Meet Rory Lee, one of our newest assistant professors of English.
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Rory possess an unhealthy affinity for meat and cheese and spends much of his free time voraciously consuming anything related to the Green Bay Packers. Much to his friends’ and colleagues’ chagrin (or amusement), he’s also a professional wrestling enthusiast. Rory has two cats, Burger and Doodle. He can be found on Tumblr.
Rory earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English: Rhetoric and Composition from Florida State University. His dissertation, Now with More Modes?: The Curricular Design and Implementation of Multimodality in Undergraduate Major Programs in Writing/Rhetoric, explores the curricular and pedagogical presence of multimodality within a select group of undergraduate major programs in writing/rhetoric.
Below, Rory maps his passions.
What are your research interests within Rhetoric and Composition?
Although I’m deeply fascinated by and interested in rhetorical theory and history, composition theory and pedagogy, and multiliteracy centers, my two primary areas of research are:
(1) the undergraduate major in writing and rhetoric
(2) digital rhetorics/new media/multimodality.
I was able to explore the intersection of both, each of which has become a hotbed of scholarly activity over the last decade, in my dissertation, Now with More Modes?: The Curricular Design and Implementation of Multimodality in Undergraduate Major Programs in Writing/Rhetoric.
Here, my overarching research question was: how, if at all, do undergraduate major programs in writing and rhetoric (variously named) develop and implement curricula attentive to the practice of multimodality (the creation of a text using multiple modes of expression; for example: written word, moving image, static image, speech, music, color, layout)?
More specifically, how do those staffing undergraduate major programs in writing and rhetoric define, teach, assess, and support multimodal composing?
To complete this project, I surveyed program representatives for 19 undergraduate major programs in writing and rhetoric and conducted case studies of three major programs in particular, each of which emphasized differently the practice of multimodality.
Where did your interest in undergraduate programs come from?
My interest in the undergraduate major stems from my own personal experiences as both a student and a teacher.
As an undergraduate student, I was a part of the first cohort to graduate from my institution with a major in rhetoric and composition. Previously, I was majoring in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English. However, I soon realized that I didn’t want to teach high school students, mostly due to the increasing influence of standardized testing, and my English department’s recent development of a new major in rhetoric and composition provided me with an appealing alternative career path.
I quickly became enamored with the field of rhetoric and composition, one whose identity is tied directly to the teaching of writing at the collegiate level, something I wanted to and continued to pursue as a graduate student at Florida State.
During my time as a graduate student, FSU’s English department developed and implemented a new major: Editing, Writing, and Media (EWM), which is a major heavily rooted in the history, theory, and practice of rhetoric and composition. I was able to teach courses in this major for four years while I was earning my Ph.D.
In short, then, my interest in the undergraduate major, a relatively recent phenomenon in the field, is tied to my experiences earning such an undergraduate degree and teaching courses for such a degree program.
In other words, I have a rather unique experience participating in undergraduate majors in rhetoric and writing as both student and teacher.
My interest in digital rhetorics/new media/multimodality dates back to my adolescent interactions with computer technologies. As a high school student, I would spend most nights reading and creating digital texts. This habit continued when I became an undergraduate student: rather than attend my general education courses (something I wouldn’t recommend), I spent most of my first year locked away in my dorm room developing and adding content to my personal website.
Once I became a graduate student, I realized that I could actually bring into the classroom and teach many of the digital writing practices I was enacting outside the classroom. With the increased access to and affordances of digital technologies, both of which are changing how and why people write and what we know as “writing,” I quickly became interested, as a teacher scholar, in how these emerging digital writing practices were being implemented within the classroom.
My research thus has both broad and personal ramifications: in researching how other undergraduate major programs attend to digital composing, I can not only map these practices for other members of the field but also use this insight to refine and hone my own pedagogical practices.
How would you describe yourself as a teacher?
This question is more difficult to answer than I anticipated.
The quintessential “student-centered” descriptions came to mind initially, and that’s probably an accurate way to frame my pedagogical approach: that is, I’m someone who wants and provides numerous opportunities for students to take advantage of how the course functions and where it goes. But in giving students agency, my overarching goal is to foster critical thinking.
If my students leave my course having learned only one thing, I would want it to be a new (or reignited) penchant to question everything.
In particular, I want them to do that through the lens of language. Put otherwise, I want them to consider consciously and consistently the role language plays in creating and controlling the realities that construct our worldview. In that sense, my courses tend to be very philosophically and epistemologically based, as I ask students to consider how words mean; what relationship language has to truth, knowledge, and reality; and how they can use language to effectively navigate the world. In that sense, I try to illustrate to students how language works writ large and then how they can use language to their advantage.
As noted in the previous question, teaching with technology is another way to describe my teaching philosophy: I make a concerted effort not only to teach with new technologies but also to have my students create texts using new technologies. In addition, I want the types of texts that students create to mirror the types of texts they might produce once they graduate. Said differently, I don’t teach or assign the standard print academic essay: while that genre is important and has power within the academy, it’s not the type of writing students will be asked to produce once they leave the academy.
Consequently, I attempt to craft real-world situations for students; I want their texts to be created for an audience other than myself, and I want students to deliver their text to that audience. I also want them to think about how targeting and appealing to this audience shapes how they write.
What are you working on right now?
Well, at the moment, I’m still attempting to acclimate to a new institutional climate and a new job and the duties it entails. Going forward, however, I have a lot of ideas that I hope to massage into publishable forms. For starters, I want to revisit both my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation, as both address exigences that have yet to be attended to and that would be of interest and import to the field of rhetoric and composition. Drawing from the aphoristic style of Marshall McLuhan, I also intend to create an aphoristic text about digital culture and composing practices.
The use of aphorisms would be two-fold:
(1) this style allows one to introduce and focus on multiple arguments within a contained space, and I have multiple mini-theories logged away about digital composing
(2) this truncated form of argumentation mirrors many of the texts found online as well as the cognition fostered in reading them.
Lastly, a colleague and I have already begun to outline a book project that rhetorically analyzes the various practices that make up the art–yes, art–of professional wrestling. Other academic works examining professional wrestling tend to do so through the lens of performance and theatre, but there has yet to be scholarly work on professional wrestling conducted through a rhetorical lens.
Welcome to the English Department, Rory!