Stephen J. McElroy


A descriptive account of the Teaching Philosophy. A summary of Courses Taught with links to Syllabi. A selection of sample Assignments administered.

Teaching Philosophy.


The act of writing is always situated within a given set of contexts. Writers too are grounded in ever-shifting situations: as we write we do so in connection with perceived exigencies, audiences, languages, technologies, genres, and so on. Considering these many factors, the complexity of the relations among them and ourselves, and the verity that none of us possesses the power to predict the future, I believe that writing must also be understood as fundamentally speculative. That is to say that each time we write, we make innumerable speculations both large and small about what we think we are trying to accomplish, the means and methods by which we might work toward that accomplishment, and the ways in which our given set of contexts supports, compels, or dictates what we might and ought do. Sometimes we succeed, other times we fail, but the trick is that in both cases our work as writers is never finished: contexts change, and so do we.

The major takeaway I hope students leave my classes with, then, is the notion that writing is an ongoing, speculative process that, while often transactional, is above all generative. What we write shapes who we become. The texts that we create circulate, and as they do so they function as part of the contexts in which others read and write. Writing thus not only responds to contexts but also generates new contexts. Which is why I’m interested in textual histories—macro-histories of trends in media and technology as well as micro-histories of creation and circulation—and I invite my students to investigate these histories with me.

The design of a course I have taught recently provides a glimpse of one such approach. In the course, the main stated goal of which is to investigate intertextuality, students read/view/listen to/interact with a wide variety of popular texts, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Bob Dylan’s Tempest, along with a backdrop of readings on assemblage and intertextuality, including works by Deleuze, Barthes, and Harris. Meanwhile, students spend the semester creating individual intertextual maps. In short, the assignment prompts students to select an ‘entry text’ from any genre or medium, trace intertext as they see it from that text to three other texts, then repeat the tracing for each of those, and then once more, until each student has a list of 40 discrete, interrelated texts. Students then create interactive online maps of the relations among those texts according to the criterion/a of their choosing, in conjunction with both the tracing exercise and structured conversations online, during class, and in conferences with me.

This assemblage approach prompts students to make inventive connections that generate new lines of flight in their own thinking about composing and, more importantly, provides them with the opportunity to apprehend the extent to which writing, writers, and texts always operate together and within specific contexts. They thus become better equipped to speculate about, respond to, and generate their own writing contexts in the future—the goal that guides all my work as a teacher.

Courses Taught.


What is a Text?

In this senior-level course, students investigate the nature of textuality and its relationship to various media and technologies, while also exploring theoretical and practical questions related to the production and reception of texts in a variety of different forms and media. We read/interact with a constellation of various texts and examine the intertextual links among them, and we explore ways of representing intertext visually.

Teaching English as a Guided Study

The focus of this six-week summer course for incoming graduate teaching assistants is the exploration of the acts of reading and writing: the people who do it, how they do it, and how to help others do it. Students explore ways in which learners approach reading and writing and the ways in which these approaches are highly individualized; consider the impact that previous literacy knowledge has on acquiring new literacy knowledge; and discuss and explain practical approaches to literacy tutoring, with special attention paid to specific student populations (developmental, athletes, multilingual, graduate students).

Major assignments in my offering of this course include a literacy narrative, tutoring strategy presentations, a teaching & tutoring eportfolio, and a semester reflection.

Writing and Editing in Print and Online (WEPO)

In this upper-level course, students are required to learn and discuss the foundational principles of rhetorically informed textual production and then to compose, design, and produce texts for three different media: print, screen, and network. By composing across these media, students are prompted to consider how audiences interact with their texts through the respective media and how meaning is made through those interactions.

Major assignments in my offering of this class have included review essays, feature profiles, editorial spreads for newspapers, postcards, magazine covers, bumper stickers, web pages, ePortfolios, and video productions.

History of Text Technologies (HoTT)

This upper-level course introduces the history of the various technologies that have been used to record and transmit cultural memory and experience across time and space. In coming to understand how earlier societies shaped, and were shaped by, various tools of communication, this course helps students develop a greater understanding of their own culture’s relationship with text technologies. Text technologies discussed in the class include cave painting, tattoo, graffiti, scroll, handmade books, machine-made books, photography, radio, film, television, etc. By learning and talking about these technologies, student gain an appreciation for the technologies that they use in their own textual production.

Major assignments in my offering of this course have included responses to entries in a coursebook that present--and prompt students to respond to--specific manifestations of historical texts and technologies, a reflective essay in which students engage the big questions that have emerged for each of them individually, and a paper in which students compare and contrast two manifestations of text through the tripartite lens of intentionality, materiality, and functionality.


In this upper-level course, we survey Western rhetoric as it has evolved and changed throughout its 2500-year history. Beginning with fifth century BCE Greece and ending up in twenty-first century CE United States, we thoroughly review rhetorical history, observing the shifts in rhetoric as it morphed from a predominantly oral performance to its current multi-media form.

Major assignments in my offering of this class include contributing to a rhetorical terms wiki, a paper on a reputed scholar of rhetoric in the twentieth century, and designing (as a group) a multimodal book that introduces a famous rhetorician.

First-Year Composition II

This first-year course emphasizes the connection between writing, reading, and critical thinking. It also introduces students to the tenets of academic, research-based writing.

Major assignments in my offering of this course included three papers and a final group blogging project.

First-Year Composition I

This first-year course aims to help students improve their writing skills in all areas: discovering what they have to say, organizing their thoughts for a variety of audiences, and improving fluency and rhetorical sophistication.

Assignments in my offering of this class included three papers, a website-design project, and exploratory journals that focused on student's engagement with composing technologies.



Mapping Intertextuality

This series of in-depth assignments, which I have used to frame my 'What is a Text' class (see Courses Taught), prompts students to trace intertextuality between and among a set of 40 discrete texts of their own choosing and then visually/interactively map those texts according to criteria that they devise inductively from the set. Meanwhile, students read and write about assemblages, media, and technologies in order to develop a deeper understanding of the role of intertextuality in the composing process.

Assemblage Essay

This assignment, which I have used in my WEPO class, prompts students to compose a review essay, suitable for a popular publication, entirely by assembling text from existing sources. As seen in the prompt, students are not allowed to use their 'own' words but instead must piece together the words of others according to an artificial but intentional set of rules set by me. They must also cite all of their work by hyperlinking each segment of borrowed text to the site of the orginal. By composing in this manner, students explicitly engage with the textual landscape and come to understand the intertextual nature of genre and conventions in ways that they might not otherwise have.

Literacy Narrative

This assignment, which I routinely use in my TA training course for preparing students to tutor in the Reading-Writing Center, prompts students to compose an essay (print-based or otherwise) in which they recount/recall significant or otherwise notable moments in their literate lives and synthesize those moments in connection with key concepts from our readings on teaching and tutoring writers. By explicitly engaging with their own histories as writers, they are better able to internalize the notion that all writers have their own personal histories that they bring with them to any writing situation.

Designing Postcards

In this assignment, which I have administered in first-year writing courses and in WEPO, students create a postcard or set of postcards that is/are keyed to their own interests. Students create not only postcard fronts, but also postcard backs. Clearly related to my own research interests, this assignment allows us to talk about multimodality, materiality, visual rhetoric, and digital production. Students have used InDesign and Photoshop for this assignment.

Magazine Mimesis

In this short assignment, which I have administered in WEPO, students select, analyze, and reproduce a print magazine page of their choice using desktop publishing software. In the process, they learn to see the modal and modular elements of design and think critically about how these elements work together to make meaning.

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