Research Agenda

As my conference presentations, facilitated workshops, and publications indicate, my research agenda examines literature through a feminist and rhetorical lens. I examine gendered implications of listening and reading, especially as they intersect with Southern literature, epistolary studies, and disability studies, in Southern women’s fiction of the early twentieth century. Additional Research interests include the Digital Humanities.

Selected Conference Presentations, Invited Talks, and Workshops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Rhetorical Listening as a Cross Disciplinary Approach to Feminist Research.”  Women and Gender Studies Graduate Research Presentation. Fort Worth, TX.  Feb. 11, 2015.

 

Scholars (Lunsford, Glenn, Campbell, hooks, etc.) posit that women’s voices have been erased from history and should be recovered. Recovery work is crucial and important for feminist scholars; however, the focus on finding women’s voices has caused us to neglect the other significant roles women are playing throughout history.

 

Women may not have prominent voices, but that doesn’t mean they were not playing an integral, though seemingly absent, role in communication--the role of the listener. Krista Ratcliffe asserts that of the four rhetorical arts, speaking, writing, reading, and listening, listening ranks a poor fourth. Listening is often overlooked because it is considered a passive rather than active response. However, the role of the listener is essential for communication to take place. Thus, using rhetorical listening as a framework helps highlight the importance of women participating in the act of listening to the forefront in a multitude of fields. I provide examples from my own work on the roles of Southern women, and host a workshop for those interested in applying this framework to their own research in hopes of generating a cross disciplinary discussion of the ways women have and continue to play a vital role in shaping discourse.

 

"The Masquerading Listener: Motivations of Speech in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!"

South Central Modern Language Association Fall 2013 (Faulkner Panel)
 

 Absalom, Absalom’s! complicated narrative formation has spawned interest and debate in terms of its innovative discursive strategies; however, the narrative structure is only made possible through a series of speakers and, by conjunction, listeners who perpetuate the myth of the Sutpen family. In her article, “Sweet Fascism in the Piney Woods: Absalom, Absalom as Fascist Fable,” Jeanne Follansbee asserts, “The double temporal frame within the novel grants telling and listening equal status with the events of Sutpen’s life. . .” (68), demonstrating that scholars do realize that the listening involved in the text is crucial to the narration, and the listener should, therefore, be examined just as thoroughly as the narrator. I propose there are three types of listeners, which pervade most Southern fiction: the silent listener, the strange listener, and the deliverer. While it is often easy to determine which type of listener is being utilized in southern narrative strategies, Absalom, Absalom! complicates the role of the listener, demonstrating characters’ ability to mask their identity.  Thus, both Rosa and Quentin misjudge their listeners, rendering their motivations for telling their tales void and ultimately proving the rhetorical power of the listener in fiction. 

 

"Delivering the Message: Phoeby Watson’s Role as Listener in Their Eyes Were Watching God"

Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association Fall 2013  (Rhetorical Approaches to Literature)

 

 In her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston uses a narrative strategy that arguably places Phoeby Watson, the listener to Janie’s tale, in the spotlight. Krista Ratcliffe, author of Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, and Whiteness, asserts that listening is a “trope for rhetorical interpretation,” demonstrating scholars realize that the listening involved in the text is crucial to the narration, and the listener should, therefore, be examined just as thoroughly as the narrator. As listener, Phoeby is privy to information the rest of Eatonville is not, which emphasizes her importance in the novel as well as to Janie and causes the reader to question Janie’s motives for selecting her as listener in the first place. I assert there are three types of listeners who pervade Southern fiction: the silent listener, the strange listener, and the deliverer. As the novel unfolds, it becomes clear that Phoeby is the deliverer, deliberately selected by Janie to spread her story to the townspeople in Janie’s stead, allowing Janie to break her silence and transferring agency of Janie’s story from speaker to listener. 

