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Notes on Writing and Desire

Jonathan Alexander | University of California, Irvine

Earlier in my career (I’m now well into my third decade of the profession), I wrote a book, Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy: Theory and Practice for Composition Studies, in which I attempted to mobilize the insights of queer theory for the teaching of writing.  I began that work out of a sense of myself as not just an outsider to the field of composition studies, but also as an outsider to normative orders of being in the late capitalist cultures of a heteronormative and patriarchal American hegemony, a hegemony that extended outward globally and inward (a la Foucault) to the construction of normative selves in the workroom of power we call the “self” and that Foucault and others rightly call the “subject,” as in what one is subject to.  Queer theory is born out of these insights and deeply felt senses of the normative insides and outsides of the social.  As such, it offered me a way to think about how composition studies and its focus on language, communication, writing, and rhetoric might be re-oriented toward an understanding and critique of the construction of normative discourses of the social.  It also allowed me to think about ways to approach an interrogation of a privileged heteronorm and a consequent derogation of lives, loves, interests, investments, and dispositions that lay, for whatever reason, outside those norms.  I wanted to know, and explore with others, how the insights of the “others” might complicate the discursive and material construction of such norms and what kind, to borrow from Foucault again, of “available freedom” was possible, discursively and materially, through the act of writing.

I think now I was missing the point.  In that book, I told a story about reading C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a boy—actually about how that book was read to me and other fifth graders in a class, and how the experience of that book and its telling of two stories at the same time (the fantasy story of Aslan the lion and the Pevensie children as allegory for the death and resurrection of Christ) opened my eyes to the possibilities of writing as the fantastical capacity to tell two stories at the same time, however related.  Such seemed a magical power of storytelling, of creation, of writing.  But I also quickly moved to how the narrative, a pedagogical story of Christian indoctrination for young minds, discursively and then just as surely materially trapped me in the closet, my nascent queer feelings and being already identified on the schoolyard as faggotry, as sinful, as undesirable.  I called Lewis’ wardrobe my first closet.

I wasn’t wrong, but I gave short shrift to what Lewis offered – or, perhaps more correctly, what I took from Lewis.  For I have never stopped believing in the power of writing to speak doubly, to tell a tale and tell a very different kind of tale at the same time.  And if my perversion of Lewis’ allegory lies in my commitment to writing as not just gesturing to the “real” story but to multiple, divergent, even contradictory stories, then so be it.  For this is what it did.  Yes, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe allegorized the story of Christ.  But it also allegorized the creative power of the word to mean multiply – and perhaps to mean very differently than what was first intended or first apprehended or later imposed on the text.  Writing couldn’t be as controlled as Lewis had perhaps imagined, or wanted.  Its correspondences were not as tightly braided as he hoped.  It was fluid.  It opened up and out.  It is (to return to Lewis and Prince Caspian, the sequel to Lion, the first book I read cover to cover as a prepubescent boy) my imagining crawling into bed with one of the Pevensie boys, perhaps the bed of Prince Caspian himself, surrounded by his strong arms, cuddled and cradled, imagining connection, dreaming of a being with that, yes, I quickly learned to keep to myself, but that I sought out in book after book.  And then I slowly started finding others with similar desires—even those with desires I didn’t know were possible—that sparked and ignited and inspired and that kept me looking, reading, dreaming, discovering.  That, in a word, kept me desiring.

Perhaps what I learned most importantly about writing and desire is that I pursued writing that opened up the world and its queerness to me precisely to resist the discursive and material injunctions against my queerness that surrounded me.  I kept reading, voraciously, because I needed not so much to find myself in writing but to discover how to survive, to re-educate my sense of self away from the damaged conception I was given of a damned and sinful self and toward a vibrant and lively self I wanted and wanted to be.  I then started writing my own fantasies, with accompanying maps, modeling myself on Lewis and others, because I needed to explore other worlds, other ways of being, other fantastical and creative capacities for living that were otherwise foreclosed in my day-to-day existence.  I have learned that such reading and writing were less about finding an identity than about the experience of language itself as a capacious, multiple, and generative process – less of being than of building, less of identifying and more of discovering.  My writing was expressing a desire, multiple desires surely; but it was also, more importantly, desire itself.  It was not just the representation of desire; it was desire.

To be sure, writing can represent a range of desires.  It can absolutely channel desires for foreclosure, for harm, for limitation.  But it can also be the gesture, the enactment, the being toward the other, toward otherness, the being that is becoming.  I have learned from my own story, my own desires, and the stories I have come to tell about those desires, about the need to cultivate, actively, my own desires – before they are cultivated in me, and even after they have been cultivated by others in me.  I am not talking here about authenticity, about the true self and its desires.  I have never been sure such exists.  But I am talking about awareness, about activity, about agency.  We learn desires, even how to desire, through the sponsorship of different institutions; my fifth-grade teacher reading us a book for children by C. S. Lewis was attempting to shape our emerging beings, direct us on particular paths.  But there is also writing that can direct us beyond the sponsorship of particular institutions, writing that resists certain forms of sponsorship and the values and ideologies channeled through it, and writing that opens us onto the unknown territories of being and possibility.  At moments, I want to argue (I desire to argue?) that the generative capaciousness of languaging, the inherent power of writing’s fundamental metaphoricity, lies precisely in its inability to fix reality and instead in its capacity to open it up for other ways of thinking, feeling, and being.  Lewis’ allegory deconstructing itself in my fifth-grade mind, pointing me less toward the sacrificial Christ and more to the power to tell a very different kind of story, was my first encounter with such a capacity.

In this way, writing as desire can become a constant education and re-education of desire itself.  As one initial example, I can point to how Eric Darnell Pritchard relies on Audre Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic” to forward a theory of restorative literacy and love.  He is thinking in particular about American Black folks and how they use language and writing to repair the damages done to them by racism. For Pritchard, writing is the desire for something different, something better than what is offered.  He writes that 

Lorde describes the erotic as a power source engendering the vision one has for one’s life on one’s own terms. . . . The erotic challenges and invites us to see how this kernel of energy animates the entire enterprise of our interventions, and of our lives as a whole. Lorde cites the erotic as an affective power within individual and collective struggles against oppression. (57) 

Indeed. But Lorde’s turn to the erotic and its uses is not just in service of living life on one’s own terms. It is also a turning outward and an opening to the experience of joy across multiple spheres, domains, and ecologies. As Lorde herself puts it

[An] important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy. In the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, hearkening to its deepest rhythms, so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience, whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, examining an idea. 

Bodies, music, dancing, bookcases, writing, and ideas.  This is the erotic as desire not just for satisfaction of identity, but as a stretching, a hearkening, an opening.  And Lorde, as master poet, knew well of the capacity of writing to enact such eroticism, to be such desire.

I want to write now, finally, not just about those desires, but about writing as desire, about writing as the particular kind of desire that is that reaching out.  Not a fixing, but a becoming.  Not an allegory, but a constant metaphorizing out that delights in difference, that learns to love the power of language itself to open us onto the brilliant and diffuse and shattering and extraordinary differences that surround it. I want to know what happens when I focus my attention now, finally, at last, on how writing is desire.

NOTE: These thoughts are part of a larger project.

Roll Call: Labor Logs as an Additional Method of Accounting for Classroom Attendance

Jake Hennessy | Florida State University

As an instructor, even before COVID-19, I tried to remember my positionality as an undergraduate student from a school with a large commuter population. I wanted to embrace flexibility in my teaching and syllabus policies that extends empathy towards students who have difficulty juggling the many responsibilities they have in their lives. And, as someone who struggles with two different diagnosed forms of depression, I wanted to extend my flexibility beyond the logistical hurdles students face to also include the marginalized students who might have trouble with attendance due to depression or other mental health issues. I found that generally students weren’t unwilling to come to class and engage but rather faced various difficulties that made it hard for them to attend. While some faced hour-long commutes, a lot of students with attendance issues mentioned family tragedies or other mental health related struggles as the main obstacle to their attendance. In response, I created a labor-based attendance form where students filled out the work they did outside of class to remove up to two recorded absences. This way, I can remain empathetic to these issues that cause students to miss class sessions. 

Adding flexibility within attendance policies matters because of  the increased mental health struggles college students endure. In 2014, Doris Iarovici reported on student survey data from 80,121 students at 106 institutions in Mental Health Issues and the University Student. When asked about the top 10 impediments to academic success or performance, students ranked these as the top five in this order (6):

    1. Stress
    2. Sleep Difficulties
    3. Internet use/computer games
    4. Depression/anxiety disorder
    5. Alcohol 

Even more concerning is that nearly half of students felt “so depressed it was difficult to function” and almost 1 in 10 students “seriously contemplated suicide” (Iarovici 6).  Recently, Changwon Son et al. conducted interview surveys with 195 students at a large public university in the United States to explore the effects of the pandemic on their mental health. Out of the 195 students, 71% noted increased stress and anxiety, 89% noted difficulty concentrating, and 82% noted increased concerns about academic performance. Changwon Son et al. concluded that these findings highlighted an urgency to develop interventions and preventative strategies for students’ mental health. 

