Recent Courses Taught
English 150: Rhetoric as Inquiry
English 150 is a semester-long first-year writing course which focuses on the study and practice of writing and rhetoric as critical inquiry. The course explores methods writers can use to pose and investigate meaningful questions and problems, and students examine how asking and answering such questions often requires entering into conversations with others. This course emphasizes that writing is a process, but it is rarely a linear process. Instead, writing often involves revisiting earlier work, revising, changing directions, and incorporating feedback from others.
My recent sections of English 150 have inquired into popular culture. Students and I investigate, question, discuss and write about myriad forms of pop culture—everything from food packaging, to fashion, to reality TV. Doing so, we explore the popularity of (or disdain for) given pop culture phenomena, and we question, examine, and theorize their social, cultural, rhetorical, and political implications.
Major projects include a creative nonfiction essay making connections between three seemingly disconnected texts, a personal essay reflecting on one's personal relationship with a pop culture text, an essay incorporating primary research and data collection to investigate a group's relationship to a pop culture issue, and a remix project representing the ideas of one of the first three projects in a new form.
English 151: Rhetoric as Argument
English 151 is a first-year writing course focused on the study and practice of writing, rhetoric, and argumentation. Through a combination of reading, writing, and discussion, students explore a number of critical and rhetorical “moves”—methods writers can use to both uncover and construct arguments. Students also discover how the processes of uncovering and constructing arguments often requires entering into conversations with other writers and thinkers and practice skills for doing such work.
Like with English 150, my recent sections of English 151 have had readings focused around several facets of popular culture. Students and I practice uncovering arguments and positions hidden within pop culture texts, we read and discuss arguments about pop culture topics, and we construct our own arguments which might intervene in those broader cultural discussions. In this course, we investigate, discuss, and write about myriad forms of pop culture. Doing so, we investigate the enthusiasm (or disdain) for given pop culture phenomena, and we question, examine, and theorize the social, cultural, rhetorical, and political implications of pop culture texts and the receptions of those texts. Along the way, we work to develop strategies for reading and responding to pop culture texts, and we practice strategies for writing about pop culture for multiple purposes and audiences.
Major projects include an analysis uncovering the arguments implicit in the design of an object, a video analysis incorporating screenshots, and a white paper reviewing and intervening in the scholarly discussion about an issue of popular debate.
English 200: Introduction to English Studies
English 200 is the gateway course to the undergraduate English major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As such, English 200 is a broad survey course designed to introduce students to the diverse discipline of English Studies, its subfields, and the critical and methodological approached used within and across those subfields. This section of English 200 focused on developing the critical habits of mind associated with “reading” in the humanities. In doing so, students and I explored a variety of theoretical perspectives on what it means to read and interpret a diverse range of texts, and we discussed debates surrounding the value and usefulness of the skills, practices, and habits of mind associated with work in English and the humanities more broadly.
Students and I explored the following questions:
- What is “English”? What (and whose) purposes does it serve?
- What does “literary” mean? What rules have governed (and do govern) inclusion in or exclusion from literary canons?
- What does it mean to do “research” in English? What reading and writing strategies are appropriate for different kinds of texts and contexts?
- What are the essential methods and standards of research in the discipline?
- How can we best study and articulate the relationships between and among writers, texts, readers, and contexts?
- What is the nature of authorship? What (and whose) purposes does it serve?
- How does context affect/effect authorship?
- How do we negotiate our different understandings and interpretations of texts?
- How do gender, race, class, sexual orientation and other cultural markers inform our study of texts and textual practices?
- How do new technologies inform our study of texts and textual practices?
Major projects include three textual analyses (with the expectation that students would write about different genres/types of texts), an ekphrastic project re-presenting a literary or artistic text in a new form, and a critical essay reflecting on the cultural value and resonance of the English major in the 21st Century.
English 254: Writing and Communities—Online Communities
English 254 is an advanced composition course designed to both build upon and complicate the writing practices covered in first-year writing. It differs from first-year writing courses, though, in its narrower focus on the rhetorical and discursive practices of “writing communities”—collections of individuals brought together (intentionally or accidentally) by their discursive practices. In this class, students are invited to analyze and write about various writing communities and to theorize what makes, maintains, and disrupts these communities. This is an intellectually-demanding seminar-style course which invites students to write about writing and to analyze semiotic, discursive, and rhetorical features which shape the formation, reception, and interpretation of various writing communities.
