Author Archives: CS Journal

Universal sign for access of person in wheelchair created in blue neon in a window.

Access from/as the Start: On Writing Studies and “Accessibility”

Adam Hubrig | Sam Houston State University

One simple truth: when you build disabled accessibility in to your events as a non-negotiable, from the start, bottom line, you get it done.”
The Radical Access Mapping Project
“in order for us to ethically engage the question of “accessibility” we must be conscious of the bodies whose movements have, throughout the history of rhetoric and composition, been rendered immobile under the weight of discourse and inaccessible spaces.”
—Cody Jackson, “How Does it Mean to Move

Can I share a secret with you? I loathe having to ask about access needs—I doubly loathe having to inquire when it’s my own access needs. I hate it so much, and I feel like a terrible disabled advocate because of it. I get anxious making those calls or sending those emails to the point of being sick to my stomach. 

Yet, for the third time in as many months, I call the same event coordinator. They seem irritated that I’m calling—again—to ask about access. And then comes their accusation: “All you want to do is complain about access.”

Hard nope. I’d rather be doing almost anything else. As Annika Konrad has recently argued, “People with disabilities are often encouraged to advocate for their own access without con-sideration for the mental and emotional labor required to do so.”

Because—too often—how we think about access is reductive. It’s exhausting to have to keep insisting that disabled and otherwise marginalized people should be included. But still, at many American colleges and universities, composition instructors might be tempted to think of our courses as “accessible” because we’ve put an institutionally mandated Accessibility statement in our syllabus—often waaaaay at the back—to prevent the institution that signs our checks from getting sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (2). 

Disabled people notice these things. And disabled students at your institution definitely talk with each other about what professors roll their eyes at us when we inquire about access needs or ask us if we “really need” whatever accommodations we’re requesting—I have been one of them.

I want to talk about access as disability justice advocate and scholar Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha describes it, not just as “the same article that many sick, disabled, Deaf, and mad/neurodivergent folks before me have written to the abled—asking the abled to get it the fuck together and stop ‘forgetting’ about access and disbaled demands” which Piepzna-Samarsina also identifies as necessary work. Rather, I want to take part in conversations and projects that recognize that access is only the first step (Piepzna-Samarasinha 129) in an ongoing process of challenging institutional oppression.

And, mirroring work in disability studies (see Erevelles, Minich, Hamraie), discussions of access in writing studies are moving away from what some of my nondisabled colleagues seem to interpret—usually some version of accessibility as an abled prof doing some disabled student a huge favor by meeting the low-bar legal requirements (See Wood et al. and Brewer et al.). Instead, the evolving conversation on accessibility have us resituating that moment, considering how disabled students are doing us a favor in pointing out how our pedagogy, our curriculum, our institutions are ableist and how we can do better—for disabled students and all students—by dismantling the capitalistic, colonial, white-supremacist, and patriarchal ideologies that prop these systems up.

Importantly, as Sins Invalid reminds us through disability justice frameworks, disability never exists apart from other identities—such as race, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and many other positionalities. Following the work of disabled activists, disability studies (see Bell, Dunham et al., Erevelles, Schalk) and composition (Cedillo; Del Hiero et al.; Ho et al.; Hubrig and Osorio; Jackson and Cedillo; Manivannan) are also expanding how they understand disability and accessibility to center intersecting identities, as well as multiple forms of disability including mobility impairments, blindness/visual impairments, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing folks (3), chronic illnesses, madness, mental disability, pain conditions, neurodiversity, sensitivities to fragrance, and many other disabilities. 

And as a multiply disabled scholar, I have at times been approached by well-meaning nondisabled colleagues with requests for an accessibility checklist or other labor relating to disability access. While I will point to some more immediately pragmatic accessibility advice in this post, I echo Wood et al. in insisting that checklists are often reductive, “locat[ing] disability over there” (147), rather than engaging disability with nuance and complexity, asking how disability might inform writing studies, writing pedagogy, and our composition processes. 

Writing alongside disability scholars in writing studies, rather than providing a checklist—which would inevitably be reductive and leave people outside—it’s my intention for this post to point to ongoing conversations and invite those conversations to guide accessibility efforts in your classroom and pedagogy and in your/our institutions and scholarship. To make this post more navigable, I have arranged them by rough categories—expanding access, access for students and access for colleagues, but the conversations about access in each space certainly overlap. 