Findings like these warrant a change in how writing program administrators and composition instructors alike account for and/or think about attendance. Disability studies is a great place to start when thinking about how pedagogical changes could account for student mental health. As Adam Hubrig rightly notes in their post “Access from/as the Start: On Writing Studies and ‘Accessibility,’” “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.” It takes more than just that, and I hope I’m doing my part in increasing access to my composition classrooms with the labor log example you’ll find later down this blog.

I also lean towards Mad at School from Margaret Price as a key conversation starter when talking about mental health issues. Price’s idea of kairotic spaces is helpful to understand the rigid social expectations of a typical classroom discussion. Price stated that these spaces are “the less formal, often unnoticed, areas of academe where knowledge is produced and power is exchanged” (60). Examples of these spaces for students include group work and classroom discussion where they may feel uncomfortable participating. For writing program administrators and composition instructors who have power to change or adapt attendance policies, acknowledging these kairotic spaces and bringing them into pedagogical focus by mindfully reconsidering these strategies as “normal” allows for an effective critique of the ableism involved in such practices. As Price noted, “Ableism contributes to the construction of a rigid, elitist, hierarchical, and inhumane academic system” (8). Composition instructors ought to stay reflexive in their syllabus policy statements, as well as collectively engaging in changing potential strict departmental policy. This collective effort is essential to affect policy making decisions for the benefit of those with mental health struggles.

To further explore expanding flexibility for composition classroom policy, I thought about the questions Price asked when she pondered “what does ‘participation’ in a class mean for a student who is undergoing a deep depression and cannot get out of bed? Or a student who experiences such severe anxiety, or obsession, that he can barely leave his dorm room or home?” (5-6). I felt that I had enough agency to adapt my policy to be mindful of this idea of presence that Price attended to through her critique of conflating classroom presence with the act of “experiencing” a class. Price rightfully noted that not all who physically attend class are attentive and experiencing the class in that moment, whether it be due to anxiety or prior sleep problems due to issues with depression (66). The idea of out of classroom productivity is crucial for me to remember; Price noted that instructors should not be so quick to correlate attendance with presence or participation, as it is possible for students to be engaged in the process of the classroom and learning outside the physical classroom (68). We, as instructors, must remember that there are times when students may miss class to spend more time composing their major project and that instance may provide more learning or experience for a socially anxious student than forcing them to endure additional small group work (68). 

My labor log helps students remove two of their absences by telling me what they accomplished outside of class that week for our class. This idea stems from an adaptation of Asao B. Inoue’s idea of a labor-based writing course in First Year Composition: From Theory to Practice. Inoue also mentions this flexibility as “compassionate recognition” in his blog on attendance.  

The attendance log includes a prompt for the student's name, date of absence, an explanation of the type of work performed outside of class, reflection on what went well, and reflection on how the student felt while working.
Figure 1. Example of Labor-Based Attendance Form

I believe that my labor-based log challenges students to reflect on their experiences as writers while respecting their process with mental health as well. This form is my attempt to respect the labor of the student, which Inoue defined as being often signaled as “the quantity of time and effort put into a project or an activity” (73). As I moved to teaching on Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to somehow account for the tremendous, new mental burden placed upon students. I thought it was fair to reconsider my conceptions of attendance and presence in this new Zoom environment. Most of the content I sought from students filling this sheet out relates to reflective work that accounts for the amount of labor they are putting in for the class. Reflection is a major part of my composition course and this sheet provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their labor practices outside the classroom.With this form, I wanted to be mindful of placing too enormous a burden upon the student to provide proof; this unfortunately would resemble the current university accommodation model of providing documentation. Rather, I attempted to keep the spirit of the labor-based course in mind and asked the student to write about their process and experience related to the work of the project. As Inoue notes about his composition course:

I also wanted to avoid making students provide proof in the form of screenshots of the outside of the classroom labor. A lot of students who struggle with mental health need someone to understand. Sometimes, that understanding comes in the form of not asking for definitive proof of a reasonable, documented excuse for their absence. The last thing I want to do is resemble the same cold and unforgiving legality the university imposes on them when dealing with seeking accommodations. This also served a pedagogical benefit, as these questions are an attempt for the students to exercise a degree of self-reflexivity in their writing process. 

First, students account for the actual labor they performed outside of class. They get to see and confront an estimation of the work they write down, which I think helps put into perspective their relationship with labor and the writing process. Along with writing down their labor, I believe that asking them to reflect on what went well and what they would change challenges them to attend to their writing and research practices outside of the classroom. This helps students figure out if they should change or improve their labor practices. Finally, I wanted to include a question that allowed students to express the emotional dimension of this process if they wanted. I created this labor-log to primarily help students who face mental health issues, and I feel it would be a disservice to them if I did not allow them to express how it felt to perform the labor I ask of them. This question helps create a link between myself and my students, which also goes a long way in building trust and classroom community that I value.  

This labor-based-attendance form is one suggestion in a long conversation of expanding flexibility and accommodation related to classroom policies. This is by no means an attempt to totally replace the attendance model. One benefit I found with this labor log is that students seemed to miss fewer classes once I implemented this policy. I believe that it relates back to building trust by giving my students a fallback mechanism to use if other classes are getting difficult or they experience some issues in their lives during the semester. This labor-log also aids in issues of classism, as mental health issues are not the only reasons students have to miss a few classes. There are issues of taking care of family, and/or having multiple jobs, as well as many other reasons that this sheet hopefully might expand awareness for. 

As far as assessing the success of this sheet, I have received reassuring feedback from students that they appreciated the flexibility offered by me. More importantly, multiple students admitted to the  difficulties that came with being a new college student. They stressed that this accepting class space was a very needed factor as a student, and that I was considerate of the environment we were all in.  I believe that this labor-log was one of many strategies that built trust and community in my classroom. 

As I mentioned above, when I teach, I always try to be mindful of the many different burdens students face in order to attend college. This means that many students work one or even two jobs just for the same affordance to attend college as others, and these burdens add to the stress and mental health issues many students face. Instructors considering the student labor that goes into the course becomes as important as considering attendance itself. Just as a blanket attendance policy cannot accommodate or fit all students, neither can an expectation that students will put similar amounts of labor into each assignment. This disproportionate amount of labor that initially is invisible may influence the also invisible mental health struggles students face. As COVID-19 provided an overt exigence that commanded institutions, writing program administrators, and instructors to re-think policy and practices on the fly, we must recognize and acknowledge that exigences to prompt such reconsideration existed long before the pandemic. At the same time, we should not immediately sweep new practices that emerged from teaching in different synchronous and asynchronous formats under the rug as we eventually reconvene from the pandemic. 

Works Cited
Changwon, Son et al. “Effects of COVID-19 on College Students’ Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study.” JMIR Publications, vol. 22, no. 9, 2020, Accessed 15 July 2021. 

Hubrig, Adam. “Access from/as the Start: On Writing Studies and “Accessibility.” Composition Studies Journal. Accessed 23 November 2021. 

Iarovici, Doris. Mental Health Issues & the University Student. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. 

Inoue, Asao B. “Attendance in Labor-Based Grading.” Asao B. Inoue’s Infrequent Words. Accessed 23 November 2021. 

—. “A Grade-Less Writing Course That Focuses on Labor and Assessing.” First-Year Composition: From Theory to Practice. Parlor Press, 2014. 

— [AsaoBInoue]. “One way to understand this focus on labor and effort is to consider what this course really is about. This is a writing course, not a paper course. Writing is a verb, a practice. It is labor.” Twitter, 15 June 2021,

Price, Margaret. Mad at School. The University of Michigan Press, 2011.

Using Spoken Word Poetry to Foster Inclusivity in Writing Centers

Nataly Dickson | Texas Christian University

On January 20th, 2021 Amanda Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Her spoken word poem “The Hill We Climb” described America as a country that “isn’t broken but simply unfinished” during President Joe Biden’s inauguration (00:53-00:57). Gorman broadly discussed the country’s losses but also provided a hopeful outlook on its future. Her use of spoken word poetry provided Americans an opportunity to just listen. And, while nothing is without response, spoken word poetry proved once again to be powerful.

Specifically, this power occurs when Gorman places herself within the recognition of America’s continuous grappling with its racist past and the reality of the “American Dream”. She says,

“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one” (00:58-1:14).

Not only does Gorman confront America with its flaws but through the performance, her poem embodies the truth which many people from marginalized communities experience as it relates to the “American Dream.” Spoken word poetry provides one way for these truths to set in.

When I listened to Gorman’s performance and had an opportunity to discuss the poem with my colleagues, I was drawn to the genre of spoken word poetry. More specifically, I was drawn to how Gorman was embodying her message. I am not a creative writer but as someone who studies rhetoric and composition, I saw a parallel between the genre and one of my areas of focus: writing center studies. My past experiences as a writing center tutor and as an assistant director of a writing center helped me imagine what it would mean to place spoken word poetry in the writing center with the possibility that tutors could listen to what is being said by writers like Gorman. Gorman’s work, and the broader question of connections between spoken word poetry and conversations about writing centers and race, raises the following questions: 

What would it mean to make the performance of spoken word poetry more common in writing centers? How could spoken word poetry, especially written and performed by writers from marginalized communities, help foster inclusivity in writing centers?

