Thank You, Mr. Putin

Andy Warhol-style grid of four Putins

When I talk to fellow teachers about students in Rhetoric 306, the complaint is curiously uniform:  students struggle with limiting their engagement with a source to the level of rhetoric. Though the distinction between a particular argument and the subject of that argument can seem perfectly clear to teachers in the field, it’s a divide that continues to puzzle students, sometimes deep into a semester.

Plain Text = Persuasion

image of a TextEdit window titled Plain text = Persuasive

After two years out of the classroom on fellowship, I've just finished the first full week of teaching. Because of the long break, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to get out of the classroom, and what I hoped my students would get out of it. At UT-Austin we have a large and diverse student population, but the common factor in mine has been that they're driven and want to do well. 

Embodying a Controversy

Art E. Rial's The Thinker

This summer, my parents asked me to review an article they were writing for a handbook on systemic counselling. The topic was using the body as a resource as well as an agent in problem-solving strategies and decision-making. Mom and Dad wrote the interaction between cognition and embodiment (and their fundamental inseparability), the bi-directionality of psycho-somatic processes, etc. All of which I felt was very interesting, but at the time seemed slightly too obvious to really excite me.

Helping Students with Invisible Disabilities

Collection of handicapped signs

I teach The Rhetoric of Harry Potter, which has an exceedingly long waitlist—for the past two semesters, the waitlist consisted of 50 UT seniors, and for awhile I couldn’t figure out why the 23 students in my class weren’t all seniors, especially since it looked like underclassmen didn’t even have a chance to get on the waitlist.

Pedagogy of a Deaf Teacher

Depictions of ASL Alphabet

This blog post is a “coming-out” [1] story—the story of teaching in a classroom of hearing students as a Deaf [2] teacher and what that means in terms of methodology.

Automated Textual Analysis in Revision

Screen shot of Voyeur display

I like to discover and play with digital humanities tools. One I recently discovered is Voyeur, which creates word clouds and word frequency graphs for texts you provide it. Despite the warning by Jacob Harris that we should be wary of word clouds, they can serve as a gentle introduction to automated text analysis for students.

On Grammar Pedagogy; or, Stop: Grammar Time

Drive Slow Street Sign with "ly" marked in after "Slow"

Never before have I spent an entire class period talking about grammar, but I decided that this semester I would try it to see what my students thought about being taught grammar and being graded on grammar (the first of which I never do unless asked by a student for one-on-one help, the second which I only do if grammar severely impacts my ability to understand their papers). I had my students read three articles: Joseph Williams' "The Phenomenology of Error," (a selection from) David Foster Wallace's "Tense Present" a.k.a.

Oral Presentation by Peers

Podium outside the Capitol

I’m teaching an upper-division rhetorical theory course about legal rhetoric that requires students to write a 2,500-4,000 word research paper in which they rhetorically analyze two or more opposing arguments regarding an evidentiary controversy in a forensic dispute (typically this will be a trial or similar proceeding), and critique or extend a particular theory of forensic rhetoric as it applies to the rhetorical analysis they provide. This is a staged writing assignment that begins about a thirdd of the way through the semester and is concluded at the end of the semester.

Social Writing: Done with the One-on-One

Image of journalists in the Radio-Canada/CBC newsroom in Montreal, Canada

It’s been a few months since we had Criterion co-founder and innovator extraordinaire, Bob Stein, on campus, and since his visit I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the things he had the say. For those of you who missed it, Stein was showcasing a few new projects related to the future of the book, centered on the idea of social reading (you can hear Zeugma’s great interview with him here.

Benefits of Paper Workshops

Black-and-white photo of tools hanging on a wall

This spring I’ve been teaching RHE 310: Intermediate Expository Prose for the second time. The first time I taught it was two years ago, so I had plenty of time in between to think of ways to improve upon my first effort. I love teaching this class. I’m not sure I’ll get to teach a class like it in my new job, but I will definitely try to work in the practice of in-class paper workshops in future classes. Workshops are a cornerstone of RHE 310, and in this post, I’d like to describe how I run workshops, what I think works well, and what I will change in the future.



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