Michael G. Moran


I was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1947 and was raised an army brat. While growing up, I lived briefly in many states, including Maryland, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kansas, and Virginia, and two countries, Germany and Japan. When people ask where I'm from, I sometimes say Virginia because my father had two assignments there, and I graduated from Hampton High in Hampton, Virginia.

I had an uneven college experience. I started at Frederick College, which eventually closed down, transferred to St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, and graduated from City College of New York, in Harlem. Although defunct, Frederick College still has alumni meetings, and I keep in touch. St. Francis was a great school academically, but expensive. City College at the time was cheap–it was free to NYC residents. I hit it just when open enrollments started, and worked during the day at the Museum of Natural History and went to class in the night program. I studied with a professor named Thomas Miller there who taught me to love poetry and encouraged me to go to graduate school in English, even though I was not an English major.

To graduate school I went, but not in the City. New York was going through one of its major blood lettings. From 1968 through 1971, it had garbage strikes that allowed refuge to pile up past the first story windows, many major mob hits, and a heroin epidemic, which led to constant robberies and muggings. One of my summer jobs in the city was with the police department, reading crime reports. We would read the reports and stick in a map a colored pin (each color represented a particular category of crime) at the site of the crime to help uncover patterns. There were a lot of pins but we didn't solve many crimes. The police at the time were not very helpful to the victims of crime. One time, after my apartment was robbed, I went down to the police department to report the crime. A policeman leaned out the window as I walked up, asked me what I wanted, and, when I told him, advised me not to waste my own or his time reporting such a minor event.

I wanted to get as far away from New York as I could and applied to graduate school at the University of New Mexico. Although I was not an English major, and not a very dedicated undergraduate student, New Mexico accepted me, and I began one of the most exciting times of my life. I fell in love with the state and traveled its wide-open spaces. I camped in the state's glorious wilderness areas and explored the little towns on the back way to Taos. I visited Indian pueblos and nosed around the neighborhoods of Albuquerque. I swam in the Rio Grand. And I read literature.

Not being an English major, I thought I had to read everything to catch up. New Mexico at the time had a great teaching staff, and I took courses in Shakespeare and Milton, Medieval and Restoration literature, courses that covered Joyce and Woolf, a course on the Pre-Raphaelite poets and artists, and courses on Eighteenth-century literature, the area in which I specialized. It took me seven years, from 1971 through 1978, to finish my M.A. and Ph.D. there, but I can't imagine a better place for me to live at the time.

The time came, however, to leave. I met my future wife in graduate school, married her, and felt at 30 that it was time to move on to a career. The job market in English was then, as it is now, terrible, and few schools were looking for an Eighteenth-century specialist who had written his dissertation on the novelist Robert Bage, whose best-known work was HERMSPRONG. Luck helped me along by pointing me to a Post-doctoral Fellowship in Composition at the University of Kansas, and my wife and I, along with our dog and cat, moved to Lawrence to begin the next phase of our lives. I studied composition theory for two years, fell in love with rhetoric, and refocused my career to begin teaching writing. After two years I needed a job. My wife was pregnant with our future daughter.

Fortunately, I had interviewed at Clemson University, and they called me up. Without even requiring a campus interview, Ronald Moran, the department chair but no kin to me, offered me a job teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in writing, composition theory, and rhetoric. It was there that I began my research career.

When I entered the field of composition and rhetoric, there were no major bibliographies or reference books, a fact that was noted in the Kansas program. I therefore turned my attention to developing a series of books that would serve to introduce to the research in the area the many people entering the ranks of teachers and researchers in composition and rhetoric, technical communication, and basic or developmental writing. My first book, edited with Ronald F. Lunsford, was RESEARCH IN COMPOSITION AND RHETORIC, which set the pattern for the other two books. The book collected bibliographical essays on major issues in composition and rhetoric written by experts in the areas. RESEARCH IN BASIC WRITING, edited with Martin Jacobi, and RESEARCH IN TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION, edited with Debra Journet, performed the same function to those two areas. The volume on technical communication won a National Council of Teachers of English award thanks to a large extent to Debra's hard work.

For this third book I tried to find an established scholar to research and write the essay on the history of technical, scientific, and business writing. I discovered someone who agreed to produce it but never did and found myself with the assignment. It was one of the fortuitous events of my professional life because it opened up the area in which I would do most of my publishing. I produced a variety of essays on technical communicators, ranging from Joseph Priestley and Gilbert White, and I edited THREE KEYS TO THE PAST: THE HISTORY OF TECHNICAL WRITING (with Teresa C. Kynell), which discusses the central issues of this research area.

At Clemson, I also began my administrative career. Like most experts in composition and rhetoric, I was expected to direct freshman English programs. Almost all English departments teach freshman English, and large state schools such as Clemson teach multiple sections of the courses. Most of these sections are taught by either graduate students or temporary instructors, and someone has to coordinate these teachers. That someone was me, and once I had gained this administrative experience, I could pretty much move where I wanted since experienced Freshman English administrators were in demand. I soon left Clemson for the University of Rhode Island and then, two years later, the University of Georgia, where my work took a distinct turn.