My recent sections of English 254 have focused on “Online Spaces of Identity and Community.” On a general level, students and I inquire into the ways in which identity and community are constituted, shaped, and maintained in online environments, and we work together to analyze the written, visual, and other discursive production found in online spaces. More specifically, though, this class considers how online spaces function as sites for inventing and performing identity, manufacturing ideas; disseminating artistic production; for manipulating texts, images, ideas, and other people; and for the sharing of (mis)information across a variety of platforms. As such, students read texts and write papers on topics connected to persona management, social networking, and privacy; anonymity and pseudonymity; intellectual property, fair use, and copyright; participatory culture; fanfiction/fan art communities; online gaming communities; hoaxes and conspiracy theories; and the ways such topics manifest themselves across platforms such as Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
Major projects require students to engage in primary research, collecting data using methodologies of cyber-ethnography and digital discourse analysis. The first project invites students to analyze and theorize the norms and patterns of communication of an online community, the second invites them to explore an issue of tension or debate in an online community, and the third project invites students to analyze their own performance of self and participation in communities in online environments. Finally, students re-mediate one of these first three projects as either a video or podcast.
English 322B: Linguistics and Society
English 322B is an intellectually demanding seminar-style course designed to explore and investigate how language is used in the world. This course approaches language through a sociological lens, and over the course of the semester, students and I examine the intersections of language and various markers of social identity—geographic location, class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, and many more. Along the way, we explore various methodological approaches for studying language use, the implications of language diversity on education, and the ways that issues of language are often intimately tied to complex matrices of power, privilege, and access in society. At the same time that students and I read, discuss, and respond to published academic work in the field of sociolinguistics, we also explore linguistic phenomena and debates about language encountered in our everyday lives.
The course has the following goals:
- Familiarizing students with linguistic terminology (e.g., descriptivism vs. prescriptivism, standardization, dialect, style, discourse, phonology, morphology, pragmatics, hedging, etc).
- Introducing students to various methodologies utilized for the study of language (ethnography, conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, corpus-based analysis, quan/qual distinctions) and introducing students to debates about these methodological approaches.
- Inviting students to connect course concepts to issues/debates in the world today, and to explore the ways that language is deeply connected to issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, power, and access.
Course projects include a theoretically-informed proposal for a project which would contribute new knowledge to the field of sociolinguists, an annotated bibliography situating the proposed project within the existing literature, and a drafted methodology section for the proposed project complete with a reflection on the rationale behind the proposed methodological choices and their limitations.
English 354: The Uses of Literacy
English 354 is an upper-division writing and rhetoric course designed to inquire into “the uses of literacy,” the ways in which myriad forms of interpreting, communicating, and knowing are utilized in and shape our daily lives. My vision for this course begins with a recognition of The New London Group’s argument that because the word “literacy” is too often associated only with “learning to read and write in page-bound, official, standard forms of the national language” that literacy has become a “carefully restricted project—restricted to formalized, monolingual, monocultural, and rule-governed forms of language.” Working from this argument, I have focused my recent section of English 354 on “Re-Thinking Literacy” and invite my students to challenge restrictive conceptualizations of “literacy” and to discover, explore, and write about the multiple literacies that shape their lives and their world. While some time in the courses is dedicated to investigating the history of formal literacy instruction in schools, the vast majority of the course's reading and writing involves inquiring into extra-curricular literacy practices. In doing so, we discuss work-place literacies; literacies of gender and sexuality; emotional literacies; digital, gaming, and social media literacies; and literacies of remix and transformative work. Students are invited to inquire into their own literacy practices and to conduct primary research and data collection in order to study the literacy practices of others.
Discussions about literacy are framed by the following questions:
- Who defines literacy? Why do we need definitions of literacy, and how are they used?
- How does one acquire literacies and for what purposes?
- How does literacy contribute to the construction, reception, and interpretation of identity?
- What forms of literacy are valued and by whom? What are the consequences of such valuation?
- What impact does literacy have on society? Society on literacy?
- How can we recognize both the political and affective edge of literacy?
- What are the relationships between literacy and authority? Literacy and power?
- How do literacies function as tools of violence exclusions, oppression, and/or power maintenance?
Course projects include a literacy narrative, a primary research project requiring students to go out into the field and collect data about the literacy practices of others, and a research paper which uses literacy as a lens for understanding or re-framing an existing issue of cultural debate.