Recent Graduate Courses

ENGL 580: "Environmental Rhetorics." This course provides an introduction to contemporary environmental issues and the discourses that shape the ways we understand, debate, and respond to environmental challenges. We will examine and apply rhetorical principles to orient ourselves with a range of issues, from energy shortages and pollution to global warming and population growth. It is difficult to overstate the complexity, contentiousness, and stakes of the environmental problems we face today. We will navigate these challenges by drawing on not only classical texts in the rhetorical tradition but also contemporary works in rhetorical theory that recast notions of persuasion, agency, audience, creativity, and social action with enhanced analytical tools and an altered sense of purpose. A broader goal of the course is to attune students to the dynamics of rhetoric in their everyday modes of being and communicating in the world, to empower them as thinkers, writers, and actors. There will be three major writing assignments: a rhetorical analysis of an environmental issue; a description and analysis of a publication by an advocacy group; an advocacy piece; and a final research project. Other assignments include informal response papers, a midterm quiz, and a presentation. All texts will be posted on the course Blackboard site. (Instructor: Drake)

English 780: “Composition Studies.” A broad, introductory survey of the discipline of composition studies. Through a variety of readings, discussions, and course assignments, we will examine the field’s history, literature, practices, methods, controversies, trends, and problems. We will give special emphasis to contemporary theories of pedagogy, and in so doing, we will learn about the multiple, often contending, perspectives on how best to understand writing and the teaching of writing. The goals of this course are therefore threefold. First, this course will acquaint students (in an unavoidably general way) to the field of composition studies; second, it will equip students to become reflective professionals—not only about the details of their classroom practices, but also about the many useful ways that research, scholarship, and theory can, and do, inform our practices; and third, it will introduce students to the various research methods used by scholars in the field. To accomplish these goals, we will examine relevant theories of composing processes, of rhetoric, self-expression, cognition, ideology, community, and so on. Students will be required to keep a reading journal; contribute to prompts posted on Blackboard; develop, organize, and lead a class discussion on the significance of a recent publication in the field; and write a twelve to fifteen page pedagogical essay. For the most part, our class will be structured according to a Reading/Writing/Discussion format. As a general rule, for time devoted to theories of (and research in) composition, an equal or greater amount of time will be devoted to pedagogical applications and strategies, especially as these relate to the assigned readings on any given topic. We will have discussions, in-class writings and occasional small-group workshops, oral reports, guest speakers (and possibly a surprise or two). (Instructor: Farmer; taught on rotating basis)

ENGL 790: "Language and Social Justice."  What social implications does speaking different varieties and dialects of the English language have? Why are different social characteristics attributed to varieties used in, for instance, Wisconsin, in New York, and in Louisiana, to ethnolects such as African American English or Chican@ English, or to different genderlects? What features of language carry stigma and what features do not (and how do we tell)? How do media (news outlets, movies, “the Internet”) play a role in conveying what is acceptable or unacceptable in language? How does the impact of these language attitudes and evaluations differ for different groups of people in their daily lives? These are some of the issues that we will consider in our exploration of language and social justice. We will roam widely in our discussions, considering literary and non-literary texts, Disney movies, language legislation, online comments, and speeches by presidential candidates. The final project in the class will consist of a research paper that can be adapted to any specialty in language studies, literature, composition and rhetoric, education, or other areas. (Instructor: Grund)

English 880: Topics in Composition Studies and Rhetoric (taught on a rotating basis)

"Writing Knowledge Transfer." Within the field of Composition Studies, researchers have become increasingly interested in the issue of “writing knowledge transfer”—in how writing knowledge and abilities learned in one context are abstracted and applied within new writing contexts. This course will focus on the various cognitive and social theories informing our understanding of transfer, as well as the rich body of research conducted on this complex cognitive and social phenomenon, including numerous studies examining the transfer of writing strategies across multiple contexts: from high school to college composition courses, from first-year writing to writing-in-the disciplines (WID), and from WID courses to writing in the workplace. (Instructor: Reiff)

“Translingual Rhetorics and Writing.” As postsecondary classrooms become increasingly translingual, new challenges face scholars and teachers in English studies. Our course will inquire into these challenges by exploring the distinction between multilingual and translingual understandings of language diversity, and the rhetorics that accrue to each. In addition, we will address some of the many historical controversies that have attended language diversity, from the 1974 CCCC Resolution, “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” to the persistence of the English Only Movement. We will also examine the intersections between translingual scholarship and recent trends in the field: multimodality, publics and publicity, transfer, digital literacies, and changing institutional exigencies. Throughout the semester, strong emphasis will be given to translingual pedagogy— specifically, to current best practices for teaching writing in classrooms where language diversity is the emerging norm. Required Texts: Literacy as Translingual Practice: Between Communities and Classrooms, edited by Suresh Canagarajah; Cross-Language Relations in Composition,edited by Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, Paul Kei Matsuda; Redesigning Composition for Multilingual Realities (Studies in Writing & Rhetoric) by Jay Jordan. These texts will be supplemented by additional articles and chapters. (Instructor: Farmer)

