Courses

My pedagogy combines student-centered, process-oriented strategies with creative multimodal project design. Process and multimodality inform all of my teaching, whether it is in the standard First-year Composition sequence, a course in advanced technical communication, or an upper-division Chaucer seminar. Links in the titles and text below lead to representative examples of course sites and syllabi, project descriptions, and examples of student work.

Embodiment, Emergence, and Digital Rhetoric (ENGL4320 | Spring 2016)

In this course, we are investigating embodiment and emergence in digital rhetoric. In the Phaedrus, for example, one argument made against writing is that once an author records his thoughts in that medium, the thoughts become disembodied; they circulate without the author, in contexts where he will not be present to explain or defend them. Viewed another way, though, written words are still embodied, that is they exist in a material form. And viewed yet another way, written texts are an extension of their authors’ bodies, part of an authorial persona that can be injured, conserved, celebrated, debated, etc. Indeed, this latter view is what links assessment of your senior rhetoric and composition portfolio to assessment of you as a writer and student. We will consider how digital composition tools and methods affect our understanding of how rhetoric is embodied, and the relationship between rhetorical artifacts and the bodies that create them.

Emergence is a term we use to describe processes–like evolution, or consciousness for example–in which multiple, sometimes simple rules or causes interact in a complex system to produce effects that might be predicted with varying degrees of accuracy, but are not determined by the operation of rules or causality. Some teachers–I am one of them, actually–believe learning might be an emergent quality of the classroom, something for which we can create ideal conditions but not something we can force to happen or entirely control. Similarly, some rhetoric scholars have begun to apply systems theory and ideas about emergence in thinking about the relationship between rhetorical artifacts and the rhetorical situations that produce them. We will analyze some of their work and the response it has generated.

English 4320 focuses on a specified topic–emergence, embodiment, and digital rhetoric in this course–and also satisfies the second Critical Thinking Through Writing (CTW) university requirement for English majors in Rhetoric and Composition. Your own work will be at the center of the class, which will involve analysis, production, and revision of digital texts. You will also research careers in writing and publishing and explore the choices writers make to produce, edit, and revise texts in a variety of genres. In terms of production and delivery, the course will give you opportunities to critically engage, compose and revise in a number of modes (sound, image, text) in order to see how each of these modes allows for different ways of knowing and meaning making. We will analyze and develop work in various media including print, audio, visual, and web.

 

The Rhetoric of Space and Place in Atlanta (ENGL1102 | Spring 2016)

In this course, we are investigating the rhetoric of the built environment–interior, exterior, and digital. Places–parks, classrooms, social media sites–are rhetorical. That is, they are created for purposes, audiences, and contexts. Through rhetorical analysis, we can learn about their functions, who is welcome (and not welcome) within them, who built them and why. Rhetorical analysis also gives us a means to explore how the rhetoric of the built environment expresses and influences social relations such as class, gender, race, age, and disability.

Throughout the semester, in the reading summaries, multimedia annotated bibliography, built environment descriptions, and built environment analysis, students will explore the built environment of Atlanta. You will learn to analyze how the built environment employs the five rhetorical modes–linguistic, aural, visual, spatial, and gestural–to communicate information about its purposes, its creators, its users, and the social and historical context from which it emerges and with which it engages. You will also learn how to use these five modes in your own academic research and composition process. Think of everything we do in this course–reading, research, writing, documenting, note-taking, etc.–as the multiple stages and processes in a single, semester-long project, culminating in the built environment analysis and contributing to a collaborative archive of information about the rhetoric of space and place in Atlanta.

This course builds on writing proficiencies, reading skills, and critical thinking skills developed in ENGL 1101. It incorporates several research methods in addition to persuasive and argumentative techniques.

 

Multimodal Composition and Digital Publics (ENGL1103H | Fall 2015)

Project site: webapps.library.gsu.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/hiv-aids-atlanta

As our sense of self and understanding of personal identity has expanded to include our presence online, both the popular media and academic scholars have devoted increased attention to how technology shapes our cultural awareness of concepts such as privacy, personal and professional reputation, intellectual property, public speech, civility, and rhetorical ethics. At the same time, technology and new media have themselves influenced the processes and forms we use to write about and discuss such issues. In this course we are studying the role technology plays in shaping who we are as individuals and how we interact as a society, while also examining how technology is transforming the work of academic research and writing.

