Current projects

Book Project: ORTHOREXIA, or the Rhetoric of Eating Right

Orthorexia nervosa is a putative eating disorder meaning an unhealthy obsession with eating right. “Right” is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. A lot of pseudoscience competes with some solid and some tentative mainstream nutritional science for what constitutes the best diet. Orthorexia sufferers present with a combination of symptoms bordering on anorexia, OCD, and ARFID (Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), and will experience social isolation, mental anguish, and most likely physical symptoms coming, paradoxically, from obsessing over the optimal type, quality, and quantity of nutrients for their health. I am interested in this book project in analyzing the cultural and social conditions that made the emergence of this disease possible. The book is under contract with Lexington/Health Communication Series.

Special Issue of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine: Food as Medicine

I am honored to guest edit a future issue of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (RHM) with the topic Food as Medicine. The full CFP is on the medicalrhetoric.com site (deadline for proposals: 10/15/2019).

Edited Collection Project: The V Word

Veg(etari)an Arguments in Culture, History, and Practice: The V Word, a collection coedited with Kristin Kondrlik (West Chester University), is currently under contract with Palgrave/MacMillan, with a tentative publication date of late 2020/ early 2021. The chapters aim to study the arguments related to veg(etari)anism as they play out in the public sphere and in a variety of media, historical eras, and geographical areas. 

Textbook: Effective Scientific Communication: The Other Half of Science (Oxford University Press, 2020)

This book addresses primarily undergraduate STEM majors and minors who want or need to improve their scientific writing skills. Unlike other scientific writing primers, this book is tailored to an undergraduate audience by maintaining a light, even slightly humorous tone while remaining dead serious about the content.  

We have grounded the book in the basics of rhetorical research, scientific writing practices, and have been guided by our (long-time) experience in the classroom. The basic premise of the book is that writing is an essential component of science regardless of the stage of the scientific process, and that it is in fact a component of thinking about science itself. Without writing, science would not exist–and could not be funded, communicated, replicated, enhanced, applied, or passed down. Furthermore, writing helps scientists (and students) understand the science, explain the results of research and place them in context, and develop new ideas. Thus, the book aims to:  

  • Cultivate good writing habits;
  • Emphasize scientific literacy, including statistical literacy; 
  • Enhance critical thinking; 
  • Emphasize visual literacy and visual communication skills; 
  • Emphasize ethics in research and writing; 
  • Explain the unique features of scientific documentation; 
  • Provide guidance to specific and common scientific communication genres;
  • Focus on online communication;
  • Emphasize communication to lay audiences; and  
  • Provide grammatical and stylistic guidance.

This textbook, co-authored with Kelleen Flaherty, is in press with Oxford University Press (forthcoming in 2020).

Recently Completed Project: Diagnosing Madness (Book, University of South Carolina Press, 2019)

Diagnosing Madness: The Discursive Construction of the Psychiatric Patient, 1850-1920 (University of South Carolina Press) was a project started with the late and great Carol Berkenkotter–and unfortunately, finished without her due to her premature death. It is a study of the linguistic negotiations at the heart of mental illness identification and patient diagnosis. Through an examination of individual psychiatric case records from the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, we show how the work of psychiatry was navigated by patients, families, doctors, the general public, and the legal system. The results of examining those involved and their interactions show that the psychiatrist’s task became one of the psychiatrist’s task became one of constant persuasion, producing arguments surrounding diagnosis and asylum confinement that attempted to reconcile shifting definitions of disease and respond to socio-cultural pressures.

By studying patient cases, the emerging literature of confinement, and patient accounts viewed alongside institutional records, we trace the evolving rhetoric of psychiatric disease, its impact on the treatment of patients, its implications for our contemporary understanding of mental illness, and the identity of the psychiatric patient. We hope that Diagnosing Madness helps elucidate the larger rhetorical forces that contributed to the eventual decline of the asylum and highlights the struggle for the professionalization of psychiatry. – See it on Amazon.