Continuing to work on reference books, I edited and co-edited, with my colleague Michelle Ballif, a series of books on the history of rhetoric. The first book in the series, EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY BRITISH AND AMERICAN RHETORICS AND RHETORICIANS, which I edited alone, served as the model for the other two books. The book identified the most important rhetoricians of the century, and divided them into three groups depending on their importance. Which group each was in determined the length of essay on that theorist, and I invited specialists from around the nation to write on the figure of their choice. I was surprised to find, however, that many of the established experts were older scholars, many either retired or on the edge of retirement. So I had to dig about to find younger people working in what had become a very grey field. I also invited several of my graduate students to produced essays for the volume. The other two books followed the same pattern. Michelle and I identified the major figures and then found well-known scholars to write essays on many figures and invited our students to also contribute. For many of our students, these essays were their first publications.

As I was editing these books, I was also researching two subjects for authored books. The first subject was Frank Aydelotte, an Indiana native who was a member of the second class of Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University. He brought back to the United States a set of educational principles based on hard work and individual effort. American colleges at the time too often did not push academic excellence, and Aydelotte's work, which I evaluate in FRANK AYDELOTTE AND THE OXFORD APPROACH TO ENGLISH STUDIES IN AMERICA, 1908-1940 (University Press of America, 2006), countered that tendency. Aydelotte developed the thought approach to freshman English at Indiana University and later became president of Swarthmore College, where he helped create that school's influential honors program based on the Oxford honors schools. This program became to model for the rest of the nation.

My second individual project is connected to my early years in Virginia and North Carolina. In the fourth grade in Norfolk students were required to take a unit on the history of Virginia, which began, according to the Eurocentric mind set of the time, not with the Native Americans but with Raleigh and his invaders. I was drawn to many story lines connected with the Roanoke colonies: the intriguing romance between Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth; the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born on this continent; and the mysterious disappearance of the Lost Colony of 1587. These stories remained with me when my family vacationed at Nags Head on the Outer Banks near Roanoke. My parents eventually retired from Hampton to Kitty Hawk, and I visited them often. While on the faculty of Clemson University, where I began my work in the history of technical communication, I came upon a facsimile of Theodor de Bry's 1590 edition of Thomas Hariot's A BRIEFE AND TRUE REPORT OF TH NEW FOUND LAND OF VIRGINIA (1590), and I was hooked. I read all that I could find on the reports and the result is my forthcoming book with Peter Lang Publishing, SIR WALTER RALEIGH AND THE RHETORIC OF COLONIZATION, 1584-1590 (which appeared in 2007).

Now that I've finished these two books, I must turn my attention elsewhere. I would like to complete my series of edited books on the history of rhetoric by editing books on Medieval, Renaissance, and Nineteenth-Century rhetoric, but Greenwood Press, which has published my work for many years, has left the college market to concentrate exclusively on the high school one. I would have to find a new press and convince it of the projects' importance.

I have also turned to writing fiction and have just published a murder mystery with Autumn Harbor Press in Atlanta entitled THAT FARAWAY LOOK. The novel is about a college basketball player, Mitch Antaglia, who disappears from a Georgia college. Nick Stirling, a private eye out of Atlanta, is hired to find him. His investigation begins in Ithaca, a small college town, and takes him to Atlanta and then to Kansas. Stirling solves the murders of two women close to Mitch and finds Mitch himself. I have started a new novel and am designing a course on American detective fiction.

Meanwhile, I enjoy my family. My daughter, Alison, loves to write and teaches at a private school in Atlanta. My wife, Molly Hurley Moran, is the real writer in the family. She is the author of two academic books and the beautiful true crime memoir, FINDING SUSAN (Southern Illinois University Press 2003). I still enjoy teaching and hope to continue doing so for another ten years or so.

You may contact me at mgmoran@​uga.edu

Selected Works

A Nick Stirling novella published by Kindle Books
A Nick Stirling novel
Rhetorical Criticism
This book analyzes the rhetorical strategies used in the reports associated with Sir Walter Raleigh's attempts to found a colony on the Outer Banks of present-day North Carolina. It also examines the rhetorical strategies of the maps and ethnographic illustrations of the native Virginians the English colonists met.
Professional Biography
Using a biographical approach, this book examines Frank Aydelotte's career as one of the nation's most important English professors of the early 20th century."Moran has produced the definitive analysis of Frank Aydelotte's contributions to English studies written in the same vein as his excellent reference volumes."--Rhetoric Review
Reference Collections
"Essential....cannot be ignored." --Choice "a milestone in the progress of U.S. rhetoric studies in the twenty-first century." --Rhetorica
Edited with Michelle Ballif, this work collects introductory essays on the major and many minor rhetoricians of the 20th century. --"The editors have done a commendable job of identifying forty critical scholars and have amassed some of the best brief introductions to how these thinkers approach the study of rhetoric." --American Communication Journal --"this book should be welcomed as an efficient and helpful guide to twentieth-century rhetoric. Many a veteran scholar among us will also profit from consulting its neat summaries and assessments." —Rhetoric Review 20.3/4 --"highly recommended addition to the reference shelves." --Choice
"Informative and enjoyable to read." --Rhetoric Review
This book collects new and classic essays in the growing field of the history of techical, commercial, and scientific communication.
A collection of bibliographic essays. --"a classic in the field." Technical Communication --Won the National Council of English Award for the Best Collection of Essays in Technical Communication
A collection of bibliographic essays covering the fields of composition studies and rhetoric.
A collection of bibliographical essays that cover various aspects of basic and developmental English.