Courses I Teach at Michigan

Fall 2017: ENG 425; ENG 508 | Winter 2018: ENG 280; ENG/WS 315


Writing and Academic Inquiry (ENG 125) 
If you’ve made it to Michigan, you are already a successful writer. This class aims to help you further increase your proficiency and confidence in the research-based inquiry that is at the heart of college writing. We’ll learn why people are so easily persuaded by seemingly bad arguments and unpersuaded by good ones—and what makes an effective argument in academic and public contexts. We’ll conduct research not to simply prove our case but to better understand what’s at stake in arguing about it. We’ll learn to respond to the demands of tricky rhetorical situations and audiences who may or may not share our values or beliefs. We’ll sharpen our writing skills by revising and editing our arguments in response to reader feedback, and we’ll improve our style by applying the conventions of formal written English to maximum persuasive effect. My hope is that by the end of the semester, you’ll have the rhetorical know-how to tackle any future writing situation with confidence and skill.

Literacy in a Digital Age (ENG 280, Intro to Digital Cultures)
The digital revolution has fundamentally changed the ways we read, write, and communicate, online and off, and the consequences of those changes are still not fully understood. Is the Internet making us stupid or smart? Does social media create community or destroy it? Improve or harm the public sphere? This course will examine language and literacy practices in our digital age. We will consider not only how we make use of new technologies of communication but how those technologies mediate the ways we read, write, and communicate with each other.

Exploring the English Language (ENG 305)
This class introduces students to the study of language, with a particular emphasis on contemporary language issues. We will cover a broad range of topics, including language structure, language change and classification, language acquisition, language in social contexts, and language and literacy education. We’ll learn, for example, why it’s easy for babies to learn foreign languages and hard for us, how English evolved and why it’s so hard to spell, what linguists mean by grammar and why no one believes them, and how slang emerges and why it can’t be stopped. By the end of the semester, you won’t know all the “rules,” but you’ll have a good start on being able to explain them.

Dangerous Women: Feminine Activism in the Progressive Era (ENG/WS 315)
Well-behaved women, it is said, seldom make history. But those who don’t “behave” often have their contributions erased as well, particularly when they violate norms for what is considered appropriate feminine behavior. This class examines the rhetoric of American women activists, reformers, and artists in and around the Progressive era (c. 1890-1920), women whose writing, speech, and behavior were frequently seen as a danger to the social order. As we study the women rhetors of this period, we will pay close attention to how they used language to effect social change. What means of persuasion were available to them? How did they negotiate contemporary rhetorical constraints? What constructions of womanhood did they adopt, appropriate, or challenge? What makes publicly active women—then and now—seem so dangerous to begin with?

Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Public Sphere (ENG 403, Topics in Language)
This course examines theories of rhetoric and persuasion as they apply to public discourse, making use of insights from classical and contemporary rhetoric, communication, cognitive and political science, and media studies. What psychological, cognitive, and cultural mechanisms guide persuasion? Why is it so difficult to persuade through rational argument? How do we engage in argument when basic facts about reality are in question? Can argument generate knowledge? Must civic discourse mean civil discourse? My goal is that this course will increase both your understanding of and participation in persuasive public discourse.

Women’s Rhetorics from Suffrage to Slut Walks (ENG 403/WS 434)
This course examines US women’s rhetorical traditions in the 20th century and into the present day. We’ll consider not only political activism such as suffrage and civil rights but rhetorical activities and scenes sometimes left out of traditional literary and historical treatments, such as popular music and pop culture. We will also seek to get beyond simple narratives of adversity and triumph to better understand women in their rich historical contexts. Throughout we will pay close attention to issues that have both united and divided women, especially along lines of race and class.

Feminism, Rhetoric, and Identity in the Progressive Era (ENG 415, Women and Literature)
For many years, feminist historical scholarship focused on recovering the voices of early feminist and proto-feminist women. Increasingly, however, scholars are beginning to recognize that understanding women’s history requires looking at the full range of women’s rhetorical activities, progressive and conservative, public and private. This class will take a nuanced look at issues that both united and divided women at the dawn of a new century, including suffrage, civil rights, temperance, education, science, and women’s professional and public roles. Throughout, we will pay close attention to women’s rhetorical education in reading, writing, and speaking, considering how women negotiated both opportunities and constraints as wives, mothers, students, workers, and citizens. We’ll close the semester with our own original historiographic research into women’s rhetoric in the era.

Writing for the Real World (ENG 425, Advanced Essay Writing)
Ever been asked, “So what are you going to do with your major?” Or wondered yourself? This class will help you to leverage what you’ve learned as an LSA student for graduate school, internships, and the job market, paying particularly close attention to sharpening your writing skills and attending to the discourse and genre conventions of your chosen discipline. We’ll work on writing persuasive cover letters and grad school exam and admissions essays; revising a favorite seminar paper into a powerful writing sample immersed in a scholarly discourse; exploring professional issues in our fields; and creating an effective work portfolio that represents your skills and achievements. We will also conduct research on various career paths as well as hear from successful UM graduates who have negotiated similar transitions. This course fulfills the ULWR.



Literacies in American Life (ENG 508/EDUC 547)
As scholars have come to see literacy not as a simple autonomous skill but a complex social practice, they have increasingly sought to understand how people both acquire and make use of literacy in a variety of settings, from school to the public sphere, in environments both physical and digital. In this course, we will examine various ways that literacy has been taught and practiced in America, considering recent theoretical, historical, and ethnographic scholarship in rhetoric, writing, and literacy studies. What does it mean to be able to read or write in a given era? How do marginalized groups acquire literacy within and outside of institutional settings? How do ordinary citizens make use of literacy in their daily lives? How do people adapt to new technologies of literacy—and what does this mean for the teaching of literacy in the new millennium?  This course is open to students in any discipline with an interest in the history or future of literacy, and students will have wide latitude in developing a class project in line with their scholarly and professional interests.

What Is Writing For? Pedagogy and Purpose in Contemporary Writing Studies (ENG 508)
While the field of writing studies has achieved remarkable consensus on how to teach the processes of writing, it remains divided on the purposes of writing, from the politically and pedagogically fraught arena of first-year composition to the emerging undergraduate rhetoric and writing major. What is writing—and writing instruction—for? This class will examine current conversations about the ends of writing and how to enact them in three broad spheres of concern: academic, public, and professional. Should we be teaching students broad-based academic argumentation? Genre-specific disciplinary conventions? Public argument for the purposes of citizenship and civic engagement? Community writing for public service? Professional and social media writing genres for success in the labor market? And what are the pedagogical challenges and costs of enacting these sometimes convergent, sometimes competing goals? By the end of the course, you will have a richer understanding of the varied purposes for writing that animate contemporary scholarly conversation and be better able to articulate your own purposes as a writing teacher and scholar.

History of Rhetorical Education (ENG 508)
In this class, we’ll examine key moments in the history of rhetoric, from its roots in ancient Greece, to sites of rhetorical education and action in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain and America, to contemporary civic and classroom settings. We’ll consider topics such as the continued relevance of the classical tradition, rhetoric’s civic function, the ethics of persuasion, and rhetoric’s relationship to marginalized communities. Is rhetoric a useful tool or dangerous weapon? What do the ancients have to teach us about communities of discourse? Can rhetoric offer access to the language of power? Promote civic engagement or dialogue in the face of difference? What should a contemporary rhetorical curriculum look like? By the end of the course, you will be conversant with key texts, figures, and terms in the history of rhetorical education and be able to situate your own teaching practices within this history.