Access for Writing Students
Many of my nondisabled colleagues first become interested in accessibility when trying to make their classrooms more accessible for disabled students. If that’s what brought you here, welcome and thank you for taking this first step. A number of resources and scholarship exist to help address accessibility in our classroom spaces. Anne-Marie Womack pushes teachers to challenge how we think of accommodation, and has created Accessible Syllabus, with important information on crafting more accessible syllabi and advice on making images, text, rhetoric, and policies in our syllabi more inclusive. 

And, as Womack’s Accessible Syllabus details, how we frame our policies—as listed on our syllabus and in practice—is an important site of accessibility. Other composition scholars have taken up these issues as well: Melissa Nicholas describes how our policies reflect our orientation to disability, and how class considerations like attendance can make our classroom inaccessible.  Considering other temporal policies like due dates, Tara Wood describes how nondisabled conceptions of time create barriers in the composition process, offering suggestions on how instructors can crip their conception of time in the composition classroom.

Conversations around access are becoming more inclusive of neurodiversity as well: Remi Yergeau’s Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness takes up Rhetoric and Composition’s dismissal of autistic ways of being. Cody Jackson presents several strategies for making our classroom spaces more accessible to neurodivergent learners and argues the most important step in that process “is [to] ask, listen, and reciprocate the intimacy of disclosure.” Similarly, Amy Gaeta argues for access by challenging ableist ideologies connected to composing and how we can better respect neurodivergent composing methods.  Ellen Cecil-Lemkin explores how neurodiversity shapes collaborative writing experiences, challenging assumptions about collaboration in composition.

Taken together, these scholars establish that accessibility is more than minor tweaks to a powerpoint slide, but that accessibility must challenge our pedagogical assumptions and institutional orientations. In “What Does it Mean to Move?: Race, Disability, and Critical Embodiment Pedagogy,” Christina Cedillo writes:

If we continue to base our composition practices on normate assumptions rather than the embodied experiences of people most in need of access to voice and space, our praxes can and do become part of a racist, ableist apparatus that promotes other -isms, tools of ‘social hygiene.’

Cedillo’s work is accessibility writ large, arguing for pedagogies based in critical embodiment rather than retrofitting to accommodate disability—or adding a single BIPOC author to the reading list as “diversity,” for that matter. Cedillo instead suggests thinking through how a multiplicity of embodied experiences challenge and improve our pedagogy and writing, while making our classrooms and our field more inclusive. 

Access for Writing Teachers and Scholars
Like conversations on access for students in writing studies, conversations about accessibility for teachers and scholars in the field—not limited to Tenure Track Faculty™, but NTT, contingent, and graduate student teachers as well—are not only about naming and identifying ableism (though that work is necessary, too). These scholars move the conversation to how disability challenges the systemic inequalities of academic work. For example, in “Faculty Members, Accommodation, and Access in Higher Education,” Kerschbaum et al. describe their own experiences as faculty with disabilities, exploring issues of access, accommodation, and the material realities of their embodied experiences. 

Interwoven with issues of faculty accessibility and accommodation, there is important work by writing studies scholars happening around disclosure— so much that disclosure deserves its own keyword blog post, particularly at the intersections of disability and other marginalized identities—but here I point quickly to Stephanie Kerschbaum’s article “On Rhetorical Agency and Disclosing Disability in Academic Writing,” which thoughtfully explores faculty disclosure. The way conversations about disclosure are moving to include not only students but faculty is an important development: Price et al. also explore disclosure, specifically disclosure of mental disability by faculty, finding few faculty with mental disabilities were familiar with possible accommodations, suggesting institutions haven’t made accommodations clear. They suggest discussions between faculty and administration about accommodations must become “clearer and less risky” as well as the need to destigmatize mental disabilities. 

Reflecting the move from accessibility as gift to accessibility improving the field as a whole, Ho et al. establish how, for disabled teachers and scholars, “neutrality is a form of oppression” (129) that ignores how academic institutions are designed for nondisabled people, and how tending to disability can foster deeper discussions on equity in the field. Other scholars have taken up issues of inaccessibility. Rottier, for example, points to how the existence and persistence of autistic academics in the face of ableist policies is an act of resistance, and challenges nondisabled people to push for more accessible institutional policies and spaces. 

