I embrace rhetoric’s political, affective, and invitational power. My training as a feminist and queer rhetorician and my work as a historian of the margins inspire me to expand and extend my students’ knowledge of the diverse traditions, histories, theories, and practices of rhetoric. My classes blend discussions of the historical with the digital, and they embrace the interdisciplinary and international networks of communication. I work to inspire and facilitate critical conversations about power, privilege, and identity, and I encourage my students to reflect, write, and speak about their relationships to these complex issues.
Rhetoric, as Thomas Farrell has argued, “is the art, the fine and useful art, of making things matter” (1). I animate this view of rhetoric and communication in my students’ thinking and speaking. I attune class discussions to diverse issues, and my courses map the communicative interplay between language, media, and identity. I encourage students to look toward, listen to, and learn from the margins. In doing so, my courses ask students to critically think about the communicative complexities and complications of gender, religion, sexuality, race, class, ability, and other aspects of identity.
I invite my students to critically explore the rhetorics that abound around them: those they discuss as students in diverse classrooms, those they hear and see in unprecedentedly partisan political arenas, those they text and tweet in our digital and networked age, and those they encounter as citizens of a global, multicultural society. I encourage students to embrace communication to identify, critique, and articulate their positions (and positionalities) within conversations and contestations—big and small, old and new.
Rhetoric is simultaneously technē (art, skill, craft), theory, and tradition. As such, I invite student discussion and reflection through interdisciplinary readings, multimodal examples, and a balance of oral, written, technological, and embodied communicative practice. In my public speaking classes, students are asked to speak out on issues of personal, local, national, and/or global significance, while also fine-tuning their skills as inventors, molders, and practitioners of language. In my message analysis classes, students are encouraged to critique the diverse artifacts around them, from 19th-century French paintings to networks of Facebook posts. In my rhetorical theory classes, students are challenged to read, discuss, and apply primary and secondary sources in the service of historicizing and historiographically refiguring the boundaries of Rhetoric’s canon(s).
In addition to my positions as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at Wabash College and as a graduate student instructor in Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State, I have also served as a teaching assistant (also at Penn State) in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (CAMS). My work in CAMS solidified the importance of ancient texts, languages, religions, and cultures for my teaching across the Humanities. I now work harder to push students to critique the origins, gaps, and silences of both Western and global histories and rhetorics, and I am unabashed in my use of primary sources and languages.
My pedagogy is informed by my work across disciplines and around the world. Rhetoric’s copia (copiousness) of methods, methodologies, archives, histories, texts, and figures encourages students to listen for silenced voices, discover the abundant diversity of communicative media, and actively engage within their communities. I embrace this capaciousness of rhetoric in my pedagogy. Rhetoric’s multiplicity and multimodality invite my students to ask big questions, consider the myriad complexities of power, and embrace the work of the political. Rhetoric helps my students and me to uncover what matters and to discover new positions, places, and people along the way.
(1) Thomas B. Farrell. “Sizing Things Up: Colloquial Reflection as Practical Wisdom.” Argumentation 12 (1998): 1.