Saint Louis University

Nathaniel Rivers, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
3800 Lindell Blvd.
Adorjan Hall Rm 232
St. Louis, MO 63108

Nathaniel Rivers earned his Ph.D. in English from Purdue University in 2009. His area of concentration is rhetoric and composition with specialties in technical and professional communication, new media, and public rhetoric. He was previously an Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University.


Ph.D. in English, Purdue University, 2009
M.A. in English, Purdue University, 2005
B.A. in English and Psychology, University of Southern Indiana, 2003


My research articulates rhetorical activity beyond the model of rhetoric as discrete, autonomous human individuals engaging in rational, discursive deliberation. Rhetoric has traditionally been concerned with both agents and agencies: our abilities to move others to action by means of persuasion. Historically, this “our” has been human and this “persuasion” has been symbolic or discursive. That is, rhetoric is people getting other people to do things by means of speech, writing, and other forms of symbolic action (e.g., music and math). Recent work in rhetorical theory has begun to question this basic understanding of rhetoric. Following what we might call a new materialist turn in rhetoric (which resonates with similar turns in literary studies, philosophy, political science, and sociology), I am increasingly interested in ecological rhetorics wherein rhetoric is produced between and among bodies, human and nonhuman, through both discursive and non-discursive activity. In short, what is the place of the nonhuman and the non-symbolic in the work of persuasion? More specifically, my research addresses new materialism’s impact on areas of rhetorical theory such as environmentalism, technology, and public rhetoric.


Dr. Rivers teaches courses in professional and technical communication, new media, and rhetorical theory. In 2015, he was awarded the Donald G. Brennan Award for Excellence in Graduate Mentoring. He was also awarded an Innovative Teaching Fellowship from The Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence to develop a New Media Science Writing course to be taught in Fall 2012.

Recent Publications

Thinking with Bruno Latour in Rhetoric and Composition. Co-Edited with Paul Lynch. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2015.

Literature as Equipment for Living: The Literary Reviews of Kenneth Burke. Co-edited with Ryan Weber. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press, 2010

“Deep Ambivalence and Wild Objects: Toward a Strange Environmentalism.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly (in press).

“A Version of Access.” Co-authored with Casey Boyle. Technical Communication Quarterly (in press).

“Speculative Usability.” Co-authored with Lars Söderlund. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (in press).

“Geocomposition in Public Writing and Rhetoric Pedagogy” College Composition and Communication (in press).

“The Place(s) of Mentorship and Collaboration.” Co-authored with Katie Zabrowski. The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy 7 (2015).

“The Mechanics of New Media (Science) Writing: Articulation, Design, Hospitality and Electracy” Co-Authored with Christopher Grabau, Katherine Kavanaugh, and Katie Zabrowski. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 19.2 (2015).

“All of the Things: Engaging Complex Assemblages in Communication Design.” Co-authored with Brian McNely. SIGDOC ‘14: Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference on Design of Communication. New York: ACM.

“Tracing the Missing Masses: Vibrancy, Symmetry, and Public Rhetoric Pedagogy.” Enculturation 17 (2014).

“Circumnavigation: An Interview with Thomas Rickert.” Kairos 18.2 (2014).

“Dappled Discipline at Thirty: An Interview with Janice M. Lauer.” Co-authored with Kyle Vealey. Rhetoric Review 33.2 (2014): 165-180.

“Composing the Carpenter’s Workshop.” Co-authored with Jim Brown. O-Zone: A Journal of Object Oriented Studies 1.1 (2013): 27-36.

“Ecological, Pedagogical Public Rhetoric.” Co-authored with Ryan Weber. College Composition and Communication 63.2 (2011): 187-218 [lead article].

“Future Convergences: Technical Communication as Cognitive Science.” Technical Communication Quarterly 20.4 (2011): 412-442. Special 20th Anniversary Issue


Return to Faculty List