Ira Allen, PhD

Ira Allen Assistant Professor
Northern Arizona University
Rhetoric, Writing & Digital Media Studies
Blg 18 Rm #128
Phone: 928-523-5846
Personal Page


Ira Allen is an assistant professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies. He earned his PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and Culture at Indiana University in 2014; before joining the Northern Arizona University faculty in 2017, he was an assistant professor of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University of Beirut.


Ira’s book, The Ethical Fantasy of Rhetorical Theory (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), presents a critical examination of rhetorical theory throughout history, in order to develop a unifying vision for the field. Demonstrating that theorists have always been skeptical of, yet committed to "truth" (however fantastical), Ira develops rigorous notions of truth and of a "troubled freedom" that spring from rhetoric’s depths.

Drawing on this vision of rhetorical theory as a way of studying troubled freedom, Ira’s current book project (“Rhetorical Constitution: The Possibility of Freedom”) asks how we might write political constitutions that will help us to become more free. His other major projects include, with Anita Chari, a series of new media translations of radio shows for children by German media theorist Walter Benjamin (“The Children’s Guest: Multimodal Translations of Walter Benjamin”); with Saul Allen, a book-length argument for a terms-and-practices based definition of religion (“Defining Religion Rhetorically”); a book manuscript on what it means to be a being that lives in symbols, and on how we might accomplish this less badly (“Being Impermissible”); and a book-length series of essays on troubled freedom as seen from Simone de Beauvoir’s, Jacques Lacan’s, Rosa Luxemburg’s, and other non-rhetoricians’ perspectives (“Troubled Freedom: Five Easy Pieces”).

Ira’s articles and translations appear in such journals as College Composition and Communication, enculturation, Political Research Quarterly, Advances in the History of Rhetoric, Theory and Event, SubStance, Pedagogy, Modern Language Notes, and elsewhere. A regularly updated C.V. and full-text for most of his publications may be found at


At NAU, Ira teaches graduate and undergraduate courses with an emphasis on rhetorical theory and its practical applications in our many scenes of writing. His basic aim is to help students negotiate for themselves, in congress with one another, greater freedom and better possibilities of meaning in a world of uncertainty. Courses taught in the 2017-2019 cycle include the following:

ENGL 211: Principles in Argumentation and Digital Media Writing (Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019)

ENGL 305W: Writing in Disciplinary Communities (Fall 2017)

ENGL 310W: Literacies of Struggle: Topics in Public and Academic Writing for Diverse Communities (Fall 2017, Fall 2018)

ENGL 562: Rhetoric and Composition Theory (Spring 2018, Spring 2019)

ENGL 626: Negotiating Digital Media: Topics in Digital/Social Media (Fall 2018)