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 and effects of secrets in public places. My forthcoming book, This Page Intentionally Left Blank, describes how rhetoric and secrets are entangled in racist dog-whistles, the criminal trials of whistleblowers, the intensification of cyber-war, and the popular American obsession with fraud.

I am also developing a secondary research program about mental health and wellness, which is rooted in proposals for the “talking cure” and maintains that speech has therapeutic effects.

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 current CV here.

I hope you’ll check out my undergraduate textbook on rhetorical theory, which is designed for remote/online administration and includes assignments and a weekly agenda template.

If you are seeking further information or consultations please reach out to hall1039 (at) umn (dot) edu. Thank you for visiting!

(last updated December 2021)


Below, you’ll find links to my research-related writing.

Academic Writing

Histories of Secrecy and Surveillance

Article. (In Press) “Re-canonizing Rhetoric: The Secret in and of Discourse.” Accepted for publication in Journal for the History of Rhetoric. Preliminary version to be presented at the American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR) pre-conference for the Rhetoric Society of America.

Secrecy, Surveillance, & Transparency in Public Culture

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

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.

Conspiracies of Science

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

Psychoanalysis and Mental Wellness

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

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

Conference Presentations

Rhetorical Histories of Secrecy and Surveillance

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

“A Secret Historiography of Rhetoric.” American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR) Pre-conference, Baltimore, MD. May 2022.

The Digital Leak

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. 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.

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.

Conspiracies of Science

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 2022.

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.

Psychoanalytic Theory and Mental Health

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.

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.

Political Rhetoric and Public Culture

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.

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

Book Panels

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


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.

Textbook, Syllabi, Handouts, and Assignments

The UnTextbook of Rhetorical Theory

https://the-un-textbook.ghost.io This open-access resource for college-level rhetorical theory classes includes chapters on the ancient history of rhetoric, the twentieth-century invention of the symbol and the sign, an overview of ideology, narrative, argumentation, visual rhetoric and the rhetorical situation, and coverage of topics like settler colonialism, secrecy/surveillance, and digital rhetoric. The resource includes an agenda for …

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) what is rhetorical theory? (2) ‘origins’ of rhetorical theory, (3) propaganda and the common good, (4) the symbol, (5) the sign, (6) ideology (7) narrative (8) argumentation (9) visual rhetoric (10) the rhetorical situation (11) the settler situation (12) the secrecy situation (14) the digital situation. 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.


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.