ENGW 4341: Current Theories in Rhetoric & Composition (Spring 2014)

Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays
10:00 – 10:50 am
JBWS 161
Professing the New Rhetorics: A Sourcebook, 1994
ISBN-10: 0130143170
Articles from SEU databases as assigned
REQUIRED Technologies
Google Drive account
SEU email address you check at least daily
WEEKLY Calendar
A week-by-week calendar for our semester is available here


Official Description: An introduction to major contemporary theories of rhetoric, focusing in particular on semiotic and postmodern rhetorical theories. Students will apply these theories to the design and analysis of print and online texts composed in multiple modes (e.g., using sound, images, writing, hypertext) and media.

This course is designed to introduce you to major contemporary theories of rhetoric and composition as well as to the application of these theories in the classroom, the workplace, and the public sphere. In 15 weeks, we cannot possibly cover all the “current” questions of these vast disciplines, but I have structured the course into four units of recurring questions in “rhet/comp,” particularly those that are dominating our conversations because they ask the discipline to revisit questions we’ve been asking for more than 50 years.

Building on the readings you completed in ENGW 3336, we will explore how earlier theories of rhetoric continue to influence modern-day studies. We will also consider the ways in which recent theories have (or have not) broken from or challenged the past. We will read widely from theorists and researchers of the past century. Here are just a few of the questions that I’d like us to wrestle with in the coming weeks:

  • What does it mean to teach writing? What should be the focus of writing courses?
  • Is there a “new” rhetoric? Is it “modern”? What makes it “new” or “modern” or both?
  • Is uncertainty a necessity when working with contemporary (rhetoric and composition) theories?
  • What challenges do contemporary (rhetoric and composition) theories face?
  • What is the relationship between theory and practice?
  • What is the relationship between rhetoric and composition? Where do literacy studies belong?
  • What is “new media”? Should we care?
  • What are, or should be, the questions driving contemporary theories?
  • What, or who, should be the focus of our questions?


This class will be structured on a seminar model. What does that mean? Rather than me lecturing and telling you what is important from each of these readings, our meetings will center around the connections you are making with the material. I will always provide some ideas and some framework for the information, but the content of our course conversations will depend heavily on your participation and pre-class preparation.

We will complete a variety of writing tasks throughout the semester, and as you’ll notice below, a substantial amount of this writing will come in your Daily Grind work—weekly doubting and believing posts, which are geared to help you reflect and respond to our course readings. These low-stakes writing assignments combined with four longer projects mean that by the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  • describe key theories and theorists in contemporary rhetoric and composition;
  • understand the options that different modes of communication afford composers in creating multimodal texts, and how these options affect authorship, audiences, and reading practices;
  • conduct research that acknowledges and explicates the nuances of complex theories and pedagogies; and
  • compose arguments that persuasively articulate your positions on theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical issues related to rhetoric and composition.


Daily Grind Work (500 points)

Reading Quizzes, 100 points

20 quizzes @ 5 points each

Doubting & Believing Responses, 300 points

5 Believing @ 30 points each

5 Doubting @ 30 points each

Article Review & Presentation, 100 points

Writing Assignments (500 points)

Short Paper, 150 points

Proposal, Approved or Not Approved

Semester Project, 200 points

End-of-Course Self-Assessment Letter + Revised Research Project, 150 points

Excellent (A): 1000 – 900 points
Strong (B): 899 – 800 points
Fair, Adequate (C): 799 – 700 points
Weak (D): 699 – 600 points
Unacceptable/Failing (F): < 599 points


You should have purchased a copy of Professing the New Rhetorics: A Sourcebook, which we’ll be reading in throughout the semester. In addition to this book, we’ll be reading articles available to you through the SEU Library and/or via our Blackboard site. Below is a list of the reading assignments we’ll complete this semester.

Readings from our required text include only page numbers. For other articles, when available, you’ll find a link for the article. If you click on this link from a computer on campus, you’ll automatically be redirected to the appropriate database. If you access these links off campus, you may need to complete a few extra steps. I encourage you to download these articles and to print out hard copies of each one. I can help you save trees by printing out efficient versions (which I’m happy to show you if you don’t know how). You may also wish to read them online, but know, in advance, that you’ll need to “show” how you read materials during class discussions, so be prepared with notes and references from each reading assignment.