 

 

"The Unruly Listener: Thwarted Motivations of Speech in Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear it Away"
South Central Modern Language Association Fall 2014 (Flannery O'Connor society sponsored panel)


Frankie Tarwater in The Violent Bear it Away has often been the center of critical debate. Scholars( Srigley, Cuiba, Desmond, etc.) have examined his position as an orphan, as a student, as a prophet, and much more. However, none have looked at his role as a listener within the novel. I propose there are three types of listeners, which pervade most Southern fiction: the silent listener, the strange listener, and the deliverer. While it is often easy to determine which type of listener is being utilized in southern narrative strategies, Frankie’s position as listener throughout the text is multidimensional due to his position as listener to all the other characters within the text. In fact, the narrative of The Violent Bear it Away is only made possible through a series of speakers who attempt to persuade Frankie to have faith in God, mankind, or nothing at all. He receives conflicting advice from several other characters throughout the novel, including his Uncles Rayber and Mason Tarwater and “the Voice,” which many interpret to be the Devil himself. These warring factions all fight for Frankie’s ear and attention, but Frankie alone must decide whom to trust and what to do with the information each speaker provides him. While it is clear that each speaker has his own desires for Frankie, only he has the power to act upon the advice. In the end, it is unclear whose advice he has followed, making him an unruly listener.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Methodologies of Working in the Archives: The Love Family Letters.”

American Rhetoric and Cultural Interest Group. Fort Worth, TX. Sept. 22, 2015.

 

Using my own work, Yours in Filial Regard, as an example, this invited talk discusses epistolary studies as an interdisciplinary practice, nature of archival work,  and the methodologies of working with an archive, includingthe following: editorial method, transcription, annotations, headnotes, and endnotes, and the struggles and rewards of such work.

 

“Center Circuit:  Mapping Women's Roles within the Love Family Letters Communication Network”

Society for the Study of American Women Writers. Philadelphia, PA.  Nov. 2015.

 

In her latest article, “Locating Women in Male-Authored Archives,” Theresa Strouth Gaul claims that archivists sometimes “assume too quickly that women are not represented in archives” discussing the ways that female contributions and productions have been masked within predominantly male-authored archives (11).  I found this to be true within my own research of the Civil War correspondence of the Love Family Letters located at Texas Christian University. Out of seventy-eight letters, only three were penned by women. Yet, the majority of the letters were addressed to women, and almost all the letters asked the recipients to copy, foreward, or read the letters to others. Mapping the circuit of the letters between the men and their relatives proves that the women were playing vital roles within discourse.

 

While Janet Altman, author of Epistolary Approaches to Form, maintains, “In no other genre do readers figure so prominently within the world of the narrative and in the generation of the text (88),” Krista Ratcliffe, author of Rhetorical Listening, asserts that readers have been subordinated to writers just as listeners have been subordinated to speakers (3). Merely reading the letters might cause one to think that the Love women were marginal or passive. However, the map brings them to the forefront, illustrating that the sisters kept the circuit of letters moving, forwarding the information to friends, relatives, and acquaintances so that the brothers could stay in contact with each other on the battle lines as well as with members of their family on the home front. Thus, I argue that the map provides visual proof to readers of the collection that the recipient often has more power within correspondence than the writer. Mapping illustrates that the Love family created a complicated network of communication in which the women were at the hub.

 

 “'Love' Letters: Correspondence as Lifeblood"

Rhetoric Society of America Spring 2014 (with Adam Nemmers)

Our research, gathered from largely unexamined archive material at the TCU Mary Couts Burnett Library, focuses on the prominent Love family of Limestone County Texas during the Civil War Era and their correspondence during war time. The archive consists of 73 letters from both male and female members of the family representing the war front and the home front. We demonstrate how the family creates a complex system of communication, ensuring all family members received vital information during a time of chaos. The archive is of historical and rhetorical significance because of its rich details about Civil War battles and various regiments, including Terry’s Texas Rangers. The brothers Love employ the use of rhetorical silence during communication with their sisters and parents, often tailoring their letters and the information they are willing to reveal about their condition, the battles and its casualties, or their own attitude about the war to a specific listener or recipient. The women also use silence to their advantage in an attempt to maintain a sense of constancy at home, often preferring to write about their current social functions rather than their anxiety about the war or their brothers’ welfare. 
   