In order to consider these questions, let us take a step back. Writing centers started as writing clinics or writing laboratories where “remedial” students were sent to meet the standardized writing levels required in colleges and universities. As a result, writing centers were negatively perceived and have continuously struggled with these perceptions. In his article, “The Idea of a Writing Center,” Stephen North voices his frustrations with those who perceive the writing center as places where students can get their papers “fixed.” Although an older piece, this article is continuously one of the most referenced texts in writing center scholarship because of the notion that writing centers should be about making better writers, not better papers. While North’s frustrations are appropriate, and many writing center enthusiasts voice these frustrations as well today, one thing is worth noting––no matter what we are “making better,” to make it better would mean to place it against the dominant standardized English. 

North’s article, however, valuable in its emphasis on making better writers, neglects to question the intersection of race and writing. The gap, though I am not the first to address it, does raise the following questions: 

Who are the writers being sent to these “remedial” spaces? Why might these writers bring themselves to these spaces? 

It may be of no surprise to us that the answers to these questions are marginalized students. As a result, I also ask:

What levels of vulnerability do these writers feel when walking into the writing center knowing that their writing does not reflect the white dominant standard?

Writing centers continuously need to find better ways for writers, especially marginalized writers, to be well served in these spaces. My research revolves around questioning how writers like these, usually with two or more intersecting identities or hyphenated identities, impact or are impacted by writing spaces. Through this already established interest, I began to explore other spoken word poets whose work expresses this grappling with identities. I imagine placing spoken word within the writing center to see how this genre could change the space. In order to showcase how spoken word poetry can foster inclusivity in writing centers, I bring attention to Ariana Brown. 

Ariana Brown is a queer Black Mexican-American poet from San Antonio, Texas. For the past ten years Brown has been writing, performing, and teaching poetry and has received a various number of prizes for her work. Brown’s poetry explores the intersection of being Black and Mexican-American and “explores the histories of Black people in Mexican, Mexican-American, and Latin American spaces” (“I BELONG IN MY COMMUNITY”: A CONVERSATION WITH ARIANA BROWN”). Through a brief observation of her work, we can begin to imagine what the practice and performance of spoken word poetry can do to transform the writing center space to a more inclusive one.

Brown’s exploration of the intersection of the Black, Mexican-American, and Latin American spaces begins through the title of her debut poetry chapbook, Sana Sana. The title refers to the Spanish folklore which states, “Sana sana colita de rana. Si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana.” This folklore is said to children when they hurt themselves and essentially translates by ensuring to the hurt child that if they do not heal today, they will heal tomorrow. In an interview, Brown takes this a step further by stating that she sees the performance of poetry as a ritual or ceremony. She even shares that spoken word poetry is a form of therapy which requires community. Lastly, she emphasizes the importance of the audience to the performance of poetry and the relationship between performer and their audience (Flores).

How might Brown’s approach to viewing spoken word poetry as a form of therapy bring tension into the writing center, especially when considering, for example, the format of writing center consultations? In my experience, writing center consultations have been one-on-one, at times have been rigid due to the tutor being seen as a type of  authority figure, and ultimately, writers tend to receive feedback based on the white dominant standard of language and writing. I use Brown’s aspirations for her poetry to bring healing through community by moving away from the typical format of writing center sessions which allow the tutor to give feedback based on the standard whereas the writer may just need to be listened to. This could also serve as an opportunity for the tutor to learn from the writer. The tutor may ask themselves: what am I learning about this writer’s life through their creative work? What might this work teach me about identities and histories unlike mine? How can I take the time to ask the writer what they need versus immediately falling back to the usual methods of discussing writing? This is work that I want to continue researching and hope that what I share here serves as the inception for others interested in similar conversations. 

The following lines from Brown’s poem “Dear White Girls in my Spanish Class” are examples of what it might mean for someone like Brown, who embodies multiple identities, to come into the writing center space and unmake the space, meaning that Brown’s presence and the conversations she is bringing forth through her poetry can be another way writing centers uncover the racism in these spaces through this grappling of her identities. In this poem, Brown discusses the intersection of being black and Mexican-American through talking about the Spanish language.

Brown begins by addressing the white girls in her Spanish class:

“I bet you thought this class would be easy, since Spanish is what poor brown people speak right? Not something you actually have to try to understand, not fancy or sophisticated, not like French.” (00:37-00:47)

Later, Brown brings her Mexican grandmother into the poem:

“You are the reason my grandmother feared her children would speak with accents. So afraid, she buried her first language in the space between blood and bone because your grandparents wouldn’t let her make a home outside her body.” (00:55-1:07)

Then, Brown ties her Mexican-American lineage with that of her father’s:

“Don’t you know I had to fight for this? For each scrap of culture I could get my hands on, even if its lineage is as European as yours. My father, a Black American man, is descended from slaves. I am not sure if you understand what that means. I am descended from slaves. I wanna know where I come from, but I can only trace my history in one direction. So, I am here, in yet another Spanish class, desperately reaching for language I hope will choose me back someday.” (1:55-2:23)

Similar to Gorman’s poem, Brown’s poetry invites the audience to listen to the struggles which many marginalized communities face, while also using performance to heal from the histories of her communities. By welcoming the practice and performance of spoken word poetry like Gorman’s, Brown’s, and that written by the marginalized writers amongst our college and university communities, we can both provide them an opportunity to share, practice, learn, and be heard. Subsequently, if the writing center wants to foster inclusivity, this can be one way to question how it is responding to students from marginalized communities. Ultimately, this will show that there is no room for the harms of the white dominant standards of writing present in this space. 

In order for writing centers to use spoken word poetry to foster inclusivity, I envision that the first step in doing so is making it clear that writers can bring creative writing pieces into the center. In my experience, it was very uncommon for writers to bring creative pieces to a tutoring session, let alone spoken word poetry. The genre of spoken word, especially its performance, disrupts the privileged forms of composing happening in these spaces as well as the one-on-one consultation format between writer and tutor. In this case, writing center directors can emphasize writer agency when tutors encounter creative pieces. Regardless of the experience the tutor has in working with these genres, employing active listening versus resorting to the usual need to provide feedback can better support the writer especially if they are writing about themes similar to Brown’s.

Another important step is providing a space for writers to practice and perform their spoken word poetry. Whether you are at a community college, university, or in a K-12 setting, having a space where writers can go to work on their poetry is useful. There are various writing centers who are well-known for doing just that, such as the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center and the Stanford University Hume Center for Writing and Speaking. (Thanks to Dr. Nathalie Singh-Corcoran for bringing my attention to these writing centers which are doing similar work to what I propose here). On an additional note, if a college, university, high school, etc., does not have a writing center, finding a space in the library, student union, or any room where writers know that they can gather to practice their work, would suffice just as well. Reaching out to the manager of a building like the library for a room request could be a great start in establishing a meeting space, especially if you are able to reserve the room consistently. This space does not even have to be tied to a college or university. In his book, Digital Griots: African American Rhetorics in a Digital Age, Adam J. Banks purposefully decides not to use institutional spaces to meet with the community to discuss writing, literacy, and social issues. He went into his town, avoided choosing community gathering spaces, and instead walked into a local restaurant and asked if he could use a part of their space to discuss writing. Nevertheless, the space should work to invite people to discuss, practice, and perform their creative pieces.  

Community colleges, universities, and K-12 settings could also consider including spoken word poetry in writing spaces by dedicating times or events for practices and performances. The Miami University Howe Writing Center specifically works in conjunction with Miami University Spoken Word, or MU Speak, a group of writers who utilize the writing center space to host various events such as poetry slams and writing workshops for writers of all skills and levels. Personally, when I began this project I imagined the possibility of the writing center hosting an open mic night style event where writers, especially from marginalized communities, can perform their creative writing in this space. Imagining the writing center space move from one-one-one consultations to a space where there can be a better relationship between performer and audience, like Brown suggests, will support writers that may, at first, feel vulnerable about their writing especially when performing their work. Through an open mic night event, however, writers can know that the center will not revert back to its usual methods of engaging and assessing writing against the white dominant standard. To be more specific, these events can be in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each week of the month of April could have a focus like women writers, poets of color, local poets, etc.

No matter how writing centers or writing supporters invite writers to present their spoken word poetry, I believe that there is potential to transform these spaces into more inclusive ones. Because in order to listen and learn from writers like those who have been excluded and silenced, we have to provide the space first.

Works Cited
“Ariana Brown- “Dear White Girls in my Spanish Class” @WANPOETRY”. YouTube, uploaded by Write About Now, 12 November 2017, 

Banks, Adam J. Digital Griots: African American Rhetoric in a Multimedia Age. Southern Illinois University Press, 2011.

Flores, Joseph. “Ariana Brown on “Sana Sana”. MUD. Accessed 6 April 2021.

North, Stephen M. “The Idea of a Writing Center.” College English, vol. 46, no. 5, 1984, pp. 433–446. JSTOR, Accessed 1 Apr. 2021.

“Poet Amanda Gorman Speaks at the Biden-Harris Inauguration 2021.” Biden Inaugural Committee. YouTube. 20 January 2021.

