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Philippa Spoel

Philippa Spoel

Full Professor, School of Liberal Arts
School of Liberal Arts
Faculty of Arts
A-318A, Classroom Building


My main area of teaching and research is rhetorical studies, with a focus on rhetorical criticism of health, environmental, and science communication. Much of my work occurs through interdisciplinary programs and research activities. I teach and supervise student research in the School of Liberal Arts’ English Literature, Media, and Writing undergraduate program as well in Laurentian-Science North's Masters of Science Communication, the Interdisciplinary Human Studies PhD, and the Rural and Northern Health PhD. My recent publications include articles and chapters on the rhetoric of environmental controversies, local food discourse, lay perspectives on healthy living, and midwifery communication. My current research focuses focuses on COVID-19 public health and risk communication.


  • BA. English & Philosophy, University of Toronto, 1984
  • MA, English, University of Toronto, 1988
  • PhD, English (Rhetoric and Professional Writing), University of Waterloo, 1997

Academic Appointments

Coordinator, English Literature, Media, and Writing Program, School of Liberal Arts (2023-present)

Chair, Department of English (2015-2018)

Professor, Department of English (Rhetoric and Media Studies)

Core Faculty, Masters/Graduate Diploma in Science Communication; Humanities M.A. in Interpretation and Values

Core Faculty, Human Studies PhD; Rural and Northern Health PhD

Cross-appointed to School of the Envrionment (2013-2021)


My recent interdisciplinary research focuses on rhetorical criticism of healthcare, science, and environmental communication. I have also researched and published in the areas of writing in the disciplines, feminist rhetorical theory, and rhetorical history, in particular the eighteenth-century British elocutionary movement. My current research focuses focuses on COVID-19 public health and risk communication.


Principal Investigator, LURF Grant: Celebrating Public Engagement: The Language and Values of Citizen Science in Canadian Environmental and Public Health Research. 2019. Value: $4,975.70

Co-Principal Investigator, Louise Picard Public Health Research Grant: Managing Food Allergies in Children: A Study of the Experiences and Approaches by Caretakers, Decision-makers, and Healthcare Practitioners in the Greater Sudbury Region. With Janis Goldie (Huntington University) and Paula Ross (Sudbury & Districts Public Health Unit). 2018. Value: $4,959.38

Principal Investigator, LURF Grant: Mapping the Controversy: What’s at Issue in Public Discussion about the Proposed “Ring of Fire” Development, 2014. Value: $4,839.

Co-investigator, University of Western Ontario Research Grant: Managing Healthy Living in Everyday Life Project (Principal Investigator: Dr. Roma Harris, University of Western Ontario, 2010. $30,000.

Principal Investigator, SSHRC SIG 4A Award to continue research on The rhetorical negotiation of healthcare knowledges, identities, and relationships through informed choice conversations in Canadian midwifery, 2009. $2,700.

Principal Investigator, LURF grant to research Rhetorics of Public Communication and Community Engagement in the Sudbury Soils Study, 2009. $4,560.

Principal Investigator, SSHRC SIG 4A Award for research on The rhetorical negotiation of healthcare knowledges, identities, and relationships through informed choice conversations in Canadian midwifery, 2008. $3,000

Principal Investigator, LURF-SSHRC grant for Pilot Study of the Practice of Informed Choice in Midwife-Client Consultations, 2005. $4,000

Principal Investigator (with co-investigators S. James and C. Schryer) for 3-year SSHRC Research Grant to study The Textual Formation of a Healthcare Profession: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Regulatory Documents Governing Ontario’s Midwifery Profession, 2002. $57, 435  

Principal Investigator, SSHRC Special Competition Grant to study The Rhetoric of Midwifery in Ontario, 1999. $4,336



Graduate Teaching:

  • Theories and Principles of Science Communication
  • COVID-19 Langauge and Values
  • Discourses and Values of Health, Illness, and Medicine
  • Contemporary Environmental Discourses and Values
  • Making and Communicating Knowledge Across Disciplines


Undergraduate Teaching:

  • Classical Rhetoric for Contemporary Citizens
  • Environmental Communication
  • Rhetorical Criticism
  • Pandemic Rhetorics
  • Rhetorics of Health, Illness, and Medicine
  • Professional Communication: Proposal Writing
  • Visual Rhetorics
  • Rhetorics of Science



Spoel, Philippa, Alexandra Millar, Naomi Lacelle, and Aarni Mathialagan. “Who are ‘We’? Examining Relational Ethos in British Columbia, Canada’s COVID-19 Public Health Communication.” JCOM: Journal of Science Communication 22 (2022): A04.