Over the course of the semester, in the primary source description, multimedia annotated bibliography, timeline, and multimodal primary source analysis and online exhibit, students will examine historical materials in which the history of AIDS in Atlanta is embodied. Working together, we will collaboratively build an online exhibit that begins to tell that history for a public audience. For the most part, all of the work in this class will be directed or related to the multimodal source analysis and online exhibit.

This course may not be like other English courses you have taken that focused on literature and literary analysis. While it will build on the writing proficiencies, reading skills, and critical thinking skills you have acquired in your previous English courses, this is a composition class, where you will learn the fundamentals of rhetoric, academic research methods, and multimodal composition. It incorporates work with primary and secondary sources in addition to persuasive and argumentative techniques.

 

Technology, Culture, and Academic Writing (ENGL1102 | Spring 2015)

As our sense of self and understanding of personal identity has expanded to include our presence online, both the popular media and academic scholars have devoted increased attention to how technology shapes our cultural awareness of concepts such as privacy, personal and professional reputation, intellectual property, public speech, civility, and rhetorical ethics. At the same time, technology and new media have themselves influenced the processes and forms we use to write about and discuss such issues. In this course we are studying the role technology plays in shaping who we are as individuals and how we interact as a society, while also examining how technology is transforming the work of academic research and writing.

Over the course of the semester, in the proposal, multimedia annotated bibliography, literature review, and multimodal research essay, students will explore, compare, and contrast how a topic that is generally related to the themes of this course is discussed and analyzed in the mainstream media and in academic scholarship. For the most part, all of the work in this class will be directed or related to the multimodal research essay.

 

Writing About Material Culture (ENGL3090 | Fall 2015)

Spring 2015  | Fall 2014

Project site: atlantaartifacts.net/

ENGL 3090 builds on the competencies developed in English 1101 and 1102, with a special emphasis on composition intended to explain, inform, and describe. As with any kind of writing, expository writing is rhetorical; it has a purpose, audience, author(s), and context. Consequently, this course will continue to develop your ability to identify, analyze, and respond to rhetorical situations.

Regarding the purpose of the writing we’ll be doing this semester, the other primary subject matter of this course will be the material world of objects through which we move in our day to day lives. We will consider why we are driven to create, use, consume, and accumulate things. Why and how do we form emotional attachments to inanimate objects? What do the possessions we own say about us–about our social and economic status, our cultural and ethnic identities, our psychological profile? To what extent is human behavior and expression dependent upon tools, prostheses, and other material goods? Does being human require a world of objects against which or through which we can define ourselves? These are the sorts of questions the field of material culture studies has evolved to answer, and these are the questions we will take up and examine in our reading and writing.

Finally, we will consider the place of expository writing as part of a larger multimodal project of exposition. In addition to writing, we use a variety of other modes—oral, visual, electronic, nonverbal– to interact with and communicate about the material world. Developing your ability to integrate your writing with these other modalities will improve your rhetorical expertise.

 

Theory and Practice of Technical Communication (ENGL3110 | Fall 2014)

This course in technical communication emphasizes “theory” and “practice.” That means we will learn the theoretical–largely rhetorical–underpinnings of technical communication, while engaging in the practice–which is iterative, recursive, and reflective–of technical communication.

Summary of projects: The course includes the following projects, which are designed to engage you in the processes and products of technical communication in the non-academic workplace: a collaborative blog about issues in technical and professional communication, a final portfolio, an online professional profile (including a resume, professional biography, and relevant social media profiles), a packet of deliverables for a service learning client, a professional development/training module, and several in-class individual and collaborative “lightning” projects. Unless otherwise noted, all documents and artifacts will be submitted on Marca, except for the course blog, which is here on our course website.

