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.

Fall 2018

Brownbags take place from 12-1 in English Building Room 107a.

October 10

Sarah Durst, Carrie James, (Curriculum & Instruction), and Ryan Ware (English) - "Approaches to Teacher Education and Development"

Join CWS graduate students Sarah Durst, Carrie James, and Ryan Ware as they share their approaches to teacher education and development through their panel entitled, This is Not Easy: Pedagogical and methodological complexities of being and becoming a writing teacher.

September 19

Carol Tilley (School of Information Science) and Fiona Hartley-Kroeger (English) - "Approaches to Graphic Texts"


Fall 2017

Brownbags take place from 12-1 in English Building 107a.

December 6

Kelly Ritter and Peter Mortensen (English) - "Paths into Administration"

Join CWS for the last brownbag of the semester! Dr. Kelly Ritter (Associate Dean of LAS and Professor of English) and Dr. Peter Mortensen (Interim Dean of Architecture and Professor of English) will discuss their paths into administration.

November 15

Liv davila (Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership) - "Data as Text"

In this presentation I will unpack the dilemma of authentic representation in qualitative and ethnographic research and writing drawing on my research with multilingual immigrant and refugee youth.  Using samples of transcribed, translated written and digitally recorded audio files I will problematize the idea of data as text, which is comprised of multiple interpretations of language and discourse (Butler & Scott, 1992; Scott, 1986, 1992). How is experience translated, transformed and projected in a second or third language?  To what extent does the act of writing shape the interpretive experience?  What gets lost in the act of writing across languages?  What is potentially gained?

October 25

"[Un]Packing Conference Experiences"

Join CWS graduate students as they share experiences preparing for participating in conferences, leading a collaborative workshop, and taking their conference experiences forward after attending and presenting at conferences.

October 10

Susan Conrad (Linguistics, Portland State) - "Combining Corpus Linguistics and Qualitative Interviews to Research and Teach Writing in the Disciplines"

September 27

"Writing Studies Concentration Informational Brownbag"

Join Paul Prior (CWS Director) as he explains the requirements for a Writing Studies concentration. Dr. Prior will walk through the needed requirements and answer questions.


Spring 2017

May 18

Chip Bruce (Library and Information Science, Emeritus)- "Does Knowledge Still Matter?"

In a recent book, Why Knowledge Matters, E. D. Hirsch argues for a knowledge-intensive curriculum. Adopting a traditional stance toward learning, but one buttressed by recent cognitive science research, he sees knowledge as the key to becoming culturally literate and as the basis for learning more. In contrast, Sugata Mitra, best known for his "Hole in the Wall" experiment, is a leading proponent of minimally invasive education. He claims that children in the rural slums of India could explore complex subjects in the absence of adult supervision and create a world of self-promoted learning. Essentially, learning is what matters, and the effort to transmit knowledge is unnecessary and counter productive.Questions: What is knowledge? What is its role in education? Is that role changing due to the "worldwide cloud" of information? Are there alternatives to these extreme positions, or is one more correct?

May 16

Chip Bruce (Library and Information Science, Emeritus)- "Progressive Education in Nepal: Creating an Education System"

We think of progressive education as an early 20th century movement in US schools, or perhaps as what occurs in modern, “progressive” schools, often small, private schools serving more privileged students. But the progressive impulse has been an important factor in many places and many eras. In Nepal today, there is a strong progressive education movement, one that I worked with during Fall 2016. That movement is especially noteworthy given the country’s extremely low resources (it’s a UN Least Developed Country). But many Nepalis see progressive education as aligned with their national education plan, whose goals include education for all, ages 4-12, community learning centers to deliver literacy and lifelong learning, and fully inclusive and equitable access. Questions: How can Nepal essentially create an education system? How can knowledge, people, tools, and other resources from the West help? What can be learned from the Nepali experience, even though the Nepal situation is quite different from that in the US?

May 3

"Job Market Debrief"

Join Maggie Shelledy, Jenn Raskauskas, Katrina Kennet, Kaia Simon, and Katherine Flowers as they share their experiences being on the academic and non-academic job market. Each will share some aspect of their experience and advice for the job market. This is a great event to learn more and ask questions about being on the job market from those who have just been through it. Whether you’re years away or are going on the market next year, we highly recommend you come to this brownbag to learn more about this important step.

April 5

Kristi McDuffie (English) - "Sexy Selfies and Celestial Celebrities: Exploring the Implications of #FeministsAreUgly for Hashtag Feminism"

Kristi will present on a recent project investigating the possibilities and limitations of the #FeministsAreUgly trend on Twitter. While #FeministsAreUgly originators aimed to challenge contemporary beauty norms for women, it was largely taken up through selfies and celebrity photos, thereby undermining the idea that looks do not matter in feminism. By performing a qualitative analysis of a sample of 2,000 #FeministsAreUgly tweets, Kristi analyzes how Twitter users have used this hashtag to construct, negotiate, and contest definitions and iterations of feminism. She identifies which rhetorical strategies comprised the movement and how these strategies can be both problematic and productive in furthering feminist goals. Ultimately, she argues that while feminist action in social media continues to be inconsistent and challenging, targeted opportunities exist for fruitful digital writing that furthers feminist goals.

