In this essay, Marcus Meade and I examine hyperbole as a neglected rhetorical device, one often criticized in student writing. The essay reports the findings of an analysis of 769 instances of hyperbole in student writing and a series of interviews with student writers. Our essay troubles notions of hyperbole as "error" or "writerly immaturity" and argues for a reconceptualization of hyperbole as potentially highly communicative and able to convey emotional tone, passion, and significance. The essay concludes by theorizing how hyperbole might be approached in the composition classroom. 

This essay was spotlighted in a blog post by Andrea Lunsford, and Marcus Meade and I have a forthcoming "Interchanges" piece engaging with responses to the article which will be published in a future issue of College Composition and Communication



It Gets Better...All in Good Time: Messianic Rhetoric and a Political Theology of Social Control

This essay analyzes two recent examples of messianic rhetoric – Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and Dan Savage's 2010 It Gets Better Project, in order to explore hidden theological dimensions of recent cultural and political discourse in the US. I argue both of these examples showcase a reliance on the language of the messianic promise as a means of creating a docile public focused on imagined future liberation rather than a critical confrontation of the often violent and disturbing realities of the now. At the same time, I problematize the connection between messianic rhetoric and deeply entrenched narratives of "progress," and I explore alternative visions of the messianic and question whether it is possible to redefine the concept of messianism without relying narratives of progress which are outdated, irresponsible, and likely violent. In the end, I theorize how the language of queer theory, with its resistance to traditional logics of future-oriented (re)production, might provide a useful vocabulary for such a reimagining of the messianic.



Michael Field's Renaissance: An Examination of Paterian Influence, Gender Play, and the Use of the Ekphrastic Form in Sight and Song

This essay theorizes the political significance of ekphrasis as a rhetorical form using Sight and Song, a collection of late-Victorian poetry published by Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper under the pseudonym of “Michael Field,” as an illustrative example. In the essay, I argue that the collection should be seen as responding to the rhetorical and aesthetic theories of Walter Pater and that the transmedial work of exphrasis that Bradley and Cooper engage in mirrors the queerly cosmopolitan sexual and rhetorical politics that they perform elsewhere in Victorian society.

I explore the ways that rhetorical forms become gendered and the ways gendered, sexual, and national boundaries are traversed though the construction and publication of this collection of poetry.