Ohio State’s Rhetoric, Composition and Literacy (RCL) Program has a proud history as a national leader in scholarship and teaching on cultural theories and practices of reading, writing, composing, communicating, and consuming and producing media. Students interested in RCL and its intersections with medicine, science, queer studies, feminist studies, human rights studies, disability studies, critical race studies and posthumanism will find many opportunities to participate in reading groups, graduate workshops, symposia and lecture series in these areas.
Who We Are
Courses We Teach
- Rhetorical Studies: Classical to Renaissance; Renaissance to 20th Century; Special Topics in Rhetoric
- Composition Studies: Current Theory & Practice; Special Topics in Composition; Teaching Basic Writing; Teaching Professional Communication
- Literacy Studies: Introduction to Literacy Studies; Special Topics in Literacy
- Research Methods: Introduction to Research Methods in Rhetoric & Composition; Seminar in Research Methods in Rhetoric & Composition
- Digital Media: Introduction to Graduate Study in Digital Media; Seminar on Digital Media Studies
- Disability Studies: Seminar on Disability Studies Theory
Recent Seminar Descriptions
- “Anti-Racist Rhetoric, Methods, Pedagogy.” This seminar highlights the important role that rhetoric, writing, and literacy studies can play in addressing racial inequalities and anti-black violence. We will focus on the rhetorical dynamics of political protest, coalition building, and work toward the development of anti-racist rhetorics, methods, and pedagogies. The Black Lives Matter Movement provides a robust model for thinking about structural inequities, intersectional identities and literacies, and the paradoxes of diversity and inclusion initiatives within academic contexts. Black Lives Matter rallies and teach-ins across the US inspire us to consider issues of access and structural racism in the organization of disciplines, curriculum, pedagogy, and the recruitment and retention of faculty, staff, and students of color. In 2020, the Special Committee on Anti-Racism at the Conference on College Composition and Communication released “This Ain’t a Statement: This is a Demand for Black Linguistic Justice,” which highlights anti-black violence in the “academics streets,” asking key questions such as “How has Black Lives Mattered in our research, scholarship, teaching, disciplinary discourses, graduate programs, professional organization, and publications?”
- “Rhetorics of Science and Medicine.” Classical and contemporary rhetorical theory offer a set of unique affordances for the study of scientific and medical practice—including, to name only a few: Methods for theorizing the role of matter, movement, and time when assessing risk and making plans for future action; a wide range of heuristics for analyzing how deliberative decision-making unfolds; and key constructs for attuning to how power, place, and precarity intersects with disease, disaster, and disability. In this course, therefore, we will mobilize rhetorical theory as “an instrument capable of performing…intricate analysis” (Fahnestock & Secor, 1988, p. 427) not just to traverse “well-worn paths of critique” (Alaimo & Hekman, 2008, p. 4), but also to develop a working definition for an ethic of care: An ethic of care that is responsive to human fragility and vulnerability amidst constantly changing cellular, sociopolitical, economic, environmental, and technoscientific phenomena.
- “Material Rhetorics.” In this seminar, we will investigate intersections between rhetorical theory and material-discursive phenomena. We’ll sample material rhetorics scholarship from a wide range of areas—including classical and contemporary rhetorical theory; feminist materialisms; new materialisms; object oriented ontologies; Indigenous philosophy; environment and ecocriticism; and critical race theory (to name only a few). Students will also have an opportunity to prepare and receive feedback on a research project related to material rhetoric(s).
Composition/Writing Studies Seminars
- “Teaching Basic Writing.” A graduate seminar in the history, theory, and practice of the teaching of basic writing, English 7881.02/.22 examines the historical, intellectual, social, political, institutional, and disciplinary conversations and contexts surrounding the teaching of basic writing at the university. In the course, we will conduct disciplinary research; interview basic writing instructors, scholars and administrators; investigate the politics of pedagogies; and examine the implications of national and state higher education policy on the teaching of basic writing.
- “Current Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing.” This course engages students in a collaborative inquiry into various points of pedagogical and theoretical debate in the discipline, focusing primarily on the period from 1960 to 2000 and then investigating how those debates inform, complicate, compromise, or enrich contemporary writing pedagogies. The inquiry engages multiple and various debates that define this period and address matters of pedagogical practice, theory, labor, gender, identity, and race. The course seeks not to mediate the differences articulated in the scholarly conversations but to situate them and come to understand them within (and as products of) their cultural, sociopolitical, educational, and disciplinary contexts, as critical debates informed by ideological differences. The final portion of the course focuses attention on near history (2000- present).
- “Approaches to Teaching Professional Communication.” This course will introduce you to approaches to teaching professional communication. After briefly examining the history of professional writing instruction in America, we will study and practice a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to workplace writing and writing instruction. We will …
• examine how the study and teaching of professional communication has been shaped by classical and contemporary theories of rhetoric, discourse, and culture.
