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13 Th o m a s R i c k e r t DOI: 10.7330/9781607326625.c013 THOMAS RICKERT is professor in the English Department at Pur­ due University. His areas of interest include histories and theories of rhetoric, critical theory, composition, cultural studies, and network culture. His first book, Acts of Enjoyment, won the Gary Olson Award for best book in rhetoric and cultural studies in 2007. His second book, Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being, won the Gary Olson Award for best book in rhetoric and cultural studies in 2014, and it also won the Outstanding Monograph of the Year Award for 2014 from the Conference on College Communication and Composition. He has also composed multimedia work, his most recent being “Ambient Composition: Exteriorizing Donald Murray’s ‘The Interior View’” in Enculturation. His current book project explores a prehistory of rhetoric , with two essays from the project published so far: “Parmenides, Ontological Enaction, and the Prehistory of Rhetoric” in Philosophy and Rhetoric and “Rhetorical Prehistory and the Paleolithic” in Review of Communication. Besides his scholarly work, Rickert teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in rhetorical theory in Purdue’s Rhetoric and Composition program. He also regularly mentors new instructors for teaching firstyear composition. Rickert has received two Fellowships in the Humanities at Purdue. He serves on the editorial board of the journal Enculturation and is a co-editor for the Lauer Series in Rhetoric and Composition (Parlor Press) and the RSA Series in Transdisciplinary Rhetoric (Penn State University Press). Rickert’s interview took place on September 13, 2013, via Skype. christine: When I interviewed Jonathan Alexander for this project, he mentioned your name as a faculty writer in the field of rhetoric and composition he admired. When I asked him why, he noted that you manage to write theoretically deep pieces but at the same time have clear writing. Are there any deliberate writing moves that you use to balance difficult concepts with readable prose? Thomas Rickert   127 thomas: Let me say that Jonathan is a very fine individual! [laughs] When you first learn to do theory as a grad student, you can fall in love with the language of theory and its density and ambiguity. After a while you get to a point where you realize you want to be more accessible , and that density and ambiguity can just be a part of the whole repertoire of moves you are trying to bring to what you are trying to say. I have gravitated more towards trying to think through my theory more concretely. christine: Can you explain how this practice works in your writing? thomas: When I write, I think theory through by finding an image or an example that allows the theory to show up in a way that is graspable. I want to connect with the reader. christine: Do you apply this writing style to both print and multimodal pieces or does your composing process differ? You compose in both venues for scholarly publication and there would be different spaces to illustrate difficult concepts. thomas: A lot of my invention takes place via externalization where I work out what I want to say and how I want to say it. For example, reading things, looking at things, creating comparisons there. So when I do more multimedia work, I look at a lot of stuff and go to a lot of websites, so there is a lot of browsing involved. I want to find just the right image, or just the right link, or just the right sound to illustrate a concept. That invention or discovery process is a little bit different from more print based materials. But not that different because I am still looking at lots of books or essays to find my way. christine: Do you prefer composing in one medium over the other? thomas: Multimedia composing is more fun . . . but not less rigorous. There is just something about trying to assemble different strands of different levels of meaning beyond print. It’s a lot of fun and I’m often surprised with the results. It does take a lot of time. christine: What do you do to manage your time? How do you find time to write? thomas: You write when you can and you use deadlines to help you. And there is something I describe as “academic triage.” If it’s going to die out there no matter what, it’s going to die out there no matter what. An...


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