But academic institutions frequently push disabled people out: consider accessibility in conference spaces. Importantly, Price—who also has examined the language and policies of conference documents—chairs Composing Access: An Invitation to Creating Accessible Events, which has many contributors. Composing Access includes helpful information on accessibility for conference organizers as well as for preparing conference presentations. A recent College Composition and Communication Symposium explored issues of access in our conference spaces, including: addressing institutional critique and responsibility (Simpkins); the misuse of quiet rooms (Anglesey and Cecil-Lemkin); exploring access needs—specifically for Deaf scholars—as transformative rather than transactional (Fink et al.); how alcohol makes our conferences spaces inaccessible and dangerous (anonymous); as well as accountability in disability research and accessibility efforts (Jackson and Cedillo). If you are hosting an event, I also point you to Sins Invalid’s event accessibility suggestions.

But considering accessibility is also about methodology: tending to disability can and should transform our scholarship and ways of knowing and center the work of those most impacted (Cedillo, Jackson). This is the work that Price and Kerschbaum take up in “Stories of Methodology: Interviewing Sideways, Crooked, and Crip,” exploring how disability should inform methods and research.

And this iteration of accessibility—accessibility that not only pushes for disabled inclusion but aims to restructure the institutional biases that make them inaccessible in the first place—is taken up in areas that connect to and overlap with writing studies, like Writing Program Administration (Nicholas, Vidali 2015), writing centers (Hitt, Rowan), open access scholarship (Dolmage 2018, Rice Evans), graduate education (Obermark), Rhetoric (Cedillo, Dolmage 2014, Maier et al., and Yergeau) Technical Communication (Browning and Cagle, Colton and Walton, Jones, Meloncon, Palmeri, Zdenek), gender and sexuality (Smilges, Yergeau), community literacy studies (Hubrig), basic writing (Vidali 2008), and I am excited to announce I’m guest editing a special issue of Teaching English in the Two-Year College centered on disability and accessibility in the Two-Year College, coming 2022. 

Moving Toward a Conclusion, though Access is a Process with No End
At the College Conference on Composition and Communication in 2019, a large sign proudly proclaimed CCCCs is Accessible!

The original CCCC sign, a red sign with white letters, that reads: “The CCCC Convention is accessible! The CCCC Convention has accessibility guides for the Convention; Quiet, lactation, and family rooms at convention sites; Childcare grants; Gender-neutral bathrooms; Interpreters" has dozens of sticky notes with messages written on them.
Figure 1. The original CCCC sign proclaiming accessibility is covered with sticky notes from conference participants pointing out ways the conference failed to provide access. Photo Credit: Ruth Osorio

In response, many conference attendees posted—literally, with sticky notes—their/our own responses to the sign, highlighting multiple ways in which the conference was quite inaccessible—to disabled people, to parents and others with caregiving responsibilities, to many LGBTQA+ Folks, and people excluded or marginalized because of whiteness.

What I hope writing studies understands from the sticky note moment is that access isn’t a project that can be completed: it’s not a checklist or a bulleted list, but ongoing conversations and actions that address the systematic inequalities and institutional barriers that exclude disabled and other marginalized bodies. I ask you to take part in these conversations by engaging with this scholarship and connecting with other disabled scholars. To join these conversations, I recommend the resources I’ve outlined here, as well as the Anti-Ableist Composition Collective (created by Cody Jackson), the College Composition and Communication Disability Studies Standing Group, as well as learning from the work of disability activism like Sins Invalid and the Disability Visibility Project.


  1. I (Adam) would like to thank Ellen Cecil-Lemkin, Ruth Osorio, and Katie Bramlet, as well as FEN Blog Co-Editors Megan Von Bergen and Lauren Fusilier for their thoughtful reading and feedback on earlier drafts of this post.
  2.  ADA laws are typically only enforced through lawsuits, meaning many disabled people without financial resources to take legal action often have little to no recourse. I echo Wood et al. in suggesting it is important for educators to be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including the 2008 amendments as well as Section 504 of the rehabilitation act. But meeting the legal requirements is a first step, not an end goal of accessibility.
  3. Many Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Humans do not consider themselves as disabled, but rather recognize the importance of Deaf culture. By including Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing folks in this discussion of accessibility, I do not mean to undermine how they identify in relation to the disability community (for more information, see Monts-Treviska in Skin, Tooth, and Bone)
  4. A list of works consulted is linked in a Google doc here. I welcome suggested additions to better represent the range of accessibility work being done in composition and rhetoric and related fields.

