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The Peter Elbow Symposium for the Study and Teaching of Writing

A photo of Peter Elbow.
Peter Elbow

The Peter Elbow Symposium is a summer symposium hosted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This symposium, originally founded by Peter Elbow, and funded through his generosity, is now jointly directed by the Composition and Rhetoric faculty

Peter Elbow, Professor Emertius of English, is the author of many books on writing, including Writing without Teachers, Writing with Power, and his most recent book, Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing. More information about his writing can be found at his website.

History of the Symposium

In 1999, UMass Amherst English Professor Peter Elbow donated $100,000 to the University of Massachusetts Foundation to establish a yearly symposium “to foster interchange” among scholars and teachers in the field of Composition and Rhetoric. As the endowment’s original agreement stated, “The central activity for the group will be to share ideas, research findings, and writings, as well as to do their own work in a relaxed and close environment.” Matched by $50,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the fund was meant to provide stipends for symposium participants, helping defray their travel and accommodation costs.

Nearly every summer for the next 15 years, Peter hosted a week-long gathering in Amherst dedicated to the study and teaching of writing, inviting 8-10 scholars and teachers from around the country to spend time together sharing their work and discussing relevant issues, as well as enjoying free time for writing and relaxation. It has been a unique project for the field of composition and rhetoric, animated not only by Peter’s extraordinary influence and his inspiring vision for the teaching and study of writing but also by the many attractions of New England summertime.

After Peter’s retirement and his move to the west coast, the symposium entered a period of hiatus. In 2017-18, after much conversation among Peter, the English Department, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and the UMass Foundation, the symposium was re-dedicated and re-inaugurated with fresh energy and enthusiasm. Its directorship has passed formally from Peter to the Composition and Rhetoric faculty of the UMass Amherst English Department, who will jointly oversee it; they have pledged to continue to organize the project in the spirit with which Peter endowed and ran it. And, in recognition of both his generosity and his dedication to the field, it is now officially re-named the Peter Elbow Symposium for the Study and Teaching of Writing.


Everyone was incredibly smart, thoughtful, and had such exciting projects! I was able to get a lot of work done, make connections, and get feedback on my project.

I am so glad to have been invited, and found the experience to be rigorous, interesting, affirming, and restorative.

What an inspiring and uplifting experience! A chance to be in a room full of dedicated, brilliant people all week.

It was a carefully-planned meeting that allowed for rich conversation among a great cohort of scholars representing a diverse range of theoretical and methodological orientations.

I loved it. For the first time in a while I felt fully engaged in ways that I was not expecting.

It was just right: the amount of time spent sharing and discussing projects, working independently, and socializing made this a productive but not exhausting experience. I learned a lot and wrote quite a bit.

2020 Symposium (cancelled due to Covid-19)

Theme: The Future of Feminist Studies in Rhetoric and Composition
Symposium co-directors: Rebecca Dingo and Janine Solberg
Graduate assistant director: Ashley Canter

  • Mais Alkhateeb, California State U LA
  • Tamika L Carey, Virginia U
  • Christina Cedillo Perez, U of Houston Clear Lake
  • Abby Dubisar, Iowa State U
  • Jessica Enoch, U of Maryland
  • Candace Epps-Robertson, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Lisa A. Flores, U of Colorado Boulder 
  • Annie Hill, U of Texas, Austin 
  • Jo Hsu, U of Texas, Austin
  • Jennifer Nish, Texas Tech U
  • K.J. Rawson, Northeastern
  • Rachel Riedner, George Washington U
  • Eileen Schell, Syracuse U
  • Karrieann Soto Vega, U of Kentucky
  • Jen Wingard, U of Houston
  • Rebecca Dingo, UMass Amherst
  • Janine Solberg, UMass Amherst 

The 2020 symposium was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

2018 Symposium 

Theme: Transnational Approaches to Language, Literacy, and Activism 
Symposium director: Rebecca Lorimer Leonard
Graduate assistant director: Ashley Canter

This first symposium in the new iteration was held June 18-21, 2018.

  • Sara P. Alvarez, Queens College, CUNY
  • Rubén Casas, Fresno State
  • Laura Gonzalez, University of Texas at El Paso
  • Brooke Schreiber, Baruch College, CUNY
  • Shyam Sharma, Stony Brook University
  • Katie Silvester, Indiana University Bloomington
  • Kaia Simon, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire
  • Sharon Yam, University of Kentucky
  • Xiqiao Wang, Michigan State University
  • Shanti Bruce, Nova Southeastern University 
  • Amy Wan, Queens College
  • Haivan Hoang, UMass Amherst 
  • Rebecca Dingo, UMass Amherst

Group photo of 2018 Elbow symposium scholars
2018 summer symposium participants

2015 Symposium

Theme: The Believing Game 
Symposium director: Peter Elbow
Graduate assistant director: Jenny Krichevsky 

  • Alexandria Peary, Salem State University 
  • Reanae McNeal, Texas Woman’s University 
  • Joyce Middleton, East Carolina University 
  • Jeffrey Benson 
  • Vershawn Young, University of Waterloo
  • Shannon Stimpson, Pennsylvania State University 
  • Shelly Harkness, University of Cincinnati 
  • Donald Jones, University of Hartford 

2014 Symposium

Theme: Rhythm and Intonation on the Page
Symposium director: Peter Elbow
Graduate assistant director: Jenny Krichevsky 

  • Mara Breen, Mount Holyoke College
  • Chuck Clifton, University of Massachusetts Amherst 
  • Thomas Cable, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Wally Chafe, University of California Santa Barbara 
  • Ben Glaser, Yale University
  • Christopher Grobe, Amherst College
  • Natalie Gerber, Fredonia State University of New York
  • Keith Gilyard, Pennsylvania State University 
  • Jamila Lyiscott, University of Massachusetts Amherst  
  • Airlie Rose, Amherst College
  • David Nowell Smith, University of East Anglia
  • Dorothy Wang, University of Southern California 

