Select essays written for a general audience

For a full list of publications, see my Curriculum Vitæ.


“The Sentences Write Themselves”

In a writing class, I once received 11 papers with the same sentence appearing in all 11. It wasn’t plagiarism; it was what Verlyn Klinkenborg calls a “volunteer sentence,” and in this essay, I ask where such sentences come from and what writers can do about them. Under Review.


On June 27, 2014, Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates escaped a pickle. This essay looks to seven different retellings of the rundown to make sense of these competing narratives. Published in enculturation.


In June 2017, a 30-foot gray whale washed ashore at Twin Harbors State Park. This essay tells how I retrieved some of its bones for Seattle Pacific University. Published in Out There Outdoors.


This essay looks to The Rule of St. Benedict as a possible model for structuring the shared life of a classroom. Published in The Millions.


This essay draws upon my own commonplace book to think through the relationship between language, the body, and prayer, the keeping of a commonplace book making possible interdisciplinary ways of reading, writing, thinking, and being. Published in Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal.


This essay reflects on the practice of sending weekly postcards. Published in The Millions.


In 2016, the Modern Language Association revised its handbook for writers. This essay argues those changes help students think rhetorically about citation—that is, to think about readers’ needs when documenting their work. Published in Inside Higher Ed.


Prompted by the election of President Trump and the rise of alternative facts, this essay argues for rhetoric to be the cornerstone of a student’s education. Published in The Seattle Times.


This essay compares the practice of keeping a commonplace book—which records the extra-ordinary—with scoring a baseball game, which, more often than not, records the mundane. Published in The Millions.


The image of a man inside the belly of a whale shows up everywhere: Jonah, medieval poetry and art, Pinocchio, a handful of Batman comics, even a Bruce Springsteen song. This essay asks why. Published in Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies.


The book of Jonah is organized around chiasm—an ancient rhetorical figure following an ABC … CBA pattern. This essay suggests such chiasms are one way both reader and writer might inhabit a text. Published in Reader: Essays in Reader-Oriented Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy.


This essay looks to the various names used for whales and suggests each one tells a story. Published in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. Along with “Of Chiasms and Composition,” “Of Tombs and Wombs,” and “How to Build a Whale,” the essay forms the foundation for my book, Touching This Leviathan.


In spring semester 2012, the University of Pittsburgh received some 145 bomb threats. This essay reflects on how a campus under attack constructs my identity as scholar, teacher, husband, and human. Published in College Composition and Communication.


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