“Roger and Joyce Howe Center for Writing Excellence” Miami University. Accessed 5 Oct. 2021.

Willis, Mia S. “I BELONG IN MY COMMUNITY”: A CONVERSATION WITH ARIANA BROWN”. The Adroit Journal. Accessed 6 April 2021.

Rows of hundreds of blue and white archive boxes on shelves.

Archive: Developing Critical Collaborations

Walker Smith | University of Louisville

I arrived at my first in-person visit to an institutional archive with a strong foundation in archival research methods—both in teaching and in research. I had taught many composition research assignments with digital archives at Oklahoma State University even using readings from the field at the director’s suggestion (Gaillet). I had read extensively for my graduate seminar papers about how archives are not apolitical repositories of truth but require the user to navigate records critically, attuned to the ethical impacts of the histories that appear there (Cushman; Graban; Kirsch & Rohan; Morris; Ramsey et al.,). However, what my training hadn’t fully prepared me for was the laborers behind an archive’s organization and presentation to the public—archivists—also have their own theories and debates about the power dynamics of records management.

Entering the Edgar Rice Burroughs Archive, the world’s largest collection of “ERB” ephemera, the archivists offered me bits of information and context that I didn’t know I should or even could be asking for—particularly, what is this collection’s provenance

What is its history of ownership? 
Who had custody prior to its acquisition?
How and why was it acquired? 
What principles do the archivists follow in processing its records and making them accessible to others? 
Do they adhere to the original order of its creator or owner, or is its order negotiated among the collection’s various managers, users, and stakeholders?

Such questions of provenance in the Burroughs Archive came with high-stakes ethical concerns. The author of violent colonial fantasy novels like Tarzan of the Apes, Burroughs himself espoused white supremacist values and promoted a eugenicist vision for the U.S. As the “Godfather of American Science Fiction,” his works still garner a massive fandom who actively continue to produce fan art and fiction, hold events, and catalog their activities online. As the custodians of a challenging, undoubtedly colonial archive, University of Louisville’s archivists go above and beyond to present Burroughs’ records and artifacts to the public in appropriate historical context and to collaborate with instructors and researchers who treat its contents with a fervent critical stance.

My own time researching in the Burroughs Archive helped me to notice the often untapped potential for critical collaborations with archival staff who do much more than simply provide us with access to archives and information. Below, I outline the commitments of a subfield known as “critical archival studies” (CAS) and offer one example of how I have tried to integrate CAS into writing classes. Certainly, rhetoric and composition scholars in the field have drawn from critical archival theories before (especially from Stoler) and often encouraged collaborations with archival staff (e.g., Rawson), but here I only seek to draw attention to our potential theoretical overlaps.

What is CAS? Or, What are Archivists Saying about Power Today?
Critical archival studies (CAS) is in part a response to critical theory’s uptake of the archival metaphor in the late twentieth century. On the one hand, this body of theory was vital for explaining how multiple historical narratives vie for official commemoration and for how certain publics draw on shared resources for rhetorical invention. On the other hand, many archivists have rightfully criticized that when we invoke “the archive” as a theoretical idea, we often ignore the long tradition of archival practice and scholarship that informs the world’s second oldest profession (Schwartz & Cook).

Critical archivists also bemoan this theoretical trend while pausing to consider what aspects of critical theory may be useful to their field. For example, Caswell et al. outline the commitments of CAS as follows:

(1) explain what is unjust with the current state of archival research and practice, (2) posit practical goals for how such research and practice can and should change, and/or (3) provide the norms for such critique. In this way, critical archival studies, like critical theory, is emancipatory in nature, with the ultimate goal of transforming archival practice and society writ large.

The question posed by Caswell et al. is essentially: What do feminist and queer theories, critical race theory, Native American and Indigenous studies, post/de/anticolonial theories, and other theories of power in society have to offer those who manage archival records? A lot, they argue: “We know that power permeates every aspect of the archival endeavor” (Caswell et al. 3).

Interrogating archival power is a central tenet of CAS. Rather than adhering solely to a collection’s original order, they encourage archivists to embrace the many flourishing orders and “disorders” that appear, meaning that an archive’s organization and accessibility should be determined not only by those who created or acquired it but also by those marginalized stakeholders who are represented in the collection (Schwartz and Cook 18).

We archival researchers in rhetoric and composition have been leading similar conversations about the rhetorical power of archives to reinforce harmful metanarratives, to validate official versions of history, and to bolster violent institutions’ memory-making capacities. But clearly, we also have a lot to learn from archivists about what they see as “unjust” practices in their own field.

What Can First Year Writing Students Do With CAS?
In Spring 2020, I designed my section of second-semester composition to provide students the opportunity to conduct primary research (finding and reading firsthand accounts) in the first half of the semester before we dove into secondary research (finding and reading sources that summarize or analyze the primary sources) in the latter half. Moving from primary to secondary allows students to experience the messiness of gathering and organizing sources and piecing them together into coherent narratives for others to read, and it always highlights the ethical decisions they must make along the way about who comes to be considered a “reliable” source.

While I had taught digital archival research assignments many times before, I wanted to specifically develop in-person critical collaborations with archival staff. I first contacted UofL archivists Delinda Stephens Buie and Rebecca Pattillo and explained to them the goals I had for the first two primary research assignments of the semester. Excited by our conversations, Delinda and Rebecca worked diligently to prepare a presentation that both defined archiving for students and provided them with the history of the Burroughs Archive. Additionally, prior to arriving to the archives, I had spent a week with students defining coloniality, reading about the colonial history of archives, and discussing the impact colonization continues to have on public memory (Powell; Cushman).

With all of the necessary pieces in place, the archivists invited students to explore a personally curated exhibit of Burroughs artifacts that they thought might support the course’s focus, including all sorts of Tarzan-themed books, board games, movie posters, action figures, toys, lunch boxes, children’s shoes, and more. As students experimented with the different oddities that lay before them, Delinda and Rebecca circulated around the room, offering extra information about the history of certain items, answering questions from students, and helping them make connections between artifacts. Throughout the session, students were encouraged to take extensive notes and pictures, so that they could refer back to them over the next few weeks.

For the Unit 1 essay, students were asked to write a rhetorical analysis of one artifact from the Burroughs Archive. But as they quickly learned, this work couldn’t successfully be done alone. We engaged in research together as a class and in group activities, sharing sources and helpful bits of information along the way, and asking questions of our archival guides when necessary. In this way, primary research processes were framed as a negotiation among multiple, often competing audiences and stakeholders. Contrary to dominant understandings of history as a ready-made narrative waiting to be told, students naturally found themselves drawing connections between their artifacts and debating about the credibility of various, contradictory sources.

The contextual information provided by archivists gave students enough material to draft their essays or gave them enough clues that they could find more history in secondary research. For example, some students wrote about the 1930s Tarzan board game made by the Parker Brothers only a few years after they released Monopoly, which they were able to read more about because Delinda had provided some of the history of the artifact’s donation and condition. With this kind of background information, many of the students were able to trace how the violent aspects of Tarzan’s origin story were transformed into an entertaining colonial fantasy digestible for children.

Other students chose the 1966 “Tarzan Rub-ons” in the Picturama Magic Transfers series. Using some of the other sources provided by archivists, students were able to find interviews with Burroughs about how he made the decision to manufacture Tarzan’s image in multiple media.

This image features the "rub-on" images that will fill in the blank page of figure 4. Tarzan's torso, legs, palm trees, patches of grass, and a child holding a chimpanzee can be transferred to the blanks in the other page of the magazine.
Figure 5. The “rub-on” images.

These discussions flowed well into Unit 2 where students were asked to critically evaluate an aspect of the archive. Following class discussions, I articulated the following criteria:

Content layout and toolsOrganization and hierarchy of information, and inherent biases/stances
Originality/uniqueness of artifactsSignificance/relevance of historical events
Updated navigation guides and exhibitions for new usersImpact/learning potential of exhibitions/guides
Usability/legibility/accessibilityAccuracy/credibility/reliability of sources

Ultimately, we were able to collectively compose a list of recommendations to different types of researchers and teachers who might use the archive in the future. By the end of the two units, students were able to clearly articulate the features, functions, and tools they need from in-person archives and digital research databases, which was helpful preparation for the latter half of the course where they would need to become comfortable with navigating the university library’s various online search engines.

While students reported that they found the work of primary research exciting and beneficial, they also reported that the assignments were challenging and that they occasionally faced difficult setbacks. Most of these were successfully addressed in class discussions and responsively designed activities only because the UofL archivists made themselves available to us as secondary sources themselves, offering “the context of record creation, of archival functions, of the formation of archival institutions, of archival outreach and use and advocacy” (Caswell et al. 3). The artifacts on their own can appear somewhat a-contextual, leaving the responsibility to the user to determine what is of value and what artifacts mean, but archivists’ honest, critical histories of the archive’s acquisition and selection decisions made our analytical work easier and more effective.

