All students in the Rhetoric & Composition concentration must take courses in rhetorical theory, critical pedagogy, contemporary approaches to writing and rhetoric, and research methods. We encourage our graduate students to take relevant graduate courses in other departments, particularly English, Communication Studies, Education, and Library & Information Sciences. Beyond coursework, students may take part in a variety of opportunities as preparation for professional work in the field of Rhetoric & Composition, including teaching in our advanced undergraduate curriculum, tutoring in the writing center, assisting with our administrative responsibilities, or collaborating on research projects with faculty and undergraduate students.
M.A. students who specialize in Rhetoric & Composition may be most interested in teaching writing at the secondary or college level or may intend to pursue a Ph.D. at another institution. Students complete a portfolio thesis upon graduation (WRT 595), focusing on questions of rhetorical theory, research on writing, writing instruction, and/or other related issues that arise in their
Ph.D. students who specialize in Rhetoric & Composition write dissertations in the field and are introduced to the profession through a variety of course assignments and extra-curricular opportunities. Doctoral students should expect to sit for their comprehensive exams after two years of coursework, and then begin work on their proposal and dissertation research immediately thereafter (see our flowchart). For more information, please refer to the learning outcomes for doctoral students.
The following are course descriptions for graduate level WRT offerings:
Study emphasizing audience, composing processes, and rhetorical theories, including issues relevant to writing professionally. Pre: 360WRT 512: Studies in Rhetorical Theory (3)
Beginning with a grounding in classical rhetorics, we will read from such well-known authors as Aristotle and Plato, Cicero and Quintilian. We'll also briefly explore selections from Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment rhetorics before moving our focus to modern and postmodern rhetorics, at which point we'll examine the work of such authors as Virginia Woolf, Kenneth Burke, Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Hélène Cixous, Gloria Anzaldúa.
Throughout the course, we'll consider how various theories have influenced and been appropriated by different theorists/authors, how ideas have been translated or transformed over time, and what impact these theories have on the field of rhetoric and composition and on our teaching of writing.
Our foundational text will be Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg's The Rhetorical Tradition, but we'll also include books by contemporary rhetorical theorists, including Ralph Cintron's Angels' Town, Roxanne Mountford's The Gendered Pulpit, Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Rhetoric, Elizabeth Britt's Conceiving Normalcy, and Paul Butler's Out of Style. Additional readings (journal articles and book chapters) will be chosen by seminar participants as part of the exploratory nature of the course.
Seminar participants should expect to read, research, and write regularly, make informal and formal presentations, read and respond to one another's informal and formal writing, and extend and revise shorter writing projects into longer projects. These practices mirror the academic activities professors engage in, recursively revisiting topics and pieces over time for different purposes and audiences.
This course will function as an introduction to the field of rhetoric & composition, as seen and experienced through different educational contexts. In a slight departure from the course description, we will explore writing theories and pedagogies by moving back and forth between different historical contexts and our current educational practices.
Along the way, we will read about the exigency of the GI Bill and Open Admissions in shaping the field into what it is today. We will go back in time to rural classrooms, to institutions serving historically under-represented populations, to the elite colleges, and to the legacy of the Land Grant. We will pause for a while in the 1980s, grappling with the different iterations of the "process movement," and then we will move into the present to discern what "post-process" has brought to the conversation. We will look at specific activist rhetorics and community literacy programs, each inscribed in particular historical and social moments.
Your written projects in this class will include designing assignment sequences, analyzing educational artifacts, presenting materials during class discussions, composing exploratory short papers from materials found in the National Archives of Composition & Rhetoric, and writing a seminar-length paper at the culmination of the term.
Teaching experience, although not necessary, will be helpful. Learning experience, however, is a must.WRT 533: Graduate Writing in Life Sciences (3)
Graduate writing skills for the life and environmental sciences; writing and editing journal articles, proposals; rhetorical analysis of scientific writing. (Lec. 2, Lab. 2) Pre: WRT 104, 105, or 106 or equivalent or permission of instructor; graduate standing or senior status.WRT 645: Seminar in Rhetoric and Composition (3)
Critical and theoretical conceptions of rhetoric and rhetoricality with varying historical periods and/or connections to cultural studies, literature, and composition studies. Each spring, this class is taught by a different professor, who designs it to reflect his or her current research. Some recent examples are as follows:
Sidney Dobrin and Christian Weisser remind us that "human hands have mapped and defined 'natural' places and that no matter how lost in the wild one tries to get, the natural environment is a world constructed and defined by human discourse." But what are the consequences of how we construct and define places and relationships to these places? Oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico? Toxic sludge threatening the Danube? The destruction of fish populations in Narragansett Bay? In this seminar, we will concern ourselves with the role language plays in the construction of ecological relationships to places and how people, through acts of rhetoric and writing, can and do create, challenge, and change ecological relationships to foster healthier, more sustainable communities. We will consider environmental and ecological controversies from a rhetorical perspective and how scholars in the field of rhetoric and composition have, and might continue to, respond to these controversies in productive ways. We will begin by reading scholarship in place studies and environmental rhetoric, and then we will explore ecocompositionÑan emerging theoretical and pedagogical response to ecological apathy. Furthermore, as we consider ecology from a rhetorical perspective, we will also consider rhetoric and writing from an ecological perspective.
Throughout the entire seminar, we will consider possible research approaches and methods for studying the everyday rhetorics of places and ecological communities by engaging in the discourses and materiality of our own immediate ecological community: the Narragansett Bay watershed. To this end, we will, through fieldwork, explore and develop local knowledges and analyze everyday rhetorical and literate acts that have material consequences on the bay. In other words, we will practice Òbeing there.Ó Projects for this course include analyzing rhetorical artifacts, keeping fieldnotes and a place journal, discourse and place mapping, and conference papers.