• consider the roles and implications of various pedagogical and programmatic models.
• consider how technology influences workplace discourse, composing practices, and the teaching of those practices.
• examine and practice methods used to inform and improve the teaching and administration of professional writing courses.
By the end of the course, you should feel prepared to teach a professional writing class, design a new class, and participate in program administration activities.
- “Writing Program Administration in an Age of Assessment and Austerity.” Traditionally, the primary responsibilities of WPAs have been curriculum development and faculty development. This course will investigate how these responsibilities have evolved in a time in which assessment and resource use have taken center stage. Program Administration will be broadly defined, to include first-year writing, technical communication, writing in the disciplines or writing across the curriculum, and writing centers. Students will consider such questions as is WPA work different from other types of intellectual and administrative work undertaken in universities? What roles will assessment, research, and data-driven decision-making play in WPA work going forward? How should writing programs, writing centers, and other institutional units interact? How can WPAs ensure that their programs respond to changing student and instructor populations in ways equitable to all?
- “Teaching Writing Online.” In this course, we will explore what it means to teach writing online and to teach online writing. Teaching writing online has a nearly four-decade history of research and scholarship, much of it conducted by first-year writing programs and instructors; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more instructors and students confronting what it means to teach and learn online at all levels. While much of the early exploration of teaching writing online involved the teaching of print-based genres using digital technologies, new platforms and tools have enabled a variety of online writing opportunities that significantly alter or move beyond the print genres of the last century.
- “The Writing Center as a Scholarly and Pedagogical Site.” Writing Centers have, in the past, been primarily examined as pedagogical sites, specifically sites focused on one-on-one, face-to-face discussion between an inexperienced writer and an expert reader/writing consultant about a specific writing task. However, in the past 15-20 years, this master narrative of the work of the writing center has been challenged. Writing Center practitioners push back against the “only for inexperienced writers” label by emphasizing that they work with all writers from all disciplines. Emerging technologies challenge the traditional model of how writing center work is carried out: do we need to be face-to-face; how do we accommodate writing groups and writers with multimodal texts? The growing body of scholarship on writing centers also establishes the writing center as a viable scholarly site where important questions about writing theories and practices are investigated. In addition, writing centers are now moving from marginal positions within universities and colleges to foundational spaces where interdisciplinary discussions about the role of writing in the university and beyond take place. In this seminar, we will examine the relationship between the growth of writing center scholarship and evolving writing center tutorial practices. We will read canonical theoretical and pedagogical texts (North, Grimm, Boquet, Lerner, Sheridan, among others); discuss the relationship between race, racism, and writing center practices; explore the role of technology on current writing center practices as well as explore how writing centers serve English language learners. Other topics will include how writing center work is named and valued within the academy and the future direction of writing centers. This course will be valuable for those interested in working in writing centers as writing consultants, for those interested in directing writing centers, and those interested in engaging in writing center scholarship.
- “Captive Bodies, Resistant Literacies, and the Rise of the Carceral State.” Over two million men, women, and children are incarcerated in prisons, jails, and detention centers across the United States. These carceral subjects are disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos. This interdisciplinary seminar highlights the politics of literacy and its links to carceral geographies and the policing of space (checkpoints, borders, walls, prisons), citizenship, and identities and difference (age, race, sex, gender, disability). The course also explores the positioning of literacy as a remedy to crime, as well as the transformative power of resistant literacies and prison literature in solidarity with other social justice struggles. The course traces the rise of the carceral state to technologies of enslavement and also addresses the limits of carceral feminism and its turn to policing to resolve gender-based violence.
- “Introduction to Graduate Study in Literacy.” This course introduces graduate students to the field of literacy studies. It emphasizes interdisciplinary research and scholarship that explores definitions of literacy and its uses across historical and cultural contexts. As such, it is relevant for graduate students in the humanities, social sciences, education, public policy, and related fields. The study and understanding of literacy has changed dramatically in recent decades. Although the term literacy is widespread and often unquestioned as to its importance, literacy in actual use emerges as a much more complicated, mediated, and context-dependent subject than previously appreciated. Writing and reading now are seen as pluralistic cultural practices whose forms, functions, and influences take shape as part of larger social, political, historical, material, and ideological contexts. Literacy studies thus require new, interdisciplinary, comparative, and critical approaches to conceptualization, theories, analysis, and interpretation. This course examines these currents as they take shape, and seeks to understand how a field of study is created among the disciplines of linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and history, among others. Toward that end, our topics include: “great debates” over literacy, its uses, impacts, and meanings; theories of literacy; histories of literacy; literacy and literacies; reading and writing and beyond; ethnographies of literacy in everyday life; academic and school literacies; literacy and language; literacy and schooling; literacy and social order—class, race, gender, ethnicity, generation, and geography; literacy and collective and individual action; recent research; research design and methodologies. Readings include the work of scholars across the humanities and social sciences. These readings are starting points not definitive statements on literacy.