We could perform rhetorical analyses of what simply lay before us, but we couldn’t answer certain questions on our own like:

    • Who originally called for the archive’s preservation and creation?
    • How have the archivists selected what records will be showcased or shelved?
    • What practices guided their organization?
    • How much of the collection is processed, and how do they decide what to process first?
    • Which stakeholders influenced these decisions?
    • What are the archivists’ goals for the collection?

Encouraging students to dialogue with archivists about their specific artifacts led them into other exciting avenues of inquiry, making it possible for them to develop critical stances and fully evaluate the various aspects of the artifacts they had chosen.

How Do I Support Critical Archivists?
These kinds of collaborations with archivists have multiple benefits for students. Not only do they enrich the researched arguments they write for the course, but they also demonstrate the dialogic and rhetorical nature of research, foregrounding how containers of knowledge like archives are socially constructed and organized according to certain theories of practice and with various groups of users in mind.

My hope is that asking students to interact with archivists supports the goals of CAS by valuing the labor of archival staff, which in turn, may also challenge their preconceived notions of research as an apolitical, fact-finding process. Below is a small snippet of some of the work that critical archivists are doing, provided by Rebecca, and which my students have used in their writing and appreciated:

Additionally, these are some of the open-access, digital archives from which students have reported rich researching experiences, all taken from a longer list written by Lynn Lewis for the Oklahoma State University First Year Composition Program:

Works Cited
Caswell, Michelle, Ricardo Punzalan, and T-Kay Sangwand. “Critical Archival Studies: An Introduction.” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, vol.1, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-8.

Cushman, Ellen. “Wampum, Sequoyan, and Story: Decolonizing the Digital Archive.” College English, vol. 76, no. 2, 2013, pp. 115-135.

Gaillet, Lynée Lewis. “(Per)Forming Archival Research Methodologies.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 64, no. 1, 2012, pp. 35-58.

Graban, Tarez Samra. “From Location(s) to Locatability: Mapping Feminist Recovery and Archival Activity Through Metadata.” College English, vol. 76, no. 2, 2013, pp. 171-193.

Kirsch, Gesa, and Liz Rohan. Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008.

Morris, Charles. “Archival Queer.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs, vol. 9, no. 1, 2006, pp. 145-151.

Powell, Malea. “Dreaming Charles Eastman: Cultural Memory, Autobiography, and Geography in Indigenous Rhetorical Histories,” pp. 115-127. In Kirsch, Gesa, and Liz Rohan. Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008.

Ramsey, Alexis E., Wendy B. Sharer, & Barbara L’Eplattenier. Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010.

Rawson, K.J. “The Rhetorical Power of Archival Description: Classifying Images of Gender Transgression.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 4, 2018, pp. 327-351.

Schwartz, Joan M., and Terry Cook. “Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory.” Archival Science, vol. 2, 2002, pp. 1-19.

Stoler, Ann. “Colonial Archives and the Arts of Governance.” Archival Science, vol. 2, 2002, pp. 87-109.

Images Cited
Feature image photo by Nana Smirnova on Unsplash.

Tarzan board game, Parker Brothers, 1939.

Tarzan Picturama Rub-on Magic Transfers, Hasbro, 1966.

If Not Us, Who?

Megan McIntyre | Sonoma State University

We affirm the students’ right to their own patterns and varieties of language — the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style. Language scholars long ago denied that the myth of a standard American dialect has any validity. The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another. Such a claim leads to false advice for speakers and writers, and immoral advice for humans. A nation proud of its diverse heritage and its cultural and racial variety will preserve its heritage of dialects. We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language.
~ Students’ Right to Their Own Language

It’s been nearly five decades since “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” (SRTOL) came to be. In fact, it was 50 years ago this year (in the fall of 1971) that the officers of the Conference on College Composition and Communication appointed members of their executive board and other language experts from among the association’s ranks to a committee charged with drafting a statement on varieties of English and students’ rights to learn and compose in the languages that are meaningful to them. In her history of the development of SRTOL, Geneva Smitherman, one of the original authors of the statement, has noted that, at nearly every step of the process, the creation and adoption of the statement was an “intense struggle” (22). So much of the struggle that Smitherman describes in the histories of SRTOL and NCTE’s subsequent decision not to adopt the text –– but to instead adopt a weaker version that, while affirming students’ right to their own language also argues that they need to learn “conventions of what has been called written edited American English”  –– feels familiar. Fifty years later, despite SRTOL remaining the official policy position of our largest professional organization, so many writing programs remain stubbornly devoted to a single, mythical “academic writing,” as evidenced by continued references to “academic writing” and a lack of references to varieties of English in programmatic outcomes, including the one from the Council of Writing Program Administrators

In committee meeting rooms and faculty workshops, writing program administrators and writing faculty like me have defended the continued teaching of this mythical monolith by telling ourselves and others that the kind of standardized English that most resembles white, middle- and upper-class English is what’s expected of students in other classrooms and in professional settings. And we’re not necessarily wrong: problematic, racist assumptions about language facility and variety pervade any number of spaces within and beyond academia, such as in business environments where assumptions about “proper” writing and speaking often mean a default to white, middle- and upper-class English varieties and linguistic bias continues to harm jobseekers of color. But that reality does not absolve us of the responsibility to push back on those assumptions or to fight for our students’ rights to learn and compose in the language varieties that are meaningful to them.

There are numerous ways that devoting first year composition (and other college writing classrooms) to so-called “academic writing” reifies racist and colonialist language practices. We know that we harm our students when we devalue the language varieties that animate their complex rhetorical lives. 

We know that there are benefits to helping students connect to topics, questions, and rhetorical practices that are meaningful to them. We also know there is no such thing as “academic writing” as a single genre, that what we mean by “academic writing” shifts from course to course, institution to institution, and discipline to discipline. We also know that grammars evolve, that stylistic choices are fluid and contextual, and that audience expectations and rhetorical situations shift.

Knowing all this, how do we make good on the promise of SRTOL? I want to suggest three places we might begin. First, I’d point us to the work of the Institute of Race, Rhetoric, and Literacy (once known as the CWPA Outcomes Statement Revision Task Force), whose members note that, “there is still a tendency among FYC practitioners to rely on predetermined, singular, habits of White language (HOWL). Too often in writing courses, HOWL purposefully excludes a diverse array of rhetorics and other habits of language that are, at base, equal to and, when used effectively, add to and even surpass the communicative and rhetorical effectiveness of HOWL.” I’d also point us to April Baker-Bell’s Linguistic Justice, which shows us, in no uncertain terms, that English language arts pedagogies are doing lasting harm to Black students. And I’d point to the 2020 CCCC Special Committee on Composing a CCCC Statement on Anti-Black Racism and Black Linguistic Justice’s “This Ain’t Another Statement! This is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice!,” which tells us that, “the language of Black students has been monitored, dismissed, demonized.” Each of these texts calls our attention to the harm we’ve done by ignoring the clear position of SRTOL: 

students have the right to write and learn in “to their own patterns and varieties of language — the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style.” 

Taken together, these resources also offer us a way forward. They tell us that we can support and serve linguistically diverse students if we 

  1. Affirm our students’ existing rhetorical sophistication by assigning readings and inviting writing that encourage them to explore their existing literacies and use their well-honed rhetorical skills and knowledge in our classrooms.
  2. Make our classrooms and programs spaces for exploring and building on students’ previous literacy practices by using multimodal pedagogies, assigning writing projects that invite experimentation and play, and inviting students to speak and act as experts in their own literacy. 
  3. Help students build sustainable habits and routines for their writing, reading, and making in college and beyond through sustained, mindful reflection.
  4. Resist efforts to use a single standard to judge our students’ writing by eschewing rubrics that assume there is a single correct version of English and eliminating outcomes that emphasize mythical academic English. Faculty in programs that use a standard, program-wide rubric should push for its elimination or expansion of such assessment tools, or experiment with ungrading and other approaches that center students’ goals, needs, and approaches. Writing Program Administrators for such programs should revise rubrics, heuristics, and criteria to reflect the value of multiple Englishes. Or, we might decide to avoid rubrics altogether.

In the writing program at Sonoma State University, this means I’m working on

  1. Gathering data (quantitative AND qualitative) on equity gaps. This necessarily includes actual discussions with students of color who’ve gone through our programs and courses. Writing programs share any number of traits, but they are also idiosyncratic things, and local conditions, values, and experiences can have a significant impact both on the ways that programs make decisions and how students experience those decisions. To really understand what linguistic justice means for students in our specific programs, we need to understand their specific experiences. This data can be useful in programmatic assessment and decision-making (about student success, course caps, partnerships with academic and advising support, etc.) and for faculty professional development (At my previous institution, one of the most impactful faculty workshops allowed us to read anonymized student reflections about first year writing courses on our campus and consider how our practices impacted students’ experiences.)
  2. Revising our programmatic outcomes to eliminate ones that gesture toward or invoke a mythical, monolithic “academic writing” (Again, the work of the Institute of Race, Rhetoric, and Literacy is invaluable here.).
  3. Focusing our professional development on supporting faculty in doing the classroom work above, including through (as often as possible) paid support for faculty reflection, which can lead to communities of practice and course redesign.