2013 Symposium

Theme: Transnational Literacies
Symposium director: Rebecca Lorimer Leonard
Graduate assistant director: Liane Malinowski

  • Steve Alvarez, University of Kentucky
  • Ilene Crawford, Southern Connecticut State University
  • Juan Guerra, University of Washington
  • Eileen Lagman, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Ligia Mihut, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Cathy Prendergast, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Dora Ramirez-Dhoore, Boise State University
  • Angela Rounsaville, University of Central Florida
  • Loukia Sarroub, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  • Kate Vieira, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Amy Wan, Queens College
  • Jenny Krichevsky, UMass Amherst

Elbow Symposium 2013 group shot
2013 summer symposium participants

2012 Symposium

Theme: What Speech Can Bring to Writing 
Symposium Director: Peter Elbow
Graduate assistant director: Liane Malinowski

This was a symposium for graduate students

  • Airlie Rose, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Bridget Heaney, University of Rhode Island
  • Chris Leary, City University of New York
  • Erick P. Gordon, Columbia University
  • Eve Eure, Columbia University
  • Gail Russell, Columbia University
  • Hardeep Sidhu, University of Rochester
  • Katherine Morelli, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Katie Almeida, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Liane Malinowski, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Lisa Litterio, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Nichole Stanford, City University of New York
  • Nicole Callahan, Columbia University
  • Shaofei Lu, University of Rochester
  • Todd Craig, St. Johns University
  • Wesley Rothman, Emerson College

2011 Symposium

Theme: New Research on Writing
Director: Peter Elbow
Graduate assistant director: Liane Malinowski

  • Keri Franklin, Missouri State University
  • Janet Bean, University of Akron
  • Carmen Kynard, St. Johns University
  • Hephzibah Roskelly, University of North Carolina Greensboro
  • Marsha Lee Baker, Western Carolina University
  • Kate Ryan, University of Montana
  • Maja Wilson, University of Maine Orono 
  • Chris Gallagher, Northeastern University
  • Michelle Hite, Spelman College

2010 Symposium

Theme: The Role of Place in Writing and Writing Instruction
Symposium director: David Fleming
Graduate assistant director: Sarah Stanley

  • Kirk Branch, Montana State Univ.
  • Kim Donehower, University of North Dakota
  • Tom Deans, University of Connecticut
  • Rhea Lathan, Florida State University
  • Deborah Mutnick, Long Island University (Brooklyn)  
  • William Burns, Suffolk County Community College (NY)
  • Derek Owens, St. John’s University (NY)
  • Paula Mathieu, Boston College  
  • Candice Rai, University of Washington

2010 Elbow Symposium
2010 summer symposium participants

2009 Symposium

Symposium director: Peter Elbow
Graduate assistant director: Sarah Stanley

  • David Fleming, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Asao Inoue, California State University Fresno
  • Carmen Kynard, St. John’s University
  • Stephanie Kerschbaum, University of Delaware
  • Thomas Newkirk, University of New Hampshire
  • Hepzibah Roskelly, University of North Carolina Greensboro
  • Donna Strickland, University of Missouri
  • Bonnie Sunstein, University of Iowa

2007 Symposium

  • Arnetha Ball 
  • Edward Finegan 
  • Carl Frederiksen 
  • Janet Donin 
  • Lisa Green 
  • Rosalind Horowitz 
  • Min Zhan Lu 
  • Bruce Horner 
  • John Trimbur 

2005 Symposium

  • Rebecca de Wind Mattingly 
  • Tiane Donohue 
  • Rosalia Dutra 
  • Richard Graff 
  • T. R. Johnson 
  • Eileen Kennedy 
  • Ian Malcolm 
  • Sara Pace 
  • Haj Ross 
  • Mary Scott
  • Wini Wood 
  • Kate Dionne 
  • Peter Elbow 

2004 Symposium

  • Arnetha Ball 
  • John Baugh 
  • Janet Bean 
  • Wally Chafe
  • Rosalia Dutra 
  • Edward Finegan 
  • Steve Krashen 
  • Diane Larsen-Freeman 
  • Haj Ross 
  • Jan Swearingen 
  • Lauren Rosenberg 

2003 Symposium

  • Janet Bean 
  • Maryann Cucchiara
  • Robert Eddy  
  • Peter Elbow  
  • Patricia Irvine  
  • Eileen Kennedy  
  • Ellie Kutz  
  • Carmen Kynard
  • Al Lehner  
  • Brian Street 
  • Margaret Price

2002 Symposium

  • Janet Bean  
  • Maryann Cucchiara
  • Robert Eddy  
  • Peter Elbow  
  • Rhonda Grego  
  • Rich Haswell  
  • Patricia Irvine  
  • Eileen Kennedy  
  • Ellie Kutz  
  • Al Lehner  
  • Paul (and Aya) Matsuda 
  • Teresa Stores 

2001 Symposium

  • Peter Elbow 
  • Helen Fox
  • Suzie Jacobs 
  • Michelle Hall Kells 
  • Ian Malcom 
  • Paul Matsuda
  • Shondel Nero 
  • Arthur Palacas 
  • Ann Williams 
  • Jon Yasin 

2000 Symposium

  • Liz Bryant, Dept of English, Ohio State U, Mansfield Campus
  • Blythe Clinchy, Wellesley College 
  • Jane Danielewicz, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Peter Elbow, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Don Jones, University of Hartford
  • Jean Nienkamp, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Irene Papoulis, Trinity College
  • Erika Scheurer, Saint Thomas University
  • Beverly Wall, Trinity College
  • Winni Wood, Wellesley College