The Center for Writing Studies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Rafters and skylights in the English Building

Brownbag Series


Faculty and graduate students are invited each academic year to participate in the Research-in-Progress Brownbag series. The series began in 2004 with CWS core faculty invited to discuss their current projects. Over the years it has expanded to include informal presentations by affiliated faculty, graduate students, visiting scholars, and other faculty members from across campus.

Brownbags run for one hour, including a question and answer session.

For the schedule of brownbag speakers, please see the Center calendar. For the archive of previous brownbag talks, see the past speakers page.


Spring 2015

All lunches are from 12-1 in English Building 107a - we're excited to see you this spring!


Brown Bag - Bonnie Mak - February 18




Bonnie Mak (GSLIS/MDVL) - The Material Form of an Argument

This presentation recounts a collaborative project that uses wood, word, and sculpture in the performance of humanities scholarship. Bonnie Mak will discuss the processes behind her co-authored and hand-crafted series of publications, and explore connections with the institutionalized activities of collection, classification, preservation, and knowledge-production. Drawing from practice, this talk sheds light upon the relationship between form and content, materiality and meaning, and originals and reproductions, as well as the costs and consequences of alternative modes of scholarly publication.



Brown Bag - Carol Tilley - March 11



Carol Tilley (GSLIS) - Kids Doing Things with Comics: Reading, Writing, and Playing in History

In November, 1953, Ople Noble sent a letter to a forensic psychiatrist Fredric Wertham. Noble, who was secretary of her eighth grade class in Bisbee, Arizona, and her classmates had read and discussed Wertham's article in Ladies' Home Journal, "What Parents Don't Know about Comic Books," She wrote to share her and her classmates' insights on juvenile delinquency and comics with the psychiatrist, as they disagreed with many of his conclusions. Encouraged by Wertham's reply, which was accompanied by a box of chocolates from Macy's Department Store, Noble wrote at least two more letters to Wertham, one of which outlined the results of a class discussion on the comic character Green Arrow.

Nearly sixty years after Noble wrote these letters, I found them preserved in Wertham's manuscript collection at the Library of Congress. Among the boxes - there are more than two hundred all told - lay a few dozen letters from other young people who wrote to the psychiatrist in 1953 and 1954 at the height of the United States' anti-comics movement. A handful of the young writers voiced support for Wertham's mission to restrict the sale of comics to readers like them, but most of the writers plead for no restrictions and spoke for the value of comics in their lives. These letters by young people provide a unique glimpse into not only the history of comics but also into our understanding of childhood, reading, and culture.

This talk will outline two parallel research projects I'm undertaking in which I'm investigating comics readership through readers' participation in comics culture. I'll share more about Ople, as well as some early fanzine creators, letter writers, amateur cartoonists, and more, who read, wrote, and played with comics.





Brown Bag - Advice for the Job Market





Advice for the Job Market - Join us to talk with CWS students who have been on the job market this fall and spring. They'll share the stories of their journeys and offer advice, perspective, do's and don'ts, and answer questions.










Fall 2014

All lunches are from 12-1 in English Building 228 - we're excited to see you this fall!


September 17 - Writing Across Media





Join us as we kick off the 2014-2015 CWS Brown Bag series! Katrina Kennett will talk about how the Writing Across Media course started and has evolved, current instructors George Boone and Eileen Lagman will share their course visions and projects, and we will talk about future directions. If you're interested in composing in various media, or are curious about teaching WAM someday, stop on by! WAM website.





October 1 - John Gallagher



Our second Brown Bag lunch will be hosted by John Gallagher, a recent addition to the English Department:

Audience Emerging: Web 2.0 Audiences as an Ongoing Process

In this presentation, I summarize the findings of my dissertation and present on one of the project's case studies which describes a process called "audience emerging." Audience emerging shows us the relationship between Ede and Lunsford's canonical terms addressed and invoked, an unexplored avenue. Understanding the nature of this oscillating relationship situates writer awareness of audience as an emerging, recursive process, much like other elements in the writing process. Through my participant's story of a murder at a community food cooperative, this concept encourages writers, and those who study writing, to re-think audience not only as future readers to be considered at one point in composing, but as readers constantly shifting in an on-going cycle of circulation and distribution.



October 15 - Anna Smith

Anna Smith will join us on October 15th to talk about Traversing the “In-Between”: Developing Writing Practices and Literate Identities Across Contexts


I will be presenting a piece that I am currently working on that cuts across research approaches in literacies, education, and writing studies. In it, I share findings from an 18-month ethnographic study in which I investigated the development of four young men’s writing practices across multiple contexts. The purpose of this article is to expand on the notion of self-work as derived from Hansen’s (2011) philosophical rendering of how individuals come to understand the self in relationship to others through loyalty to the known and openness to the new, and Willis’ (1977) conceptualization of symbolic meaning-making as intellectual labor. This creative, critical labor was characteristic of the ethical engagements I witnessed as the young men negotiated literate identities through writing in and with the multiple publics the young men met as they traversed school, out-of-school and online contexts. Self-work was a labor the young men exercised consistently across these contexts through craft techniques, products, processes, and other compositional practices. The young men’s writing practices in this study illuminated the ways self-work functioned as a transcontextual rhetorical praxis that had meaningful influence on the young men’s developmental pathways as writers. In this article, I will discuss a particular intentional practice each of the young men independently developed while engaging in self-work over the course of the study; namely, the development of a literary trope to make sense of social tensions that emerged across on and offline publics. I will highlight three interacting threads: 1) how self-work functioned as praxis in a rhetorical and literary sense; 2) the ways the young men engaged self-work across contexts; and 3) the interaction of self-work with the development of other writing practices.



November 12 - Eric Pritchard

Eric Pritchard will be speaking on November 12th:

“As Proud of our Gayness, as We Are of Our Blackness”: The National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays Queering Black Freedom Movement Historiography and Race-ing Sexual Rhetorics, 1978-1990


This brown bag presentation will focus on three actions in which members of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays (NCBLG) – founded in 1978 as the first national organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of African descent in the United States – forged new paradigms for social action that synthesized race and sexuality, in their efforts to excavate, document, and build upon the contributions of black LGBT people to the Black civil rights and then gay and lesbian rights movements. Through this the NCBLG exploded the narratives of civil rights and LGBT rights legacies that disappeared Black LGBT people from historiographies of both movements. Examining these moments in recent American history in which black LGBT activists helped redefine the texture of Unites States histories of race and sexuality are crucial to achieving a more nuanced and expansive understanding of today’s racial, gender, and sexual politics, and the connections between Black civil and LGBT rights movements in rhetorical history.