In her article entitled "Rogue Cops and Health Care: What Do We Want from Public Writing," Susan Wells tells the story of a Temple U. student who was stopped by two Philadelphia Police as he walked through a downtown neighborhood. The police accused the young man of running a crack house, beat him up and warned him to stay out of the area. In response, the student filed a citizen’s complaint that attracted the attention of the chief of police, who cited the report as a reason that the dept. launched a massive investigation into police misconduct and abuses. Later, Wells realizes that, in fact, many other complaints, media inquiries and other pressures on the police actually led to the extensive investigation. In response, Wells bemoans both the tiny impact that student’s—or any individual citizen’s--public writing seems to have on public or political processes or problems, but she also cites the dire need for us as rhetoricians and writing teachers to teach public writing so that our students—or any citizen—could actually use their writing to make an impact on problems of social justice and difference.
In this seminar we will explore public writing and many of the questions prompted by Well’s article: What do we want from public writing? What do we mean by public writing? What are the theoretical bases of public writing? What should we teach when teach public writing? In a search for answers, we will review Wells’ article and articles by other composition scholars who have contributed to an interesting critical discussion of public writing theory and pedagogy, and we will sample a few of the many disciplinary strands that feed into public sphere theory, sampling from fields as disparate as political science, sociology, women’s studies, communications studies, and writing in electronic environments. With every reading we will ask what are the implications for research, writing and teaching in composition studies.
This course treats the topics of rhetoric--defined briefly for now as the study of language that produces and responds to material realities--and reproduction jointly and broadly. We will engage with texts that make rhetoric their subject, and we will engage the rhetoric of texts that make reproductive issues their subject. Representative readings include: Nelly Oodshorn's work questioning the rhetorical "sexing" of hormones both sexes possess; Mary M. Lay's rhetorical analysis of the history and contemporary legal status of midwifery; and analyses of breastfeeding discourses by rhetorician Amy Koerber and feminist theorist Alison Bartlett. We will use rhetorical theories to enhance our understanding of these and other texts, of reproduction, and of the rhetorical theories themselves. We'll consider how various texts and concepts function in and for rhetoric and composition, how they function in and for women's studies, and how they matter in and for the world beyond academe.
This class takes as its stake the marriage of the material and the rhetorical in issues such as circumcision, gender roles, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Seminar participants should expect to write, read, and discuss weekly reading responses, prepare a proposal appropriate for a conference like "Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s)", write and present a conference-length paper, and extend that paper into a seminar paper of 20-25 pages. This mirrors the academic activity professors engage in, recursively revisiting topics and pieces over time for different purposes and audiences. Participants will also read and respond to one another's conference and seminar paper drafts.
Beyond the first-year writing course, there are vast and fascinating fields of study within Rhetoric & Composition – this seminar invites you to experience some of them. We are most readily identified as the folks who brought you first-year composition, but the intellectual discipline of Rhetoric & Composition has burgeoned in the past 40 years, particularly at Land Grant institutions like URI. On the other hand, there are still pockets of the country, particularly in small colleges, where the field has had little impact at all. This course grew from a study conducted in one such college: a setting in which there is no first-year writing per se, yet an environment utterly infused with writing nonetheless. In 2005-6, Professor Miles conducted naturalistic research of undergraduate students in a writing-saturated, maritime-focused, living-learning community. Her basic research question, "what happens to student writing in this educational environment?" yielded more questions than answers … questions that will be examined – and perhaps answered by you – during this seminar.
This will be a course making connections: historical, interdisciplinary, geographic, extracurricular, environmental, physical. At the same time, it will be an opportunity to pursue connections not yet made, paths not yet explored.
Highly recommended pre-requisite: WRT 512
Whether we call it skills, training, employability, or "digital resilience," as Negroponte did over ten years ago, literacy is central to our current economic situation. And whether we agree that the current economic situation is marked by globalization, post-industrialism, and/or flexible accumulation, we must acknowledge that (knowledge) workers and their portfolio of skills—both real and imagined—are at the forefront of such economic change. This seminar investigates that connection between literacy and economic change, particularly in this new economy filled with new literacies.
Education and literacy workers in general have both intentionally and unintentionally created a divide between school and work. Research on literacy education within formal education institutions abounds and, particularly in the field of professional writing, research on workplaces has expanded. Hovering between these two sites of research grows a rather new site, community. However, while community literacy research has initiated and explored the connection between literacy and economic change much of it is undertaken with a pedagogical imperative, many times in the form of service learning. This seminar seeks to problematize those divisions—school, work, and community—by beginning under the assumption that economy and literacy, and those three sites, are always already intertwined.
Although we could go back to the American Industrial Revolution for evidence of such a connection, we will rely on the early 1970s as a starting point from which to examine our most recent economic change and the parallel change in what it means to be literate. Besides introducing some of the more popular versions of our most recent economic situation, we will trace the economics of new literacies across various branches of rhetoric and composition such as computers and composition, research methods, and education reports.
Advanced practice in the theory and design of research projects, emphasizing qualitative and quantitative studies. May include archival research, teacher-research, ethnographies, case studies, interviews, surveys, experiments, and discourse analyses. (Seminar) Pre: graduate standing or permission of instructor. (3)WRT 691: Independent Study in Rhetoric (1-3)
Advanced study of an approved topic in Rhetoric and Writing Studies under the supervision of a graduate faculty member. Pre: permission of WRT graduate director. May be repeated for a maximum of six credits.WRT 999: Methods of Teaching College Writing (0)
Materials and multiple methods of teaching writing on the college level.