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Richard Ohmann Award

2015 Recipient

Steph Ceraso
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

“(Re)Educating the Senses: Multimodal Listening, Bodily Learning, and the Composition of Sonic Experiences”

College English 77.2, November 2014. Free Access Article.

The judges found Professor Ceraso’s essay fresh, timely, and engaging—a piece that will have an impact on the field for its vision and accessibility. Her essay, woven throughout with connections to pedagogy and composition, pushes the boundaries of multimodal composition as Professor Ceraso challenges us to reimagine how soundscapes can change the writing classroom—that is how we can incorporate “productive, quality sonic experiences” that build on students’ past experiences.

2015 Ohmann Award Committee: Mya Poe (Chair), Rebecca Lorimer Leonard, Stephanie Dowdle Maenhardt, Jacqueline Rhodes, Jim Ridolfo (2014 Ohmann Award Recipient), and R. Joseph Rodriguez.

Excerpt from Ohmann Award-Winning Article

"This essay is an attempt to reimagine the ways that we teach listening to account for the multiple sensory modes through which sound is experienced in and with the body. I offer the concept of multimodal listening to expand how we think about and practice listening as a situated, full-bodied act. Teaching students to approach sound as an embodied event, as opposed to something that is heard exclusively through the ears, can make them more savvy consumers of sound; it can help students develop a deeper understanding of how sound is manipulating their feelings or behaviors in different situations. Additionally, because attending to the multimodal aspects of sonic encounters can provide information about how sound works as a mode of composition to create particular effects and affects—intentional or unintentional—students can use this information to become more thoughtful producers of sound. I see multimodal listening as a means of preparing students to become sensitive, reflective participants in and designers of sonic experiences, both digital and nondigital.

The aim of this essay is twofold: (1) to illustrate how through multimodal listening practices we might retrain our bodies to be more aware, alert, and attuned to sonic events in all of their complexity; and (2) to examine how incorporating multimodal listening practices into the composition classroom can enrich students’ multimodal composing practices. I argue that the heightened sonic experiences associated with multimodal listening practices can critically and creatively inform how listeners consume and compose with sound, and that these practices are particularly useful in the teaching of multimodal composition."

Steph Ceraso's Statement

In response to widespread “plug in and tune out” listening habits, and to the need for a more substantial listening education—particularly in relation to digital engagement and production—my article offers an expansive, explicitly embodied approach to the teaching of listening. My aim in writing this piece was to create a sonic pedagogy that allows students to capitalize on the compositional affordances of sound in digital contexts and retrains them to become more thoughtful, sensitive listener-composers of sound in any setting. I thought it was especially important to challenge classroom practices that take for granted the fact that not everyone has access to hearing; not all listeners listen in the exact same way. Thus, my choice to focus on the listening practices of deaf percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie enabled me to take a more inclusive approach to sonic education that accounts for students with a range of bodily capacities and learning needs. I believe that cultivating “multimodal listening” practices helps all students—regardless of where they fall on the hearing continuum—become savvy consumers and producers of sound in relation to composing digital media and in their everyday lives.

Steph Ceraso is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. In addition to coediting a special “Sonic Rhetorics” issue of Harlot, her work has appeared in Currents in Electronic Literacy, HASTAC, Sounding Out! Blog, Fembot Collective, and Provoke! Digital Sound Studies. You can find more about her research, media projects, and teaching at her website.


The Richard Ohmann Award for Outstanding Article in College English recognizes the outstanding refereed article in the past volume year of the journal that makes a significant contribution to the field of English studies. Ohmann Award winners offer an innovative, well-researched inquiry regarding an exigent problem, issue, or debate in a manner that is relevant and accessible to a wide range of College English readers. The award is given in the name of Richard Ohmann, landmark editor of College English from 1966 to 1978.

Articles to be considered will be chosen from the College English volume year, September through July in the year prior to selection. The first award was given for the 2000-2001 issues of the journal. The editor(s) of the College English journal are a part of the award selection committee.

The award presentation takes place during the College Celebration at the NCTE Annual Convention. The Ohmann Award winner receives a complimentary registration to NCTE's Annual Convention (beginning in 2014), should he or she be able to attend to accept the award in person, and a $200 honorarium (beginning in 2015).

Past Recipients

2014 Jim Ridolfo, "Delivering Textual Diaspora: Building Digital Cultural Repositories as Rhetoric Research,” College English, November 2013

2013 Bump Halbritter and Julie Lindquist, "Time, Lives, and Videotape: Operationalizing Discovery in Scenes of Literacy Sponsorship," College English, November 2012

2012 Amy Wan, “In the Name of Citizenship: The Writing Classroom and the Promise of Citizenship,” College English, September 2011

2011 Nancy Welch, "We're Here, and We're Not Going Anywhere: Why Working Class Rhetorical Traditions Still Matter," College English, January 2011

2010 Susan C. Jarratt, "Classics and Counterpublics in Nineteenth-Century Historically Black Colleges," College English, November 2009

2009 Christopher Carter, "Writing with Light: Jacob Riis's Ambivalent Exposures," College English, November 2008 

2008 Mary Queen, “Transnational Feminist Rhetorics in a Digital World,” College English, May 2008

2007 LuMing Mao, “Studying the Chinese Rhetorical Tradition in the Present:
Re-presenting the Native’s Point of View,” College English, January 2007 

2006 Paul Kei Matsuda, “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition,” College English, July 2006 

2005 Eli Goldblatt, “Alinsky's Reveille: A Community-Organizing Model for Neighborhood-Based Literacy Projects,” College English, January 2005 

2004 Susan Romano, "Tlaltelolco: The Grammatical Colonial Indios of Colonial Mexico," College English, January 2004

2003 J. Blake Scott, “Extending Rhetorical-Cultural Analysis: Transformations of Home HIV Testing,” College English, March 2003 

2002 Candace Spigelman, "Argument and Evidence in the Case of the Personal," College English, Sept. 2001 

2001 John Alberti, "Returning to Class: Opportunities for Multicultural Reform at
Majority Second Tier Schools," College English, May 2001

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