Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy

Established in 1988, Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy is a flourishing area of teaching and research at OU. Its faculty and students examine how discourse operates in a range of social and political contexts as well as in various cultures, historical periods, and media. We stress the mutuality of theory and pedagogy, bringing the study of language and writing into conversation with classroom practice, considering how research in rhetoric and literacy can enrich writing pedagogy and vice versa. Tracing the changing definitions and uses of literacy and rhetoric across time, we help writers not only to become technically proficient, but to think critically about what constitutes proficiency.

Graduate students work closely with faculty to establish their own research agendas and pedagogies and collaborate closely with other graduate students as well. Many GTAs present their ideas at conferences, publishing their best work in major journals. To encourage these efforts, OU provides competitive funding for conference travel and dissertation research.

CRL faculty members teach courses on rhetoric history, composition instruction, and the politics of persuasion. Classes regularly address rhetoric’s place in the classical era, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and our contemporary moment. Such courses also emphasize intersections among literacy, social activism, and autobiography while attending to the multiple forms of written and visual communication prevalent in the computer age.


Christopher Carter

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Louisville, 2004.
Joined OU English Faculty in 2004.

Christopher Carter specializes in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy studies. His research interests include critical pedagogy, composition in the corporate university, activist rhetoric, and new media theory. In the classroom, he invites students to compose hypertexts that analyze relationships among literacy and ideology, technology and social power.

He has published articles in Works and Days and Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers, and has an upcoming essay in House of Mirrors: Revising Our Understanding of Reflective Writing. He serves as co-editor of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, and is currently writing a book about college unions, their language practices, and their implications for literacy instruction.



Catherine Hobbs

Director, First-Year Composition
Ph.D., Purdue University, 1989 Joined OU English Faculty in 1992.

Professor Hobbs works in the Composition/Rhetoric/Literacy program. She is also a member of the Women's Studies and Liberal Studies faculties and is an associate with the History of Science program. She is the editor of Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write (University of Virginia Press, 1995), and the author of Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity: Vico, Condillac, Monboddo (Southern Illinois University Press, 2002). Her essays on the history of rhetoric, language, and literacy have appeared in a special feminist issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly as well as journals including Rhetorica, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetoric Review, Journal of Advanced Composition, Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques, and The Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning.

She teaches advanced writing instruction, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history and theory of rhetoric and composition, and seminars in modern rhetorical theory and literacy studies. She is currently working on a textbook on autobiography, on visual theory, and on global and local women's literacy.



Susan Kates

Associate Professor.
Ph.D., Ohio State University, 1995.
Joined OU English Faculty in 1995.

Professor Kates is the author of Activist Rhetorics and American Higher Education: 1885-1937 (Southern Illinois University Press, 2001). She has published articles on rhetoricians Hallie Quinn Brown and Mary Augusta Jordan in College English and College Composition and Communication. Her poems have appeared in The Cumberland Review, The Laurel Review, The Ohio Journal, WestBranch, and Texas Poetry Review.

Professor Kates teaches rhetorical theory and creative writing at the undergraduate level and rhetorical theory/composition theory at the graduate level. She is particularly interested in technology and its relationship to the study of rhetoric. She believes language philosophy is a powerful vehicle for exploring how discourse functions in a wide variety of rhetorical situations; consequently, she is committed to helping her students analyze their own writing and the writing of others through the work of an extensive range of rhetorical theorists.



David Mair

Associate Professor.
Ph.D., University of Utah, 1979.
Joined OU English Faculty in 1979.

Professor Mair has co-authored Strategies for Technical Communication (Little Brown, 1985) and Writing and Reading Mental Health Records: Issues and Analysis in Professional Writing and Scientific Rhetoric (2nd edition, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995). He has published articles on technical writing and scientific discourse in the Journal of Advanced Composition and Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. His work-in-progress includes an ethnographic study of written communication by a mental health team and a study of how institutional practices shape patient records. His teaching interests include research methods, pedagogy, and information technology. His pedagogy is informed by postmodern and collaborative theories.


Kathleen E. Welch

Samuel Roberts Noble Family Foundation Presidential Professor.
Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1982
Joined OU English Faculty in 1982.

Professor Welch, Samuel Roberts Noble Family Foundation Presidential Professor of English, is the author of Electric Rhetoric: Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a New Literacy (MIT Press, 1999) and The Contemporary Reception of Classical Rhetoric: Appropriations of Ancient Discourse (Erlbaum, 1990). Her articles on classical rhetoric and contemporary rhetoric and composition theory, technology and literacy, and women's writing have appeared in Written Communication (1988), Journal of Advanced Composition (1988), Browning Institute Studies (1988), College Composition and Communication (1987), Rhetoric Society Quarterly (1987, 1986), Rhetoric Review (1987), and in many collections of essays, including Writing Histories of Rhetoric (ed. V. Vitanza), Learning from the Histories of Rhetoric (ed. T. Enos) and A Short History of Writing Instruction (ed. J. Murphy). She is completing a book on Gender, Technology and Rhetoric/Composition Studies.

Professor Welch teaches writing and literacy at the undergraduate level, including freshman writing; and classical rhetorical theory, twentieth-century rhetoric and composition theory, current technology and literacy studies, feminist theory, and historicized rhetoric at the graduate level. Her teaching "centers on privileging the production of student writing and then working through histories and theories of discourse that enable students to write more powerfully in an expanded repertoire."

Professor Welch serves on nine national and international editorial and advisory boards, including the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (she was the founding President from 1990-1995); the Rhetoric Society of America (she was Preisdent from 1995 to 1997 and served ten years on that Board); the Executive Council of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric (1997-2001); the Advisory Board of Publications of the Modern Language Association (1996-1999); the Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (she was President from 1989-1991); Advances in the Study of Rhetoric (1997-2001); The Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (1992-1996); and the Board of Visitors, Ohio State University, Department of English (2000-2002). She has been a visiting professor at the University of Colorado; the University of Utah; Texas Christian University; a Visiting Scholar at M.I.T.; and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ohio State University. She has taught 17 undergraduate courses at OU (8 new ones), 7 graduate courses (6 new ones), has supervised and is directing 12 M.A. thesis and PhD students; and has served on 31 thesis and dissertation committees. She has presented over 65 papers at international and national conferences (22 of them invited for plenary sessions). She is a member of nine professional organizations, including the National Council of Teachers of English (, the National Communication Association (, and the Society for Critical Exchange. Her university department service can be found on her website of particular interest would be her technology service. She referees for nineteen scholarly presses and journals.














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