About Me

My name is Atilla Hallsby (he/him), and I am an assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Rhetorical Studies area at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. My research program is about how rhetorical forms of communication create secrets and condition common public expectations about transparency and surveillance. My forthcoming book, This Page Intentionally Left Blank, describes how rhetoric and secrets are entangled with one another. This text explores how dog-whistles, whistleblowing, cybersecurity, and fraud conjure spectacular secrets that are both perceptible and invisible to a wider public. My ongoing article-length projects include research on secrecy in the ancient history of rhetoric, the secrecy surrounding nuclear waste disposal on colonized Indigenous lands, and the colonialist conspiracies that animated the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

I am also developing a research program that engages the topic of mental health and wellness, understanding that the arts of speaking are deeply related to psycho-therapeutic proposals for the “talking cure.” This work addresses popular and psychoanalytic paradigms of mental wellness and how scholars, practitioners, and advocates might further nuance them.

On social media, you can find me on Twitter at @atillahallsby. Below, you will find a record of my published research, conference presentations, and teaching resources. You can also find my full CV here. My free online undergraduate textbook on rhetorical theory can be found at the corresponding link, and more detailed information about this resource also appears below under “Teaching.”

(last updated November 2021)

Research

Below, you’ll find links to my academic publications and conference presentations within the past five years. Links to the text of conference presentations have also been provided when possible.

Academic Writing

Article. Co-authored with Dustin A. Greenwalt. “Graphed into the Conversation: Conspiracy, Controversy, and Climategate’s Visual Style.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly issue 51 volume 4 (2021): 293-308. DOI: 10.1080/02773945.2021.1947515

Article. Intimate Spaces of Mental Wellness.” Rhetoric, Politics, & Culture issue 1, volume 1 (2021): 55-66. ISSN: 2693-7549

Article. Psychoanalysis Against WikiLeaks: Resisting the Demand for Transparency,” Review of Communication issue 20, volume 1 (2020): 69-86.

Encyclopedia Entry. Psychoanalytic Methods and Critical Cultural Studies.” [Pre-Publication Draft of Entry], Oxford Research Encyclopedia, 2019.

Article. The Rhetorical Algorithm: WikiLeaks and the Elliptical Secrets of Donald J. Trump,” Secrecy and Society issue 1, volume 12 (2018): 1-40.

Article. Imagine There’s No President: The Rhetorical Secret and the Exposure of Valerie Plame,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 101, volume 2 (2015), 354-378.

Conference Presentations

(in the last ~5 years)

2022

With Emily Winderman and Vanessa Nyarko. “Rhetoric Before the Back Alley: Revisiting the Abortion Mill.” Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) Conference, Baltimore, MD. May 26-29, 2022.

With Kurt Zemlicka. “Only Time Like the Present: The Metaphysics of Kairos and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.” Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) Conference, Baltimore, MD. May 26-29, 2022.

2021

With Dan Faltesek. “Markov the Beast: A Machine-Learning Corpus Analysis of Tweets as Reconstruction of Pivotal Rhetorical Moments in the Trump White House.” ARSTM (Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine) Division. National Communication Association Conference, Seattle, WA. November 18-21, 2021.

Roundtable Panelist. Spaces of Intimacy/Subordination: Reading Secrecy and Transparency in University Mental Wellness Discourse.” [Recorded Presentation] Presented during “Sustainable Transformation: Mental Illness in Academic Contexts.” Health Communication Division. National Communication Association Conference, Seattle, WA. Online Presentation. November 18-21, 2021.

2020

With Michael Lechuga. “Secret Affects and Settler Colonialism: A Komplex-Assemblage Analysis of Migrant Erasure,” Rhetoric and Communication Theory Division. National Communication Association Conference. Online presentation. November 19-22, 2020.

2019

With Dustin A. Greenwalt. Graphed into the Conversation: Conspiracy, Controversy, and Climategate’s Visual Style,” ARSTM Division, National Communication Association, Baltimore, MD. November 14-17, 2019.

Panelist. “Spotlight Panel: Honoring Dr. Barbara A. Biesecker,” Teachers on Teaching, National Communication Association, Baltimore, MD. November 14-17, 2019.

Panelist. “Technology and Trauma: Theorizing the Disruptions of a Technocratic World,” Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division, National Communication Association, Baltimore, MD. November 14-17, 2019.

Presenter. Lacan in Baltimore: On the Role of Structure in Psychoanalysis,” Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division, National Communication Association, Baltimore, MD. November 14-17, 2019.

Panelist. “Public-Facing Communication for Survival: The Urgency and Precarity of Citizen Critics,” NCA Forums Division, National Communication Association, Baltimore, MD. November 14-17, 2019.

2018

Panelist“Public Address, Law, and Psychoanalysis: Theorizing Free Speech in the Digital Public Sphere through Packingham v. North Carolina,” Freedom of Expression Division, National Communication Association, SLC, UT. November 8, 2018.

