Laura Wilder

Associate Professor

Laura Wilder, Assistant ProfessorPh.D. University of Texas at Austin
MFA University of Iowa

Rhetoric and composition, rhetoric of academic disciplines, history of rhetoric and literary instruction, Classical rhetoric, composition studies research methodologies, writing processes

Humanities 349

Laura Wilder joined the faculty of the English Department in 2005.  Before coming to the University at Albany, she served for two years as the director of a first-year writing and argument course at Yale University. Her book, Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies: Teaching and Writing in the Disciplines, contributes to rhetoric and composition scholarship, specifically its “Writing across the Curriculum” (WAC) and “Writing in the Disciplines” (WID) strands, by examining the rhetorical and pedagogical practices of literary scholars. In this book Wilder contends that, though their work has greatly transformed over the past century, is fissured by diverse theoretical approaches, and eschews rigid rhetorical conventions, literary scholars, like other disciplinary specialists, tacitly share a distinct set of rhetorical strategies for effective argumentation which support the production of new knowledge. This project also explores the often unacknowledged role of these argumentative conventions in the undergraduate literature classroom. Wilder argues that making these conventions explicit can benefit students and the discipline, which needs the new insights diverse students bring. To develop these claims Wilder applies a combination of rhetorical analysis and ethnographic and experimental methodologies. This commitment to methodological pluralism enables her to explore the complex social pressures of history and hierarchy on the production of scholarly discourse.

Classical rhetorical theory provides Wilder’s research with a richer understanding of conventions beyond merely rigid formatting rules. In a rhetorical theory that places invention at the heart of rhetoric, conventions can be seen as powerfully generative. Classical theories of stases and topoi describe strategies for crafting arguments appropriate to the values held by particular audiences and appropriate in particular forums. Spatial metaphors are pivotal to understanding both concepts, as stasis theory is intended to help rhetors recognize the points on which opposing arguments rest and topoi provide a figurative storehouse for starting points and bring into relief points of entry for refuting opponents. In Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies: Teaching and Writing in the Disciplines, Wilder extends these spatial metaphors, using the image of topographical map making to describe her attempts to temporarily capture the evolving and eroding features of one discipline’s rhetorical practices.

 Seeking to translate this research for application in classrooms, Professor Wilder is collaboratively writing a textbook, an introductory rhetoric for writing literary and cultural analyses, with Professor Joanna Wolfe of the University of Louisville.


 Recent Journal Articles by Professor Wilder:


“Sharing the Tacit Rhetorical Knowledge of the Literary Scholar: The Effects of Making Disciplinary Conventions Explicit in Undergraduate Writing about Literature Courses.” Co-authored with Joanna Wolfe. Research in the Teaching of English. 44.2 (2009): 170-209.

 “‘Into the Laboratories of the University’: A Rhetorical Analysis of the First Publication of the Modern Language Association.”  Rhetoric Review 25.2 (2006): 162-184.

 "'The Rhetoric of Literary Criticism' Revisited: Mistaken Critics, Complex Contexts, and Social Justice." Written Communication 22.1 (2005): 76-119.

“‘Get Comfortable with Uncertainty’: A Study of the Conventional Values of Literary Analysis in an Undergraduate Literature Course.” Written Communication 19.1 (2002): 175-221.


Recent Courses

 ENG 205z Introduction to Writing in English Studies

      ENG 355 Studies in Film: The Rhetoric and Ethics of Documentary Film and Reality TV

      ENG 360y Tutoring and Writing

      ENG 402z Advanced Writing Workshop: The Progymnasmata

ENG 450y Topics in Writing Studies: “Expertise” in Reading and Writing

      ENG 521 Composition Theory: Writing across the Curriculum

ENG 522 The History of Rhetoric

ENG 770 Teaching Writing and Literature