Director of the Writing Program
I locate my scholarship at the intersection of two sub-fields within the interdisciplinary field of rhetorical scholarship: feminist rhetorics and the rhetoric of science. My research extends work by Charles Bazerman, Alan Gross, and others, who have examined the persuasive dimension in scientific genres such as the research article, and work by feminist scholars such as Andrea Lunsford and Nan Johnson, who have argued that any definition of rhetoric involves gendered notions of who is authorized to write or speak, using which rhetorical devices, and in which contexts. Because I focus on some nontraditional texts for rhetorical study, such as scientific articles or government reports, I define rhetoric broadly to include the wide range of strategies individuals use to persuade an audience, including logical argument, emotional and ethical appeals, organization, genre, visual images or format, and stylistic devices. Yet, I also consider inquiry into the contexts in which texts are situated to be fundamental to rhetorical study, not only in order to historicize rhetorical productions, but also to investigate the conditions of those productions and their ethical implications. Accordingly, my current research program focuses on two interrelated questions. First, how are knowledge claims produced and circulated through rhetoric? Second, how does rhetoric produce and order the material and semiotic conditions for knowledge production—bodies, spaces, institutions, memories, and so on, and to what effect?
My book, Science on the Homefront: The Rhetoric of Women Scientists in World War II, was published by the University of Illinois Press (2009). In it, I examine speeches, articles, pamphlets, books, and reports written by female scientists during World War II. I argue that four topoi, or commonplaces (gender neutrality, objectivity, expertise, and technical rationality) shaped women’s scientific rhetorics in ways that upheld the norms of masculine scientific culture while downplaying or discouraging women’s unique voices. This project won a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada doctoral fellowship and the 2006 James Berlin Memorial Dissertation Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC).
My second book, Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks (forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press, 2014), takes up the network of gendered arguments that shape debates about autism. Initially portrayed as a disorder caused by emotionless “refrigerator mothers,” autism is now recognized a neurological disorder that is itself highly gendered: the Center for Disease Control in America reports that boys are seven times more likely than girls to develop this disorder, and one prominent researcher, Simon Baron-Cohen, has hypothesized that autism is a disorder of the “extreme male brain.” This book takes up both the gendering of autism in scientific and public discourses, as well as the gendered positions interlocutors use to establish expertise and authority in debates about autism.
My current research project, Neurorhetorics: Behind the Persuasive Power of Neuroscience, undertakes a rhetorical analysis leading from neuroscience’s birth as a research area in the 1940s to the present. Using rhetorical genealogy, I trace the histories of discourse patterns (metaphors, rhetorical figures, and claims) across scientific articles, popular books, and news reports.This project investigates questions such as:
- what accounts for the persuasiveness of appeals to the brain–specifically appeals to neurorealism, neuroessentialism, and neuropolicy?
- how do those appeals work rhetorically?
- did/do neuroscientists encourage popular uptake of their ideas, not only in popular books, but in scientific articles?
- how is neuroscience used to support arguments about education, politics, education, and consumerism?
More broadly, the project demonstrates how an approach grounded in rhetoric can help humanists to productively engage with scientific researchers. Thus far this project has resulted in an edited collection, Neurorhetorics, from Routledge, a special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and two articles.
I have also conducted research on Kenneth Burke, on rhetoric and public memory, and on women’s rhetorics. Recent publications include:
“Mapping the Semantic Structure of Cognitive Neuroscience.” (co-authors Elizabeth Beam, Scott Huettel, James Moody, and L. Gregory Appelbaum). Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (accepted, forthcoming). “Mapping the Semantic Structure of Cognitive Neuroscience.” (co-authors Elizabeth Beam, Scott Huettel, James Moody, and L. Gregory Appelbaum). Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (accepted, forthcoming).
“Gender Copia: Feminist Rhetorical Perspectives on an Autistic Concept of Sex/Gender.” Women’s Studies in Communication 35.1 (2012): 1-17. *Winner of Feminist Scholarship Award, Organization for Research on Women and Communication, 2013. PDF.
· “The Extreme Male Brain?” Incrementum and the Rhetorical Gendering of Autism.” Disability Studies Quarterly, special issue on Rhetoric and Disability, (2011). LINK.
“Remembering Sappho: New Perspectives on Teaching (and Writing) Women’s Rhetorical History.” (co-author, Jessica Enoch). College English 73.5 (2011): 518-537. *Winner of the Kathleen Ethel Welch Outstanding Article Award, Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, 2013. PDF.
· “This is Your Brain on Rhetoric”: Research Directions for NeuroRhetorics.”(co-author, L. Gregory Appelbaum), Rhetoric Society Quarterly, special issue on NeuroRhetorics, 40.5 (2010): 411-437. PDF.
· “Lydia J. Roberts’ Nutrition Research and the Rhetoric of ‘Democratic’ Science.” College Composition and Communication 61.1 (2009): 109-129. PDF.
You can download more of my publications from academia.edu.
PhD, Pennsylvania State University, 2005.
MA, Pennsylvania State University, 2002.
BA, Glendon College, York University (Toronto, Canada), 2000.