Current projects

Article: “The animal turn in rhetoric and composition”

This article, based on presentations I gave at the 4Cs in 2019 and RSA in 2022, argues that non-human animals have been neglected by rhetoric and composition studies and they have a place in how we think about and teach text-making and interpretation. It is currently seeking a home.

Recently Completed Project: The Rhetorical Construction of Vegetarianism (Edited collection; Routledge, 2023)

I edited this collection in order to explore themes in the rhetoric of veg(etari)an discourse. A vegan practice may help mitigate crises such as climate change, global health challenges, and sharpening socioeconomic disparities, by ensuring both fairness in the treatment of animals and food justice for marginalized populations. How the message is spread is crucial for these aims.  

The chapters apply rhetorical methodologies to understanding vegan/vegetarian discourse, discussing among others: 

– vegan/vegetarian rhetoric through the lens of polyphony 

– ecofeminist rhetoric works applied to plant-based food choices 

– the role of intersectional rhetoric in becoming vegan

– establishing ethos in public discourses on veganism

– vegetarianism as an agent of rhetorical citizenship

– the rhetorical ecology of a famous vegetarian cookbook series

– the problematic aspects of a staple of the mainstream vegan diet, the banana

– the rhetorical constructions of plant-based meat as masculine

– the rhetorical remediations of vegetarian/vegan foods 

The book is intended for a wide interdisciplinary audience of scholars interested in veganism, food and media studies, and rhetorical studies, and aims to show that a rhetorical understanding of vegetarian and vegan discourse is crucial for the goals of movements promoting veganism. It also invites scholars in rhetoric and related disciplines to examine vegan discourses seriously, not just as a matter of personal choice or taste but as one vital for intersectional justice and our planetary survival.  

My own chapter in it, “The Discursive Construction of Vegetarianism: A Polyphonic Rhetoric” uses Bakhtin to read and analyze current vegan trends. Here’s the abstract:

Book Project: ORTHOREXIA, or the Rhetoric of Eating Right

A rhetorical theory of veg(etari)anism must acknowledge both the historical reasons for vegetarianism and veganism and the exigencies of the current moment, as we are experiencing global climate change that is leading to planetary transformation. The critical and transformative potential of veg(etari)an discourse cannot be underestimated, as a vegan practice is not limited to meat abstention and animal welfare, but it has implications for the way we treat vulnerable human populations, global intersectional justice, and the very future of the planet. This chapter outlines a polyphonic rhetorical theory of veg(etari)anism, along four parallel and substantive lines of reasoning addressing a variety of motives and audiences: ethical veganism, social and ecological justice, medical and cosmetic neoliberalism, and pragmatism.

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.

Recently Completed Project: Routledge Handbook of Scientific Communication (Routledge, 2022)

Scientific communication can affect policy-making and both personal and political decisions that can have lasting consequences on our society; thus, the way we perform and communicate science matters in urgent and immediate ways for current and future generations of scientists and publics. This Handbook of Scientific Communication aims to address and clarify the multifaceted issues confronting scientific communicators, and scrutinize what we value, prioritize, and grapple with in science as highlighted by the rhetorical choices of scientists, students, educators, science gatekeepers, and lay commentators. Co-edited with Michael Zerbe, Gabriel Cutrufello, and Stefania Maci; published by Routledge (2022).

Recently Completed Project: Special Issue of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine: Food as Medicine

I was honored to guest edit an issue of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (RHM) with the topic Food as Medicine. The issue can be found here (and my introduction here) (2021).

Completed Project: Edited Collection: The V Word (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2021)

Veg(etari)an Arguments in Culture, History, and Practice: The V Word a collection coedited with Kristin Kondrlik (West Chester University), has been published by Palgrave/MacMillan in 2021. The chapters 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. 

Veganism/Vegetarianism Bibliography

I’ve put together an interdisciplinary list of academic work tackling the topic of veganism and vegetarianism. Current categories are: Philosophy, Gender, Cultural/Religious, Social Studies, Clinical/Medical, History, Animal Studies, Communication/Rhetoric. It is, evidently, a work in progress.

Completed Project (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, was published by Oxford University Press (2020).

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.