About My Work
My research and teaching interests—in rhetorical theory, scientific communication, and visual cultural studies—are motivated by a wish to understand how people come to see according to the discourses and frameworks provided by their professional, disciplinary, and cultural communities. Specifically, I interrogate the role words, images, and embodied performances play in processes of formal training, informal socialization, and personal identification.
As a scholar of rhetorical studies interested in the ways language shapes perception and feeling and induces action, my work is informed by ideas derived from the rhetorical tradition -- from Gorgias, Aristotle, and Isocrates to Cicero, Quintilian, and Kenneth Burke.
In 2014, I published Rhetoric in the Flesh: Trained Vision, Technical Expertise, and the Gross Anatomy Lab, an ethnographic study of the gross anatomy lab, which examined how rhetorical discourses, multimodal displays, and embodied practices facilitate learning and technical expertise, all the while shaping participants’ perceptions of the human body.
Current Project: The Discourses of PrEP
My current major project investigates the discourses surrounding the use of Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) for HIV/AIDS. Based on the findings of four clinical trials, Truvada, an HIV treatment medication (by the pharmaceutical company Gilead) that makes it harder for HIV-1 to multiply in the body, has demonstrated strong efficacy, when used as a pre-exposure medication. Since May 2014, the CDC has recommended the use of Truvada as PrEP for adults at higher risk of getting HIV: primarily HIV-negative men who have sex with men and male-female sex partners in serodiscordant relationships.
Some in the medical and queer communities herald PrEP as a (supposed) “magic pill” that promises to eradicate HIV/AIDS, even though currently Truvada is expensive, not covered by all insurance providers, and used primarily by white, middle-class, gay men. Others condemn PrEP as a “party drug” that encourages a decrease in condom use and an increase in (supposedly) reckless promiscuity and (potentially) other STIs. Still, a growing number of gay men (HIV+ and HIV- alike) are opting to take Truvada and criticizing those PrEP-unfriendly activists of “slut shaming.”
This is all happening in a queer historical moment (in America, at least) characterized by three larger cultural narratives: (1) (a possible) “AIDS amnesia” (what some see as a kind of willful forgetting of the AIDS crisis of the 80s and 90s); (2) openness about “bareback sex” (anal intercourse without condoms); and (3) the legalization of same-sex marriage, which some worry prompts more heteronormative forms of queer relationships. My goal in this project is not only to understand the rhetorical construction of PrEP in medical and popular media, but also to trace the anxieties and fantasies about gay male sex and desire that animate this debate.
Other Publications and My Teaching
Besides my book, I have published single-authored and co-authored work in the journals Medicine Studies and Journal of Technical Writing and Communication and the books Solving Problems in Technical Communication (eds. Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart A. Selber, The University of Chicago Press, 2013) and Pluralizing Plagiarism (eds. Rebecca Moore Howard and Amy E. Robillard, Heinemann, 2008).
Since coming to CWRU, I have taught undergraduate and graduate courses in rhetorical theory,visual rhetoric, scientific and technical communication, gender and queer studies, rhetoric of science and medicine, and new media theory as well as engineering communication and science-themed writing courses.
Download my CV here: Download T. Kenny Fountain CV 1.14.2015