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Van E. Hillard


Ph.D., M.A. University of Cincinnati
B.A. Ohio Wesleyan University


My research examines U.S. rhetorical sites designed to enhance public memory and civic awareness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I am interested in how specialized publics receive, respond to, or resist symbolic and material constructions designed to promote social values, commemoration, or collectivist feeling. In this regard, I have written about public parks, memorials, and the civic architecture of settlement houses in nineteenth-century U.S. cities.

To extend my interest in the influence of built environments on the formation of social selves, I am currently developing a reading of Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by focusing on the sonic environment (of ambient sound, music, and language) of the antebellum plantation farm. I am interested in Jacobs' response to sounds and speech in an environment where normative communication is distorted to become a web of noise.

I am also interested in the teaching and learning of academic and intellectual writing through a contemporary rhetorical lens that borrows from inventional techniques outlined by Aristotle and the early Sophists.  My textbook, The Place of Thought in Writing, (Simon and Schuster, 1996) co-authored with JuliAnna Smith, invites students to consider the ways in which a writer's guiding ideas are developed as responses to what other writers have claimed.

When I teach first-year writing, I support my students as "citizen-critics," young intellectual writers who learn to take on the rhetorical and ethical responsibilities of responding to contemporary moral debates using both print and digital affordances. My colleague Paul Miller and I are in the midst of a longitudinal study of students that traces the development of intellectual ethos over their four years at Davidson.


CIS 428 Ancient Rhetorics
COM 390 Language as Social Action
WRI 101 Ideologic Sexualities
WRI 101 Examining American Racism
WRI 101 Questions of Display