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Living Writing & Rhetoric


Latest Episode

In this episode, Nathan Stormer, a professor of rhetoric in the Communication and Journalism Department at the University of Maine, discusses his recent article, "Rhetoric by Accident," in the journal Philosophy & Rhetoric, which articulates a view of accidents that shape rhetorical work, but which themselves are not purposive, motive-driven, directed, or ethical, thereby illuminating the power of accidents beyond the human orbit.

“[Accidental rhetoric does not] displace our understanding of rhetoric or what we think of as intentional. It’s to argue that the intentional, and the design, and the directed and the purposive, is always feeding out of accidents. It has to.”

   Live Theory

Live Theory comes to you from the Writing Program in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at USC where Co-Hosts Drs. Ryan Leack and Ellen Wayland-Smith teach writing and rhetoric. Since the Writing Program manages the core writing courses for USC students, theory for us begins not in the clouds but at the ground level. Theory neither originated in nor belongs to the Ivory Tower. Rather, theory is a way of living, an "aesthetics of existence," as Michel Foucault writes. For this reason we approach theory in writing, rhetoric, and related disciplines as that which informs our lives, our teaching, acting, and, as linguist James Paul Gee writes, our saying-doing-believing-writing-valuing combinations. We invite scholars not only to share their work with us, but to live theory with us, bringing life to writing and rhetoric in our scholarship, classrooms, and daily lives. At Live Theory, we live theory.



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Dr. Ryan David Leack teaches writing and rhetoric at USC. He's interested in the conceptual and historical intersections between rhetoric, writing, philosophy, quantum mechanics, and poetry, all of which constellate "rhetorical being," a responsible way of being-in-the-world, and the foundation of his courses in the Writing Program. His publications in rhetoric, composition, philosophy, and poetry can be found on his USC profile page. He also designs and maintains the Live Theory website and audio production of episodes.

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Ellen Wayland-Smith is an Associate Professor (Teaching) in USC’s Writing Program. She earned her PhD in Comparative Literature with a focus on 19th century French lyric poetry from Princeton. She is author of two books of American cultural history, Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table (Picador 2016) and The Angel in the Marketplace: Adwoman Jean Wade Rindlaub and the Selling of America (UChicago Press, 2020). Her memoir in essays, The Science of Last Things, is forthcoming 2024 from Milkweed Press.

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