Dissertation | Articles | Reviews


Mediational TriangleMy dissertation draws upon a three-year study of an engineering student organization at a flagship, land-grant, Hispanic-Serving Institution in the southwestern United States with the basic Carnegie classification of Doctoral University: High Research Activity. My study describes the students’ attempts to construct wells in an indigenous territory in Bolivia, and to overcome obstacles and better integrate their literate lives across and beyond the curriculum. Such boundary-zone activity provides students with opportunities for rhetorical engagement that the curriculum often doesn’t, but it also presents students with obstacles that more scripted learning environments tend to remove.

In this dissertation, I provide a narrative of the organization as a site of rhetorical engagement, from the beginnings of the Bolivia project in 2007, through a 2014 partnership with a capstone design course in civil engineering, to a 2015 assessment trip to Bolivia, and culminating in a proposal for an interdisciplinary course on intercultural communication and sustainability in international development projects. Employing expansive developmental research, an interventionist methodology derived from cultural-historical activity theory, I analyze observation notes, interview transcripts, and textual artifacts. The textual artifacts include the student organization’s correspondence, reports, field books, journals, promotional materials, websites, and informational architecture. I also analyze curriculum maps, the capstone course’s syllabus and assignment guidelines, and all of the correspondence and assignment drafts produced by the capstone team.

Textual ArtifactMy findings suggest that even when unsuccessful, students’ efforts to develop increasingly shared motives, means, and objectives for their organization and its partners represent educationally valuable instances of rhetorical engagement. In particular, they involve the invention of complex rhetorical theories and practices aimed at bridging temporal, generic, disciplinary, institutional, cultural, linguistic, and geographical divisions. Through my research, I work with the students to reinterpret obstacles as opportunities for building partnerships across and beyond the curriculum toward a more holistic approach to rhetorical engagement aligned with the aims of a twenty-first century liberal education. In conclusion, I consider implications for integrating problem- and project-based writing into the composition and technical communication classrooms, as well as upper-division coursework in the disciplines. I also explore the utility of object-oriented rhetorics and methods for studying instances of rhetorical invention that cultural-historical activity theory doesn’t explain.


Hendrickson, Brian. "Studying and Supporting Writing in Student Organizations as a High-Impact Practice." Across the Disciplines. Scheduled for publication Fall 2016.

Institutions of postsecondary education, and the field of writing across the curriculum and in the disciplines (WAC/WID) in particular, need to do more to trouble learning paradigms that employ writing only in service to particular disciplines, only in traditional learning environments, and only in particular languages, or in service to an overly narrow or generalized idea of who students are, where they’re going, and what they need to get there. In relating a cross-section of a larger effort to study and support writing as a high-impact practice in a student chapter of an international nonprofit humanitarian engineering student organization, I will demonstrate that WAC/WID can and should empower students to use writing in student organizations, especially those that align with the four learning outcomes deemed essential by the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise, as a means of integrating into and interrogating their social and political realities, and reshaping postsecondary education to better meet their needs and goals as individual learners and as citizens in a deliberative democracy.

Hendrickson, Brian, and Genevieve Garcia de Mueller. "Inviting Students to Determine for Themselves What It Means to Write Across the Disciplines." The WAC Journal. Scheduled for publication Fall 2016.

Situated in the literature on threshold concepts and transfer of prior knowledge in WAC/WID and composition studies, with particular emphasis on the scholarship of writing across difference, this article explores the possibility of re-envisioning the role of the composition classroom within the broader literacy ecology of colleges and universities largely comprised of students from socioeconomically and ethnolinguistically underrepresented communities. The authors recount the pilot of a composition course prompting students to examine their own prior and other literacy values and practices, then transfer that growing meta-awareness to the critical acquisition of academic discourse. Analysis of students’ self-assessment memos reveals that students apply certain threshold concepts to acquire critical agency as academic writers, and in a manner consistent with Guerra’s concept of transcultural repositioning. The authors further consider the role collective rubric development plays as a critical incident facilitating transcultural repositioning.

