Course information & policies

Course information

Course number: ENGL 607
Course name: Complexity, Posthumanism, and Object Oriented Rhetorics
Term and year: Spring 2015
CRN: 18064
Time/Location: 4-7, G10 Colson Hall
Instructor: John Jones, Assistant Professor
Email: john dot jones at-sign mail dot wvu dot edu
Twitter: johnmjones
Office: 231 Colson Hall
Office hours: Mon. 2-3:30 and by appointment
Online office hours: Mon. 2-3:30, Tue. 10-11:30, and by appointment (details)


This course will investigate the influence of complexity theory, posthumanism, and object oriented ontology (OOO) on rhetorical theory. Complexity theory extends human cognition and interactions beyond the boundaries of the body, placing them in complex networks of interactions; posthumanism argues that the human is but one network among others; and, more radically, OOO displaces humans from the center of ontology, putting “things at the center of being” (Bogost, 2012, p. 6). Each of these propositions raises profound questions for the theory and practice of rhetoric, as each destabilizes the human as the locus of our understanding of communication. Although these three fields emerged from diverse backgrounds and are occasionally in conflict, in this course they will be addressed as manifestations of a cultural moment that challenges rhetorical assumptions about speaker and audience, writer and text.

Required Texts

  • Bogost, Ian (2012). Alien phenomenology, or, what it’s like to be a thing. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Braidotti, Rosi (2013). The Posthuman. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
  • Clark, Andy (2004). Natural born cyborgs: Minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence. Oxford.
  • Harman, Graham (2002). Tool-being: Heidegger and the metaphysics of objects. Chicago: Open Court.
  • Hawk, Byron (2007). A counter-history of composition: Toward methodologies of complexity. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Hayles, N. Katherine (1999). How we became posthuman: Virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. Chicago: U of Chicago Press.
  • Holland, John H. (1995). Hidden order: How adaptation builds complexity. New York: Basic Books.
  • Hutchins, Edwin (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Rice, Jeff (2012). Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and space in the age of the network. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Turkle, Sherry (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.
  • Waldrop, M. Mitchell (1992). Complexity: The emerging science at the edge of order and chaos. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Work visibility

Due to the nature of the course, you will be sharing your work with your fellow classmates, members of the department, and potentially on the Web. By taking this course, you are indicating that you accept these requirements. If you have any questions about them, please contact me immediately.

Attendance and late work

You are expected to attend every class meeting, arriving on time and staying for the duration of the meeting. While there will be no excused absences for the course, you will be allowed one absence without penalty. The penalty for absences over this limit will be one letter grade for each absence.

Any work submitted after it is due will be reduced one letter grade for each calendar day it is late. If you miss an in-class presentation due to an unavoidable emergency, we will try to reschedule it, if possible. However, such rescheduling is not guaranteed, and you should make every effort to be in class when you are required to present. In the case of any absence that will affect your ability to submit an assignment, you should inform me of the absence as soon as possible.

Office hours

In-person. My office is located in 231 Colson Hall and my in-person office hours will be held on Mondays from 2-3:30.

Online. I will also hold regular office hours onine using the chat and/or video features of Google Plus. Google refers to these chats as hangouts.

If you are new to Google Plus, you can find more information on how to get started with hangouts here and how to initiate a hangout here. My virtual office hours will be on Mondays from 2-3:30 and Tuesdays from 10-11:30.

Meeting outside of my scheduled office hours

If you would like to meet with me but are not free during my scheduled office hours above, please contact me directly via email and I will be happy to arrange an alternative meeting time that fits both of our schedules.


If for some reason it becomes necessary for me to cancel or reschedule either my regular office hours or a meeting with an individual student, I will notify the class or the student as soon as possible. Similarly, if it becomes necessary for you to cancel a meeting with me, you should email me to let me know about the cancellation as soon as you can.