March 8

"Preparing for the CWS Graduate Symposium"

In preparation for this year’s Graduate Student Symposium, CWS is sponsoring a brownbag event for interested graduate students on March 8, from 12.00p-1.00p in English Building 107A. During this session, we will present more information about the symposium itself and provide a strategic planning space for students interested in preparing conference abstracts and putting together collaborative presentations.

If you’re unsure of what to bring to this session, here are some possibilities: a blurb outlining what you’d like to present, an excerpt of a project you’d like feedback on for presenting, pieces of data to workshop or discuss, or a list of questions about presenting in general.

February 22

Joyce Walker (English, Illinois State University)

is a graduate of the program in Writing Studies at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (2001). She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies at Illinois State University, and the Director of the Writing Program there. One of her primary research, teaching, and administrative interests is in the application of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory and Rhetorical Genre Studies approaches to writing pedagogy.  The conversation at the second spring CWS brownbag will focus on her response to Clay Spinuzzi’s claim (CCC Conference 2016) that CHAT is not an appropriate approach for writing pedagogy, but rather is primarily an approach for looking at literate activity in the world.  We’ll be looking at some of the pedagogies and resources designed for the Writing Program at ISU, and we’ll discuss whether a pedagogy that uses CHAT and genre studies as its foundation can be successful (or is even worth attempting).  Interested participants can learn more about the Writing Program at ISU by visiting

February 8

"Social Justice Praxis Working Group Brownbag"

Have you been thinking a lot lately about how you can productively engage your students in discussions around issues of diversity and justice? So have we! If you are interested in learningabout or joining a teaching-learning community of literacy educators committed to supporting one another in enacting social justice pedagogy, we invite you to this CWS brownbag with the Social Justice Pedagogy Working Group. Through cross-departmental programming, and coalition-building, SJP Working Group aims to collaboratively learn about and build teaching practices that engage our students, and ourselves, in the transformative work of developing personal awareness, understanding structural inequality, embracing difference, and committing to action in pursuit of a more just world. We hope you’ll join us!


Fall 2016

November 15

Kyle Jensen (English, University of North Texas) - “Toward an Uncanny Writing Studies: Frederic Myers and Automatic Writing”

Traditionally, Frederic Myers is not listed among the most important theorists in writing studies. Yet, his research on automatic writing provides one of the most sophisticated and capacious engagements with how human consciousness, cognition, and writing technologies intersect. At the turn of the twentieth century, automatic writing was defined primarily in terms of spiritual mediumship. The medium would cede volitional control to a spirit guide who communicated messages from the great beyond by taking control of his or her writing hand. In an attempt to understand how this curious process unfolded, Myers began a seven-year study guided by a comprehensive evaluation of automatic writing case studies. Over the course of four extensive papers, he proposed a new theory of how minds non-consciously work on one another during the act of writing. In the process, he invented the termtelepathyand hypothesized a new theory of human cognition. In drawing attention to Myers’s path breaking writing research, this presentation advances three important arguments: [1] Myers’s research encourages the scholars to look for uncanny instances of writing research that exceed academic instruction in university systems; [2] Myers’s research participates in, and in substantive ways augments, ongoing debates about how writers affect one another; and [3] Myers’s research proposes a future for writing research and instruction by employing new technologies for studying the evolution of writing processes. In each argument, this presentation connects Myers’s automatic writing research to the historical debates that have shaped rhetoric and composition studies and thereby cultivates new ways of approaching its most foundational questions.

September 20

David Cisneros (Communication) - Coming out of the Shadows”: Genre, Affect, and Desire

Over the last several years, young immigrant rights activists have increasingly circulated written personal narratives as a political strategy. These written narratives can be found in anthologies such asLiving “Illegal”: The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigrationand in essays such as “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” published in theNew York Timesin 2011 by Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. In these so-called “coming out” stories, immigrant activists narrate the emotional and life-changing experience of discovering their undocumented status and use the public disclosure of that status as a form of political and cultural agency. These writers often express grief over their lost sense of belonging, the fear and shame they feel about their legal status, and their sense of pride and power at disclosing this knowledge. This presentation focuses on written stories of immigrants “coming out of the shadows”—an activist genre that expresses and negotiates the affective and emotional economies of immigration, visibility, and citizenship. Analyzing several different kinds of “coming out” stories, I trace the genre’s rhetorical form and affective structure. Along the way, I develop an idea of genre based in affect/emotion, discuss writing as a technology of visibility and social mobility, and illuminate the way unauthorized immigrant youth are queering structures of feeling about national belonging and citizenship.