Bourelle, Tiffany, Andrew Bourelle, Stephanie Spong, & BRIAN HENDRICKSON. “Assessing Multimodal Literacy in the Online Technical Communication Classroom.” Journal of Business & Technical Communication. Scheduled for publication Spring 2017.

This case study examines the teaching of a multimodal pedagogy in the online technical communication classroom. Based on the results of an eportfolio assessment, the authors of this article argue that multimodality can be taught successfully in the online environment, but only if the instructor carefully plans and scaffolds each assignment. Specifically, we argue for increased attention to the teaching of the eportflio as a genre within the technical communication classroom that not only exemplifies students’ multimodal literacies, but also establishes their identities as technical communicators in the twenty-first century. The article provides a model for teaching multimodal composition in the online technical communication classroom, calling for more scholarship regarding teaching the eportfolio in the digital environment.

Hendrickson, Brian. “Irreverently Unromantic: A Rhetorical Path to Sophistic Poetics in the Poetry of Bob Hicok.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 47.2 (2014): 135- 152.

Mosaic CoverRhetorical analysis of Bob Hicok’s earliest and most recent poems reveals how the poet modifies the terms of the central problem in contemporary poetry—Romantic irony—by employing an irreverent poetics I describe as sophistic to highlight its rhetorical tendencies while differentiating it from the inverted Platonism of Romantic irony.
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Hendrickson, Brian. “Attuning (to) Ambience: Thomas Rickert’s Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being.” Rev. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, & Pedagogy 21.1 (2016).

Ambient Rhetoric CoverThomas Rickert’s (2013) Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being retheorized rhetorical invention by way of Heidegger and within the context of various postmodern materialisms, thereby inviting contemporary rhetoric into conversation with theoretical and technological advances in other fields. In this review, I explain the fundamental concepts and mechanics of Rickert's theory of ambient rhetoric; articulate the distinctions Rickert drew between a theory of ambient rhetoric and other relevant ontologies, epistemologies, semiotics, and rhetorics; offer illustrative examples of the theory at work; and explore some of the theory's implications and limitations.
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Hendrickson, Brian. “M.25 A Second Wave: Metawriting in the Composition Classroom.” Rev. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, & Pedagogy 19.1 (2014).

CCCC 2014 Program Cover

Chair: Nicholaus Baca, Bowling Green State University, OH. Speakers: Martha Townsend, University of Missouri, Columbia, “The Effect of Metacognition and Kinesthetic Knowledge on Student-Athletes’ Academic Performance”; Dan Bommarito and Brent Chappelow, Arizona State University, Tempe, “Metawriting: Writing-about-Writing Students Write about Their Writing”; Leslie Akst, St. John’s University, Queens, NY, “It’s Not a Writing Class until Somebody Cries—The Emotional Implications of Critical Pedagogy in the Composition Classroom”
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Hendrickson, Brian. “W.02 The Political Turn: Writing Democracy for the 21st Century.” Rev. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, & Pedagogy 18.1 (2013).

CCCC 2013 Program CoverIn building campus-community partnerships, it is not uncommon to have to work through layers of cynicism that the community has often rightly developed toward the intentions of academic do-gooders, so it was genuinely touching to hear someone from the other side of the campus-community divide express enthusiasm for the ways we theorize and strategize our end of things. That tells me there was something of value materializing during “The Political Turn: Writing Democracy for the 21st Century.” It will be interesting now to see how workshop co-chairs Shannon Carter, Deborah Mutnick, and Steve Parks keep the momentum going after we’ve all returned to our research, teaching, and service.
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Hendrickson, Brian. “The Hard Work of Imagining: The Inaugural Summit of the National Consortium of Writing Across Communities.” Rev. Community Literacy Journal 7.2 (2013): 115-8.

CLJ CoverOn July 12–15, 2012, in advance of the Council of Writing Program Administrators 2012 Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the University of New Mexico hosted the inaugural Summit of the National Consortium of Writing Across Communities (NCWAC) in nearby Santa Fe. In attendance were twenty-four established and emerging scholars and graduate students working in (and across) fields such as community literacy, writing program administration, writing across the curriculum, and second-language writing.
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