Queen City Writers Analysis
by Lukas Angelus
Queen City Writers (QCW) is a writing studies publication run by the University of Cincinnati. They publish a wide variety of undergraduate work, with a focus on writing and rhetoric. It is an interesting endeavor, therefore, to analyze the thematic trends of QCW, as it can offer insight into undergraduate thought and the future of writing studies. This work will assess the current state of QCW, discuss my findings, and highlight thematic trends and gaps in QCW. The results of the analysis will also be discussed within the context of QCW themed ‘special editions’ and COVID-19.
For this analysis, I focused on Inquiry and Storming the Gate articles (n=64) from the publication’s beginning in Fall 2012 until Fall of 2020. Other article and multimedia formats do not require the same formality or research, and often deviate from writing/rhetorical studies. I excluded articles published in special editions because they are thematically guided, and therefore did not suit the purpose of this analysis. Themes found in special editions, however, will be compared with the results of this analysis in the discussion section.
In order to begin analysis of QCW publication trends, each of the reviewed articles had to be organized. For this task, I created a system which separated each article by type, issue date, theme and subtopic. I did not enter the research with any predetermined themes. Rather, I categorized each article as I reviewed them, creating each theme and subtopic as accuracy required. After this process, I was left with three major themes: Social Justice, Political Issues, and Writing In Relation. Three articles reviewed did not fit these themes and were left uncategorized.
The analysis format will be as follows. First, I will present the data collected on each theme and provide demonstrative examples. After all three themes are presented and exemplified, I will discuss their significance in relation to undergraduate students and writing studies overall, and speculate on thematic/topical gaps in current publication.
Articles under this theme advocate for the rights of a group or discuss social inequality and mistreatment. Many articles discuss identity, but do not fit into this theme, as they do not involve social inequality. Of 64 articles reviewed, 28 fell into this category, or 43.75%. These 28 were divided into two sub-topics: Prejudice/Marginalization (16 articles) and Gender/Feminism (12 articles).
Many authors in this category analyzed works from various media, and related them to social justice topics (Nakaishi; Bond; Khela). For example, in Vanessa Nunes’s “Prejudice and The Scapegoating of Robots in Asimov’s I, Robot” she addresses racism and scapegoating in a way that not only applies to the work analyzed, but also serves as a condemnation of these injustices in society. In this way, activism becomes integrated with writing studies and media analysis.
As these works constitute such a large portion of the publication, it is important to ask: Why? Is this trend reflective of the collective goals of undergraduate students, or the publication? How are students influenced by modern college culture? Does undergraduate education facilitate activism? In what ways does the incorporation of activism affect the writing studies community? Future research is needed to determine the factors contributing to this trend and its consequences in writing studies.
Articles in this theme revolve around governance, public relations, and their impacts. Of 64 articles reviewed, 7 fell into this category, or 11%. Although there are not many articles within this theme, there are two subtopics: Rhetorical Effects on Public Opinion (4 articles), and Political Injustice (3 articles). Political Injustice articles carried significant thematic resemblance to Social Justice, but were considered primarily political.
The lack of attention to this area is surprising, given its immediate value outside of the writing studies community. “Comparing Campaign Rhetoric” by Mary Lake breaks down, to exact word choice, the means by which politicians attempt to sell their campaigns. This provides tools for skepticism that everyone can make use of; we are all influenced by the rhetorical strategies of public officials. The ability to analyze these techniques can make us more critical and involved citizens. Outside of governmental politics, a few articles discussed how other platforms of ideological exchange, such as mass media (Shehadeh;Webb) or even Reddit (Haaker) can be subject to rhetoric-based conflict.
Writing In Relation
Writing In Relation is a broad term meant to encompass articles which apply writing and rhetoric to various areas, including popular media. Of 64 articles reviewed, 25 fell into this category, or 39%. Of the three themes, this was the least homogenous, with five subtopics: Rhetoric, Literacy & ____ (9 articles), Etymology (1 article), Meta-Writing (3 articles), Reviews of Media (7 articles) and Pedagogy (5 articles). Pedagogy and Meta-Writing might have constituted their own areas of categorization, but because of such low representation, it was not deemed necessary.
