Carnegie Mellon University

Linda Flower

Linda Flower

Professor, English

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Department of English
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


My work has led me down two complementary paths of inquiry. My first love was an attempt to understand writing as a social-cognitive process and to teach the art of rhetorical problem solving. This research, which allowed me to work as co-director of the National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy at Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon, helped shape both my teaching (offered in Problem Solving Strategies for Writing in College and Community) and my inquiry into what students are actually doing (in The Construction of Negotiated Meaning:  A Social Cognitive Theory of Writing). 

Looking at writers as rhetorical agents and at writing as a form of social action also lead me into the collaboration that created Pittsburgh’s Community Literacy Center (whose story I documented in Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement). The CLC’s practice of intercultural inquiry, which supports the rhetorical agency of marginalized speakers, has since allowed me to both study and promote the rhetorical work of deliberative local publics in the form of Carnegie Mellon Community Think Tanks organized around issues from urban workplace policy to acknowledging learning disabilities, to supporting low income “independent” students.

In my seminar, Environmental Rhetoric, these paths merge into asking: how can we use the power of problem-solving strategies in rhetoric to ignite public deliberation and change understanding? This path starts with exploring the rich history and current discourse of environmentalism. However, as rhetorical consultants for environmental organizations, it has challenged us to discover how rhetorical analysis and the tools of persuasion can combine with strategies for analyzing and communicating risk to change minds and provoke action. It lets us locate our work in the midst of a genuine, pressing public problem.



  • Ph.D., Rutgers University
  • BA, Simpson College


Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Press, 2008

"Going Public-In a Disabling Discourse."  In J. Ackerman and D. Coogan (Eds), The Public Work of Rhetoric: Citizen-Scholars and Civic Engagement. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2010

"Talking Across Difference: Intercultural Rhetoric and the Search for Situated Knowledge." College Composition and Communication, 55 (1). 38-68, 2003