Faculty Expertise in Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy

Ohio State's program in writing, rhetoric, and literacy studies has a proud history as a national leader in scholarship and teaching in these thriving subfields — from the foundational work of Joseph Denney and Edward P.J. Corbett to the award-winning investigations of current students and faculty. 

Rhetoric scholars at Ohio State study how discourse works in the world. In other words, we study how people use texts to persuade, inform and create community as well as how social and material contexts enable and constrain what and how people communicate. Composition scholars concentrate on writing pedagogy — its past, its politics, its current best practices and the empirical research shaping its future. Literacy studies scholars investigate the practices, processes and aims of reading and writing, recognizing that they vary — sometimes widely — depending on language, mode of communication and social, cultural, political and economic context. Intellectual boundaries between writing, rhetoric and literacy may be difficult to detect in our program here at Ohio State, as many faculty draw on theories and methodologies from one field as they research or teach about another. 

Faculty and students who graduate from our program embody intellectual diversity, interdisciplinarity and social justice. We leverage the expertise of our faculty—from human rights to health humanities—to help students cultivate unique identities as scholars, teachers, colleagues and agents of change.


  • Katie Braun (Marion campus): Digital media studies, composition studies, literacy studies, professional writing, writing across the curriculum, writing centers, film
  • Jonathan Buehl: Rhetoric, professional writing, rhetoric of science, research methods
  • Scott Lloyd DeWitt: Digital media studies; composition studies; writing program and curriculum development; writing analytics
  • Jim Fredal: History of rhetoric; ancient rhetorics; legal rhetoric; rhetoric and narrative; rhetorical theory and criticism
  • Kay Halasek: Composition theory, history and pedagogy; writing program administration
  • Wendy S. Hesford: Rhetoric; human rights; critical pedagogy; critical literacy; critical race studies; women, gender and sexuality studies
  • John Jones: Digital media studies; digital rhetoric; professional and technical communication; visual rhetoric
  • Dan Keller (Newark campus): Literacy studies, digital media studies, composition studies, reading pedagogy, writing center studies
  • Susan Lang: Writing program administration; data and text mining; composition studies; technical communication
  • Ben McCorkle (Marion campus): Digital media studies; history and theory of rhetoric; technologies of writing
  • Beverly Moss: Literacy studies, composition, community literacy
  • Margaret Price: Disability studies, research methods, discourse analysis, digital media studies
  • Carolyn Skinner (Mansfield campus): History and theory of rhetoric; women’s rhetoric; rhetoric of medicine; rhetoric of professionalism; writing centers
  • Lauren Squires: Linguistics, digital media studies
  • Christa Teston: Contemporary rhetorical theory; technical and professional writing; rhetorics of science, technology and medicine; research methods; digital media studies; health humanities
  • Elizabeth Weiser (Newark campus): History and theory of rhetoric; Kenneth Burke; museum studies
  • Kelly Whitney (Mansfield campus): Rhetorics of health and medicine; writing across the curriculum; professional and technical writing



Undergraduate students take WRL courses to develop their skills for understanding discourse and for creating effective and ethical texts. In addition to General Education writing classes (such as English 1110’s Writing and Information Literacy Foundations Course), the WRL program offers introductory and advanced coursework in rhetorical theory, workplace writing, digital media composing, research methods and other topics that engage how people use discourse to make change.

Feeling unready to write for the work world? Consider the undergraduate Minor in Professional Writing. Its core courses and internship opportunities will help you develop strong writing skills and a professional portfolio.

If you like the work of English classes but wonder if there’s more to it than reading and writing about literature, consider the English major concentration in Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy. By taking classes in all three of these areas in addition to literary studies and digital media studies, you’ll become a well-rounded expert in both how writing works and how you can use it. 

Graduate students in our program benefit from the breadth, depth and interdisciplinarity of faculty expertise. Through coursework, individualized mentoring and administrative training, we prepare our graduates to become researchers, teachers and leaders in subfields ranging from composition pedagogy and the history of rhetoric to community literacy, disability studies, rhetorics of science and medicine, professional communication and digital media studies. 