All of these are concrete steps I can take in my own classroom and program. But, as the first post in this series reminded us, all writing and teaching work is local. I can’t chart for you how precisely each of these things might work in your classroom or program, but I can encourage you to find ways to (1) better understand the experiences of linguistically diverse students by reading the work researchers like April Baker-Bell and Django Paris or the College Reading and Learning Association and by talking to the linguistically diverse students in your own classes and programs and (2) interrupt, in ways big and small, the assessment and grading systems that do harm to all of our students, particularly our linguistically diverse students.

We can also insert ourselves, as often as possible, into conversations about writing and literacy on our campuses; we can be a voice for our students’ rights to their own language. But we have to start. And we have to start now. 

Writing faculty, writing programs, and English departments, as well as the humanities more broadly have the history, experience, and knowledge to lead conversations on our campuses about the harm of mythical “academic writing”. We can create the permission structure for our colleagues outside of writing studies to let go of the myth of “academic writing.” We can expose the lie. 

‘Cause if we don’t, who will? If not us, who?

Baker-Bell, April. Linguistic justice: Black language, literacy, identity, and pedagogy. Routledge, 2020.

Baker-Bell, April. “Dismantling Anti-Black Linguistic Racism in English Language Arts Classrooms: Toward an Anti-Racist Black Language Pedagogy.” Theory Into Practice, vol. 59, no. 1, 2020, pp. 8-21.

Beavers, Melvin, Beth L. Brunk-Chavez, Neisha-Anne Green, Asao B. Inoue, Iris Ruiz, Tanita Saenkhum, and Vershawn Ashanti Young. “Abbreviated Statement Toward First-Year Composition Goals.” Institute of Race, Rhetoric, and Literacy, 2021. 

Cedillo, Christina. “Diversity, Technology, and Composition: Honoring Students’ Multimodal Home Places.” Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society, vol. 6, no. 2, 2017.

Conference on College Composition and Communication. “Students’ Right to Their Own Language,” 1974. 

Conference on College Composition and Communication. “This Ain’t Another Statement. This Is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice,” 2020. 

de Klien, Christa and Rachele Lawton. Meeting the needs of linguistically diverse students at the college level. College Reading & Learning Association, 2015. 

Finegan, Edward. “What is “Correct” Language?” Linguistic Society of America. 

Kohn, Alfie. “The Case Against Grades.” Educational Leadership, vol. 69, no. 3, 2011, pp. 28-33.

Lyscott, Jamila. “Jamila Lyscott: Why English Class is Silencing Students of Color.” TED, 2018. 

Mitchler, Sharon. “Pedagogy: Considering Local Conditions.” FEN Blog, 2021. 

Paris, Django. “‘They’re in My Culture, They Speak the Same Way’: African American Language in Multiethnic High Schools.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 79, no. 3, 2009, pp. 428-448.

Smitherman, Geneva. “’Students’ Right to Their Own Language’: A Retrospective.” The English Journal, vol. 84, no. 1, 1995, pp. 21-27.

Stommel, Jesse. “How to Ungrade.”, 2018. 

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. “The Meaning-Making of Reflection.” FEN Blog, 2021. 

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 110-117.

The Meaning-Making of Reflection

Kathleen Blake Yancey | Florida State University

[R]eflection is rhetorical […] only through
bringing the human and the world together to theorize
can a reflective knowledge and meaning be made.
(Yancey, A Rhetoric of Reflection)
The book cover of A Rhetoric of Reflection, edited by Kathleen Blake Yancey, featuring a black and white picture of a person examining their reflection in a puddle on the ground.
Figure 1. A Rhetoric of Reflection, edited by Kathleen Blake Yancey

The word reflection points in a myriad of directions; it means so differently—see, for example, the ways several writing teacher/scholars approach it in A Rhetoric of Reflection—that it can be difficult to define fully. But I’ll try to provide a point of reflective departure 😉, at least in terms of my own sense of reflection.

In advance, though, I think I should observe that this blog post wanders a bit. I hope it does so reflectively. I hope it prompts you to think about how you define reflection, how you include reflection in your life, how you include it in your teaching and learning.

So, a definition: reflection, which is both a theory and a practice, is a means of making meaning. Drawing from experience and more—others’ views, information, intuition, materials, objects in the surround—we engage in a practice requiring attention, multiple perspectives, and time so as to understand anew. Sometimes, that understanding is deeper as a consequence of reflection; other times, that understanding changes, sometimes radically. Our reflections benefit from being situated in community, from response, from support. Reflection doesn’t so much provide answers as point to and open other ways of seeing and being; it puts into dialogue the familiar with the unfamiliar, the small in the large, the large in the tiny. 

In writing studies, we’ve long thought about reflection as a means of helping students develop as writers. Some of us ask students to describe their writing processes—in what’s conventionally referred to as a process memo. Some of us invite students to account for their development as writers—though the drafts and through the quarter or semester and through the years. Some of us require students to assess their texts according to outcomes—some of which may derive from a writing program, others of which students may create. All of these forms of reflection, which serve very different purposes, can be quite valuable. 

Still, I wonder: are these the best questions to prompt reflection about writing? Put in terms of the definition above, are these questions that will prompt authentic meaning-making?


We reflect in our personal lives, too. Consider the idea and the practice of family. How would you define family? How does one create a good family? Is a good family a happy family? An extended family? A family by choice? Does one ever leave one’s family, and if so, when? 

Or consider retirement. What is the purpose of retirement? Is it to sit back and rest after a lifetime of work? Travel around the world? Is it to care for our families in new ways? Is it to take up a new career or hobby? Is it to serve the public, perhaps by delivering meals on wheels or volunteering for a political candidate? What is the purpose of a good retirement?  

What’s interesting about these sets of reflective questions is a point that is obvious: no one can reflect for another; each of us, often in community, reflects.


As teachers, we know about reflection and about the role reflection plays in helping us improve—but again, largely through practice, largely through response to an undeniable exigence. When students don’t respond as we’d liked or hoped, we have an opportunity to reflect, to consider their concerns in the context of our aims, and to understand what’s going on differently, especially from the perspectives of others who also inhabit our curricular and pedagogical space. Such an exigence provides an opportunity for growth. Organizers, too, it seems, as AOC commented during 2020: “I come from the lens of an organizer, and if someone doesn’t do what you want, you don’t blame them — you ask why. And you don’t demand that answer of that person — you reflect. And that reflection is where you can grow.”

The course on a page is a hand drawn calendar for the fall semester with tasks such as "share" and due dates laid out for the whole course.

Figure 2. An example of Yancey’s “course on a page.” Photo credit: Kathleen Blake Yancey

All the (many) good teachers I’ve known have grown over time. For my part, one way I’ve grown—in response to student concerns—is in sharing with them ways I’ve organized a class. Because I design the courses I teach, it’s always been obvious to me how each unfolds, how the readings are arranged to motivate writing, how the class discussions and workshops will link to both. But students, they didn’t always see it this way: to them, my courses sometimes felt disorganized, they said. Was I disappointed? Yes. But I wasn’t angry. As AOC observes, there’s no blame here. I saw the logic of their response, and I also liked my intent, to include the potential for invention that a bit of ambiguity, per Kenneth Burke, seemed to provide. Through reflection, I effected a compromise: syllabi that were more detailed but that didn’t foreclose the chance of serendipity. In addition, I created a corresponding “course on a page” helping visually orient students to the way elements were linked and the times when assignments were due. Happily, I found that the course on a page also helped me; in drafting it, I could see where my rhythm of assignments needed an adjustment and assure that deadlines were relativized and reasonable. Reflection, in other words, includes more than taking stock or looking backward, although it includes both: as a meaning-making activity, reflection is also oriented to new understandings and future change.


About two years ago, faculty developers Tracy Penny-Light, Laura Colket, and Adam Carswell invited a group of international teachers, including me, to contribute to their edited collection Becoming: Transformative Storytelling for Education’s Future. The key word in the title, Becoming, signaled the editors’ interest in teachers becoming teachers in response to critical incidents, or episodes of difficulty, surprise, or struggle. More specifically, the editors were interested in how these teachers had experienced critical incidents, in how those incidents had contributed to their teaching practices, and in what the incidents might also suggest about how teaching practices, or the educational system itself, should be changed. 

To learn about this, the editors gave us the same reflective assignment:
1. Please write an educational autobiography in which you reflect on critical incidents in your experience as a student in relation to literature and theory about teaching and learning. In doing so, please consider the following questions:

How did those defining moments shape you as a learner? Are you able to identify an arc or any themes in your experience? What roles have your various social identities played in shaping your educational experience? What role did the contexts in which you were learning shape your experience? How did your broader social/cultural/political sphere shape your educational experiences? What main struggles did you face as a student? Did you have any resources, supports, people or strategies to help you overcome those struggles? What are you most proud of when you look back on your time as a student? What are you most surprised or concerned about? If you were to go back to talk to your teachers now, what would you tell them about how to better support you as a learner?

2. Please write your teaching or leadership philosophy. In doing so, please reflect on the following questions:

What are your key beliefs about teaching/leadership? What literature and/or theory supports your beliefs? What specific strategies do you draw on that align with your key beliefs? What critical incidents have shaped your beliefs and practices?