 *Featured Image on this post created by Henry Faber.

Rhetoric(s): A Broader Definition

Sheila Carter-Tod|Virginia Tech

I come from a long line of storytellers.  So much of what I have learned about my family history and culture has come from indirect teaching, through stories. It is with this tradition in mind that I begin with my own story. Mine is a story that explores rhetorics taught, enjoyed, cast aside, and ultimately re-embraced.

 As a child, I spent a good deal of time listening. I am from the old school belief that children are to be seen not heard, and even the seen part was to be limited, when around adults.  I also come from a big family with nine children, strongly dominated by women and all older than I am. All of that to say, that I spent a lot of time listening to and learning from stories. When I or my sisters asked about something that was “somewhat tricky” we were told stories. When something in the community happened that was tragic or unsettling, the women in my family would get together (generally with other women from church) to indirectly discuss the situation and lessons that should be learned. So many of the stories that the women in my world told happened in the kitchens, often on Saturday nights, and often while hot-combing someone’s hair for church. Even in these more intimate settings, storytelling was a combination of voices and memories brought together in ways that called on the old but created something new.  

My early socialization, linguistic understanding, and education and worldview was shaped by the church. While a bit more performative than the storytelling in kitchens, these linguistic experiences also involved a combination of voices and memories brought together in ways that called on the old (often reaching back to Biblical stories) while communally creating something new. Each Sunday, I heard sermons that enacted communication as an interactive experience that was rhythmic, sonorous, artfully, and emotively delivered and concluded with celebration or hope. 

Characterizing the rhetoric of African American preaching as composed of signification, hermeneutics, and community, as well as the use of language, Cleophus LaRue describes the rhetoric that I was internalizing as an interaction between the speaker and the worshipping community based on a participatory bond. In his book, The Heart of Black Preaching LaRue describes this interactive rhetorical exchange as follows: 

The highly charged nature of the black worship experience is most commonly associated with the antiphonal call-and-response ritual that the preacher and congregation engage in during the sermon. Many black preachers, contemplating the audible participation of those in the pew, intentionally slow their cadences, time their pauses, and change or semichant their phrases in a most adept and deliberate manner (11).

What I came to know as rhetorically situated speech practices (and from there many of my speech and writing patterns) consisted of an awareness of language as rhythmic, sonorous, with persuasion being woven in narrative, and at times indirect, but with all linguistic interactions as participatory and shared, as illustrated by Martin Luther King Sr.’s sermon “ The Inescapable Christ.”

These rhetorical patterns were reinforced by the music that I experienced both in and outside of the church. From old-time gospel to the soul of such artists as Gladys Knight & The Pips, the rhetoric of my youth was rhythmic, woven in narrative, and participatory. April Leigh Kinkead calls refers to this “Black Rhetoric” as “‘synthesis,’ which reconciles the individual alongside the community as Being-in-the-world-alongside-others through care and concern for human dignity as encouraging reciprocity and balance through the act of speaking a common language.” 

 I brought this understanding of rhetoric (although I did not know what it was called at the time) with me when I was bused to school. This bussing meant that I went to school with students who did not look like me, talk like me, or understand the world as I did. The range of gaps between me and the students with whom I was sent to school existed both racially and socioeconomically thus beginning my educational journey into the socialization, and linguistic speech, and writing practices of the American majority. During my public school, university, and graduate school years, I encountered limited, if any, acknowledgement or discussions of writing or speaking that resonated with what I had internalized in my youth. When I tried to capture rhythm in my writing –– with sentence structures and repetition –– I was told that my sentences were too long and that I needed to simplify my writing for better clarity. This process, once described by Carter Godwin Woodson as the process of “educating the Negro” and “stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples” (5).

