From the category archives:

Graduate students/teaching

References Comics

by Dr Davis on September 28, 2015

From PhD comics:

references 1

references 2


Definition of Rhetoric

by Dr Davis on July 13, 2015

I’m always interested in definitions of what rhetoric is, particularly simpler ones which can be understood by non-academics. I have used a selection of rhetoric definitions to introduce rhetoric in my section of the graduate class on history of rhetoric (which I won’t be teaching this next year) as a way to make the students aware of what rhetoric is and to create some of the dissonance that Dr. Janice Lauer believes is significantly responsible for creating learning.

–I find that very ironic considering that I was very uncomfortable with the “throw the baby in the ocean” aspect of my PhD program, but it is a way to start them thinking.

ancient woman with bookKendall R. Phillips, in his introduction to the edited collection Framing Public Memory, wrote that rhetoric is “an art interested in the ways symbols are employed to induce cooperation, achieve understanding, contest understanding, and offer dissent” (2).

While “interested in” seems vague to me, the other aspects of the definition–symbols, cooperation, understanding, and dissent–are particularly noteworthy.


Retrospective S15 History of Rhetoric

by Dr Davis on May 23, 2015

This was a bit more tricky than I expected.

We did the blog posts that the first year students had requested and that gave so much great discussion fodder to the second class’ students. The blog posts were excellent when they were done. (One student consistently skipped these.) Student comments on the posts were quite substantive and created a dialogue online about the topics.

In an attempt to move away from the prescriptive assignment of topics, I simply asked students if they had any questions or something to say. They never talked. I was particularly frustrated by this, as it meant that I ended up lecturing for a good part of the class each night.

On the last day of our section, I found out that they had wanted to talk and were waiting for me to call on them individually. Personally I think that is odd, but they are first-year grad students and apparently their other teacher did that.

Resolution Options:
Next time I could once again assign discussion questions to individual students (or perhaps to two each).

Another option would be to tell students that they must be prepared for a discussion and can use the discussion questions to help them consider points, if they don’t have something they are already intrigued by.

The benefit of the problem was that I developed ideas on several relevant topics in an in-depth way to talk to the students about them. These were more applications of rhetorical ideas than a development of historical rhetoric and rhetorical ideas.

Perhaps I could work on additional development of historical lectures to add to the class. More on Paul and sophistic rhetoric, for example.


Other Poster

by Dr Davis on March 19, 2015

This poster isn’t as cool as the two I’ve already posted, but I thought maybe I should keep posting to remind me that I’m supposed to print these and actually put them up.

The text says:

Novice, journeyor, or expert in science fiction…
Boldly go where no class has gone before.

The image is from Wikimedia Commons, by Kjp993 under a Creative Commons 3.0 license:
TNG_combadge Star trek for boldy go class poster by Kjp993 WC CC3


1984: A Visual History

by Dr Davis on March 19, 2015

Flavorwire has a Visual History of George Orwell’s 1984.

1984 book cover from Penguin

Found the article via


Other Poster for Grad Class

by Dr Davis on March 18, 2015

The text of one of my posters says this (aside from the course name):

Explore new worlds. Discover uncharted territory. Create the maps.
Read scholarly tomes, popular culture stories, and graphic novels. Watch films.

This is the image:
tree from Theosophy and Alchemy German for SFF grad class poster


Poster for Grad Class

by Dr Davis on March 18, 2015

At my university we advertise our classes to the students via small flyers. I’ve made several for my fall class. One of them includes this:
Defy textism


HOF: For new grad students

by Dr Davis on January 3, 2015

Mangojuice, you mentioned that you were going to do some reading over the summer. Here’s a suggestion (it was one of the most helpful assignments I got early in grad school):

Choose a minor work that you know reasonably well, and read everything published on it in the last 25-50 years (keeping the amount manageable is why you choose a minor work).

As you read, take note of the following:

What are the major issues that have been addressed in the scholarship?
What are the major differences in interpretation represented in the scholarship?
What are the major differences in theoretical approach represented?
What are the trends in interpretation/theoretical approach over the time period you’re reading?
Given what’s gone before, what seem to be the most knotty unsolved issues and the best questions for future research?

