English Ph.D. Dissertations


Rhetoric and The Scholarship of Engagement: Pragmatic, Professional, and Ethical Convergences

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Richard C. Gebhardt (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Kristine L. Blair (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lance Massey (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael B. Ellison (Committee Member)


The scholarship of engagement, an effort to redefine faculty scholarship in ways that emphasize communal outreach, and rhetoric, which is epistemologically relevant to our modern academic lives, are both models for the future of higher education that are pragmatic, post-professional, and based on ethics. External pressures on the university make discussion of rhetoric and engagement, both of which deal directly with knowledge that grows out of scholarship as it guides practice and service, timely and necessary.

Rhetoric and the Scholarship of Engagement examines the competing forces behind this scholarship reform, historicizing the trends and arguing that contradictions inherent in the reforms represent a rich dialogue about the future of academic life. Throughout, Rhetoric and the Scholarship of Engagement treats the space between the community and academy as a dialectical space—a space structured by tensions between opposing forces such as tensions between discipline/institution, theory/praxis, service/pure scholarship, traditional professionalized practices/changing models of professionalism, responsive faculty roles/isolated functions, foundational/antifoundational knowledge, and visible/invisible work carried out by faculty members.

To suggest best practices for the transition to engaged scholarship, Rhetoric and the Scholarship of Engagement highlights scholarship and faculty roles in the field of rhetoric and composition, arguing that as an already engaged field, it offers a rich theoretical background and successful models for engagement rooted in its pragmatic orientation, struggles for disciplinary legitimation, and overt focus on postmodern ethics in research and institutional life. Through the presentation of rhetoric and composition research, these chapters offer a theoretical background for engagement by examining historical influences, various models of engagement, complications, and examples of application.

In conclusion, the dissertation argues that dialectic spaces, such as exists between the academy and community, can be remediated, not by erasing the contradictions but by reconceiving faculty roles around them. By inhabiting a more robust role as an engaged, pragmatically savvy, post-professional, postmodern and ethical “Citizen Scholar,” the faculty member will be better able to adapt to changing demands throughout his/her academic career.