Elaine B. Richardson, in her book African American Literacies, describes the problem with this miseducation by pointing out that African Americans’ language and literacy traditions are actually representative of our ways of being in the world. To separate my educational processes from my cultural and intellectual rhetorical traditions disrupted my understanding of myself and my “way of being in the world.” In “Sustainable Becoming: Women’s Career Trajectories in Writing Program Administration” (WPA: Writing Program Administration, vol. 43, no. 1, 2019, pp. 12–32), I describe my career journey that eventually allowed me to reconcile years of mis-education and subsequent professional assimilation with my past personal, cultural, educational (and I would add rhetorical) traditions. In the article, I describe this stage of womanist identity integration as the “stage [in which] an individual identifies with her own identity, as well as understands infusion of the identity of the dominant culture and seeks to create a more integrated holistic identity. Moving from acknowledging and conforming to existing social expectations to creating and defining her own strong, healthy inclusive ones” (17).

While my story is my own, it is further complicated by the practices associated with the professional organizations with whom I am affiliated. I have constantly struggled to find a way to figure out ways to merge my professional administrative practices with what I know is a more inclusive approach to writing instruction and writing program curricular development. The CWPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition has been for many years the basis for curricular choices for writing instruction in post-secondary education. Although there is an effort to revise this statement to be more linguistically and rhetorically inclusive, in the current report as well as in reports by the National Writing Project, and College Board’s Advanced Placement Language Curriculum, rhetorical knowledge is foregrounded as a key component of writing instruction. While I was a writing program administrator, I, too, used these guidelines as a foundation for our writing program.  

I did and still do agree that foregrounding rhetorical knowledge is indeed an effective approach to writing instruction. What I now do not agree with is a monolithic or single definition of or for  “rhetorical knowledge.” In fact, in the absence of any designation of an understanding of the range of rhetoric(s) on which a course, a curriculum, or a program could focus, we must question: to whose rhetoric are we referring? A survey of curricula, textbooks, and digital instructional tools on rhetorical analysis generally focuses on an Aristotelian rhetorical model. That is: rhetoric is singular, and it is generally Aristotelean. Instead, an approach that includes plural rhetorics sees culture as intertwined and fully infused in all aspects of textual creation and analysis. 

Until we come to a broader, more inclusive definition of rhetorics (which Microsoft Word marks as spelled incorrectly—a point that is extremely telling), we are reducing a word that could have a rich and culturally diverse background to a seemingly limited monolithic scope. By not expanding our definition and analysis of rhetoric to rhetorics, we are excluding the nuanced breadth of textual consideration and by extension our students’ ability to recognize and contextualize rhetorical strategies beyond those often cited in research and instructional materials. Statements and practices that encourage students’ rights to their own language and even more recent efforts to enact anti-racist assessment practices will only somewhat address the curricular inequities that are created when we do not consider programmatic changes that include a broader definition of rhetoric(s).  

The early to mid 2000s brought with them a challenge to this somewhat singular default concept of traditional rhetorical knowledge, with the rise of a more encompassing perspective of rhetoric that foregrounded culture –– Cultural rhetoric(s). In their 2018 “Interfacing Cultural Rhetorics: A History and a Call,” the authors stated that “The study of cultural rhetorics is often formulated as an interrogation of both culture and rhetoric; thus, this inquiry understands constructions of culture and rhetoric as interdependent rather than stable categories,” as “mutually-informing, and overlapping ways in which rhetoric and culture interface.” Cultural studies researchers in writing studies explored African American rhetorics, Native American rhetorics, Chicana/Chicano rhetorics, Asian American rhetorics, queer rhetorics just to name a few. Yet first-year writing courses still focused on the singular “traditional” notion of rhetorical knowledge that I previously referred to.  

By examining the rhetorical tradition on which I was raised, I can return to my story. In defining and discussing African American rhetoric(s), I am not advocating the replacement of one singular definition for a different one; but instead, I am providing a practical, applicable example of what expanding the definition of a single rhetorical approach to an approach that includes multiple rhetorics might include.