- “Community Literacies/Literacy in Communities.” Whether it is a focus on the work of literacy practitioners working in community literacy centers, community organizers using literacy for social justice, or members of a social club engaging in literacy practices that advance the mission of the club, documenting the rich and complex literacy practices that occur beyond traditional academic settings has become an important part of the work of composition and literacy scholars. With the “social turn” in Composition and Literacy Studies, writing and literacy scholars have begun to question the “what” “how” and “why” certain literacy practices function and circulate in local community spaces—social clubs, community organizations, political organizations, community centers, churches, and other community sites. Who are the literacy sponsors in these community spaces, and what are the constraints and affordances of these sponsorships? What is the relationship between a community site’s dominant literacy practices and that site’s identity? What leads to the success of some university-community literacy partnerships and the failure of others? What is the relationship between the literacy identities of communities and how these communities are positioned economically, politically, socially, and rhetorically? What constitutes “community”? These are just some of the questions that we will pursue as we read scholarship in community literacy, examine community literacy programs, explore the strengths and weaknesses of university-community literacy partnerships, and engage in designing (and carrying out) community-based literacy research.
Digital Media Seminars
- “The Politics of the Interface through Critical Access Studies” (Seminar on Digital Media Studies). This seminar focuses on critical access in digital space and time. Critical access studies, as defined by Aimi Hamraie (2017), questions “historical perspectives of the user as a white, middle-class, productive citizen [and pushes] toward a more robust account of the politics of knowing-making” (p. 14). Together, we will build a shared vocabulary that includes key concepts such as access, knowing-making, mode (modality), retrofit, participatory design, speculative design, and crip spacetime. Our work together will not seek to determine what is or is not accessible in digital media, but rather to explore the emergent effects of interaction in various interfaces, or, as Jos Boys (2014) puts it, the “acts of translation between bodies, event, artefacts, and space.” Students will read, discuss, and write about current conversations in critical access studies and digital media studies, and will also acquire practical skills in captioning, description, and design of accessible online spaces/events. Drawing upon the work of scholars including Adam Banks, Janine Butler, Elizabeth Ellcessor, Gerard Goggin & Christopher Newell, Remi Yergeau, and Sean Zdenek, these skills will be approached critically and creatively, as sources of invention and knowledge.
- “Language and Digital Media.” This course will take digital media as a site of social and linguistic practice, exploring English as it is used in computer-mediated communication (CMC). We will see how the theories and methods from sociolinguistics and allied fields (which have traditionally focused on spoken language) can be applied to better understand the social experiences, meanings, and effects of digital media contexts. A key focus will be exposure to and discussion of a range of sociolinguistic research methods, including linguistic variation analysis, linguistic ethnography, corpus linguistics, conversation analysis, semiotics, and (critical) discourse analysis. Our discussion can also be tailored to the interests of course participants, for instance by discussing how these theories/methods provide perspectives and starting points for analysis that may differ from those of other approaches within English studies, or how these approaches may complement thinking about digital media from a production or composition perspective.
- “History, Theory, and Practice of Digital Media.” From television and newspapers to movie theaters and books, while the final media product may take different forms, it is nearly impossible to find a mass media that does not include digital tools in some stage of its production. Given the ubiquity of digital media, its study is inherently interdisciplinary and multifaceted. In this course, we will study the uses and impacts of digital media through its history and development in the 20th and 21st centuries with the goal of better understanding the origins of current digital communication technologies. The course will touch on topics like the pre-history of digital media, networks, race, accessibility, multimodality, the digital humanities, maker culture, and rhetorics of code. While this course is located in the Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy program, we will read widely in digital media theory and history. Students from all concentrations are welcome.
Research Methods Seminars
- “Research Methods Seminar.” This research methods seminar tether theory with practice by devoting half of class time to reading, discussing, and critiquing extant research method/ology scholarship in the field and the other half to designing and executing your own a six-week pilot study. You’ll learn how to navigate the institutional review board, compose a research protocol, draft a methods section or chapter, and outline what could become a publishable manuscript. By the end of the course, you will,• Become adept at describing the current methodological state of our discipline, and be able to articulate your scholarly place therein;
• Know how to work with IRBs and compose a research protocol;
• Feel confident when writing a methods section or chapter;
• Through an 8-week pilot study, understand the iterative nature of: asking a researchable question, designing a study, collecting data, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and drafting a publishable manuscript.