The two other major themes are also ‘writing in relation’, but to distinct topics. Articles in this theme share little in subject matter, varying from comic books (Davidson; Dorta), to film (Luta; McElrea; Rudig) and even American Sign Language (Rester). As such, these articles are often united only by their focus on writing and rhetoric. While Reviews of Media mirrors the approach common to Social Justice, Rhetoric, Literacy & ____ is much different. The context of discussion is much broader in this subtopic, allowing for more theoretically novel and explorative analysis. Through this approach, students are able to apply complex writing concepts, and propose new ways to interpret entire topics (see Davidson; Bogard). Although this theme has plenty of variety, there is still much lacking, as discussed below.
Analyzing Thematic Trends
As stated on their website, QCW want to publish “… thought-provoking pieces from any disciplinary perspective… related to writing… pedagogy and teacher-training…” (“Submissions”). The themes found in this work demonstrate how students have interpreted these goals, and allow for comparison with actual publication trends. This analysis has found thematic and topical underrepresentation.
While many articles apply writing theory, they typically do so within the context of another topic. This could be indicative of a drive to use the tools which writing studies offers in relation to the tangible world. The presence and popularity of Social Justice as a major theme alone reinforces this view. Analyses of popular media, especially when highlighting the biases, stereotypes, and inequalities a work represents (as Social Justice articles typically did) are relatable and effective to a broad audience. Rather than approaching writing studies as isolated or immaterial, these students have demonstrated how this field contributes to discussions of ongoing social injustice. More discussion on Social Justice will follow in a full section evaluating themed issues and COVID-19.
Political Issues did not see much attention, despite the value of work in this area. The problems confronted in this theme, be them strictly political or based in popular media, are just as pertinent as those discussed in the more popular Social Justice. Because politics, law and media rely so heavily on rhetorical strategies, there is plenty of material for complex analysis. Expansion in this area would be beneficial for readers and writers alike. The modern political climate, especially in the U.S., is commonly volatile and polarized. Communication between and within parties has become difficult to navigate; with so many voices and perspectives, it becomes more important than ever to be able to recognize rhetorical strategies and analyze them effectively. The recent impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump serves as a rather pertinent demonstration of this, as the very basis of this historic event is grounded on an analysis of his rhetoric.
Some potential topics within this theme could be: the effect of parliamentary procedure on congressional debate, law-literacy as a barrier for court self-representation, or how rhetoric in mass media affects election polls. Similar approaches have proved effective in previous works (such as Lake; Tanquary). Although these are only speculative examples, interdisciplinary approaches like these could bolster the scope and impact of the QCW journal. Encouraging undergraduate study of political, legal and media rhetoric is, in many ways, encouraging students to be more informed and discerning citizens. Greater representation of this theme within the publication could help provide that encouragement.
Despite its popularity, Writing In Relation is also lacking in important areas: meta-writing analyses and pedagogy/teacher training. Perhaps it is not that pedagogy and meta-writing aren’t important to undergraduate students, but rather that, from their apprenticeship in the field, it is harder to generate relevant, meaningful analyses. After all, arguably the most important part of a published work is that it effectively impacts its audience. In order for this to happen, however, the topic written about must first reach and impact the author; something that may be easier with controversial topics like Social Justice or Political Issues.
That being said, the challenge presented by meta-writing and pedagogy should in no way discourage undergraduate students. In both areas there is a unique opportunity to engage with the fundamental ideas and theories behind rhetorical analysis — to interact with the foundation of the field. While Social Justice and Political Issues offer us interesting applications of these ideas and theories, meta-writing lets us critically examine the ideas and theories themselves. Similarly, when we engage with pedagogy, we’re not only deciding how we should prepare future writers, but what they should be prepared to do. Analyses within meta-writing and pedagogy inform the methods and strategies which authors of every sub-topic, present and future, use to analyze writing. This work is incredibly important, and its impact spans across the entire discipline.
I implore students to consider the importance of their voices in meta-writing and pedagogy. From the unique perspective of students, long-established rhetorical traditions can be challenged, or entirely new ideas proposed. As for pedagogy, if anyone could offer feedback on the ways in which writing students are taught, would it not be the students themselves?
Social Justice: Themed Issues, COVID-19, and Other Trends
In the QCW publication, two themed issues have been published: the “Civil Rights Movement Special Issue” in Spring of 2014, and the “Disabilities/Abilities Special Issue” in Spring of 2016. Although themed issues are excluded from theme trend data, they serve as excellent indicators, and examples of, the prominence of Social Justice themes within the publication (and perhaps the field). Authors in both issues work closely with works of various genres, ranging from theatre (Magula; Sloan) to a documentary (Claxton) to a novel (Bowman), using rhetorical analysis to highlight injustice in, or celebrate the importance of, marginalized experiences and communication. As found in the Social Justice trend analysis, popular media were used to identify, evaluate and critique social issues.
