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Lydia McDermott

Lydia McDermott

Associate Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse and Director of the Center fOr Writing and Speaking

Lydia McDermott is the Director of the Center for Writing and Speaking, and Associate Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse at Whitman. She is currently serving as the First Year Seminars Writing Coordinator and as Chair of Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse.

McDermott's Ph.D. is in Rhetoric and Composition and her M.A. is in Creative Writing. Her research has centered on rhetorical historiography, looking in particular at the concurrent emergence of classical rhetoric and gynecology and the 19th century shift from midwifery to obstetrics. Her more recent research has centered on midwifery in the global context and rhetorics of racism. In general, her approach to studying rhetoric is feminist and queer. She studies marginalized rhetors and rhetorics that resist dominant discourses because these dominant discourses have the power to shape and constrain not only our rhetorical choices, but also our material bodies. She strives in her research to discover, validate, and create alternative discourses that can expand our understandings of real and metaphorical bodies.

McDermott loves the power of language to shape our lived experiences, and to that end, she still actively publishes poetry alongside her scholarly research. She loves to write in practically any genre and especially loves helping others find a passion for writing. In her spare time she loves to walk her two puggos, Napoleon Bone-Apart and Laura, and she occasionally posts youtube videos on the channel “Laura the Rhetorical Pug,” in which Laura explains important rhetorical theories with the occasional cameo from Napoleon. She also happens to have three sons, three cats, and a partner.  

Previous to coming to Whitman College, McDermott was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and helped to found and direct the Graduate Writing and Research Center at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Within Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse, Professor McDermott teaches courses on composition, rhetorical theory, and rhetorical bodies, and facilitates writing education and support across Whitman's curriculum. Her first book, Liminial Bodies, Reproductive Health, and Feminist Rhetoric: Searching the Negative Spaces in the History of Rhetoric, came out with Rowman Littlefield Press, Lexington Books, in 2016. Her articles, chapters, and poetry have appeared in a variety of venues. She is a member of the Rhetoric Society of America and the Conference on College Composition and Communication, where she has served as co-chair, with Prof. Patty Wilde, of the Feminist Workshop for the past four years and is currently co-chair of the Rhetoric Special Interest Group with Professor Bo Wang.

Ph.D. Rhetoric and Composition
Ohio University

Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies
Ohio University

M.A. Creative Writing, Poetry
Ohio University

B.A. English Literature
Ohio University


Liminial Bodies, Reproductive Health, and Feminist Rhetoric: Searching the Negative Spaces in the History of Rhetoric, Rowman Littlefield Press, Lexington Books, 2016.

Articles and Chapters in Edited Collections

"Developing Midwives and Delivering Development," Rhetoric Society Quarterly, forthcoming Spring 2023.

“The Crik is Crooked: Appalachia as Movable Queer Space.” Storytelling in Queer Appalachia. Eds. Sherrie Gradin, Hillery Glasby, and Rachael Ryerson. West Virginia University Press, July 2020.

With Lana Oweidat. “Neither Safe nor Brave: Empathetic Interventions in Tutor Training.” Writing Centers as Brave/r Spaces, special issue of The Peer Review 1.2 (2017).http://thepeerreview-iwca.org/issues/braver-spaces/

 “Birthing Rhetorical Monsters: How Mary Shelley Infuses Mêtis with the Maternal in her 1831 Introduction to Frankenstein.Rhetoric Review 34.1 (2015): 1-18.

“Echo as Ventriloquist: Disembodied Vocal Performance and Feminist Rhetorical Agency.” Feminist Challenges, Feminist Rhetorics: Locations, Scholarship, and Discourse.  Ed. Kirsti Cole. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK:Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014.

 “A Womb of One’s Own: A Wandering Rhetoric.” MP: An Online Feminist Journal. 3.5 (2012): 23-40.


Review of Monsters in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching What Scares Us, Edited by Adam Golub and Heather Richardson Hayton. The Comparatist, 2019.

Review of Rhetorical Touch: Disability, Identification, Haptics by Shannon Walters. Advances in the History of Rhetoric, Winter, 2018.

Select Poetry

“Thinking of Another While Making Tea,” Red Flag Press, October 2019 postcard.

“Tiny,” “Over,” and “Sleepover,” Red Earth Review, July 2019.

“Dear M___,” “52 Shoe Lane,” and “Possession,” Raw Art Review, Summer 2019.

“What We Lose,” From Whispers to Roars, April, 2019.

 “Captain of the Ship,” Prometheus Dreaming, chosen for Thus Spake Prometheus feature to be recorded by a voice actor, Spring 2019.

“Navel Song,” “Biblio-Love Songs,” and “Mahler over Marietta,” Cathexis NW Press, March 2019.

“Cleave,” Fragile, a collection by Medusa’s Laugh Press, 2019.

NWCCU Beacon Award, 2019.

How to Make a Glass Wolf, poetry chapbook, runner up in the Ruth Lily prize, 2019.

Graves Award in the Humanities, “English Writing Pedagogy in China,” 2018.

Dublin Award, advisor for student Emma Dulaney, 2016.

Perry grant with student-researcher Allie Donahue, Summer 2016.

CIEE scholarship to attend International Faculty Development Seminar in Shanghai, China, Summer 2016.

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