Coursework in Rhetoric and Composition

The Ph.D. Program requires:

  • five core courses described below [these comprise the material for the preliminary exam]
  • a secondary area
  • a linguistics seminar

The M.A. requires:

  • three courses from the rhetoric and composition core
  • three courses in literature [in three areas]
  • introductory courses in linguistics [Engl 506] and English studies [Engl 501]

Note: in addition to coursework, students must pass the exams for the degrees they seek, meet departmental language requirements, and Ph.D. students complete a dissertation.

Core Classes

The core curriculum is composed of five courses covering theoretical, historical, and empirical modes of inquiry into rhetoric and composition:

  • English 591, Introduction to Composition Theory

    Examines issues in contemporary composition theory and interrogates what it means to do pedagogical theory

  • English 622, Issues in Composition Studies: Classical Period to the Renaissance

    Traces through these periods using both primary and secondary sources on a variety of issues and topics in rhetorical theory

  • English 624, Issues in Composition Studies: Modern Period

    Traces rhetorical issues and topics from the Enlightenment through the beginning of the 20th century in Britain and America

  • English 625, Seminar on Empirical Research on Writing

    Introduces the varieties of empirical research into writing, focusing on critique, methodology, and research planning

  • English 626, Postmodernism and Composition Issues

    Introduces postmodern theories and connects them with theorizing in composition studies

Special Topic Seminars

In addition to the core seminars, we offer seminars in subjects such as:

  • Writing Assessment
  • Burke in the 21st Century
  • Computers and Writing
  • Cultural Studies and Composition
  • Cybercultures and Rhetorical Theory
  • Distance Learning and Writing Theory
  • Digital Studio
  • Ethics, Rhetoric, and Writing
  • Gender, Rhetoric, and the Body
  • Literacy Studies
  • Minority Rhetorics
  • New Media
  • Professional Writing Theory
  • Public Rhetorics
  • Qualitative Research
  • PostCritical Methodologies
  • Rhetoric and Digital Publishing
  • Rhetoric and Institutional Discourses
  • Second Language Writing
  • Visual Rhetoric in a Technological Age
  • Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Writing Assessment
  • Writing Center Theory
  • Writing Program Administration

Secondary Areas

Students choose a secondary area for coursework. It is satisfired by four preapproved courses or an examination in a secondary area. It can also be developed in consultation with your advisor. The Department has identified secondary areas in:

  • ESL
  • Professional and Technical Writing
  • Rhetoric, Technology, and Digital Writing
  • Writing Program Administration
  • Literary Theory
  • Women’s Literature
  • Theory and Cultural Studies
  • Feminist Theory
  • English Language and Lingusitics
  • Literary Periods
  • Postcolonial Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • Poetry
  • American Studies


  • David Hutton Interdisciplinary Lecture Series: Named in 1999 for series benefactor David Hutton, this series brings to campus top scholars in the field to share their work through conversation and a lecture.
  • James A. Berlin Memorial Lecture: Honors the memory of our colleague. It brings a scholar working in history or contemporary cultural theory for a bi-ennial lecture.
  • Leonora Woodman Memorial Lecture: Honors the memory of our colleague and brings a scholar in writing or literature for a lecture each Fall.