 

The Life, Death, and Afterlife of Geoffrey Chaucer

Terry Jones, perhaps best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy ensemble, is also a reputable medieval historian. The title of the 2004 book Jones co-authored with Robert Yeager, Alan Fletcher, Juliette Dor, and Terry Dolan, Who Murdered Chaucer? A Medieval Mystery, asks a rhetorical question that presumes a continued popular interest in Chaucer and his work. In addition, the title’s qualification of “mystery” with the word “medieval” suggests a modern audience for things specifically identified as such. What circumstances allow the book’s authors to make such presumptions? What, if anything, can a course on Chaucer and the Middle Ages add to the study of science, technology, and culture in contemporary society? In what forms do Chaucer and the Middle Ages persist in the modern cultural landscape? These are just a few of the questions that will guide our work in this class.

In addition to the biography by Jones, et al., texts will include a selection of Chaucer’s major works and a few other canonical Middle English texts. We will ease into the Middle English by starting with selections drawn from The Canterbury Tales in a facing-page Modern English translation. We will also study multimedia artifacts medieval and modern that relate to Chaucer and his historical period, things like maps, illuminated manuscripts, video, sound recordings, graphic novels, and digital editions. Working together for the major project, we will create a modern manuscript edition of some of Chaucer’s shorter poetry, which we will then digitize to create an online edition.

 

A Desire for Order: Law, Literature, and Narrative Poetics

Earl Warren, a former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and author of the Court’s opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, wherein the Court ruled racial segregation of schools was unconstitutional, once stated, “It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.” The sentiment Warren expressed, that we must conform ourselves to and enforce the spirit and not just the letter of the law in order to see justice done still rings true for many. Work in both literary and legal studies has, however, called into question the conceptual division between form and content Justice Warren took for granted. Scholars who study law and literature together, drawing from literary studies and narrative poetics, have begun to explore how the law’s formal, rhetorical operation influences and perhaps even dictates in some cases outcomes that on the surface seem to contradict the “spirit” of justice. In this class we will study legal and literary narratives, what we might call “poetic justice,” to determine whether we can identify a “poetics” of justice. We will, for example, examine the strategies writers in both disciplines use to generate order, broadly defined, through the comparison or reconciliation of seemingly incommensurable objects and ideas. We will also consider the role, if any, literary aesthetics might play in legal decision-making. Primary texts will include legal documents, novels, and feature films and will address issues related to defining person, property, and the nation in contemporary global contexts.

 

Technology and the Future of the Constitution

This course takes its name from The Future of the Constitution Series, a collection of essays published earlier this year by the Brookings Institution (http://www.brookings.edu/governance/Future-of-the-Constitution.aspx). In these essays, prominent legal scholars examine how “[f]rom free speech to privacy, and from liberty and personal autonomy to the right against self-incrimination, basic constitutional principles are under stress from technological advances.” They also offer what the series editors describe as “an invaluable roadmap for responding to the challenge of adapting our constitutional values to future technological developments.” As Tech celebrates the 50th anniversary of its voluntary racial integration, we will consider how the rhetoric of constitutional “crisis” deployed in the Brookings Institution series borrows, evolves, and perhaps diverges from civil rights discourse of an earlier era. Questions that will guide our work include the following: To what extent does technological innovation pose new challenges to civil liberties? How will or how should scientific knowledge shape our legal definitions of key concepts such as “privacy,” “person,” and “freedom” in the near future? Will we need to amend the constitution to clarify such concepts, and if so what amendments should we make? In addition to The Future of the Constitution Series, we will read important texts of the civil rights era, including the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and we will also consider how constitutional issues have been and are addressed in visual art, film, and new media. Multimodal composition projects will range from traditional to creative and experimental, and emphasize information literacy, audience and contextual awareness, process, and reflection.