Elbow, Peter. “The Believing Game—Methodological Believing.” Selected Works of Peter Elbow, 2008. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Enos, Theresa. “Professing the New Rhetorics: Prologue.” Rhetoric Review 9.1 (1990): 5-35. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

Writing Studies, Unit 1

Trimbur, John. “Changing the Question: Should Writing Be Studied?” Composition Studies 31.1 (2003): 15-24. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

Russell, David. “Activity Theory and Its Implications for Writing Instruction.” Reconceiving Writing, Rethinking Writing Instruction. Ed. Joseph Petraglia. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995. 51-78.

Taczak, Kara. “The Question of Transfer.” Composition Forum 26 (2012): n. pag. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

Wardle, Elizabeth. “Creative Repurposing for Expansive Learning: Considering ‘Problem-Exploring’ and ‘Answer-Getting’ Dispositions in Individuals and Fields.” Composition Forum 26 (2012): n. pag. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

* Adler-Kassner, Linda, John Mejewski, and Damian Koshnick. “The Value of Troublesome Knowledge: Transfer and Threshold Concepts in Writing and History.” Composition Forum 26 (2012): n. pag. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

Downs, Douglas and Elizabeth Wardle. “Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions: (Re)Envisioning ‘First-Year Composition’ as ‘Introduction to Writing Studies’.” College Composition and Communication 58.4 (2007): 552-582. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

* Wardle, Elizabeth and Doug Downs. “Reflecting Back and Looking Forward: Revisiting ‘Teaching about Writing, Righting Misconceptions’ Five Years On.” Composition Forum 27 (2013): n. pag. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

* Grobman, Laurie. “The Student Scholar: (Re)Negotiating Authorship and Authority.” College Composition and Communication 61.1 (2009): W175-W196. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

Literacy Studies, Unit 2

Kelder, Richard. “Rethinking Literacy Studies: From the Past to the Present.” Proceedings of the 1996 World Conference on Literacy. International Literacy Institute, n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Fishman, Andrea. “Becoming Literate: A Lesson from the Amish.”

Hirsch, E. D. “Cultural Literacy.” 364-373.

* Brandt, Deborah. “Accumulating Literacy: Writing and Learning to Write in the Twentieth Century.” College English 57.6 (1995): 649-668. JSTOR. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Bizzell, Patricia. “Arguing about Literacy.” 446-460.

* Horner, Bruce. “Ideologies of Literacy, ‘Academic Literacies,’ and Composition Studies.” Literacy in Composition Studies 1.1 (2013): n. pag. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Daniell, Beth. “Narratives of Literacy: Connecting Composition to Culture.” College Composition and Communication 50.3 (1999): 393-410. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

* Rumsey, Suzanne Kesler. “Heritage Literacy: Adoption, Adaptation, and Alienation of Multimodal Literacy Tools.” College Composition and Communication 60.3 (2009): 573-586. JSTOR. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Sohn, Kathleen. “Whistlin’ and Crowin’ Women of Appalachia: Literacy Practices since College.” College Composition and Communication 54.3 (2003): 423-452. JSTOR. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Vieira, Kate. “On the Social Consequences of Literacy.” Literacy in Composition Studies 1.1 (2013): n. pag. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Rhetorical Theory, Unit 3

Richie, and Ronald. “Introduction: A Gathering of Rhetorics.” Available Means.

* Glenn, Cheryl. “Remapping Rhetorical Territory.” Rhetoric Review 13.2 (1995): 287-303. JSTOR. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Mattingly, Carol. “Uncovering Forgotten Habits: Anti-Catholic Rhetoric and Nineteenth-Century American Women’s Literacy.” College Composition and Communication 58.2 (2006): 160-181. JSTOR. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Lunsford, Andrea and Lisa Ede. “On Distinctions between Classical and Modern Rhetoric.” 397-411.

* Bokser, Julie A. “Sor Juana’s Rhetoric of Silence.” Rhetoric Review 25.1 (2006): 5-21. Ebsco. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.

Ehninger, Douglas. “On Systems of Rhetoric.” 319-330.

Burke, Kenneth. “Definition of Man.” 40-62.

Weaver, Richard. “The Cultural Role of Rhetoric.” 75-89.

Perelman, Chaim. “The New Rhetoric: A Theory of Practical Reasoning.” 145-178.

Fisher, Walter R. “Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument.” 374-396.

Corder, Jim W. “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love.” 412-428.

