Graduate Students Explore This Rhetorical Life
We know podcasts as a useful and interesting way to learn about the world and remain current on contemporary conversations in our fields. A group of Composition & Cultural Rhetoric students is taking up the power of the medium to explore issues, focusing on rhetorical analyses of contemporary public events and academic trends in the field of writing studies.
Because the goal of creating the podcast is to merge their scholarly work with everyday life and current events, the group chose a name that echoed NPR’s popular This American Life program. This Rhetorical Life was originally the idea of Ben Kuebrich and Tim Dougherty, and they partnered with Allison Hitt, Rachael Shapiro, and TJ Geiger to create a pilot podcast in 2012. This Rhetorical LifeKarrieann Soto and Tamara Issak joined the project soon after, and Jana Rosinski recently joined as well. Now, says Kuebrich, the team is “stacked with smart people who have a variety of talents and interests to bring to the podcasts. And we’ve had a lot of institutional support and the help of many graduate students and faculty members.”
The series includes 19 episodes to date, spanning topics such as uncivil rhetoric and an examination of the overcoming rhetoric around cancer. Episodes also include interviews with scholars in the field, including Krista Ratcliffe, Elaine Richardson, Rebecca Dingo, and SU’s own Collin Brooke, Tony Scott, and Minnie Bruce Pratt. The most recent episode features CCR alum Derek Mueller on visual disciplinography. For Soto, these conversations have been part of the appeal of the project, and she enjoys interviewing a variety of scholars from the field, some of whom have been influential in her own teaching. Issak, too, appreciates the opportunity to engage in this work and share it with others: “What I like most about This Rhetorical Life is that it’s a platform that allows us to communicate across disciplines and share conversations in a way that is accessible to more people.”
Rosinski sees This Rhetorical Life as a project that seeks to capture texts and discourse while also offering “potential for re-activation through listening.” According to Hitt, one of the goals of the project is to “expand the usefulness of podcasts by creating brief segments that address and expand scholarly discussions about activism, language diversity, embodiment, feminism, new media, pedagogy, and rhetoric.” She explains that podcasts reflect the field’s turn toward new media and multimodal assignments, but few have discussed the potential of podcasts for sharing and contributing to scholarship.
Director of Graduate Studies Steve Parks believes that this project has done all of those things: “This Rhetorical Life is exactly the type of project which characterizes our graduate students. It’s collaborative, drawing students of diverse interests into a common dialogue. It connects rhetoric and composition studies to pertinent issues in public culture, and draws on important voices in our field to address those issues. And, like most of the work of our graduate students, it is also just outstanding work.”
Writing Program Director and Chair Lois Agnew adds, "This project exemplifies the best of what our graduate program offers, as our students have creatively drawn from their expertise in theories of rhetoric, community engagement, and new media to engage in a wide range of important social, political, and academic issues. We are proud of what they've accomplished and are grateful that they represent us all so well through this work."