"'Love' Letters: Sisters, Soldiers, and Southern Social Networking" 

Southern Studies Spring 2014 (with Adam Nemmers)

Our research, gathered from largely unexamined archive material at the TCU Mary Couts Burnett Library, focuses on the prominent Love family of Limestone County Texas during the Civil War Era and their correspondence during wartime. The archive consists of 73 letters from both male and female members of the family representing the war front and the home front. We demonstrate how the family creates a complex system of communication, ensuring all family members received vital information during a time of chaos. The archive is of historical and rhetorical significance because of its rich details about Civil War battles and various regiments, including Terry’s Texas Rangers. Both the brothers and sisters Love use rhetorical silence to their advantage while communicating with one another. The brothers often omit specific details of battles while the sisters tend to write about mundane social activities rather than their own fears about their brothers’ welfare all in attempt to ease anxiety about the war. We use Cheryl Glenn and Krista Ratcliffe’s theories of silence and listening to rhetorically analyze the letters, demonstrating that silence can be just as powerful as words, and that as Walter Ong suggests, the ultimate power in an exchange belongs to the audience, for it is the Love women who are at the heart of the communication network. They are the ones who forward the letters to extended family members and maintain steady correspondence with their brothers, responding to their inquiries and requests for supplies. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Micro and Macro Aggressions: Violence, Identity, and Accessibility Online"

TCU Women and Gender Studies panel discussion (organizer/chair)

 

In an increasingly digital age important questions arise regarding issues of violence, identity, and accessibility, such as how do identity markers like race, gender, and sexuality affect how we are perceived online, how we interact with social media, or who has access to online platforms? This interdisciplinary panel explores aspects of both micro and macro aggressions that can arise on social media, in the classroom, and in the broader technological community as a result of one’s online and offline identity. 

 

 

"Song of Silence: Singer's Role as Listener in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"

Society for the Study of American Women Writers: Citizenship and Belonging Fall 2012

In Carson McCullers’ well-known novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, the protagonist, John Singer, is a mute. Though Singer cannot speak, he remains the central character of the novel due to his perceived intelligence or wisdom. The other characters use him as a sounding board in what can be described as a therapeutic exchange. Each believes Singer shares their beliefs and understands the personal struggles he or she is facing. Ironically, these characters are more open with Singer because he cannot respond to them. Singer’s role in the novel highlights the implications of silence two fold. Though Singer is silent in life, when he dies, the other characters feel forced into silence with no one left to hear their own plights. Thus, the novel functions as an examination of both the trauma and healing power of silence.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feminist Digital Humanities: Theoretical, Social, and Material Engagements Workshop (passed and certified)

Digital Humanities Summer Institute. The University of Victoria. Victoria, Canada. Summer 2015 

 

Although there is a deep history of feminist engagement with technology, projects like FemTechNet argue that such history is often hidden and feminist thinkers are frequently siloed. In order to address this, the seminar will offer a set of background readings to help make visible the history of feminist engagement with technology, as well as facilitate small-scale exploratory collaboration during the seminar. Our reading selections bring a variety of feminist technology critiques in Media Studies, Human-Computer Interaction, Science and Technology Studies, and related fields into conversation with work in Digital Humanities. Each session is organized by a keyword - a term that is central to feminist theoretical and practical engagements with technology - and will begin with a discussion of that term in light of our readings. The remainder of each session will be spent learning about and tinkering with Processing, a programming tool that will allow participants to engage in their own critical making processes.

 

Pushing against instrumentalist assumptions regarding the value and efficacy of certain digital tools, we will be asking participants to think hard about the affordances and constraints of digital technologies. While we will be engaging with a wide range of tools/systems in our readings and discussions, we anticipate that the more hands-on engagement with Processing will help participants think about operations of interface, input, output, and mediation. In addition to the expanded theoretical framework, participants can expect to come away with a new set of pedagogical models using Processing that they can adapt and use for teaching at their own institutions. 

This course combines lecture, seminar, and hands-on activities. Consider this offering to build on: Fundamentals of Coding / Programming for Human(s|ists); Web Development / Project Prototyping for Beginners with Ruby on Rails. Consider this offering in complement with and / or to be built on by: Physical Computing and Desktop Fabrication; Digital Humanities with a Global Outlook; Digital Indigeneity; and more.

 

 

"To Blog or not to Blog?: Bridging the Gap Between High and Low Stakes Assignments in the Classroom"

 TCU New Media Writing Studio Series: Cool Tools. Jan. 2014.

 

Using my own classroom blogs as examples, this invited talk illustrates the benefits of blogging in the classroom, including community building, audience awareness, and voice development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

Epistolary Studies

 

Disability Studies

 

Digital Humanties

Southern Literature