English, Department of


First Advisor

Robert Brooke

Second Advisor

Shari Stenberg

Third Advisor

Stacey Waite

Date of this Version


Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: English (Composition and Rhetoric), Under the Supervision of Professor Robert Brooke. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Mark Andrew Houston


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.

Advisor: Robert Brooke