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The Homesick Phone Book

The Homesick Phone Book

Addressing Rhetorics in the Age of Perpetual Conflict

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Cynthia Haynes


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
244 pages, 6 x 9, 33 illustrations


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About the Book

Winner, RSA Book Award, 2017

Terrorist attacks, war, and mass shootings by individuals occur on a daily basis all over the world. In The Homesick Phone Book, author Cynthia Haynes examines the relationship of rhetoric to such atrocities. Aiming to disrupt conventional modes of rhetoric, logic, argument, and the teaching of writing, Haynes illuminates rhetoric’s ties to horrific acts of violence and the state of perpetual conflict around the world, both in the Holocaust era and more recently.

Each chapter, marked by a physical address, functions as a kind of expanded phone book entry, with a discussion of violent events at a particular location giving way to explorations of larger questions related to rhetoric and violence. At the core of the work is Haynes’s call for a writing pedagogy based on abstraction that would allow students to appeal to emotional and ethical grounds in composing arguments. Written in a lyrical style, the book weaves rhetorical theories, poetics, philosophy, works of art, and personal experience into a complex, compelling, and innovative mode of writing.

Ultimately, The Homesick Phone Book demonstrates how scholars of rhetoric and writing studies can break their dependence on conventional argument and logic to discover what might be possible if we dive into and become lost within the very concepts and events that frighten and terrorize us.


Cynthia Haynes is a professor of English and the director of first-year composition at Clemson University. She is a coauthor of High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs and MOOniversity: A Student’s Guide to Online Learning Environments, as well as articles in JAC, Enculturation, Pre/Text, and many other publications.


The Homesick Phone Book is a game changer—a profoundly original work of post-criticism that performs the innovations for which it argues. Haynes goes beyond the conventions not just of argumentation but of English as a discipline, proposing convincingly that rhetoric as education concerns apparatus (social machine) in general, not only alphabetic writing but also digital media (not only literacy but the transition into electracy)."—Gregory Ulmer, professor of English and media studies, University of Florida
“Cynthia Haynes, a foremother of digital rhetorics, inhabits a rhetorical intersection of poetics and technics, inviting an attunement to modes of being and thinking that are opened there. Her much anticipated book, The Homesick Phone Book, is a tour de force, a beautifully sustained performance of the very sort of offshore writing and reading for which she calls—a performance, that is, of the infinite responsibility involved in the groundless worlding of world.”—Diane Davis, professor of rhetoric and writing, University of Texas at Austin