Stephen J. McElroy


An  Overview account. An enumeration of  Works Published.
A review of  Current projects. A list of  Presentations and Workshops.



What is the function of composition? What are the functions that make composition happen? What is the role of the human in composition? What are the means and methods by which composition should be taught? On what scales or timelines can/should we best understand the ethical impact of what we do when we compose?

These are some of the questions that guide my research. Accordingly, I seek to examine instances of composing on an empirical level in order to develop theories that address these questions. I study the production of picture postcards and describe the material practices of multimodal design in a pre-digital era. I look at the composing that happens in writing centers and digital studios to better understand the role of those spaces. I ask questions about digital rhetoric in terms of production, scholarship, and pedagogy in order to take stock of how the field sees itself and what it does.

Across all these studies, what emerges is that the role of the nonhuman in the process of composition is so critical that the distinction of human/nonhuman becomes evidently too simple; it breaks down. We need a better vocabulary for describing the activity of composing, a vocabulary that accounts for the disparate, heterogeneous elements that gather and bring about instances of composing.

The human has always been a central figure in the field in large part because teaching has been our central concern: naturally, we see ourselves as teaching humans because it is the human who learns, and we have generally taken it as given that it is the human who composes. We’re thus left with questions about how we disentangle the human both from composing and from teaching.

Work has been done in the field to address these questions. For instance, actor network theory, as developed by Bruno Latour, has been overlaid with composition as a way of thinking about and blurring the binary of the human/nonhuman and of agency as being distributed across that false binary. The recent collection, Thinking with Bruno Latour in Rhetoric and Composition, covers a lot of this ground.

I am more interested, however, in assemblage theory, not least because of the ways in which it allows us to see (1) parts and wholes interacting at scalable frames and (2) texts as both assembled and assembling. My current work is thus in developing a more comprehensive theory about the relationship between assemblage and composing and the methods derived thereof and by which we might better research and teach composing.

Works Published.


Assembling Composition. Co-edited collection, with Kathleen Blake Yancey. 2017. NCTE.

“Ways of Knowing and Doing in Digital Rhetoric: A Primer.” Enculturation 23 (2016) (with Matthew Davis and Rory Lee).

“A Space Defined: Four Years in the Life of the FSU Digital Studios.” In Rusty Carpenter, Dickie Selfe, Shawn Apostel, and Kristi Apostel, eds. Sustainable Learning Spaces. (with Jennifer Wells, Andrew Burgess, Jeff Naftzinger, Rory Lee, Josh Mehler, Jason Custer, Aimee Jones, and Joe Cirio). 2015.

“Assemblage by Design: The Postcards of Curt Teich and Company." Computers and Composition 37 (2015): 147-165.

"Procedures, Projects, and Programs: Florida State University's Digital Studio Tutor Handbook" with Josh Mehler and Jennifer Wells. Kairos 19.2 (2015).

“Many Happy Returns: Student Archivists as Curators of Public Memory.” In Jane Greer and Laurie Grobman, eds. . Pedagogies of Public Memory: Teaching Writing and Rhetoric at Museums, Memorials, and Archives New York, NY: Routledge, 2015. With Michael Neal and Katherine Bridgman.

“Composing, Networks, and Electronic Portfolios: Notes toward a Theory of Assessing ePortfolios.” In Heidi A. McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, eds. Digital Writing: Assessment and Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital P/Utah State UP, 2013. With Kathleen Blake Yancey and Elizabeth Powers.

“Making Meaning at the Intersections: Developing a Digital Archive for Multimodal Research." Kairos 17.3 (2013). With Michael Neal and Katherine Bridgman.

“Expanding the Available Means of Composing: Three Sites of Inquiry." Enculturation 14 (2012). With Matt Davis and Kevin Brock.

Book Reviews

“Assembling Arguments.” By Jonathan Buehl. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. 2017.

“Book-Jackets.” By G. Thomas Tanselle. Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. 2016.



In my current project, I seek to build on the work of scholars in the field—including Johnson-Eilola and Selber, Preston, Buehl, and the contributors of the collection edited by Yancey & McElroy—to further explore the relationship between assemblage theory and composition studies. In the project, with the early working title Assemblage: Theory and Method, I synthesize and situate theoretical work on assemblage within and outside the field of writing studies and, in connection with that synthesis, develop a set of methods of assemblage for research and pedagogy.

In the first part, on theory, I begin by establishing an exigence for the project and position it within current composition scholarship, including Byron Hawk’s Counter-History of Composition, Raul Sanchez’s The Function of Theory in Composition Studies, and the aforementioned work on assemblage. I then provide a reading of Delezue and Guattari’s scattered writings on assemblage by way of Manuel DeLanda, specifically in his book Assemblage Theory, who posits assemblage as a scalable, parametrizable, nonhierarchical ontology in which heterogeneous material and expressive entities function in connection with one another—i.e. as more or less coded or territorialized assemblages whose functional capacities are determined both by their component parts and by their relations with other assemblages. I then survey the ways in which DeLanda’s work has been understood and applied in various academic fields, including sociology, geography, and psychology, often in terms of ‘assemblage thinking.’ Finally, I articulate a theory of composing that accounts for how we ought to understand composing if we accept DeLanda’s ontology and adopt/adapt assemblage thinking as it is expressed in these various fields—namely as a nonlinear function of assemblages and among assemblages, the parameters of which are determined by the relations within and among them.

In the second part, on method, I explore how this theory might function within composition studies in terms of how we approach studying composing and how we teach it. First, I argue that assemblage thinking, in its material and expressive manifestations, can be used as an empirical method by which to connect with and study instances of composing in practice, using a series of cases as example approaches, in order to explicate a fuller landscape of the complexity of composing. Second, I demonstrate how assemblage thinking can be used as a pedagogical method that helps students account for the situated complexity of their own composing, how we ‘always assemble among assemblages,’ and I include specific examples of assignments given.

Presentations and Workshops.

Select Refereed Presentations

“Ways of Knowing and Doing in Digital Rhetoric.” Computers and Writing, May 2016 (with Matthew Davis and Rory Lee).

“Assembling Composition.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, March 2016 (with Travis Maynard, Kristin Arola, and Kathleen Blake Yancey).

“Multiple Literacies, Multiple Contexts: A Workshop on Integrating Multiliteracies Into Peer Tutor Training.” Southeastern Writing Center Association, February 2016. (With Jason Custer and Joe Cirio).

“Assemblage in FYC.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, March 2015 (with Travis Maynard).

“Assembling Composition.” Computers and Writing, June 7, 2014 (with Kathleen Blake Yancey).

“Seeing Postcard Design, Thinking Digital Design.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, March 20, 2014.

“Procedures, Projects, and Programs: Florida State University’s Digital Studio Tutor Handbook.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, March 15 2013. With Josh Mehler and Jenn Wells.

“Developing a Digital Archive for Research in and Beyond the University.” Networked Humanities, February 15 2013.

“Picture Postcards and the Production of Paradise." South Atlantic Modern Language Association, November 10 2012.

“Avenues for Assistance: The FSU Digital Studio as Available Means.” Computers and Writing, May 13 2012.

Refereed Workshops

“Archiving Everyday Writing." Conference on College Composition and Communication, March 13 2013. With Kathleen Blake Yancey and Katherine Bridgman.

Non-Refereed Workshops

I have delivered multiple workshops to various groups (classes, student orgs, etc.) in each of the following areas: Photoshop, InDesign, iMovie, HTML/CSS, and ePortfolio design.

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