Van Hillard Director of College Writing Program | Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Studies
- Ph.D., M.A. University of Cincinnati
- B.A. Ohio Wesleyan University
I am a scholar and teacher of rhetoric, the study of how public knowledge is shaped, shared, and changed by way of language and other symbolic media. I have taught first-year writing for over forty years, a professional commitment that I take seriously since so much of our students’ work as intellectual persons takes place in written analyses and arguments. Directing writing programs at Duke University and Davidson, I have had the privilege to think carefully about what students new to college deserve to understand about the dynamics of reading and writing academic prose.
In addition, I value teaching rhetoric and its powerful techniques for forming citizens who deliberate about issues over which reasonable persons disagree, issues that matter to democratic living. My first-year writing courses have focused on such subjects as the rhetorical education of enslaved persons in the U.S., the embodiment of democratic life, the rhetorical character of public murder in the form of U.S. lynchings, the ethics of public photography, and, most recently, the effects of pandemics on the public mind.
Recently, Professor Graham Bullock and I were awarded a generous grant from the Duke Foundation to help our students in both curricular and extra-curricular sites to disagree productively with others, both more fully to grasp their ideologic differences and to reach fresh understandings of their shared interests. The “Deliberative Citizenship Initiative” has brought faculty, staff, and students together to learn these skills and to foster Davidson’s core values.
My prior scholarship includes producing The Place of Thought in Writing, a textbook for first-year writers, articles on the production of late nineteenth-century bourgeois citizens through literacy instruction at Jane Addams’s Hull-House, work on public memorials, and the production of other rhetorical spaces in the United States.
CIS 428 Ancient Rhetorics
COM 390 Language as Social Action
WRI 101 Ideologic Sexualities
WRI 101 Examining American Racism
WRI 101 Questions of Display