Steph Ceraso

RHET/COMP | SOUND | DIGITAL MEDIA | PEDAGOGY

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

My primary goal as a teacher is to help students cultivate critical habits and practices that will enable them to succeed in academic, personal, and professional settings. This goal stems from my belief that formal education should not be approached as a series of academic exercises, but as an opportunity to enhance and expand students’ individual capacities so that they may live intellectually and creatively fulfilling lives. 

My courses require students to analyze and produce compositions that make use of a variety of different modes—including text, web-authoring languages, images, sound, and video. I work hard to make my classroom a space where students can explore and experiment with the possibilities and limitations of these modes in fun, thoughtful ways. Through producing projects like interactive sound maps, video remixes, narrative films, and original podcasts, my students develop an extensive range of compositional practices in conjunction with and in addition to textual writing.

 

featured Courses 

[the full list of courses I have taught can be found on my CV]

 

Sound, Composition, & Culture 

Drawing from a multidisciplinary mix of scholarship—including works from rhetoric and composition, sound studies, and sound art and design—this course explores sound as a compositional and communicative medium. Students are expected to learn basic digital audio tools, platforms, and techniques for designing sonic projects. The core assignments for the class include a multimedia project about embodied listening experiences, a collaborative digital sound map, and a sonic object project, which involves designing a material thing that employs sound to enhance user experience. The final project of the semester requires students to work in teams to design and host a multisensory dining event.

 

Digital Writing: Remix

This course explores remixing as a transformative compositional practice. Remixing is literally a kind of re-vision—a way of re-seeing and re-making the world around us. Though remixes are often associated with digital culture, the concept of remixing is part of a long artistic tradition that includes a range of pre-digital experimental art and literature. Together we will examine the act of remixing through theoretical, historical, aesthetic, and political lenses to cultivate a deep understanding of the rhetorical and affective power of this genre. We’ll wrestle with questions like: How does remix culture complicate notions of authorship, originality, and creativity? What are the ethical and legal implications of creating things out of other people’s creations? Why does remix culture matter? Students will get to participate in remix culture by producing different kinds of remixes with text, audio, images, material objects, and video. 

 

Writing with Sound

We are living in what the mainstream media has called “The Golden Age” of podcasts. Podcast listenership has almost doubled since 2008 and continues to grow steadily. In 2014, the first season of “Serial”—a week-by-week investigation of a 1999 Baltimore murder case—broke an iTunes record for being the fastest podcast ever to be consumed by 5 million listeners. The award-winning podcast exceeded 80 million downloads by April 2015. Clearly, podcasts have captured our collective attention. But why? What is it about podcasts that makes people want to “binge listen”? What does audio offer listeners or creators that other modes of composition do not? This project-based course investigates podcasting as a dynamic form of 21st century storytelling. Students will learn to script, edit, and produce their own compelling audio stories. In addition to reading about and practicing professional audio storytelling techniques (e.g. writing for the ear, serialized writing, sound and music design), students will collaboratively develop an original three-episode podcast series.

 

Student work

The following podcast series was created and produced by four students in my spring 2017 "Writing with Sound" seminar at the University of Virginia.

 

"Monumentality" | Complicating Charlottesville History, One Space at a Time 

A podcast series by Gabby Carper, Tricia O'Donnell, EJ Oliverio, and Cassidy Peregoy

 

Audio Trailer [and transcript]

 

Episode 1: Lee Park

This episode explores Civil War memory in Charlottesville, including citizens' reactions to the statue of Robert E. Lee in a prominent city park. Professor Gary Gallagher discusses the relevance of historical memory while citizens at a Charlottesville City Council Meeting voice their opinions about the potential removal of the Lee monument. Listen below or read the transcript.

 

Episode 2: The Academical Village

This episode focuses on the University of Virginia. We take listeners on a tour of the lawn and uncover its troubling history. We also examine UVA's history with slavery and how current students—especially minorities—grapple with inhabiting a space built by Thomas Jefferson's slaves. Listen below or read the transcript

 

Episode 3: Vinegar Hill

This episode digs into the history of Vinegar Hill, a thriving African American neighborhood in Charlottesville that was completely bulldozed in the 1960s. We talk with Professor Frank Dukes about how to make sense of what happened and discuss efforts to re-write this forgotten story into the city’s historical narrative. Listen below or read the transcript.