David Russell


Office:251 Ross
527 Farm House Ln.
Ames IA


David R. Russell is professor emeritus of English at Iowa State University, where he taught foundation composition and upper level business and technical writing, history of children’s literature, and in the Ph.D. program in Rhetoric and Professional Communication. His research interests are in writing in the disciplines and professions, international writing instruction, and the phenomenology of writing. His book, Writing in the Academic Disciplines: A Curricular History, now in its second edition, examines the history of United States writing instruction since 1870. He has published over 70 articles and chapters on writing in the disciplines (WiD) and professions, drawing mainly on cultural historical activity theory and rhetorical genre theory, to which he has contributed. He co-edited Landmark Essays on Writing Across the Curriculum, a special issue of Mind, Culture, and Activity on writing research, Writing and Learning in Cross-National Perspective: Transitions from Secondary to Higher Education, and Writing Selves and Societies. He has given workshops and lectures on WiD, including at more than 50 international meetings, and he has been keynote or featured speaker at more than 50 conferences. He has consulted with numerous institutions on writing curriculum, and for international research projects sponsored by the German, British, French, Chilean, and European Union governments.

For twelve years he edited Journal of Business and Technical Communication, a JCR ranked journal, which during his editorship had more NCTE “best article” awards than any of its competitors, almost one third of all given. He was the first Knight Visiting Scholar in Writing at Cornell University, 1999, a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Queen Mary University of London, 2005, and a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal, 2012, and external evaluator for the English Department at City University Hong Kong, 2015-2019.

At Iowa State University, he served as co-director of the Advanced Communication undergraduate program and coordinated the internship program for the Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication program. He received Iowa State’s Mid-Career and Career Researcher Awards.

Courses I am Teaching

I am retired from teaching


Ph.D. and M.A., Renaissance Literature, University of Oklahoma
B.A., English and Communication, Central State University (Oklahoma)

Research Areas

Writing in the academic disciplines, including computer-supported learning across the curriculum

International writing instruction

History of writing instruction

Phenomenology of writing processes

(see my homepage for more information)

Recent Publications

Russell, David R. Retreading, Non-ing, and a TPC Rationale for Sub-disciplining in Writing Studies Ed. Anis Bawarshi et al. College English. June 2020

Russell, David R. (2019) “Perception and recognition of textual genres: A phenomenological approach.” Proceedings of the Fourth Writing Research Across Borders conference. WAC Clearinghouse and Colorado State University Press. Pp. 163-198.

Russell, David R. (2018) “Picking up” writing: Rethinking pedagogy in light of phenomenological analyses. Proceedings of IV Seminario Internacional de Lectura en la Universidad, III Congreso Nacional de Expresiones de Cultura Escrita en Instituciones de Educación Media Superior y Superior, y V Seminario Internacional de Cultura Escrita y Actores Sociales: Literacidad Académica: Retos y Perspectivas.

Dryer, Dylan B. & David R. Russell (2017). Why North American Writing Studies Ought to Reflect on Physiological and Phenomenological Approaches to Cognition. In Contemporary Perspectives on Cognition and Writing, Ed. Patricia Portanova, Michael Rifenburg, and Duane Roen

Russell, David R. (2016). “The literary and the literate: The study and teaching of writing in US English departments” In Futures for English Studies. Ed. Ann Hewings, Lynda Prescott and Phillip Seargeant. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Russell, D. R. (2015). Genre as Social Action: A Gaze into Phenomenology. In Composition Forum (Vol. 31). Retrieved from http://compositionforum.com/issue/31/russell-retrospective.php

Russell, David R. (2015). “Writing Mediates Activity.” In Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Ed. Linda Adler-Kasner and Elizabeth Wardle. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press. pp. 25-27.

Russell, David R. and Sally Mitchell. (2015). Thinking Critically and Negotiating Practices in the Disciplines. In Working with Academic Literacies. Ed. Theresa Lillis, et al. London: Routledge. Pp. 175-184.

Current Research

I’m working on a book on genre, from the embodied, enactive perspective of neuro-phenomenology.

I am also doing interviews with academics who write, both students and faculty, to describe and understand their writing processes at the micro level, what it feels like to write, especially under stress. The research method is called micro-phenomenology.

Outside of the University

American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa
American Association of University Professors
Saint Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center (choir)