Panelist“The Culture Wars Redux: Free Speech and Academic Freedom,” Critical and Cultural Studies Division/Freedom of Expression Division, National Communication Association, SLC, UT. November 9, 2018.

Respondent. “Playing With Fire: African American Rhetoric from Turner to Obama,” African American Communication and Culture Division. National Communication Association Conference, SLC, UT. November 8.

Panelist. “You Live In Public. The Rhetorical Secret and the Vault 7 Leak.” Presented during “New Media, New Rhetorics?: Re-Inventing Rhetoric’s Past with its Technological Future.” Rhetoric Society of America, Minneapolis, MN. May 31-June 3, 2018.

Panelist. “Response to Grano’s The Eternal Present of Sport. Presented during “Spotlight on Scholar: Sport, Rhetoric, Media, and Religion.” Southern States Communication Association, Nashville, TN. April 4-8, 2018.

Panelist. The Statue is Where it Belongs: Iconoclasm, Analepsis, and the Monumental History of White Supremacy.” Presented during “A Lie by Omission? Memory and History in the Debate over the Removal of Confederate Memorials.” Southern States Communication Association, Nashville, TN. April 4-8, 2018.

Panelist. Aggressive Leak Campaigns and the Emasculation of Julian Assange.” Presented during “Disarticulating Whiteness and Masculinity in the Time of Donald J. Trump.” Southern States Communication Association, Nashville, TN. April 4-8, 2018.

2017

Panelist. Rhetorical Theories of Dual Power and Revolutionary Possibilities.” Critical and Cultural Studies Division, National Communication Association, Dallas, TX. November 17, 2017.

Panelist. Invading MySpace: Anxiety and the Paranoid Style of Public Leaking Events.” Presented during “Algorithms and Anxiety in the Public Sphere.” Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division, National Communication Association, Dallas, TX. November 17, 2017.

Panelist. The Rhetorical Invention of America’s (In)Security State.” Political Communication Division, National Communication Association, Dallas, TX. November 16, 2017.

Panelist. “Subtracting Embodiment from Biology in Zero Days and Eye in the Sky.” Rhetoric and Public Address Division, Southern States Communication Association, Greenville, SC. April 5-9, 2017.

Teaching

Below, you will find links to resources for courses I have taught, including an undergraduate-level online textbook on rhetorical theory and a general resource guide for rhetorical theory. The textbook is been created with an online teaching setting in mind, and presents a succinct overview of rhetorical theory that may be paired with an instructor’s preferred secondary readings. The resource guide offers a two-page digest of many of the resources offered here, as well as links to other academic syllabi that may be of interest for rhetoric instructors/students. The final section below offers handouts for common classes in the rhetoric curriculum, including public speaking and argumentation.

Course Syllabi, Textbooks, and Lecture Notes

General Resource Documents

Undergraduate-Level Rhetorical Theory (3x-level)

This is a large-lecture introductory survey course intended to familiarize students with basic principles in the Rhetoric area of Communication Studies. Units covered in this course include (1) ‘origins’, (2) propaganda and the common good, (3) the symbol, (4) the sign, (5) ideology (6) narrative (7) argumentation (8) visual rhetoric (9) rhetorical situation (10) settler situation (11) secrecy and surveillance (12) digital rhetoric. This resource is open-access although it requires an email sign-up. The accompanying documents include the course syllabus, the day-to-day agendas used in course meetings, and the guidelines for written assignments.

Secrecy, Surveillance and Rhetoric (4x and 5x-level)

This writing-intensive undergraduate course is dedicated to the rhetorical criticism of secrecy in public and political discourse. The class has been taught as undergraduate-only and undergraduate/graduate. The handouts below are from the (2015) undergraduate-only version of the course, while the reading list and syllabus were both used for the (2021) undergraduate/graduate version.

(Fall 2015) Handouts

Graduate-Level Rhetorical Theory (8x-level)

Teaching Handouts

Public Speaking 

This speaking-intensive (100-level) course is designed to familiarize undergraduate students with the Communication Studies major and basic strategies of public speaking. The course moves through four units: the speech of introduction, the informative speech, the persuasive speech, and the encomium. Students also practice strategies of satire, impromptu, and policy debate.  The course heavily employs a controversy-curriculum to provoke discussion and to provide contestable prompts for short in-class exercises. By the end of this class, students are especially familiar with basic formats for speech composition as well as techniques of anxiety management and actively engaging an audience. In addition to the four major speeches, students will also complete two exams and weekly reading quizzes.

Argumentation

This presentation- and writing-intensive (200-level) course is intended for Communication majors and non-majors that surveys the theory, practice, and use of argumentation. The course surveys basic theories of argumentation, key vocabulary and concepts of debate, and stages major assignments in the style of structured two-on-two debates. Additionally, the class is organized around readings that present unique principles of argumentation derived from cognitive and social psychology (heuristics/biases), behavioral economics (incentives/defaults), and public address scholarship. Throughout the semester, students are urged to debate topics related to education policy, local-area and university-wide controversies.