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Allegorical copper engraving by F. Bleyswyk from a 1720 edition of Quintilian's Institutio Oratorio. Flanking a scene of public persuasion are Athena (left), the goddess of wisdom, and  Hermes (right), the god of trickery and deceit. Together they represent  the range of rhetoric between wise cousel and tricky persuasion.


At the undergraduate and graduate levels, the Rhetoric & Composition Studies Program provides students with theoretical and practical knowledge of written language. Faculty and students study the ways people learn to read and write; the social, cognitive, psychological and emotional influences on this learning process; and the various uses, including cultural and political, of written and spoken texts. They also study the teaching of writing, professional and technical writing, writing assessment, computers and writing, research methodologies, and the history of rhetoric and composition. The Rhetoric & Composition Studies faculty have also, for over ten years, run a successful Community Writing program, and additionally oversee the operations of the Writing Center, a resource for WSU undergraduate and graduate students of all majors. 

Please stop by our blog for recent events and news about the program. For additional information please contact:

Dr. Gwen Gorzelsky, Director
Composition Studies Program
Wayne State University
Department of English
9407.1, 5057 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI  48202
313-577-7696 or 313-577-2450


The graduate program in composition studies, established in 1980, has gained local and national recognition for research, teaching, and service. The program is charged with the responsibility of a composition and writing curriculum that ranges from English 1010, the preliminary course to the university-required English 1020, to upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in advanced expository writing, writing theory, and a tutoring practicum in writing. The program offers an M.A. degree with a concentration in writing and a Ph.D. with a concentration in rhetoric and composition. Courses at the Ph.D. level include composition theory, research in composition, the teaching of writing, research methods, the history of rhetoric, discourse analysis, and topics in critical problems. In addition to course work, students gain knowledge and experience through special programs and activities sponsored by the composition program.

Faculty have strong reputations in composition studies, as well as in several interdisciplinary areas, including contemporary rhetoric and race theory, feminist rhetoric and the law, medical discourse analysis, community literacy, and age studies and autobiography. In the next five years, the composition faculty will continue to build on its strengths, as well as develop the program in new directions. Specifically targeted as "areas of growth" are the following: 1) computer-intensive research and teaching; 2) technical and professional writing; 3) community-literacy research and teaching; and 4) graduate student training and mentoring. These areas have been chosen because of local and national need, as well as the faculty's research and teaching interests.

The rapid proliferation of computer technologies has changed basic literacy practices in academic, business, and government, as well as personal and private settings. Literacy and technology is a flourishing area of research and teaching in composition and will continue to develop in the next few years. The program will therefore focus on digital literacy in the undergraduate curriculum by incorporating instruction in digital literacy in all freshman composition courses and all technical and professional writing courses. The decision to create a concentration in the English major that will focus on technical and professional writing will build on the current course structure. The faculty will also explore the possibility of redesigning the M.A. program in technical and professional writing to include new courses in digital literacy, workplace literacies, organizational communication, and graphic design.

In the areas of community literacy and graduate training, the program has developed long-term relationships with two community sites--the University Public School and the Hannan House Senior Center--both of which are interested in continuing to build curricula around WSU writing courses. In the coming years, faculty plan to develop graduate seminars around community-based teaching, as well as methods for researching this pedagogy. The program will continue a faculty-mentoring system to assist GTA's in teaching community-based courses. Another "community" where composition faculty have begun to teach is the Writing Center, which has great potential as a training site for peer tutors and teacher-researchers. Future training opportunities at the Writing Center will entail new technologies and the development of an On-line Writing Lab.


Rhetoric & Composition
5057 Woodward
Suite 9407.1

Detroit, MI 48202
Phone: (313) 577-7696
Fax: (313) 577-8618
Website: clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/composition
Email: g.gorzelsky@wayne.edu