In their 2018 book On African-American Rhetoric, Keith Gilyard and Adam J. Banks define African American rhetorics as “the arc of strategic language use by African Americans from rhetorical forms such as slave narratives and the spirituals to Black digital expression and contemporary activism.” In her syllabus for an Intro to African American Rhetoric course and on her website Carmen Kynard builds on this definition by stating, “African American rhetoric is more than just speeches, marches, and public presentations by Black people, though it includes all of that. African American rhetoric is about freedom, imaginations, and the ways that all forms of language and communication work towards those freedoms with all the complications fully on deck.” And, in their book African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives, editors Elaine B. Richardson and Ronald L. Jackson II define African American rhetorics as “the study of culturally and discursively developed knowledge-forms, communicative practices and persuasive strategies rooted in freedom struggles by people of African ancestry in America . . . .  This critical approach allows not only for analyses of discourse but also considerations of how we can better accommodate the development of empowering rhetoric” (xiii). 

In each of these definitions, I have highlighted key components of the focuses of African American rhetorics that not only meets but exceeds the rhetorical knowledge that is described as an outcome for students in a composition class.  

African American Rhetoric (with an Afrocentric focus) expands the rhetorical triangle to a star.
Figure 1. Image by Collin LaJoie, high school English teacher in Kansas City, Kansas.

When explored in terms of a writing classroom, Vershawn Ashanti Young and Michelle Bachelor Robinson, in The Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric: the Longue Durée of Black Voices (2018), illustrate how a composition course that has an Afrocentric focus or focuses on African American rhetoric would expand the traditional rhetorical triangle to a star that includes language, style discourse, perspective, community and suasion. 

The Nommo circle features the term Nommo in the center, surrounded by soundin', stylin', improvisation, storytelling, lyrical code, image making, call and response, and rhythm forming a circle. Small arrows below each term indicate a clockwise motion.
Figure 2. Image from Keith Gilyard’s Introduction to African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Elaine B. Richardson and Ronald L. Jackson II.

Another model is found in Ronald Jackson’s 1995 Toward an Afrocentric Methodology for the Critical Assessment of Rhetoric. He centers rhetorical analysis on Nommo—the power of the word. Jackson states that “All activities of men, and all movements on nature, rest on the word, on the productive power of the word, which is water and heat and seed and Nommo, that is, life force itself . . . ” (50).

What I am proposing is that we no longer consider writing courses about rhetorical knowledge, but instead about helping students understand, analyze, and produce based on a broader concept of knowledge of rhetoric(s). What I am proposing is that composition studies continuously, broadly define rhetoric(s) to include all of those in our field, all of the students in our classrooms reclaiming the power in the word rhetoric.   

Works Cited

Baker-Bell, April.  Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy. New York, Routledge, 2020.

Browne, Simone. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham, Duke UP, 2015. 

Cobos, Casie C. et al. “Interfacing Cultural Rhetorics: A History and a Call,” Rhetoric Review, vol. 27, no. 2, 2018, pp. 139 –154. 

Gilyard, Keith. Race, Rhetoric, and Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman Boynton/Cook, 1999. 

Gilyard, Keith. and Richardson, Elaine. “Students’ Right to Possibility: Basic Writing and  African American Rhetoric. Insurrections: Approaches to Resistance in Composition            Studies, edited by Andrea Greenbaum, Albany, NY, SUNY Press,  2001. 37–51. 

Gilyard, Keith and Adam Banks. On African American Rhetoric. New York, Routledge,        2020.  

Kinkead, April Leigh. Black Rhetoric: The Art of Thinking Being, 2013, UT Arlington, PhD      dissertation. 

LaRue, Cleophus James. The Heart of Black Preaching. Louisville, KY: Westminster John      Knox Press, 1999. 

Lipsitz, George. “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy and the “White” Problem in American Studies. American Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 3, 1995, 369387.

Jackson, Ronald L and Elaine Richardson, editors. Understanding African American              Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations. New York, Routledge, 2003.

Shelton, Cecelia. (2020). “Shifting Out of Neutral: Centering Difference, Bias, and Social Justice in a Business Writing Course,” Technical Communication Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 1, 2019, 1832.

Smitherman, Geneva. Talkin’ and Testifyin’: The Language of Black America. Detroit, MI:      Wayne State UP, 1977. 

Young, Vershawn Ashanti and Michelle Bachelor Robinson, editors. The Routledge              Reader of African American Rhetoric: the Longue Durée of Black Voices. New York,                  Routledge, 2018.


For pedagogical perspectives on cultural rhetorics, see “Listening to Stories: Practicing Cultural Rhetorics Pedagogy”.  For more sources on cultural rhetorics, see Constellations’ Cultural Rhetorics Consortium. 

