Rhetorics of Place and Space

Course Description

As part of the “spatial turn” within the humanities writ large, scholars in writing and rhetoric continue to draw from spatial theorists such as Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, and Doreen Massey, among others, to map out new rhetorical cartographies of specific locations (Rice Florida; Boyle and Rice Inventing Place), explore the role of memorial sites in constructing public memory (Dicking, Blair, and Ott Places of Public Memory; Propen Locating Visual-Material Rhetorics; Ulmer Electronic Monuments), and develop new methods for engaging in location-based rhetorical research and pedagogy (Rivers “Geocomposition;” Rice Regional Rhetorics; Reynolds Geographies of Writing). Overall, however, scholars agree that digital media—from online mapping applications to mobile computing devices—are transforming our understanding of space as a social, cultural, and rhetorical phenomenon. This class familiarizes students with the work on places and spaces by scholars in rhetorical studies, writing studies, media studies, and critical theory. In particular, we will consider how the emerging field of digital rhetoric addresses concepts of spatiality and emplacement as well as how new media affect the rhetorical frameworks through which we think, talk, and write about space and place.


Weekly Responses

For each week, you will write a short response addressing some aspect or relationship among the readings that you find appealing, disturbing, interesting, confusing, etc. Although we will be reading one another’s responses, these posts are primarily meant to help you orient the course readings to your own scholarly interests and pursuits. You should not simply summarize (or criticize) everything we read; however, you may find that summary and criticism are useful approaches at different points throughout the semester. In writing your posts, also consider the questions posed by that week’s discussion leader. If you are having trouble coming up with an approach for your post, then try the following:

  • Summarize the reading’s structure and main claim(s)
  • Describe how these claims are similar/different to other readings up to this point
  • Write a list of questions generated from the reading
  • Make a list of key quotes

  • Location Analysis

    For this assignment students should visit (either physically or digitally) the place/space on which the final paper will focus and submit a digital or multimodal text (e.g. Google Map, website, field recording, etc.) that helps to highlight a specific rhetorical aspect of this space/place. The purpose of this assignment is to help you narrow in on a perspective or set of rhetorical relations that circulate within this space. Consult the Resources section of our course site for a list of digital tools that can be used for this assignment.

    Literature Review

    The literature review should establish the groundwork for the analysis segment of the seminar paper. Here, students should include relevant conversation in the field, methodology, as well as previous scholarship on the specific place/space chosen in order justify the forthcoming analysis.

    Final Paper

    An article-length paper (5,000-8,000 words) addressing the rhetorical characteristics of a space or place (broadly defined).



    Week 1
    • No Class

    Week 2 - Spatial Theories, Rhetorics, and Practices
    • Michel de Certeau, “Walking in the City” from The Practice of Everyday Life
    • Yi-Fu Tuan, “Introduction” from Space and Place
    • John Ackerman, “The Space for Rhetoric in Everyday Life”
    • James Corder, “I Proposed a New Geography Course, but the Curriculum Committee Turned it Down”

    Week 3 - Spatial Theories, Rhetorics, and Practices cont'd
    • Jenny Edbauer, “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies”
    • Doreen Massey, “throwntogetherness: The Politics of the Event of Place” from For Space
    • Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmnalysis

    Week 4 - Classical Spaces and Places of Rhetoric
    • Keimpe Algra, “Topos, Chora, Kenon” from Concepts of Space in Greek Thought
    • John Muckelbauer, “Topoi-Replacing Aristotle” from The Future of Invention
    • Carolyn Miller, “The Aristotelian Topos: Hunting for Novelty” from Rereading Aristotle’s Rhetoric
    • Richard McKeon, “Creativity and Commonplaces”

    Week 5 - Rhetorical Sites of Remembrance
    • Gregory Ulmer, “Preface” and “Introduction” from Electronic Monuments
    • Sean Morey, “Roadkill Tollbooth”
    • Dickinson, Ott, and Blair, “Rhetoric/Memory/Place” from Places of Public Memory
    • Dave Tell, “Remembering Emmett Till: Reflections on Geography, Race, and Memory”

    Week 6 - Regional Rhetorics
    • Jenny Rice, “From Architectonics to Tectonics: Introducing Regional Rhetorics”
    • Victor Villanueva, “Three Meditations on the Arizona Border”
    • Jeff Rice, “Introduction” and “Networks, Place, and Rhetoric” from Digital Detroit
    • Kristen Arnett, “The Problem with Writing about Florida”

    Week 7 - (In)accessible Spaces
    • Rob Imrie, “Space” from Keywords for Disability Studies
    • Jay Dolmage, “Universal Design: Places to Start”
    • Jeff Grabill, “The Work of Rhetoric in the Commonplaces: An Essay on Rhetorical Methodology”

    Week 8 - Digital Spaces
    • John Tinnell, Actionable Media
    • Location Analysis Due

    Week 9
    • Fall Break

    Week 10 - Digital Spaces cont'd
    • Heidi Ray Cooley, Finding Augusta: Habits of Mobility and Governance in the Digital Era

    Week 11 - Spatial Intersections
    • Propublica, “Walking While Black”
    • Charles W. Mills, “The Racial Contract norms (and races) space”
    • Roxanne Mountford, “On Gender and Rhetorical Space”
    • Edward Soja, “On the Production of Unjust Geographies” from Seeking Spatial Justice
    • Aaron Betsky, Queer Space “Introduction”

    Week 12
    • Susan Imel, “Writing a Literature Review” from The Handbook for Scholarly Writing
    • Literature Review Due

    Week 13 - Environmental Rhetorics
    • Sidney I. Dobrin, “Writing Takes Place”
    • DeLuca, Kevin M. and John Delicath “Image Events, the Public Sphere, and Argumentative Practice: The Case of Radical Environmental Groups”
    • Lizzie Yarina, “Your Sea Wall Won’t Save You: Negotiating Rhetorics and Imaginaries of Climate Resilience”

    Week 14 - Writing Week
    • Writing Week (I will be holding extended office hours for anyone who would like to consult on their final projects)

    Week 15
    • Project Presentations and Feedback

    Week 16
    • Off-site class meeting
    • Seminar papers due (12/1)