T. Kenny Fountain

Associate Professor


Guilford House 222

Other Information

Degree: PhD, University of Minnesota


I received my PhD in Rhetoric and Scientific & Technical Communication from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Writing Studies.

My Research

My research—in rhetorical theory, scientific communication, and visual culture—is motivated by a wish to understand how people come to see according to the discourses and frameworks provided by their professional, disciplinary, and cultural communities. As a rhetorical studies scholar interested in the ways language and image shape perception, feeling, and action, my work is informed by ideas derived from the long rhetorical tradition – from Gorgias, Aristotle, and Isocrates to Cicero, Quintilian, and Kenneth Burke.

In 2014, I published Rhetoric in the Flesh: Trained Vision, Technical Expertise, and the Gross Anatomy Lab, an ethnographic study of the gross anatomy lab, which examined how rhetorical discourses, multimodal displays, and embodied practices facilitate learning and expertise, all the while shaping participants’ perceptions of the human body.

In my current book project, “To See What is Persuasive: Politics, Affect, and the Rhetorical Imagination,” I examine how political discourse moves us by shaping our emotional and imaginative responses to the world. I do this by reading contemporary political texts – speeches, essays, and social media – in light of the Roman rhetorical concept of enargeia, or the quality of vivid description that seeks to “bring before the eyes” some absent or non-existent object, person, or event. According to Cicero, Quintilian, and Longinus, words most powerfully shape belief and action not through reasoned arguments, but through a kind of verbal vivacity that brings to mind the memories, cultural knowledge, and even prejudices we use to make sense of the world. In “To See What is Persuasive,” I demonstrate how the most compelling and sometimes troubling forms of political persuasion are enacted when speakers, writers, performers, and activists invite up to see and feel through processes of imaginative and affective engagement.

My Teaching

Since coming to CWRU, I have taught undergraduate and graduate courses in rhetorical theory, visual rhetoric, scientific and technical communication, gender and queer studies, and rhetoric of science and medicine as well as science-themed writing courses.