 

The Past, Present, and Future of Information Systems

This technical communication class will consider the past, present, and future of information systems in order to introduce students to workplace genres and to develop written, oral, visual, and nonverbal competencies in critical analysis and project management. In this age of ubiquitous electronic readers, personal computing, and multimedia communication, we don’t often consider the book, or pen and paper as technologies, but they are, and considering them in that light can help us to use these and other communication tools more effectively. Similarly, we may have difficulty imagining a time when soliciting resumes or issuing a request for proposals would have been a novel solution to the problem of finding qualified applicants or vetting outside consultants, but like all genres, resumes and RFPs have histories that we need to understand. Exploring how technical communication genres have evolved along with the information systems in which they circulate provides us with a better understanding of how best to design technical communication suited to rapidly evolving rhetorical situations in the workplace. Class projects will emphasize multimodal strategies and conventions for technical communication, involving students in simulated workplace scenarios and engaging them in the rhetorical dimensions of problem solving.

 

Law, Society, and the Body

In the recent case of Citizens United v. FEC the Supreme Court held that free-speech restrictions based on the speaker’s corporate identity are unconstitutional. In a First Amendment context at least, the Court saw no valid reason for treating corporate “persons” differently than human individuals. More than 200 years ago, however, Edward Thurlow, then Chancellor of England, had this to say about why one might draw a distinction between the two: “Corporations have neither bodies to be punished, nor souls to be condemned; they therefore do as they like.” In this class, we will use the Citizens United case as a starting point for our exploration of the historical and evolving role of the body as a marker of legal and social status. We will consider print as well as multi-media texts such as documentary films, photographs, sound recordings, websites, and wikis. Composition projects will emphasize information literacy, audience and contextual awareness, process and reflection, and multimodal communication.

 

Making the Old New Again: Appropriation, Adaptation, and Transformation as Creative Performance 

In this class, we will be looking at the modern and postmodern “afterlife” of a number of medieval and early modern texts, including Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In addition to reading these works in what we think of as their “original” form, we will look at how they have been appropriated, adapted and transformed in writing, television, movies, dance and modern stage performance. Why do these texts, some of them written more than 600 years ago, continue to capture the attention of contemporary artists working in media both new and “old”? Is their status as required reading in the standard canon of English literature sufficient to explain their continued relevance as primary source material for a fairly astonishing variety of cultural production? How has their meaning changed or shifted over time? What, if anything, can the adaptations, appropriations and transformations of these texts tell us about the texts themselves, as well as perhaps the nature of art and creativity more generally? These are the questions that will guide our work in this class. Along the way, you will have an opportunity to do some appropriating, adapting, and transforming of your own. Composition projects will range from traditional to creative and experimental, and will emphasize information literacy, audience and contextual awareness, process and reflection, and multimodal communication.

 

Knowing Digital 

On August 23, 2008 a UCLA computer in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) PrimeNet network discovered the 45th Mersenne prime, 243,112,609-1, which is the largest known prime number and comprises over 12,000,000 digits. In March of this year Wired reported that defense attorneys in a child protection case in San Diego are going to offer the results of an fMRI “lie detector” scan into evidence for the first time. By enabling us to crunch data with ruthless efficiency and providing us with powerful new tools of perception, digital technologies have profoundly changed what we are able to know about the world around us. Have those same technologies also had an impact on how we know, perhaps by transforming the fundamental nature of the questions we ask as well as the processes by and through which the answers to those questions are disseminated within our culture? Is there a difference between knowledge gained through direct, personal observation via our five physical senses and that acquired with the assistance of digital tools? Are there ways of relating to and understanding our physical environment, our history and one another that are foreclosed by–because they are incompatible with–post-digital modes of knowing? These are the inquiries that will guide our work in this first-year composition class. Although our approach to the texts we study will inevitably begin from a pre- vs. post-digital binary, one of our primary objectives will be to consider whether continuities, or (to borrow a term from our FYC textbook) synergies exist between and among the various epistemes (knowledge systems) that we explore. Readings will be drawn from a variety of medieval, early-modern, modern and post-modern non-fiction works, including: St. Augustine’s “On the Teacher,” John Trevisa’s On the Properties of Things (selections), Sigmund Freud’s “The Ego and the Id,” Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think,” Alan Turing’s “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things (selections), and N. Katherine Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman (selections). Along the way we will also consider multi-media texts such as documentary films, photographs, sound recordings and wikis. Composition projects will emphasize information literacy, audience and contextual awareness, process and reflection, and multimodal communication.

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