Researching and Writing about Writing. This course will give graduate students the opportunity to develop their research and scholarly writing in the field of Rhetoric and Composition, English language studies, or other fields that study writing and the teaching of writing of all kinds. We will familiarize ourselves with the work being published in different journals in our fields, examining their research methods and rhetorical strategies as well as the current conversations they are joining. Students will learn how to position their own research interests within those current conversations and will practice framing their ideas in multiple genres (depending on student interest, possibly grant proposals, IRB applications, or doctoral exam literature reviews, along with academic papers and journal articles). Together, we will work on designing, gaining approval for, and writing up research projects, including moving toward writing and submitting journal articles. I will ask students further along in their research to share their work to serve as examples and gain feedback from the class, while students newer to the fields may develop research proposals and write shorter pieces to further their interests. Students with ongoing research programs can expect to have considerable room for revising that work toward publication or dissertation proposals. (Instructor: Devitt)

The Political Economy of Composition.” In his featured address at the 2013 Conference on College Composition and Communication, education theorist and critic, Henry Giroux, urged composition scholars to reassert the value of university education as a democratic, public good rather than a commodity affordable by fewer and fewer families, or as vocational training for students hoping to find their place in the totality of a market-driven economy. This course will examine the changing function of the university in our neoliberal moment, with particular attention directed to the implications of these changes for composition scholars and teachers. In examining these problems, we will read the work of Henry Giroux, Nancy Welch, Tony Scott, Marc Bousquet, Chris Carter, Sheri Steinberg, Eileen Schell, Tom Fox, and other scholars who express deep concern about the privatization of the Academy, and the consequences of this development for compositionists. (Instructor: Farmer)

English 904: Seminars in Rhetoric and Composition Theory

"Multiple Perspectives on Audience." In this seminar, we will explore the various ways that scholars in Rhetoric and Composition and in English Studies at large have defined and engaged with audiences and readers, have imagined the role of audience in discourse, and have considered the interaction among writers, audiences, and various contexts. The course will present an historical and theoretical overview of audience, from classical rhetoric to the present; examine multiple perspectives on audiences and approaches over the last 30 years; and examine current approaches, debates, and lines of development in the study and teaching of audience. (Instructor: Reiff)

"Genres for Social Action." Carolyn Miller’s article “Genre as Social Action” theorized genres as not just textual forms but socially and culturally meaningful actions in the world, a conception that has inspired thirty years of scholarship in rhetorical genre studies. Genres carry with them the rhetorical situations (writers, readers, purposes, settings) from which they developed, and genres provide a lens into the cultural contexts within which they are embedded. Whenever people use genres, they therefore implicitly reinforce particular ways of doing things and particular ideologies. If so, what then? I’m asking you to spend time this semester considering genres not just as social action but for social action—whether and how some genre actions can not just reinforce but resist existing ideologies, can not just constrain but enable individual choices, can not just resist but enable social change. I’m also asking you to consider whether and how you can use your scholarly interests and expertise to make a difference in the world, or someone’s world, to take into consideration how your research matters. I won’t ask you to work in the community or become a social activist, though I’d be happy to support you in such engaged scholarship. I will ask you to develop a research project that you think is important, and to use genre as either your subject or your lens to further that project. (Instructor: Devitt)

“Rhetorics of Outsider Writing: Travels in the Extracurriculum.” One of the legacies of Surrealism was a fascination with art brut, the term used by Jean Dubuffet to describe art that emerged outside the boundary lines of official culture. Later critics translated this phrase as “outsider art,” and used it to describe art that did not receive (and often did not want) recognition from mainstream or established authorities. This course extends that idea and proceeds on the assumption that there likewise exists outsider writing, and furthermore, that such writing need not be limited to aesthetic forms and intent. Outsider writing, understood here, is defined simply by the fact that it has no official status and (little or) no institutional legitimacy. Despite the fact that outsider writing has public significance, it largely flourishes in places out of conspicuous public view: in union halls, in jails and prisons, in online fandom sites, in recovery shelters, in underground communities, and even, as Anne Ruggles Gere reminds, in places as familiar as kitchens and rented rooms. Moreover, outsider writing can encompass an impressive array of genres—from crowdfunded novels to “disposable literature” such as flyers, leaflets, bills, and pamphlets; from settlement house narratives to zine discourses; from prison diaries to sidewalk and graffitic inscriptions. Two questions will guide our inquiries: How, and to what extent, are the rhetorics that accompany such writings determined by a self-consciousness of their outsider status; and how, and in what ways, do these rhetorics differ from one another, and why? As a map for our travels, we will use Circulating Communities (Mathieu, Parks, and Rousculp), supplemented by other titles and articles to be announced later. (Instructor: Farmer)

