Jim W. Corder
Professor of English at Texas Christian University, Jim W. Corder was a prolific scholar and teacher, producing dozens of books and articles on the history and theory of rhetoric studies and the teaching of writing. He had (and still has) a cult-like following among those who laud the figurative, creative style that embody his philosophy of rhetoric. Yet, his unique theoretical perspective—often called "Corderian rhetoric"—has not been given extensive attention, consideration, or legitimacy as a theoretical framework among others in English studies.
Professional and academic career
Corder is best known for his tendency to cross over and blur the distinctions between the conventional boundaries that define academic discourse, and to resist prevailing or dominating ideological orientations about language and knowledge and how those concepts function within current notions of rhetoric and rhetorical criticism. In much of his writing, especially later in his career, Corder pushes the envelope in the stylistic moves and choices he makes within his language, such as invoking personal experiences and weaving narratives in and through his arguments as rhetorical tropes in and of themselves. And while much of his writing appears in nationally recognized publications such as College English, College Composition and Communication, and Rhetoric Review, Corder’s contribution to the body of knowledge within rhetoric and composition has not been fully realized by others in the field. That is, he crafts scholarly arguments for academic audiences, but he articulates them through stylistic and structural moves that resist typical conventions of academic writing.
As a result of his writing style, Corder is often associated with scholars like Peter Elbow and other so-called “expressivists,” who were largely dismissed by many scholars in the discipline during the social turn of the late 1980s, as rhetoric and composition professionals began exploring critical theory and cultural studies and their connections to rhetorical theory and composition pedagogy. However, now some scholars believe that we need to look back to earlier work emerging from discussions within rhetoric and composition as a way of revisiting and revising past notions and theories through a contemporary contextual lens.
Keith D. Miller points to a possible cause for Corder’s less than luster reception within the discipline of rhetoric and composition, in his essay, “The Radical, Feminist Rhetoric of Jim Corder.”  Miller explains that “Corder constantly torpedoes genre distinctions between personal essays and scholarship, occasionally bemoaning others’ failure to blend the expressive with the intellectual”. Miller recounts:
Corder once told me: ‘All taxonomies leak.’ But instead of constructing a better ship with tighter compartments, he places dynamite into the leaking holes of every available taxonomy and genre category. Exploding cargo-holds disorients readers by disrupting their expectations, which hinge on the stability of well-defined genres.
Miller specifically highlights Corder’s defiance of genre expectations within Hunting Lieutenant Chadbourne, suggesting that “he fuses autobiography, postmodern rhetoric, and nineteenth-century American historiography”. The resulting concoction of mixed modes and blended genres makes the book as much of a history of Lt. Chadbourne as it is Corder’s argument against conventional academic discourse, particularly in the realm of historical research. Miller suggests that “to raid different genres and disciplines is to argue indirectly by prodding readers to ask: ‘What is going on?’”. That is, Corder wishes to challenge the ways that scholars conceive of and write about knowledge and history, and Hunting Lieutenant Chadbourne embodies both his critique and his argument for an alternative approach, one that “invite[s] a reader to share his process of contemplating and weighing. Just as he patiently explores a problem, he implicitly argues, so should a reader”. However, particularly because he eschews pre-established genre structures, “Corder generates momentum by creating the impression of thinking aloud,” which allows him to subvert “standard academic discourse by creating a sense of puzzling over a problem with a reader instead of handing her solutions”.
- Chronicle of a Small Town
- Lost in West Texas
- Yonder: Life on the Far Side of Change (1992)
- Hunting Lieutenant Chadbourne (1993)
Select journal articles
- “The Story of Rhetoric: A Long Protest and a Short Program.” College Composition and Communication 12.2 (1961): 93-95.
- “What I Learned at School.” College Composition and Communication 25 (1975): 330-34.
- “Outhouses, Weather Changes, and the Return to the Basics in English Education.” College English 38 (1977): 474-82.
- “Varieties of Ethical Argument, With Some Account of the Significance of Ethos in the Teaching of Composition.” Freshman English News 6 (1978): 1-23.
- “Rhetoric and Literary Study: Some Lines of Inquiry” College Composition and Communication 32.1 (1981): 13-20.
- “From Rhetoric to Grace: Propositions 55-81 about Rhetoric, Propositions 1-54 and 82 et seq. Being as Yet Unstated; Or Getting from the Classroom to the World.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 14.1/2 (1984): 15-29.
- “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love.” Rhetoric Review 4 (1985): 16-32.
- “On the Way, Perhaps, to a New Rhetoric, But Not There Yet, and If We Get There, There Won’t Be There Anymore.” College English 47 (1985): 162-70.
- “Learning the Text: Little Notes about Interpretation, Harold Bloom, the Topoi, and the Oratio.” College English 48.3 (1986): 243-48.
- “When (Do I/Shall I/May I/Must I/Is It Appropriate for me to) (Say No To/Deny/Resist/ Repudiate/ Attack/Alter) Any (Poem/ Poet/Other/Piece of the World) for My Sake?” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 13 (1988): 45-68.
- “Hunting for Ethos Where They Say It Can’t Be Found.” Rhetoric Review 7 (1989): 299-316.
- Enos, Theresa and Keith D. Miller, Ed. Beyond Postprocess and Postmodernism: Essays on the Spaciousness of Rhetoric. Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum, 2003. p. 60, 62, 63, 64
- Corder, Jim W. Hunting Lieutenant Chadbourne. Athens, GA: U of Georgia P, 1993