I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Saint Louis University, where I also serve as a research fellow in the Walter J. Ong, SJ, Center for Language, Media and Culture. I earned my Ph.D in Rhetoric and Composition at Purdue University. My primary area of research and teaching is rhetorical theory and composition, with specializations in technical and professional communication, new media and public rhetoric. Along with Paul Lynch, I edit the Kenneth Burke Journal.
My current research and writing examines rhetoric at the boundaries of the traditionally discrete categories of "culture" and "nature." Titled Cultivating Rhetorics: Embodiment, Emplacement, and Extended Minds, my book project forwards a definition of rhetoric as the cultivation of human nature by articulating rhetorical theory with cognitive science, biology, and anthropology. It sees rhetoric as the means of social, biological, and environmental persuasion by which we cobble together both ourselves as a species and the places we inhabit. What we know as “human nature” continually emerges by virtue of rhetorical cultivation within social, biological, and environmental dramas. Rhetoric thus defined challenges the tendency to treat as “natural” things like human development, cognitive function, and physical ability, which could be otherwise. Historically, theorizers, teachers, and practitioners of rhetoric have held “nature” to be stable and/or a priori and thus cut-off from rhetorical agency. Countering this, a definition of rhetoric—wedded to a model of human physiology that sees nature as anything but pre-specified—highlights the ethical and suasory nature of becoming human. Rhetoric, which I argue is about decision-making and influence, is uniquely placed as a discipline to call attention to the element of decided-ness in human nature. My works in progress and recent publications similarly explore rhetoric as a practice and a field of study alongside various scientific and humanistic disciplines.
As a teacher, I work to foster student engagement (with themselves, each other, and the world at large), to promote quality work by expecting the best work from each student, and to endorse rhetoric as vital to public and private life. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, I continually work to examine the ethical implications of my pedagogy, acknowledging that if education is more than objective knowledge-banking, then it is certainly more personal, more participatory, and thus much more ethically precarious. I am currently teaching a courses on the Rhetoric of New Media Writing and Organizational Rhetoric. I recently taught a graduate seminar (jointly taught with Jeremy Tirrell at UNC-Wilmington) on Rhetoric, Technology, and Culture. My current and recently completed courses are accessible via the links to the left. Here is my teaching philosophy. To read profiles of my recently taught Zombies! course click here and here. To read a story about a student project in my Rhetoric and New Media course click here.