3. Please write a critical reflection about your experience thinking through these aspects of your teaching and learning experiences. What connections, themes, contradictions or new understandings emerged for you through this writing process? What implications might this have for your practice?

The cover of Becoming: Transformative Storytelling for Education's Future by Laura Colket, Tracy Penny Light, and M. Adam Carswell has a vibrant yellow-orange background with a spiral paisley swirl.

Figure 3. Becoming: Transformative Storytelling for Education’s Future by Laura Colket, Tracy Penny Light, and M. Adam Carswell.

I identified three such critical incidents, two in college: (1) when I saw integral connections between two seemingly disparate junior-level classes, Victorian literature and geology; and (2) when I enrolled in a rhetoric class in communication studies whose orientation toward texts differed considerably from that in the English department where I was a doctoral student. As important, I also identified an earlier critical incident occurring outside school, when as a child living in 1958 West Germany, I understood the situatedness of certain holidays—Thanksgiving was the first—as uniquely American and also—if somewhat vaguely (I was, after all, just 8 at the time)—as a more general phenomenon wherein cultural practices are often historically motivated. For me, I said in the chapter, living in Germany “was Copernican: the US, with its unique Thanksgiving, was no longer the centerpiece body among planets and stars, but rather one planet among many.” 

In the past, I’d often told this story about my surprise at learning about how un-German Thanksgiving was, sort of as a joke on myself: I was very surprised that my German friends were not celebrating the holiday, and my child-like naivete is pretty funny. But as I reflected on this experience in writing this chapter, I understood it another way, more as one source for my appreciation of history, my appreciation of difference, and my commitment to weaving both into my teaching, especially in terms of the way I begin classes: 

history is important to me as a person and as a teacher. I began college as a history major and was certified to teach history to students grades 6- 12; along with rhetorical situation, the historical context—perhaps in part because of my living, as an impressionable child, in such an intense historical context in post-war Germany—functions as something of a standard intellectual framework for me. It’s probably not surprising, then, that I begin every course I teach with history, more specifically with students’ histories. I often open the first class period with an icebreaker focused on course content that taps student’s prior experiences; my first homework assignment performs the same task more discursively. This term, I am teaching a special topics course, Writing across the Curriculum and the Question of Writing Transfer, and the first assignment is what I’ve called The Snapshot Project:

In 1-2 pages (single spaced), identify three moments when your writing changed. For each moment, 

a. describe it
b. analyze how your writing changed and why
c. consider whether this change was helpful or not
d. theorize about what this tells you about how writers
may develop

Tracing our own histories, as my students did this week and I have done here, allows us to distance ourselves from them, see them from other angles, and begin to make meaning of them.


I think one of the questions reflective teachers often have centers on the how of classroom reflection: what reflective questions should we ask students, and when should we ask them so that they are meaningful to students? That italicized part? That’s the kicker: it’s very difficult to decide in advance what will be meaningful to others. But in a writing class, or a rhetoric class, we are situated in an intellectual community where some questions, when reflected upon, have that potential. The list of potential questions, below, is hardly exhaustive, but it might provide a place to begin, for our students and for us, and it might also be that we return to these questions more than once.  

What is the purpose of rhetoric? What is the purpose of your rhetoric? 

What does it mean to write in the world?

What’s the most important text you’ve written? Why was it important? What did it teach you about writing? 

What does it mean to write? Is it only words, or mostly words, or words plus—words and visuals and document design and sound? Are writing and composing synonyms? Are you a writer, a composer, or both? Why?

Why do we write? Why do you write? 

What will you write and why?

At the end of the day, what difference will your writing—a given text, your writing generally, your efforts—make?  Continue reading

A snowy Mt. Ranier rises in the background with a group of climbers starting up across the high meadows.

Pedagogy: Considering Local Conditions

Sharon Mitchler | Centralia College

My student was anxious. I could see that even though Zoom limited my ability to read their body language. The tone of voice, the worried, stuttery phrasing. And most concerning was the story the student shared, which brought me right up in my chair. My student was dual enrolled in the local high school and at my community college, both remotely. Working nights to help the family income during the pandemic made connecting with me difficult, and the student was concerned about falling behind. Oh, and the book for the course had not yet arrived at their house. We were able to find work arounds that this student was comfortable implementing, despite the challenges. As with many of my students, this student wanted to be successful. To paraphrase, “the spirit was willing,” but the context was complex.

An important idea in my work with community college students is “contextual pedagogy” –– in brief, that local context, including the specifics of a particular institution and the time a course is offered (e.g., during a pandemic) should drive a series of pedagogical choices to best support students. 

Contextual pedagogy, for me, is a reminder that as all writing is contextual, so is all writing instruction. The physical, financial, emotional, and cultural realities for students in a given location at a particular time drives a series of pedagogical choices for instructors who want to meet those students where they are. Aside from issues of placement and college readiness, the lived materialities of the spaces in which students write should help shape our choices for writing instruction. 

Each writing instructor needs to respond to the inequities that exist for the students they will be teaching. While I will use my context to share examples of the choices I am currently making in this blog, others have their own local contexts –– varied community histories, and geographies, as well as other material realities to which they need to attend and make adjustments to best support their students. 


An aerial image of Centralia College's main campus. Several buildings are clustered around a bright green lawn with a clock tower and trees whose orange and red leaves mark the early autumn season.

Figure 1. Main Campus of Centralia College. Photo by Centralia College.

Centralia College is an open-enrollment, rural community college, located halfway between Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. We serve 1900 full time students. Established in 1925, the college has a long history in the community and is the only institution of higher education along this stretch of the I-5 corridor. This was already a factor in determining how to best support students who would be driving long distances to attend. However, there are at least five other major contextual impacts that I need to account for in this moment. 

  1. The Pandemic brought to light significant technological inequities.There are more than a few students with no wifi, high speed internet, hardware, or available tech help and with limited software. Additionally, students’ experiences working remotely in some degree of isolation is minimal or at least the vast majority have only attended classes remotely since March 16, 2020.  
  1. Time, especially in the sense of scheduling, means balancing complex lives with higher education. Typically students are juggling:
    • Caring for siblings, parents, and/or children –– in the 2019-2020 academic year, 40% of enrolled students had children (Centralia College Foundation)
    • Attending more than one institution –– dual enrolled in high school/community college/four-year college or university 
    • Working –– 47% work while taking classes (Centralia College Foundation)
  1. Finances are pretty tight. Just because community college costs less, it doesn’t mean that paying for classes and books is a walk in the park. Tuition and fees for associate degree seeking students is $1550 per quarter for 15 credits, and bachelor’s degree seeking students pay $2,400 per quarter for 15 credits (Central College Foundation). This is an exorbitant cost for foster kids; people on their own; and, those whose families do not have the means or the inclination for financial support.  Due to the age range of our students, typically from 16-55, students are frequently a major contributor to the income in their household. 49% of Centralia College students receive need-based financial aid (Centralia College Foundation).

  2. Centralia College students are likely to come from minoritized or historically underserved populations, which brings the additional confluence of systemic barriers due to race / class / gender. In a county where 82% of the population identifies as “white” according to the census, and on a campus where 68% of students identify themselves as “white,” to be a person of color means to be immediately visible here. Additionally, in my rural community, there are higher percentages of students who meet poverty or “working poor” definitions. 

  3. Institutional status can matter. There is a built-in “less than” that students carry because they are at a community college, instead of a four-year college or an Research 1 with strict entrance requirements and the “we are sorry to inform you” letters. My students all know people who go to those institutions, and the local high school’s tendency to elevate those who have been admitted to them inadvertently minimizes the achievements of those who attend community college. Even our first generation college students have an awareness of attending “just” the local community college.

My teaching philosophy must account for the context in which my students learn. Students thrive with clear communication about how to be successful and when the structure of a class supports flexible paths to achieving that success. To accomplish this, I draw on the work of scholars who connect theory with practice: Asao Inoue’s work with antiracist assessment and labor-based grading; Kathleen Blake Yancey, Liane Robertson, and Kara Taczak’s Teaching for Transfer; and Aja Martinez’s work on writing and Critical Race Theory.  

The use of “ungrading” or “labor based grading,” which I first began to learn from Asao Inoue’s work, is a pedagogical choice based on my students’ context. Students have varying degrees of time to commit to a course, as well as goals for how they will use a writing class. They may choose the number of assignments they wish to complete based on their situation. Some students choose to complete all of the available activities, intent on the greatest personal growth, a desire to become more prepared for future writing tasks, and/or a higher grade for transfer or admission to a competitive program, like nursing. Other students choose to pass the class with a “C” grade. Ungrading makes student choices transparent and welcomed. For all students, how they spend their limited time and energy is then, somewhat, under their control.

The title of the image is Transfer, located in the bottom left corner with #teachingfortransfer below it. Three interlocking gears are centered. The top gear is purple and labeled "Theory of Writing," the middle gear is green and labeled "Key Terms," and the bottom-right gear, which is largest, is red and labeled "Reflection."

Figure 2. Teaching for Transfer. Image by Kara Taczak.

