back home

English 891RP, Fall 2015

Rhetorics of Place, Space, and Geography

University of Massachusetts Amherst

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming
  • CLASS MEETINGS: Th 4:00 - 6:30 pm, Bartlett 314
  • OFFICE: Bartlett 267
  • OFFICE HOURS: W 1:00 - 3:00 p.m., Th 2:30 - 3:30 p.m., & gladly by appt.
  • PHONE: 545-2972 (o)
  • EMAIL:

  •  Description  |  Assignments  |  Texts  |  Calendar  |  Bibliography  


    It has become commonplace to talk of a “spatial turn” in recent social and cultural thought, with researchers from across the humanities and social sciences paying heightened attention to such spatial categories as globalization, migration, and (multi)positionality.  The apparent reason for this heightened attention is that such categories have become more prominent in the everyday lives of people around the world.  As Michel Foucault claimed in a 1967 lecture, if the great obsession of the nineteenth century was history, “[t]he present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space.  We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.  We are at a moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein.”

    As scholars of rhetoric, writing, and literacy studies, we can benefit from this spatial turn, learning to more deeply contextualize language and languaging in our work.  We can also, of course, contribute to the spatial turn through the unique perspectives that our fields bring.  And, given our deep traditions of close reading, public writing, and progressive education, we can do more than just theorize the spaces around us – we can engage them.  Such a pragmatic twist on the spatial turn is important because, for all the new sensitivity towards space in our theoretical vocabularies, everyday life for many people today is characterized by a profound sense of placelessness, by environmental depletion and insecurity, by spatial fragmentation and inequality.  Thinking carefully about space can thus not only help us read the world with more insight, it can help us re-write that world to make it better.

    This seminar will use the lens of rhetoric, writing, and literacy studies to survey seminal works in the spatial turn, including texts in such (sub)fields as cultural geography, ecocomposition, and community literacy studies.  We’ll also do some fieldwork, attempting through personal experience and participant observation to better understand the rhetorical implications of the spaces around us.  Finally, we’ll test the possibilities of spatial activism: of design, conservation, and advocacy.  After an introductory week, the course will be divided into ten sections, each treating a broad theme or problem in the rhetorics of place, space, and geography.  Two weeks will be devoted to presentations of individual projects – a medium-sized paper due at mid-semester and a more substantial paper due at the end of the course.

    back to top


    Work in the course will include the following components:

    3.  TEXTS.

    Most of the readings in this course will come from academic articles and book chapters made available through our Moodle site and listed in the tentative calendar below.  We’ll also be reading four books in their entirety, all available for purchase at Amherst Books (8 Main Street, Amherst, MA; 256-1547; and as free e-books through UMass Libraries.  They are listed below in the order in which we’ll read them.

    A full bibliography of all course texts can be found here.

    back to top

    4.  CALENDAR.

    day topics and assignments
    1 Th Sept 10


    read Tim Cresswell, Place: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (2015)
    in-class: Rebecca Solnit, Infinite City: An Atlas of San Francisco (2009)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking” (1951)
    • Doreen Massey, “A Global Sense of Place” (1991)
    • David Harvey, “From Space to Place and Back Again” (1993)
    • Jon May, “Globalization and the Politics of Place” (1996)
    • Edward Soja, "The Trialectics of Spatiality" (1996)

    back to top

    2 Th Sept 17


    read the following:
    • Nedra Reynolds, “Composition's Imagined Geographies” (1998)
    • Roxanne Mountford, “On Gender and Rhetorical Space” (2001)
    • John Ackerman, “The Space for Rhetoric in Everyday Life” (2003)
    • Gregory Clark, “The Transcendence of Yellowstone” (2004)
    • Paula Mathieu, “Composition in the Streets” (2005)
    • Deborah Mutnick, “Time and Space in Composition Studies” (2006)
    • Todd Ruecker, “Here They Do This, There They Do That” (2014)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Michel de Certeau, "Walking in the City" and "Spatial Stories" (1984)
    • Marilyn Cooper, “The Ecology of Writing” (1986)
    • Linda Brodkey, “Modernism and the Scene(s) of Writing” (1987)
    • Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (1991)
    • Anne Ruggles Gere, “Kitchen Tables and Rented Rooms” (1994)
    • Greg Dickinson, “Joe’s Rhetoric: Finding Authenticity at Starbuck’s” (2002)
    • Bronwyn Williams, “Seeking New Worlds” (2010)

    back to top

    3 Th Sept 24


    read the following:
    • Sonja Foss, “Ambiguity as Persuasion: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial” (1986)
    • James E. Young, “The Rhetoric of Ruins: The Memorial Camps at Majdanek and Auschwitz” (1994)
    • Dolores Hayden, from The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History (1995)
    • Edward Said, “Invention, Memory, and Place” (2000)
    • Carole Blair and Neil Michel, “Reproducing Civil Rights Tactics” (2000)
    • Richard Marback, “The Rhetorical Space of Robben Island” (2004)
    • Elizabethada Wright, “The Cemetery as a Rhetorical Memory Place” (2005)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces” (1967)
    • Christopher Castiglia, "Where I'm Coming From" (2001)
    • W. G. Sebald, from On the Natural History of Destruction (2003)

    back to top

    4 Th Oct 01


    read the following:
    • Gillian Rose, “No Place for Women?” (1993)
    • George Chauncey, “’Privacy Could Only Be Had in Public” (1994)
    • Eugene J. McCann, “Race, Protest, and Public Space” (1999)
    • Anne Aronson, “Composing in a Material World” (1999)
    • Laura Pulido, “Rethinking Environmental Racism” (2000)
    • Maria Herrera-Sobek, “Gloria Anzaldua: Place, Race, Language, and Sexuality in the Magic Valley” (2006)
    • Julia Podmore, “Lesbians as Village ‘Queers’” (2013)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Rob Imrie, “Disability, Embodiment and the Meaning of the Home” (2004)
    • Judith Halberstam, “Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies” (2005)
    • Katherine McKittrick, “The Last Place They Thought Of: Black Women's Geographies” (2006)

