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Matters of Argument: Materiality, Listening, and Practices of Openness in First-Year Writing Classes

Mark Andrew Houston, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation argues for the value of increased focus on practices of listening in rhetorical education, especially in first-year writing courses. Building on research in listening rhetorics, new materialism, and contemplative pedagogy, the author presents a pedagogical and rhetorical vision for more open argument. Open arguments function with open-heartedness, an open-ethos, openness to listening to Others and the material world, openness to a multiplicity of viewpoints, open-endedness, and openness to productive conflict. The author argues that students can learn to write these more open arguments through a combination of listening to the material world around them, listening to their own bodies, and listening to their interlocutors. These listening practices are explored through a pedagogical self-study that shows how listening to the material world can help writers move beyond the constraints of the thesis-support model into open-ended complexity; explore new materially based metaphors to write less combative deliberative arguments; and use greater awareness of one’s embodied reactions and positionality to listen to and dialogue with others across difference.

Subject Area

Rhetoric and Composition|Language arts|Pedagogy

Recommended Citation

Houston, Mark Andrew, "Matters of Argument: Materiality, Listening, and Practices of Openness in First-Year Writing Classes" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30572206.