I use Teaching for Transfer (TFT) in my writing classes because that structure amplifies what students bring and the multiple genres and forms they will be using as they move on to other writing in their lives (Yancey, Robertson, and Taczak). TFT has a growth focus, meeting students where they are and providing a pathway for agency in their current and future approaches to writing in multiple situations and genres. My students are not generally English or composition majors. However, they are all writers. They choose to be in this class space. What seems to be disinterest may be, and often is, unrelated to my specific class. Talking with students in those moments before and after class––either by being in the room early if face-to-face, or opening a zoom space early and staying later for students to chat––is important.

In my context, it becomes important to build a pedagogical approach that not only acknowledges inequities are barriers for students, but allows them to maneuver without asking for special accommodations. This does no harm to students who are not managing all the inequities. It also makes space for the inevitable changes in roommates, childcare, work hours, work place, health issues, and unexpected situations that arise during the term. 

I assume students are doing the best with the choices and resources they both have and are aware they can access. For example, they may not know how to request CARES money or vouchers for childcare or bus passes or understand that office hours are for when you just want to have one-on-one time with your professor, and you don’t have to stay the whole hour. I am explicit about using this information in class discussion.   

I draw on what they bring –– this is not a deficit space, and deficit thinking wastes time. These students bring multiple experiences, Englishes appropriate for a variety of genres, and a desire to learn. Aja Martinez’s heuristic for crafting pedagogy and curricula with Critical Race Theory is an important guideline for “acknowledging the importance of context, [and] centralizing the experiences and perspectives of the minoritized” throughout the writing courses I teach (112-13). Student experiences are central to course content, so home languages and varieties of Englishes are given weight equal to Standardized Edited American English (Inoue 301). 

Currently, my commitment to valuing student’s experiences, labor, and responsibilities beyond my classroom leads me to the following pedagogical choices:  

  • I use “best by” dates, rather than “due dates.” Over the last three quarters, a steady 30% of students use this flexibility regularly to not only remain in the class, but to compete it successfully, as this New York Times profile of my practice explains (scroll down!). In spring 2020, students used “best by” to turn in work “late” without penalty: 88% of emergency remote (pandemic) students completed the entire course with a passing grade.
  • I default to a flipped classroom. When students meet together, there must be doing / working with, rather than lecture. Group work has to happen during class time because students’ lives often dictate that they are able to meet only during face-to-face or virtual synchronous class.
  • I assume students are working on phones. So I need to consider a list of questions: Does the campus LMS look different on a phone than on a laptop or desktop? What buttons disappear or are not visible in that format? How do you communicate with students who only check the “todo” list?  Can they see the videos? Do they have enough bandwidth to stream / keep cameras on in a video chat program?

  • I don’t ask students to turn their camera on. Who else may be in their space? They share their personal space, and to see that is to see more than any instructor has a right to demand.

  • I use open access texts, copies on reserve, and pdfs of shareable materials whenever possible. Yes, this collection has to be built and adjusted over time because the course load at a community college means there is just as much time crunch for professors as for students. I rely on my librarians and my professional network heavily for suggestions and texts. 

Supporting student success requires a pedagogy that reflects current context. Our field is premised on the importance of context, audience, and purpose, commitments that extend to our teaching as well as our scholarship. While the choices I have made would not necessarily work well in other contexts, I am confident that my professional peers are also attentively building supportive structures that work in their students’ contexts.  

Editors’ note: Do you have a pedagogical move that works well in your context? Please feel free to share in the comments and/or on social media! 

Works Cited
Centralia College Foundation. “2019-2020 Report to the Community.”

Inoue, Asao B. Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. Parlor Press, 2015.

Martinez, Aja Y. Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory. National Council of Teachers of English, 2020. 

Yancey, Kathleen, Liane Robertson, and Kara Taczak. Writing Across Contexts: Transfer, Composition and Sites of Writing. University Press of Colorado, 2014.

CFP for FEN Blog Special Issue on Actionable Change, Summer/Fall 2021

FEN Blog is excited to invite submissions for a special series of posts to run during late summer and fall 2021! 

In their recent book, Technical Communication after the Social Justice Turn, Rebecca Walton, Kristen R. Moore, and Natasha Jones point to the ways “our sites of work . . . remain sites of injustice”  and urge readers to investigate ways of redressing inequity through coalitional work (1). A similar movement has built in composition studies: Recent publications, acknowledging the narrowness of the field in multiple areas of theory and pedagogy, have sought to (re)shape the spaces belonging to composition in more expansive, ethical ways. Black Perspectives in Writing Program Administration (see Composition Studiesreview here) maps out the obstacles faced by Black WPAs and outlines alternative, equitable approaches to composition and to administration that foster inclusivity in our work with students and relationships with colleagues. Other scholars, as for instance Fiscus-Cannaday and Sophia Watson, have stressed the role of multimodal composing in rewriting our pedagogy to foster activism and enable students, collectively and individually, to craft projects that respond to the  dominant culture in savvy, rhetorically creative ways. Even methodological work pushes the boundaries of our disciplinary habitus, as Aja Martinez’s recent book Counterstory, along with her initial article on the same theme, calls for more expansive methodologies that challenge existing, frequently oppressive commonplaces and make room for diverse voices and ways of being. And Adam Hubrig’s work on this blog has invited compositionists to consider how their educational and disciplinary spaces are or are not accessible to the vast array of people who move through them. These examples are just a few of many, as this work is ongoing and requires long-term commitments to responsiveness. 

Questions of how we can (re)make our field, writing programs, and courses into hospitable, humane spaces  are particularly kairotic right now (Cordova 2012). In addition to the work discussed above, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and made visible persistent inequities in our field. Students from lower income brackets and disabled students, already disadvantaged within our institutions, faced additional challenges over the last year. Discriminatory practices against women, non-binary people, trans people, and BIPOC people are still widely prevalent as well.The pandemic has opened space for us to tackle these questions, particularly as many institutions seem poised to return to “normal” (Eyler). It’s both timely and important to consider the responsibilities that we bear in our local contexts and, in our shared connections across contexts, to identify harm and work together towards change.

In this light, FEN Blog invites submissions of short pieces on actionable changes that enable graduate students, adjunct instructors, non-tenured lecturers, tenure track faculty, and/or administration to work together to cultivate more humane environments in the contexts that we share. The pieces will be run as a special series of posts on FEN Blog, over the course of several months during late Summer and Fall 2021.  

For this series, you may want to consider how we can (re)make our spaces as wider, more hospitable places through active changes in: 

  • Pedagogy and classroom engagement
  • Research practices and methodologies
  • Service and community work, both inside and outside the university
  • Labor and access concerns
  • Policy changes at the programmatic, departmental, or university level
  • Funding and financial issues in composition studies
  • Mission statement and identity for the institution
  • Accessibility and disclosure procedures  
  • Antiracist commitments and equity work
  • Theory and research on composition studies, including history of the field
  • Well-being practices, policies, or support structures for students, teachers, and staff 
  • Or any other changes that you want to address that you don’t see here! 

Submissions should be between 1000-2000 words in length, adopt a more conversational style rather than a formal academic one, utilize multimodal blog affordances such as hyperlinks and images, and cite inclusively. (If you’re not sure about citing inclusively, we suggest that you start with Dr. Cana Itchuaqiyaq’s list of multiply-marginalized scholars.) We welcome diverse ways of approaching academic writing, particularly those outside standardized Western norms. Submissions should also be geared for an online platform, relying on hyperlinks, images, and/or other multimodal content. In keeping with FEN Blog’s vision, we particularly welcome pieces from graduate students, non-tenure track faculty, and scholars from nondominant communities. Submissions are currently open and will be read and responded to on a rolling basis until 15 July 2021. Posts will go live as they come in and/or starting in August 2021. 

If you’re uncertain about whether your idea will fit, feel free to reach out at We’re open to a wide range of takes on this question and look forward to receiving your work!  For the nuts and bolts, please see our Submission Guidelines.  

Works Cited
Eyler, Josh. “On Grief and Loss: Building a Post-Pandemic Future for Higher Ed without Losing Sight of Our Students and Ourselves,” Plymouth State University, 30 April 2021, Plymouth, NH. Virtual Keynote Address. 

Fiscus-Cannaday, Jaclyn and Sophia Watson. “English 382: Special Topics in Multimodal Composition,” Composition Studies, vol. 46, no. 2, 2018.

Hubrig, Adam. “Access from/as the Start: On Writing Studies and “Accessibility.” FEN Blog, 19 April 2021, Composition Studies Journal,

Martinez, Aja Y. Counterstory:The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory. National Council of Teachers of English, 2020.

—. “A Plea for Critical Race Theory Counterstory: Stock Story versus Counterstory Dialogues Concerning Alejandra’s “Fit” in the Academy,” Composition Studies, vol. 42, no. 2, 2014,

Perryman-Clark, Staci M., and Collin Lamont Craig. Black Perspectives in Writing Program Administration: From Margins to the Center. NCTE, 2019.

Pouncil, Floyd. Review of Black Perspectives in Writing Program Administration: From the Margins to the Center, edited by Staci M. Perryman-Clark and Colin Lamont Craig. Composition Studies Journal, vol. 48, no. 1, 2020. 

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”

Ada/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|University of Denver

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.