The Ph.D. program in Rhetoric and Composition

requires five core classes in rhetoric and composition, a secondary area, a linguistics seminar, a language, written and oral examinations, and a dissertation.

The five core classes in rhetoric and composition focus on multiple approaches to inquiry -- history, theory, pedagogy, and empirical -- as they examine issues in Rhetoric and Composition Studies.

The secondary area of study is satisfied by taking four specified courses (or examination) in one of the following areas: Cultural Studies; ESL; Linguistics; Literary Theory; Literary Periods; Poetry; Postcolonial Literature; Professional and Technical Writing; Rhetoric, Technology, and Digital Writing; Writing Program Administration; Public Rhetoric; or Women's Literature and Feminist Theory.

The linguistics requirement is satisfied by taking one linguistics [ELL or EFL] seminar.

Students must show a reading knowledge of one foreign language, certified by examination or coursework.

Examinations include a two-part written exam in rhetoric and composition, an oral exam on the dissertation prospectus, and an oral defense of the dissertation.

Dissertations are studies in rhetoric and composition that use theoretical, historical, qualitative, and/or quantitative methods, and often these projects are multidisciplinary.

The M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition
requires three courses in rhetoric and composition, three courses in literature, and introductory courses in linguistics and English studies. Students are required to take a written examination on rhetoric and composition and literature (or complete a thesis) and to gain a reading knowledge of one foreign language.

All students and faculty participate in The David Hutton Interdisciplinary Lecture Series [named in 1999 to honor Mr. Hutton's long time support of this lecture series] -- a bi-annual lecture/discussion series that features invited scholars in such fields as rhetoric and composition, philosophy, communication, historiography, literary theory, psychology, education, languages, and linguistics.

Core Classes
The core curriculum is composed of five courses covering theoretical, historical, and empirical modes of inquiry into rhetoric and composition:

English 591, Introduction to Composition Theory
examines issues in contemporary composition theory and interrogates what it means to do pedagogical theory

English 622, Issues in Composition Studies: Classical period to the Renaissance
traces through these periods both primary and secondary sources on a variety of issues and topics in rhetorical theory

English 624, Issues in Composition Studies: Modern Period
traces rhetorical issues and topics from the enlightment through the beginning of the 20th century in Britain and America

English 625, Seminar on Empirical Research on Writing
introduces the varieties of empirical research into writing focusing on critique, methodology, and research planning

English 626, Postmodernism and Composition Issues
introduces postmodern theories and connects them with theorizing in composition studies

Special Topic Seminars
In addition to the core seminars, we offer seminars in subjects such as:

  • Writing Assessment

  • Burke in the Twentyfirst Century

  • Computers and Writing

  • Cultural Studies and Composition

  • Cybercultures and Rhetorical Theory

  • Distance Learning and Writing Theory

  • Digital Studio

  • Ethics, Rhetoric, and Writing

  • Gender, Rhetoric, and the Body

  • Literacy Studies

  • Minority Rhetorics

  • New Media

  • Professional Writing Theory

  • Public Rhetorics

  • Qualitative Research

  • PostCritical Methodologies

  • Rhetoric and Digital Publishing

  • Rhetoric and Institutional Discourses

  • Second Language Writing

  • Visual Rhetoric in a Technological Age

  • Writing Across the Curriculum

  • Writing Assessment

  • Writing Center Theory

  • Writing Program Administration

Secondary Areas
Students choose a secondary area for coursework. It is satisfired by four preapproved courses or an examination in a secondary area. It can also be developed in consultation with your advisor. The Department has identified secondary areas in:

  • ESL

  • Professional and Technical Writing

  • Rhetoric, Technology, and Digital Writing

  • Writing Program Administration

  • Literary Theory

  • Women's Literature

  • Theory and Cultural Studies

  • Feminist Theory

  • English Language and Lingusitics

  • Literary Periods

  • Postcolonial Literature

  • Poetry

  • American Studies

David Hutton Interdisciplinary Lecture Series, named in 1999 for series benefactor David Hutton, brings to campus top scholars in the field to share their work through conversation and a lecture.

James A. Berlin Memorial Lecture honors the memory of our colleague. It brings a scholar working in history or contemporary cultural theory for a bi-ennial lecture.

Leonora Woodman Memorial Lecture honors the memory of our colleague and brings a scholar in literature or writing for a lecture each Fall.


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