    back to top

    5 Th Oct 08


    read David Fleming, City of Rhetoric (2008)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Elizabeth A. Grosz, “Bodies-Cities” (1992)
    • Richard Marback, “Detroit and the Closed Fist” (1998)
    • Saskia Sassen, “The Global City: Strategic Site/New Frontier” (2000)
    • Nigel Thrift, “Driving in the City” (2004)
    • David Harvey, “The Right to the City”(2008)
    • Jill McCracken, “Street Sex Work” (2010)
    • Candice Rai, “Positive Loitering and Public Goods” (2011)

     back to top

    6 Th Oct 15


    read the following:
    • Nedra Reynolds, “Who's Going to Cross this Border?” (2000)
    • Wendy Hesford, “Global Turns and Cautions in Rhetoric-Composition” (2006)
    • John Trimbur, “English in a Splintered Metropolis” (2009)
    • Damian Baca, “Rethinking Composition: Five Hundred Years Later” (2009)
    • Kate Vieira, “Undocumented in a Documentary Society” (2011)
    • Rebecca Lorimer Leonard, “Traveling Literacies” (2013)
    • Michael McDonald, “Keywords: Refugee Literacy” (2013)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Lorraine Code, “How to Think Globally” (1998)
    • Ash Amin, “Regions Unbound: Towards a New Politics of Place” (2004)
    • Doreen Massey, “Geographies of Responsibility” (2004)
    • Christiane Donahue, “‘Internationalization’ and Composition Studies” (2009)

    back to top

    7 Th Oct 22 mid-term papers due
    8 Th Oct 29


    read Donehower, Hogg, and Schell, eds., Reclaiming the Rural (2011)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Raymond Williams, from The Country and the City (1973)
    • Kathryn Trauth Taylor, “Naming Affrilachia” (2011)
    • Lila Abu-Lughod, “Living the ‘Revolution’ in an Egyptian Village” (2012)
    • Samantha Senda-Cook, “How Maps and Trails Mediate Nature” (2013)

    back to top

    9 Th Nov 05


    read the following:
    • Jürgen Habermas, from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1991)
    • Setha Low, “Spatializing Culture” (1996)
    • Michael Warner, “Publics and Counterpublics” (2002)
    • Nancy Welch, “Living Room: Teaching Writing in a Post-Publicity Era” (2005)
    • Nancy Fraser, “Transnationalizing the Public Sphere” (2007)
    • Candice Rai, “Power, Publics, and the Rhetorical Uses of Democracy” (2010)
    • R. W. Greene, & K. D. Kuswa, “’From the Arab Spring to Athens’” (2012)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Nancy Fraser, "Rethinking the Public Sphere" (1990)
    • Rosa Eberly, “Writing Classrooms as Protopublic Spaces” (1999)
    • Jenny Edbauer, “Unframing Models of Public Distribution” (2005)
    • Setha Low, “The Erosion of Public Space and the Public Realm” (2006)
    • Paula Mathieu and Diana George, “Not Going It Alone” (2009)
    • N. Rivers & R. P. Weber, “Ecological, Pedagogical, Public Rhetoric” (2011)

     back to top

    10 Th Nov 12


    read the following:
    • Zizi Papacharissi, “The Virtual Sphere: The Internet as a Public Sphere” (2002)
    • J. Bohman, “Expanding Dialogue: the Internet and Transnational Democracy” (2004)
    • Matthew Barton, “Rational-Critical Debate in Online Public Spheres” (2005)
    • Darin Payne, “English Studies in Levittown” (2005)
    • Jeff Rice, “Urban Mappings: A Rhetoric of the Network” (2008)
    • Stacey Pigg, “Emplacing Mobile Composing Habits” (2014)
    • Raz Schwartz and Germaine R. Halegoua, “The Spatial Self” (2014)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Luke Goode, “Mediations: From the Coffee House to the Internet Café” (2005)
    • Lincoln Dahlberg, “Rethinking the Fragmentation of the Cyberpublic” (2007)
    • Jason Farman, “Mapping the Digital Empire” (2010)

    back to top

    11 Th Nov 19


    read the following:
    • Leslie Hadfield et al., “An Ideal Writing Center” (2003)
    • Jonathan Mauk, “Location, Location, Location” (2003)
    • Min-Zhan Lu and Bruce Horner, “Composing in a Global-Local Context” (2009)
    • Valerie Kinloch, “Suspicious Spatial Distinctions” (2009)
    • Jessica Enoch, “Composing a Rhetorical Education” (2010)
    • Shu-Yin Sharon Yam, “Writing in a Deterritorialized Landscape” (2012)
    • Lisa Arnold et al., “Recognizing and Disrupting Immappancy” (2015)

    supplemental texts (optional):
    • Wendy Hesford, “Global/Local Labor Politics and Service Learning” (2005)
    • Glynda A. Hull and Amy Stornaiuolo, “Literate Arts in a Global World” (2010)
    • Suresh Canagarajah & Hina Ashraf, “Multilingualism & Education in South Asia” (2013)

    back to top

    12 Th Nov 26 Thanksgiving: no class
    13 Th Dec 03


    read Weisser & Dobrin, Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches (2001)

    14 Th Dec 10 last day of class; progress reports on semester projects
      Th Dec 17 semester projects due

    back to top