EducationMatthew Ortoleva is Assistant Professor of English and Writing Center Director. He studied rhetoric and writing at the University of Rhode Island and earned his PhD in English in 2010. His dissertation, entitled Rhetorics of Place and Ecological Relationships: The Rhetorical Construction of Narragansett Bay, won the University of Rhode Island’s Excellence in Graduate Research Award. His work has appeared in the Community Literacy Journal, the Writing Lab Newsletter, and Praxis: A Writing Center Journal.
B.A., Rhode Island College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Rhode Island
Dr. Ortoleva’s primary research interest is environmental rhetoric and the role that language plays in the construction of ecological relationships to the natural world. His research tries to unpack the discursive practices associated with the complex and contentious concept of “place,” how human agents form and articulate attachments to the natural world through acts of writing and symbol use, and how rhetorical manifestations of “place” help or hinder the creation of healthy, just, and sustainable communities. An ethnographer at heart, Dr. Ortoleva employs fieldwork and naturalistic inquiry to uncover the rhetorics of everyday community life. Dr. Ortoleva’s current research investigates ecological identity formation and the construction of a subaltern counterpublic and oppositional discourse in The Narragansett Dawn, a 1930s Native American community magazine. He is also working on an essay, entitled Taking It to The Streets: A Critical Ethnographic Research Method in Rhetoric and Composition, which examines the emergence of a unique, critical ethnographic research method in rhetoric and composition.
As a teacher, Dr. Ortoleva builds all his courses around the fundamental premise that writing functions as a mode of inquiry, a source of reflection, and a tool for action. Essential goals in all his courses are for students to develop a functional understanding of rhetorical theories and practices, and build a metacognitive awareness of their own writing processes, which will make them better writers. By stressing critical reflection, Dr. Ortoleva’s students come to see writing as a recursive process where a text is crafted through invention, drafting, and revision, always in a particular context. Dr. Ortoleva believes that getting students to write and speak about their writing processes is a critical component to fostering effective textual development strategies across all types of writing assignments and situations. In this way, Dr. Ortoleva’s students learn to own their writing, take responsibility for their rhetorical decisions, and begin to see acts of writing not as correct or incorrect, but as effective or consequential.
As Writing Center Director, Dr. Ortoleva supervises approximately fifteen undergraduate writing consultants, who, in turn, see over 1000 clients from the university community each year. Dr. Ortoleva feels that the Writing Center should serve as a space for inquiry and engagement with virtually all aspects of writing, and that the primary purpose of the center is to help clients navigate any situation that calls for some act of writing while helping them become better writers along the way.