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Preparing Yourself for Graduate School in Rhetoric and Composition

Why Specialize?Finding Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition / Top Ranked Programs / Timeline for Preparing for Graduate School Top Journals / Recent Research / Careers for English Majors   

What is Rhetoric and Composition?

Rhetoric and Composition or Comp/Rhet (as the field is often called) focuses on the ways writers compose texts, the effects of written compositions, and the rhetorical strategies of a wide range of texts. In addition to the topic of teaching writing, some Comp/Rhet subjects include:

  • ancient rhetoric
  • language and gender
  • the impact of digital media on communication
  • nineteenth-century African American writers
  • contemporary political campaign rhetoric
  • rhetoric and the law
  • the rhetoric of science or medicine

Why Specialize in Rhetoric and Composition?

While the USC Upstate English degree (like most bachelor's degree programs) does not offer specialization in rhet/comp, if you are considering graduate school after graduation, you might consider specilizing in this area of English studies. Students who earn an M.A. or Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition may

  • direct Writing Centers,
  • coordinate Writing Programs for colleges or universities,
  • teach composition theory and advanced courses in writing or rhetoric,
  • write textbooks about writing,
  • and consult on rhetoric or writing in various applied fields.

According to a recent Modern Language Association (MLA) report, "Placement Outcomes for Modern Language PhDs," 72.2 percent of new Ph.D.s in Composition, Rhetoric, and Business and Technical Writing were hired into a tenure-track position immediately after graduation ("Placement Outcomes" 85). This is the best placement rate of any area in English studies.

Finding Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition

The academic journal Rhetoric Review (available in Academic Search Complete) compiles a survey of doctoral programs in rhetoric and composition. The University of Arizona has posted the 2007 survey here.

Top Ranked Graduate Departments in Rhetoric and Composition

The Doctoral Consortium in Rhetoric and Composition lists Ph.D.programs in Rhetoric and Composition. There is no formal graduate school ranking for Rhetoric and Composition programs at this time, but people within the field rank these programs highly:

  • Syracuse University
  • Ohio State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Washington
  • University of Texas-Austin
  • Iowa State University
  • Michigan State University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • University of Massachusetts
  • University of Minnesota

Other Ph.D. programs include the University of Arizona, Ball State University (Indiana), University of Central Florida, East Carolina University, University of Florida, Georgia State University, Illinois State University, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, University of Maryland, University of Memphis, Miami University of Ohio, Michigan Tech University, University of Nevada-Reno, University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, Ohio University, University of Rhode Island, University of Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, University of Utah, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Top Rhetoric and Composition Journals

Students interested in new directions in Rhetoric and Composition should look at current issues of the following journals:

Recent Research in Rhetoric and Composition

See the Southern Illinois University Press list of new titles in Rhetoric and Composition (http://www.siu.edu/~siupress/titles/s01_titles/rhetoric.htm) for examples of new research in the field.

  • Ball, Arnetha F., and Ted Lardner. African American Literacies Unleashed: Vernacular English and the Composition Classroom.
  • Benson, Thomas W. and Brian J. Snee. The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary.
  • Blakesley, David. The Terministic Screen: Rhetorical Perspectives on Film.
  • Bordelon, Suzanne. A Feminist Legacy: The Rhetoric and Pedagogy of Gertrude Buck.
  • Day, Ronald E. The Modern Invention of Information: Discourse, History, and Power.
  • Enoch, Jessica. Refiguring Rhetorical Education: Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students, 1865-1911.
  • Gilyard, Keith. Composition and Cornel West: Notes Toward a Deep Democracy
  • Gold, David. Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947.
  • Goncalves, Zan Meyer. Sexuality and the Politics of Ethos in the Writing Classroom.
  • Gordon, Dexter B. Black Identity: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalism.
  • Holmes, David G. Revisiting Racialized Voice: African American Ethos in Language and Literature.
  • Jung, Julie. Revisionary Rhetoric, Feminist Pedagogy, and Multigenre Texts.
  • Kells, Michelle Hall. Héctor P. García: Everyday Rhetoric and Mexican American Civil Rights.
  • Rice, Jeff. The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media.
  • Segal, Judy Z. Health and the Rhetoric of Medicine.
  • Schilb, John. Rhetorical Refusals: Defying Audiences’ Expectations.
  • Sharer, Wendy B.Vote and Voice: Women's Organizations ad Political Literacy, 1915-1930.
  • Sohn, Katherine Kelleher. Whistlin' and Crowin' Women of Appalachia: Literacy since College.
  • Zerbe, Michael J. Composition and The Rhetoric of Science: Engaging the Dominant Discourse.

Compiled by Dr. George H. Williams and Dr. Celena E. Kusch, Spring 2008. Updated 2012.

Director of African American Studies                                                    Dr. Cassandra Jones                  

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Dr. Celena Kusch
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Dr. Araceli Hernández-Laroche
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