"Engaging Publics." In this seminar, we will explore the various ways that scholars in Rhetoric and Composition and in English Studies at large have defined and engaged with publics, have imagined the role of discourse in publics, and have considered the interaction between writing and publics and between rhetorical and social actions. We will then examine the following: 1) the varied discursive and rhetorical approaches used to engage with publics; 2) analyses of texts within their public and political contexts of production and reception; 3) the impact of new media activism on public communication and interaction; and 4) the implications of engaging publics for our work as teachers, researchers, and citizen-scholars—with a focus on reciprocal or activist research and community-based or service-learning projects. (Instructor: Reiff)

Rhetorical Performances of Publics.” In their 2011 CCC article, Rivers and Weber note that “Public rhetoric scholarship and pedagogy could benefit from an expanded scope that views rhetorical action as emergent and enacted through a complex ecology of texts, writers, readers, institutions, objects, and history.” Drawing on this expanded scope, this seminar will explore the dynamic, emergent, dispersed, and multi-directional performances of public texts and actors across multiple contexts, social movements, digital networks, modes and media. We will begin by defining and discussing the “public turn” in rhetoric and composition (Wells, Weisser, Mathieu, Farmer), working to locate publics and to explore the nexus of interests of citizen-scholars and those participating in the public work of rhetoric. Our readings and topics for discussion will range from a focus on the rhetoric of social movements and social justice; to community-based and activist research; to pedagogical approaches to public writing, including multimodal approaches, social media advocacy, and service- learning initiatives. We will also take up the question that Susan Wells, in “Rogue Cops and Healthcare” posed 20 years ago in the article’s subtitle: “What Do We Want from Public Writing?” This is a question that has endured—along with the article’s focus on topics of police brutality and Clinton’s healthcare policies—and we will consider this question in our current disciplinary and political moment. We will also focus on readings that join scholarship on public writing with new materialist perspectives, exploring the historical-material conditions that shape discursive performances and the material, dispositional, embodied, and affective factors that may enable and limit productive public deliberation and action. Another major focal point will be an examination of online public forums, online advocacy, and networked publics, with a focus on the ways in which technology introduces distinct affordances that shape how people engage with publics. (Instructor: Reiff)

ENGL 905: Seminar in English Language Studies: "Stylistics." The field of stylistics, broadly conceived as the linguistic study of style, has a checkered past, and the methods and purview of stylistics have been (sometimes hotly) contested over the past century. Since the mid-1990s, in particular, there has been a resurgence in the interest in the field witnessed by, among other things, more than half a dozen new textbooks on stylistics in the past decade alone, and the growing prominence of journals such as Language and Literature and Scientific Study of Literature. In this course, we will explore what stylistics actually entails and how the methods and theories that make up stylistics can help us gather information about, identify, analyze, evaluate, and appreciate the style of a particular author, text, or genre. Naturally, this exploration also involves tackling the thorny issue of what style is. We will draw on a number of stylistic frameworks (borrowed from various fields of linguistics), including politeness theory, schema theory, cognitive metaphor theory, and conversational analysis. We will look at quantitative approaches, which involve anything from manually counting features in a text to the application of specialized computer software to texts in an electronic format. We will also investigate texts and text extracts from a more localized, qualitative perspective, using the lenses of the frameworks listed earlier and others. (Instructor: Grund)

English 998 (directed readings) topics:

  • Genre and New Media Audiences (Instructor: Reiff)
  • History of English (Instructor: Grund)
  • Multiliteracies and New Media (Instructor: Reiff)
  • New Media, Multimedia, and Multimodality in Rhetoric and Composition (Instructor: Reiff)
  • Transfer Research in Composition Studies (Instructor: Reiff)
  • Writing/Rhetoric across Borders: Latino/a Language, Discourse, and Rhetoric (Instructor: Reiff)
  • World Englishes (Instructor: Grund)
  • Genres As and For Social Action (Instructor: Devitt)

To explore the awards, publications, and presentations of our faculty and graduate students, visit our "Showcase" page!

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
KU Today