Here are just a few recent dissertation titles since 2018 that reflect the diversity of topics and methods taken up by our students: 

  • Redeveloping Participation: Rhetorics and Ontologies of Participatory Discourse in the Technical Communication of U.S. Public Housing Policy
    Christopher Morris, assistant professor, York University
  • Queer Possibilities in Digital Media Composin
    Gavin Johnson, assistant professor, Texas A&M University, Commerce
    *Winner, 2021 Lavender Rhetorics Dissertation Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship; Honorable Mention from Computers & Composition’s Hugh Burns Best Dissertation Award
  • Hospitable Literacies: The Writing and Rhetorical Practices of Black Family Reunions Online and Offline
    Laura Allen, assistant professor, York University
  • Speaking Within and Against: Rhetoric and Composition after Ferguson
    Pritha Prasad, assistant professor, University of Kansas
  • Refracting Webtexts: Invention and Design in Composing Multimodal Scholarship
    Erin Bahl, assistant professor, Kennesaw State University
    *2019 Winner of the Computers and Writing Hugh Burns Best Dissertation Award
  • Coexistent Ethos: The Rhetorical Practices and Situated Business Writing of American Catholic Laywomen
    Jennifer Burgess, assistant professor, Meredith College
  • Style Made Visible: Reanimating Composition Studies Through Comics
    Michelle Cohen, assistant professor, Medical University of South Carolina
  • Intellectual/Developmental Disability, Rhetoric, and Self-Advocacy: A Case Study
    Sean Kamperman, assistant professor, University of Kansas
  • Black or Right: Anti/Racist Rhetorical Ecologies at an Historically White Institution
    Lou Maraj, assistant professor, University of British Columbia
  • Pedagogies of Noise: Black Women’s Teaching Efficacy and Pedagogical Approaches in Composition Classrooms
    Sherita Roundtree, assistant professor, Towson University
    *2019 Winner of the Presidents Dissertation Award of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition


Professional writing courses             

  • English 3304: Business and Professional Writing
  • English 3305: Technical Writing       
  • English 3405: Special Topics in Professional Communication
    • Recent topics include proposal writing, technical editing, organizational websites, and professional social media
  • English 4150: Cultures of Professional Writing           
  • English 4189: Professional Writing Internship

Courses in writing, rhetoric and literacy studies

  • English 2276: Arts of Persuasion
  • English 3379: Methods for the Study of Writing, Rhetoric, Literacy                    
  • English 3467S: Tutoring Writing 
  • English 4555: Rhetoric and Legal Argumentation
  • English 4567S: Rhetoric and Community Service
  • English 4573.01: Rhetoric Theory & Criticism
  • English 4573.02: Rhetoric and Social Action
  • English 4574: History and Theories of Writing
  • English 4584: Special Topics — Literacy Studies
  • English 4585: History of Literacy
  • English 4591.02(H): Special Topics in Rhetoric

Courses in digital media

  • English 2269: Digital Media Composing 
  • English 4569: Digital Media and English Studies 

Courses on writing theory and instruction

  • English 6780: Current Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing
  • English 6781: Introduction to the Teaching of First-Year English
  • English 7880: Seminar in Composition
    • Recent topics include Writing Controversies (Teston), Writing Program Administration (Lang), and Intersections: Visual Culture, Composition, and Rhetorical Criticism (Hesford)
  • English 7881.01: Studies in the Teaching of College Composition
  • English 7881.02: Teaching Basic Composition 
  • English 7881.03: Teaching of College Composition in English as a Second Language 
  • English 7881.04: Teaching Business and Professional Communication
  • English 8903: Teaching College English
    • (Students work as apprentices to faculty members in the planning and execution of an undergraduate course)

Courses on rhetorical theory and criticism

  • English 6779.01: History and Theory of Rhetoric — Classical to Early Renaissance
  • English 6779.02: History and Theory of Rhetoric Renaissance to the 21st Century
  • English 7879: Seminar in Rhetoric
    • Recent topics include Black Lives Matter: Race, Rhetoric, Pedagogy (Hesford), Human Rights Rhetoric: Witnessing and Testimony (Hesford), Material Rhetorics (Teston) and Rhetorics of Science and Medicine (Teston)

Courses in research methods

  • English 6795: Introduction to Research Methods in Rhetoric and Composition
  • English 7895: Seminar in Research Methods in Rhetoric and Composition
    • Recent topics include Qualitative Research (Teston) and Emancipatory Research Methods (Teston)

Courses in literacy studies

  • English 6750: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Literacy
  • English 7883: Seminar in Literacy Studies
    • Recent topics include Community Literacy (Moss) and Captive Bodies, Resistant Literacies and the Carceral State (Hesford)
  • English 7884: History of Literacy/Literacy Past and Present

Courses in digital media 

  • English 6789: Introduction to Graduate Study in Digital Media
  • English 7889: Seminar in Digital Media Studies

Recent speakers have included Ersula Ore, Natasha Jones, Cheryl Geisler, Karma Chávez and Asao Inoue.