Fleckenstein and other noted composition scholars.   

English 731: Theory and Practice of Teaching Composition (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).

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

English 720: Issues in Digital Composition (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.