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 a keynote or featured speaker at more than 50 conferences. He has consulted with numerous institutions on writing across the curriculum and for international research projects sponsored by the German, British, French, Chilean, and European Union governments.

For twelve years he edited the 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, in 1999, a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Queen Mary University of London, in 2005, a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal, 2012, and an 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 Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication program’s internship 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

Phenomenology of writing

Writing in the academic disciplines and professions

International writing instruction

History of writing instruction

Articles and Repositories

Google Scholar, ISU Digital Repository

Recent Publications

Phenomenology of Writing

Gallagher, P. B., Meister, P., & Russell, D. R. (2021). Phenomenology of writing with unfamiliar tools in a semi-public environment: A case study. Computers and Composition, 62, 102668. https://dr.lib.iastate.edu/entities/publication/4bc703ed-379e-440d-8fa8-bca2fbc7519e

Russell, David R. (2019) “Perception and recognition of textual genres: A phenomenological approach.” Knowing Writing: Writing Research Across Borders. WAC Clearinghouse and Colorado State University Press. Pp. 163-198. https://wac.colostate.edu/books/international/wrab2017/

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. https://wac.colostate.edu/docs/books/wrab2017/russell.pdf

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. https://dr.lib.iastate.edu/entities/publication/a883a128-83e6-438f-8379-1e48e2453ee2

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. https://upcolorado.com/utah-state-university-press/item/2705-naming-what-we-know

Russell, David R. “Writing in Multiple Contexts: Vygotskian CHAT Meets the Phenomenology of Genre.” In Traditions of Wrting Research. Ed. Charles Bazerman et al. 353-364. New York: Routledge, 2010. https://dr.lib.iastate.edu/entities/publication/4600bdcf-ebf3-4c8e-968c-8f8918f11e61

History of writing instruction

Russell, David R. WAC Compared to Other “Across the Curriculums.” In Adapting the past to reimagine possible futures: Celebrating and critiquing WAC at 50. Ed. Falconer, Heather, et al. (2023). https://wac.colostate.edu/books/perspectives/iwac2020/

Russell, David R., Paul M. Rogers, Paula Carlino, & Jonathan M. Marine. Editors’ Introduction. In Rogers, Paul M., David R. Russell, Paula Carlino, & Jonathan M. Marine (Eds.). (2023). Writing as a Human Activity: Implications and Applications of the Work of Charles Bazerman. (pp. 3-26) The WAC Clearinghouse; University Press of Colorado. https://wac.colostate.edu/books/perspectives/human/

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 https://library.ncte.org/journals/CE/issues/v82-5

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. https://dr.lib.iastate.edu/entities/publication/e98ba9d3-0741-438e-b64e-f6139aa4a0e0

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. https://wac.colostate.edu/docs/books/lillis/reflections2.pdf

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), Ames Choral Society