In doing this, you’re not looking for specific evidence to support an argument you already have in mind, but getting an overview of the scholarly conversation on the work and seeing where you might usefully enter that conversation.

Also, notice the range in quality of published work. Which scholars do you admire most, and what qualities does that research and writing have? How far from producing that kind of work are you right now?

I learned a tremendous amount from this exercise. It was both humbling (because of the articles I would have given a limb to have written) and encouraging (even early in grad school, I could have written some of the stuff I read). I ended up both knowing that I could certainly publish someday and knowing I had a long way to go to be able to publish the kind of work I wanted to publish.

from caesura


HOF: The lightbulb has to want to change.

by Dr Davis on December 19, 2014

No matter how stellar the course design is, no matter how pedagogically brilliant the in- or out-of-class assignments are, no matter how well your carrots and sticks are set up to reward or discourage given behaviors, in the end you are still ultimately powerless to make change happen. There is no magic assignment structure, no perfect metaphor (and God knows I’ve tried thousands), no enlightenment-guaranteed koan that will make every student go “Oh! NOW I get it!”

lightbulb-smThe lightbulb has to want to change.

… I don’t mean to say that no student will be motivated by your efforts — you will undoubtedly catch the ones who are really genuinely interested in learning. But it’s important to accept that there is no way to craft a net that will catch 100% of the fish. They are more interested in escaping than you ever could be in catching them.

From voxprincipalis


Writing for Journal Publication

by Dr Davis on November 20, 2014

One of my colleagues has requested that several of us come to a graduate class and talk about our experiences with getting published in journals.

To prepare for that, I went back through this blog to look for relevant posts. This post contains some distilled information, some links, and some ruminations based on the discussion in the class.

In November 2009, about a year after I started trying to get published, I wrote a post on my publication/rejection record for my most recent work.
5 papers submitted, 2 accepted, 2 rejected, 1 pending
I try to be very careful in placing my work where it is most likely to get accepted. Even with that, my acceptance rate was a 2:3 ratio. (There were also numbers for creative pieces included in the original post.)

From my CV (and old CVs):
11 journal articles published
6 book reviews
2 chapters (2 others were accepted and not published)
(3 encyclopedia articles accepted but never published–Based on my experience, then, encyclopedia articles are not worth doing.)

At one point I wanted to include on my CV a section labeled “Not Published Due to Recession.”

My experience:
In the last 15 months…
Writing about Writing
Publications and Research
Working on a Revision
4 Ways to Write a Paper in a Hurry

Successful academic writing information:
Good Advice for Successful Academic Research and Writing
Style in Academic Writing
Don’t Get Too Attached

Good advice:
On Publishing
On Writing Book Reviews

Relevant links:
330-word guide to writing book proposals
the down-and-dirty article

Sources for CFPs:

I have also written 2 other articles I didn’t submit. One would probably have been published, but the other probably would not have been. Why didn’t I submit either one?

The first one was on a topic I was (at the time) thinking I needed to quit working on. I should still have submitted the article. I eventually revised the work and submitted it to a journal. If I had sent it in at the time, however, it would already be published, whereas right now it is in the submission process.

The second one was written for a presentation and the possibility of publication. However, for it to have been worth being published I would have had to have done a lot more work on it and it was a “niche” topic that was interesting to the convention I presented at, but less likely to be publishable. It also wouldn’t advance the work I want/need to do, so I am letting that go.

The work I have already put in on the second possibility is not worthless, however, because the process of considering how I could get it done in the limited time available to me (and researching what work I needed to do to make it “complete”) gave me ideas and resources for work that is within the purview of my interests and area.

I have written at least 17 other full articles that were not accepted. Unlike what I should have done, what my colleagues said to do, I have not looked for other places for those to be accepted and gone full-bore forward with the work. Having sat in on the class, I will go back through those works and consider if there is potential in the works–both are other publication sites possibilities and will this work that I’ve already done serve to advance the work I am already doing and will continue to do as I have narrowed my interests/focus.

I hope that this post offers a window into writing as academics because writing is such a large part of the work.