Furthermore, in an analysis of pre- and post-COVID-19 work (using the Fall 2020 issue as the benchmark for post-COVID), this trend continues. While the sample size is too small for general thematic comparison (6 out of 64 reviewed), analysis of relevant texts (i.e., those addressing COVID-19) shows a direct relationship with the trend identified above. Two of the four inquiry articles published directly addressed COVID-19, focusing primarily on how the virus — and rhetorical situations created by it — have affected, and been affected by, marginalized populations (Billheimer; Liu).
These findings have important implications for our analysis of the QCW publication, and on a larger scale, the field of Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition (WRC). We see students applying the tools offered by WRC in an active, problem-solving context as opposed to more traditional research. Social Justice emerges as a theme in tandem with this shift; but why? And why are reviews of popular media an integral part of Social Justice analysis?
Perhaps this is because of the utility of the tools provided by WRC in a social justice framework. Often times, identifying social justice issues involves unearthing implicit biases — which means evaluating the rhetoric in a body of work. This is precisely what we see students doing (e.g. Bond; Nakaishi; Paisner). Furthermore, rhetorical analysis allows us to offer alternatives to marginalizing rhetoric and examine how these changes might impact readers.
Within this framework, popular media often serve as representations of larger social and cultural trends; they serve as microcosms, allowing students to draw connections to broad social and cultural issues. That is, implicit biases, marginalization, or misrepresentation in a work of popular media may be indicative of the same issues in the culture/society they represent. So, by applying rhetorical analysis (and other WRC tools) in this way, students are able to identify, address and offer solutions to pressing social justice issues.
We might conclude, then, that the effectiveness of WRC tools, the pressing nature of these issues, and students’ ability to engage with culture/society on a broader scale, all contribute to the prominence of this particular trend. More research needs to be done to explore these ideas, as well as investigate whether other publications share these trends.
Review and Future Research
Academic discourse on writing studies is saturated with the voices of those deep within the field. While the discourses of highly-educated professionals are vital, the opinions of those with a fresh, outside view of the field can prompt new questions and ideas. Furthermore, the work of undergraduate students gives us a glimpse into the future; the trends we see in undergraduate journals may be precursors to shifts in the field.
Certainly, the entire field would benefit from analyzing undergraduate journals. For pedagogical research, undergraduate journals demonstrate the effects of past and present techniques: with what tools are students being equipped, and how are they learning to apply them? How are students utilizing and interpreting common teaching practices? And for students, such analyses are important in broadening the spectrum of undergraduate work; when we understand the state of the field — including, perhaps, where depth or breadth is lacking — we are better prepared to offer new and penetrating work. These are just some of the many ways in which undergraduate journals provide an essential, insightful perspective.
Undergraduate experiences in all subdivisions of this field need to be shared and discussed so that the community of writing studies—researchers, instructors and students—can benefit. I encourage members of the field at every level: engage with undergraduate work, analyze undergraduate journals, and help shape the future of Writing, Rhetoric and Composition.
Angelus, Lukas. “Queen City Writers Article Organization.” Google Docs, Google, 25 Sept. 2019, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1znLyc1_T89bYxqq7FCV9KAGkFGuG1WOuaniWboMXv9U/edit?usp=sharing.
Billheimer, Jocelyn. “Digital Healing: Womanist Counter Narrative During COVID-19.” Queen City Writers, no. 9.1, 2020, https://qc-writers.com/2020/12/15/1572/.
Bond, Nicky. “Frankenstein’s Progeny Protests: Romanticism’s Monstrous Interrogation of Patriarchy.” Queen City Writers, no. 5.1, 2016, https://qc-writers.com/2017/03/24/1076/.
Bogard, Rebecca. “On Musical Synaesthesia.” Queen City Writers, no. 1.2, 20 Mar. 2013, https://qc-writers.com/2013/03/20/inquiry-on-musical-synaesthesia-and-the-alphabet/.
Bowman, Jane. “The Elephant in the Classroom: Race and Writing” Queen City Writers, no. 2.2, 2014, https://qc-writers.com/2014/04/04/book-review/.