For more ideas on cultural rhetorics-based assessment frameworks, see Gavin Johnson’s blog on Considering the “Possibilities of a Cultural Rhetorics Assessment Framework”

In this bibliography, I have included both composition sources and those that are applicable to professional and technical writing. This was a list that Jennifer Sano-Francini and I developed as part of a Black Matters teach-in.

Welcome to FEN Blog!

Composition Studies got its start in 1972 as the Freshman English Newsletter. Early issues were defined by brevity and practicality: many entries were a column or two on a single page, offering helpful advice in casual language about the everyday problems facing teachers. For example, one piece from the second issue advises teachers on pedagogical practices for minority students, while another describes curricular innovation at Forest Park Community College in St. Louis. Today, the chatty tone of these newsletters has given way to a commitment to robust peer-reviewed scholarship. Composition Studies won an award in 2017 recognizing its inclusive editorial practices, and we’re proud of the work the journal continues to produce. We also see an ongoing need for the informal, practical conversations hosted in the original newsletter. To meet this need, we are proud to introduce FEN Blog, so titled in honor of the Freshman English Newsletter.

We envision that the blog will invite brief, experiential accounts of what is happening in our classrooms, administrative work, and research. Coming alongside the peer reviewed research in our host journal, the blog promises to expand what stories are told in the field and who tells them. 

The need for a blog has been on the Composition Studies journal editors’ minds for a long time. Yet the twin exigencies of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement accelerated this vision, since they made clear the importance of a space which allows us to address issues in a timely fashion. Equally important, a blog also provides a platform for people minoritized within higher education and peer-reviewed publishing — including Black scholars, scholars of color, contingent faculty, and graduate students — to address the ongoing questions raised by our diverse, varied experiences. 

Working outside the constraints of peer reviewed scholarship permits FEN Blog several advantages, among them a more conversational tone and wider range of affordances. We hope that contributors will write in their own language, producing short(er) pieces that center their expertise in the classroom. Especially for contingent faculty or graduate students, FEN Blog provides a much-needed space to address the field. 

Among the affordances a blog platform offers is the opportunity to include multimodal composing –– images embedded into the piece to illustrate, hyperlinks to expand discussion, or audio/visual elements to amplify. Each post will include a featured image, either provided by the writer or selected by the editorial team, and readers/contributors are encouraged to design an image if they want. The comments field, as well as sharing options on social media, will spark responsive, ongoing conversations among readers from a variety of positions.

We’re not the first journal to create a blog. Teacher-Scholar-Activist, Cultural Rhetorics Pedagogy Blog, and the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative are strong players in the field, and their voices are valued. Unlike these more focused blogs, however, FEN Blog, much like Composition Studies, looks to take pieces that “don’t fit neatly in other spaces,” making room for a wide range of contributions that help us think about composition scholarship and education broadly. 

Over the next few months, FEN Blog will feature posts by scholars whose work speaks to the field as it stands right now. Each scholar will choose an important keyword –– such as rhetorics or accessibility –– and share with us what it means for ongoing work in writing and teaching. 

Later this spring, we plan to put out a CFP for blog posts sharing stories grounded in authors’ own expertise and research interests. Whether from the classroom, the writing or multiliteracy center, or professional life experience, we hope to nurture a welcoming space uniquely situated to open dialogue, offer wisdom, and posit questions from all walks of the composition field; in this vein, we particularly encourage graduate students and contingent faculty to submit. Submissions are scheduled to go live this summer. 

We encourage you to consider submitting to FEN Blog! Our guidelines for submissions and pitches are already live, and we are eager to start sharing material from the general public as early as late summer or early autumn. Submissions will be posted every three weeks to start, then will move to every other week, giving us the ability to address current events, whether public (protests or elections) or academic (start-of-term activities, campus life issues, etc.) as they are happening. 

Continuing the work of the Freshman English Newsletter, FEN Blog will be able to further the reach of Composition Studies among wider audiences. At the heart of our work is a commitment to inclusivity, centering marginalized voices in the field, as well as emphasizing currency in a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. We are thrilled to welcome you to FEN Blog, and we hope you will read, subscribe, and consider submitting!