Spoel, Philippa. “Constituting Good Citizen Scientists within Environmental Citizen Science Discourse.” Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie 31 (2022): 179–202.

Spoel, Philippa, and Colleen Derkatch. “How the Focus on Food Literacy in Ontario’s Food Charter Toolkits Detracts from Meaningful Food (In)Security Action.” Journal of Critical Dietetics 6.2 (2022): 54-64.

Spoel, Philippa, Naomi Lacelle, and Alexandra Millar. “Constituting Good Health Citizenship through British Columbia's COVID-19 Public Updates.” Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 27.5 (2021): 770-788. doi:10.1177/13634593211064115

Derkatch, Colleen, and Philippa Spoel. “Health Humanities as an Interdisciplinary Intervention: Constitutive Rhetoric, Genre, and Health Citizenship.” Rhetoric of Health and Mediciine As/Is: Theories and Approaches for the Field. Ed. Lisa Melonçon, S. Scott Graham, Jenell Johnson, John A. Lynch, and Cynthia Ryan. Ohio State UP, 2020. 13-32.

Spoel, Philippa and Colleen Derkatch. “Constituting Community through Food Charters: A Rhetorical-Genre Analysis.” Canadian Food Studies 3.1 (2016), 47-70.

Derkatch, Colleen and Philippa Spoel. “Public Health Promotion of ‘Local Food’: Constituting the Self Governing Citizen-Consumer. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine (2016), 1-17. DOI: 0.1177/1363459315590247.

Spoel, Philippa and Rebecca Carruthers Den Hoed. “Places and People: Rhetorical Constructions of ‘Community’ in a Canadian Environmental Risk Assessment.” Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture 8.3 (2014): 267-285.

McKenzie, Pamela and Spoel, Philippa. “Borrowed Voices: Conversational Storytelling in Midwifery Healthcare Visits.” Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing 25.1 (2014), 26-47.

Spoel, Philippa, Roma Harris, and Flis Henwood. "Rhetorics of Health Citizenship: Exploring Vernacular Critiques of Government’s Role in Supporting Healthy Living." Journal of Medical Humanities, Special Issue on Medicine, Health, and Publics, Ed. L. Keränen. 35.2 (2014), 131-147. 

Spoel, Philippa, Pamela McKenzie, Susan James, and Jessica Hobberlin. "Standards and Stories: The Interactional Work of Informed Choice in Ontario Midwifery Care."  I. Bourgeault, Ed. Healthcare Policy, vol. 9, Oct 2013: 71-85. Honourable Mention, Best Article, CASDW Research Award 2014.

Spoel, Philippa, Roma Harris, and Flis Henwood. Healthy Living: Metaphors We Eat By? Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society. 2.2, 2012.

Spoel, Philippa, Roma Harris, and Flis Henwood. "The Moralization of Healthy Living: Burke's Rhetoric of Rebirth and Older Adults' Accounts of Healthy Eating." Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health.16.6 (2012): 619-635.

Henwood, Flis, Roma Harris, and Philippa Spoel. “Informing health? Negotiating the Logics of Choice and Care in Everyday Practices of  ‘Healthy Living’.” Social Science and Medicine 12.2 (2011): 2026-2032.

Spoel, Philippa. "The Rhetorical Work of Informed Choice in Midwifery: Situated Knowledges and the Negotiation of Healthcare Decisions." R. Harris, N. Wathen, & S. Wyatt, Eds. Configuring Health Consumers: Health Work and the Imperative of Personal Responsibility. Palgrave MacMillan, 2010. 65-81.

Spoel, Philippa. “How Do Midwives Talk with Women? The Rhetorical Genre of Informed Choice in Midwifery.” J. Leach & D. Dysart-Gale, Eds., Rhetorical Questions in Health and Medicine. Rowman & Littlefield, 2010. 97-128.

Spoel, Philippa and Chantal Barriault. “Risk Knowledge and Risk Communication: The Rhetorical Challenge of Public Dialogue.” Writing (in) the Knowledge Society. Ed. D. Starke-Meyerring, A. Paré, N. Artemeva, M. Horne, and L. Yousoubova. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press and Fort Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse, 2011. 87-112.

Spoel, Philippa, David Goforth, Hoi Cheu, and David Pearson. "Public Communication of Climate Change Science: Engaging Citizens Through Apocalyptic Narrative Explanation." Technical Communication Quarterly, Special Issue on Science Communication and Public Policy. 18.1 (2009): 49-81. *One of top 10 downloaded articles from TCQ in 2010.

Spoel, Philippa, and Susan James. “Negotiating Public and Professional Interests: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Debate Concerning the Regulation of Midwifery in Ontario, Canada.” Journal of Medical Humanities 27.3 (Fall 2006): 167-186.