Claxton, Haley. “Seen and Unseen: Collective Memory and Historiophoty in Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize.” Queen City Writers, no. 2.2, 2014,https://qc-writers.com/2014/04/03/inquiry-seen-and-unseen/.
Davidson, Isaac. “Comics and Montage Theory: Toward a More Complex Comic Book Film Aesthetic.” Queen City Writers, no. 2.1, 31 Oct. 2013, https://qc-writers.com/2013/10/31/inquiry-comics-and-montage-theory/.
Dorta, Susan. “Greek Mythology and Modern American Comic Books: How the Heroes of the Ancients Influenced the Superheroes of Today.” Queen City Writers, no. 3.1, 2014, https://qc-writers.com/2014/10/27/783/.
Haaker, Gabriel. “The Front Page of the Internet: An Echo Chamber of Conflict.” Queen City Writers, no. 6.1-2, 2018, https://qc-writers.com/2018/05/30/1237/.
Khela, Sabrina. “The Acoustics of Female Silence: Elizabeth Cary’s Gendered Soundscapes in The Tragedy of Mariam.” Queen City Writers, no. 7.1, 2018, https://qc-writers.com/2018/12/19/1354/.
Lake, Mary. “Comparing Campaign Rhetoric.” Queen City Writers, no. 1.1, 2012, https://qc-writers.com/2012/02/25/culture/.
Liu, Ethan. “COVID-19 and the Rhetoric of Racism.” Queen City Writers, no. 9.1, 2020, https://qc-writers.com/2020/12/15/1563/.
Luta, Alex D. “The Dynamic Symbolism of Clothing in Russian Cinema: An Analysis of Borders and Identity.” Queen City Writers, no. 4.1, 6 Nov. 2015, https://qc-writers.com/2015/11/06/960/.
Magula, Vanessa. “Representations of Disability in Musical Theatre.” Queen City Writers, no. 4.2, 2016, https://qc-writers.com/2016/04/15/1000/.
McElrea, Holly. “The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up and the Girl Who Did: Comparing the Narratives of J.M. Barrie and P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan.” Queen City Writers, no. 3.1, 27 Oct. 2014, https://qc-writers.com/2014/10/27/787/.
Nakaishi, Kelsey. “An-Other View of Cats.” Queen City Writers, no. 1.1, 2012, https://qc-writers.com/2012/02/25/politics/.
Nunes, Vanessa. “Prejudice and The Scapegoating of Robots in Asimov’s I, Robot.” Queen City Writers, no. 3.1, 2014, https://qc-writers.com/2014/10/27/792/.
Rester, Jamie. “Show and Tell: The Enhancement of English Literature through American Sign Language.” Queen City Writers, no. 7.2, 24 May 2019, https://qc-writers.com/2019/05/24/1407/.
Rudig, Charles. “The Zombified Marketplace: Dawn of the Dead and Late Capitalism.” Queen City Writers, no. 2.1, 31 Oct. 2013, https://qc-writers.com/2013/10/31/inquiry-the-zombified-marketplace/.
Sloan, Jacob. “‘A New Birth of Freedom’: Reading Lincoln Through Jaspers.” Queen City Writers, no. 2.2, 2014, https://qc-writers.com/2014/04/04/inquiry-a-new-birth-of-freedom/.
Shehadeh, Laith. “The Electronic Outcry: Conceptualizing Social Media Impacts in the Palestinian Conflict.” Queen City Writers, no. 5.2, 2017, https://qc-writers.com/2017/11/10/1200/.
“Submissions” Queen City Writers, University of Cincinnati , 2012, qc-writers.com/submissions.
Tanquary, Nicole. “The Power-Play: A Case Study in Political Confrontations with Power Disparities.” Queen City Writers, no. 5.2, 9 Nov. 2017, https://qc-writers.com/2017/11/09/1167/.
Webb, Lindsay. “Apocalypse 2012 Rhetoric: Why the Mayan Calendar Is Affecting Your Life.” Queen City Writers, no. 1.1, 2012, https://qc-writers.com/2012/02/25/7/.
Lukas Angelus is a third-year English student at University of Illinois. His work primarily explores the link between psychoanalysis and other theoretical approaches — currently, he is developing a Lacanian/Feminist reading of Frankenstein. Lukas hopes to continue pursuing these interests as a doctoral student, and ultimately, as a professor at a research institution.