Teaching Argumentation Through Trial Transcripts

Photograph of the Courtroom During Nuremberg Trials

My teaching primarily focuses on forensic rhetoric and the role of narrative, memory, and proof in disputes about past events. This classically includes legal disputes, although it extends far beyond them. In the course I’m teaching now, entitled Rhetoric and the Law, I challenge students to consider the importance of rhetoric to interpretations of evidence in legal disputes, the use of analogical argument in appeals to precedent, and the significance of the adversary system of justice as a dispute resolution model.

The Teaching Record

Photo of an old report card filled out by hand

In the Learning Record, I tell my students, change is a requirement. If you don’t change, you fail. The Learning Record, an alternative grading system designed by Professor Peg Syverson at UT, provides the structure for monitoring change and the vocabulary for describing it, thereby aiding students in their process of self evaluation.

Getting Students to Disagree

Chalkboard drawing of stick figure with text Formula for English Class Discussion

I am teaching 306 for the first time this semester. Apart from the typical anxieties and uncertainties of teaching a new format (and a lot of content that had thus far been foreign to me) things are going pretty well. More important, they seem to be going better every week. Of course there are still many things I struggle with. One of the most important ones to me is getting a decent group discussion going.

Truthiness and Consequences: Balancing the Content-Driven Rhetoric Classroom

Photo of Stephen Colbert waving a flag above a crowd with the words Listless Students? Relax, Bro. I Got This.

When I decided to make my rhetoric and writing course about “truthiness” as Stephen Colbert defines it—something that “feels true,” without needing to rely on pesky facts—I thought I knew what I wanted to do with it. I wanted to be in a networked computer classroom, to break down the barriers between the classroom and the homework. I wanted a course blog so students could practice writing in a variety of modes, and have the chance to see what their classmates were doing and thinking, and to establish more connections between classroom and individual learning.

Online Archives and the Poetry Anthology

Photo of poetry anthologies on a bookshelf overlaid with the words I Hate You More Each Time I Move

The bottom shelf of my bookcase is dedicated almost entirely to anthologies.  I’ve lugged them around with me for almost 15 years, through four cities and nine houses, and every time I move I think about tossing them.  Like the set of Collier’s encyclopedias I ditched in 2001 or the Field Guides I donated in 2009, the anthologies may have outlived their usefulness. 

Class Discussion and Writing Due Dates

New Yorker cover featuring a blurry drawing overlaid with a graphic indicating the image is loading

This semester I’m teaching a composition class centered around The New Yorker magazine. The impetus for this course was that I wanted my students, who grew up with the immediate culture of the internet, to spend hours musing over longer arguments, and then try and rearticulate those arguments in a critical manner. This is a difficult task when one’s being bombarded with tweets and texts all the time from friends, as I know most twenty-first century students are.

Navigating Digital Archives

Two open books with the words Data and Base carved into their pages

As a student, graduate or undergraduate, working with an archive can be daunting, and the effort doesn't necessarily get easier when the archive is digital.  But as more digital archives become available, it's worth considering how they might be used as classroom resources. My students in "Banned Books and Novel Ideas" this semester are reading several books and authors that have affiliated digital archives, and figuring out how best to introduce the

William Strunk and the Human Brain

Black and white photograph of William Strunk

If there is one piece of advice that all usage guide writers seem to agree on, it is that good writing is clear and concise. A good writer makes the reader’s life easy. Rules from “Use the active voice” to “Avoid preposition stranding” are put in place because they supposedly achieve simplicity and ease comprehension. In "The Elements of Style, for instance, William Strunk describes the active voice as “more direct” than the passive and writes that it “produces brevity”.

Incorporating Pop Culture Texts in the Classroom

Screenshot from music video for Destiny Child's Independent Women

In order to improve my course design and teaching, I ask my students at each semester’s end for feedback on the assignments and course texts. When I reviewed their responses for last semester’s class, in which I taught an E314L class on Women’s Popular Genres, one text emerged as a favorite: the Destiny’s Child song “Independent Women Part I.” I used the music video during the first and second class days to introduce students to formal, historical, and cultural reading practices.

Timelines, Trauma, Temporality

Photo of two characters from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

I'm teaching Banned Books and Novel Ideas this year, and most of the books I've chosen focus on the experience of trauma, whether on the level of the individual or the mass. One of the ways that I explain the concept of trauma to my class is by referring to Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, in which he explains the concept of the repetition compulsion as a response to traumatic experiences. The repetition compulsion manifests as a constant reliving of the trauma, often taking the form of dreams or nightmares, daydreams, or even subconscious actions.



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