Virginia Chappell


Associate Professor
Director of First-Year English

My long-time interest in the rhetoric of public policy has led me to focus recently on intersections between traditional agonistic (win-lose) rhetoric and the rhetorical strategies of dispute resolution and conflict transformation. My interest in theorizing a non-adversarial, or non-agonistic, rhetoric deepened during a Spring 2004 writing internship with Search for Common Ground, an international conflict transformation organization in Washington , D.C. (This internship was supported by the Office of the Provost and the Institute for Urban Life, under the auspices of a program organized by the Institute for Experiential Education and the American Association of Colleges and Universities.)

By non-adversarial, or non-agonistic, rhetoric, I mean rhetorical strategies employed not to defeat an opponent but to find grounds for collaborative action toward a shared goal without compromise of underlying values. Two current projects analyze the rhetorical functions of art in civil society, particularly as a peace-building activity, and the rhetorical dynamics of discussions about “hot button issues” such as the death penalty. This research on public discourse has enabled me to immerse myself in journalism and drawn on my early professional career as a newspaper reporter.

My journalism background strongly influences my teaching within the Writing-Intensive English major: Advanced Composition, Writing for the Professions, and Writing for Nonprofit Organizations (a special topics course offered every other year). In addition, I am one of the faculty members who rotate teaching of the graduate rhetoric seminar for new graduate teaching assistants, and I always enjoy teaching either of the first-year writing courses. (I directed the program from 1997–2002.) Finally, what began as an avocation—going to the theater—has become a passion for teaching Introduction to Literature: Drama.

My publications include Reading Rhetorically (Longman, 2nd brief ed., 2007), co-authored with John Bean and Alice Gillam , as well as articles analyzing students' service learning experiences, peer tutoring, responses to Farewell to Manzanar, expert testimony in a death penalty trial, and a collection entitled Balancing Acts: Essays on the Teaching of Writing (Southern Illinois UP, 1991), which I edited with two former graduate student colleagues, Chris Anderson and Mary Louise Buley-Meissner, in honor of William F. Irmscher, my dissertation director at the University of Washington.

Teaching Fields

Office Hours

Spring 2013

Teaching Schedule

Spring 2013


Research Interests

Selected Publications

Balancing Acts Book




English Department

Marquette University, Marquette Hall 115 (campus map)
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
(414) 288-7179
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