* Corder, Jim W. and Keith D. Miller. “On Argument, What Some Call ‘Self-Writing,’ and Trying to See the Back Side of One’s Own Eyeballs.” Rhetoric Review 22.1 (2003): 31-39. JSTOR. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Brent, Doug. “Rogerian Rhetoric.” Theorizing Composition: A Critical Sourcebook of Theory and Scholarship in Contemporary Composition Studies. Ed. Mary Kennedy. Westport: Greenwood, 1998. 263-65. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Brent, Doug. “Rogerian Rhetoric: An Alternative to Traditional Rhetoric.” Argument Revisited, Argument Redefined: Negotiating Meaning in the Composition Classroom. Eds. Barabara Emmel, Paula Resch, and Beborah Tenny. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996. 73-96. Web. 7 Jan. 2013.

Ohmann, Richard. “In Lieu of a New Rhetoric.” 298-306.

New Media Studies, Unit 4

Jenkins, Henry. “Eight Traits of the New Media Landscape.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Henry Jenkins, 2006. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Reid, Alex. “Composing Objects: Prospects for a Digital Rhetoric.” enculturation 14 (2012): n. pag. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Marback, Richard. “Embracing Wicked Problems: The Turn to Design in Composition Studies.” College Composition and Communication 61.2 (2009): W397-W419. JSTOR. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Newcomb, Matthew. “Sustainability as a Design Principle for Composition: Situational Creativity as a Habit of Mind.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (2012): 593-615. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Delagrange, Susan H. “When Revision is Redesign: Key Questions for Digital Scholarship.” Kairos 14.1 (2009): n. pag. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

* Stensaas, Starla. “Comfort Food at Death’s Door: An Artist-Made Hypertext.” enculturation 3.2 (2001): n. pag. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.

Fraiberg, Steven. “Composition 2.0: Toward a Multilingual and Multimodal Framework.” College Composition and Communication 62.1 (2010): 100-126. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.


You will find a more detailed description of my course policies here. However, there are a few policies that you’ll need to be aware of, and I want to note these below. Again, please review the General Course Policies page as you are responsible for that information.


ENGW 4341 is designed to be a “senior seminar” for English Writing and Rhetoric majors, which means that your readingthinkingtalking, and writing should be on par with the work typically expected of new graduate students. Hence, it is essential that you keep up with our reading schedule. You must be reading and thinking about our reading assignments to participate fully in the Daily Grind work. I recognize and understand that the reading schedule is quite rigorous at the beginning of the semester, but this is to allow time at the end of the semester for your individual projects, which will make up one-third of the work in this course. That said, our seminar course won’t succeed unless you come to class ready and willing to discuss (and question) what you’ve read. The trade off for the intensive period early on is that there is no final exam for our course.

Bring your questions, ideas, and concerns. Something will always be better than nothing, but you should know that I expect every member of the class to say something substantive during every class period. Most of our class sessions will be conducted in discussion/workshop format, and many of these workshops cannot be “re-created” outside of class, so regular attendance and active participation are essential to your success. Active participation will also include successful completion of reading quizzes, which will be used to assess your preparedness for a class meeting.

Absences (and Lateness)

I do not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences. I also know that life happens, so here is the attendance policy for all my courses:

  • You may miss a maximum of one week of class without penalty and with no questions asked. However, you still must turn in your work on time and keep up with the course. Because our class meets on MWF, this means you may miss three (3) class meetings.
  • Each absence after the one week maximum will lower your final course grade by half a letter grade, regardless of how well you otherwise perform.
  • If you miss five (5) or more class meetings, I reserve the right (but do not take on the obligation) to drop you from the course with a grade of “WA.” If you remain on the roster after the drop deadline and “disappear,” you will likely earn a grade of “F.”

Class starts and ends on time, which means 12:00 pm. If you walk in after class has begun—even if it is 12:02 pm—then you are late. Two instances of lateness will be treated as an absence. Two instances of leaving class early will also be considered an absence. Of course, if you have some legitimate reason to be late or leave early once or twice, please tell me.

Extra Credit


Late Work

I don’t accept late work. My deadlines are not like the expiration date on a gallon of milk: “Best If Used By.” The due dates and times are not suggestions. They are agreements between us about when work will be submitted. The same is true of in-class activities; these collaborative assignments depend on students being prepared. Thus, in-class assignments or activities, including daily or weekly quizzes, cannot be made up.


When you enter class, all phones must be turned off. Silent is okay, but vibrate is not. Also, I do not stand in front of class texting, and I ask that you extend me the same courtesy. If you cannot be in class without texting, then might I suggest you find another course.

I do have an office phone and voicemail box in my office. However, the best way to communicate with me is in person, during office hours. If that doesn’t work for you, my preferred method of communication is via email. I do not typically return phone calls to students.