Writing & Research

Research Interests

Dr. Skinnell is an expert in political rhetoric, especially as it relates to authoritarianism, demagoguery, and democracy. He is also an SJSU faculty media expert in political speech, politics, and rhetoric and a 2020-2021 Op-Ed Project Public Voices Fellow.

Dr. Skinnell has published six books, including Faking the News: What Rhetoric Can Teach Us About Donald J. Trump (2018) and Rhetoric and Guns (2022). He has also published more than 100 articles, essays, and reviews for academic and non-academic audiences on topics ranging from demagoguery, fascist rhetoric, and contemporary political discourse to American education, bureaucracy, and faculty development. In 2019, he guest edited a special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetoric’s Demagogue | Demagoguery’s Rhetoric, which considers the effects of demagogic rhetoric on contemporary world politics. He also regularly gives talks and runs workshops about rhetoric and writing for academic and non-academic audiences.

Books & Edited Special Issues

Rhetoric & Guns, Utah State Univ. Press, 2022
Reinventing (with) Theory in Rhetoric and Writing Studies, Utah State Univ. Press, 2019
Rhetoric’s Demagogue | Demagoguery’s Rhetoric, Spec. Issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 2019
Faking the News: What Rhetoric Can Teach Us About Donald J. Trump, Societas, 2018
Bureaucracy: A Love Story, Aquiline Books, 2018
Conceding Composition: A Crooked History of Composition’s Institutional Fortunes, Utah State Univ. Press, 2016
What We Wish We’d Known: Negotiating Graduate School, Fountainhead Press, 2015

Current Projects

Hitler’s Rhetoric examines Adolf Hitler’s use of recognizable rhetorical practices to persuade Germans to support, or at least acquiesce to, Nazism. This book considers the historical conditions and contemporary relevance of Hitler’s rhetoric for non-specialist audiences.

Rhetorical Monsters is a podcast series that discusses people in history who have used good rhetoric to terrible, damaging, sometimes deadly ends. Planned episodes include Adolf Hitler; patron saint of yellow journalism, William Randolph Hearst; arms-dealer, “The Angel of Death,” Basil Zaharoff; and propaganda virtuoso Edward Bernays.

Recent Publications


Two Truths and a Big Lie: The ‘Honest’ Mendacity of Fascist Rhetoric.” Journal for the History of Rhetoric 25.2 (2022): 175-97.

“Deceiving Sincerely: The Embrace of Sincerity-as-Truth in Fascist Rhetoric.” In The Rhetoric of Fascism. Ed. Nathan Crick, University of Alabama Press (2022): 222-40.

‘I Didn’t Know How Else to Get It Right’: Lives on the Boundary as an Invitation to Public Intellectualism.” “A Tribute to Mike Rose: Teacher and Scholar, Writer and Friend,” special issue of WPA Journal 45.2 (2022): 72-5.

Octalog IV: Bad People Speaking Effectively in the History of Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review 40.4 (2021): 337-40.

“Teaching Writing in the (New) Era of Fake News.” College Composition and Communication 72.4 (2021): 546-69.

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History Tells Us Forged Pro-Trump ‘Election Documents’ Should Sound Alarm Bells.” Made by History, Washington Post, 18 Jan. 2022.

How Praise and Blame Rhetoric are Poisoning American Democracy.” The Globe Post, 2 Nov. 2021.

Trump Praised Hitler’s “Economic Miracle” — And That’s Even Worse Than It Sounds.” Salon, 7 Aug. 2021. Reprinted in RawStory, 7 Aug. 2021.

A Sweaty Hitler Is a Sincere Hitler, and Sincerity Is Profoundly Persuasive.” Medium, A History of Yesterday, 6 Aug. 2021.

Only the Strong Will Survive? American Echoes of a Dark Past.” Newsweek, 16 Mar. 2021.

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Recent MEdia

Television interview (live) about January 6th rhetoric, Stephanie Lin, KRON 4 News at 3:00, 6/9/2022

The Role Language Played Leading to the January 6th Insurrection,” Radio interview (live) with Patti Reising and Jeff Bell, KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM, 6/9/2022

Demagoguery, Authoritarian Politics, and Public Discourse,” Rotary Club of San Jose, 4/27/2022

Experts Dissect Beijing Olympics Boycott.” Evan Reinhardt, SJSUNews, 2/17/2022

Two Truths and a Big Lie: The ‘Honest’ Mendacity of Fascist Rhetoric,” University Scholar Series lecture, San José State University, 9/22/2021 (event description)

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Published by Ryan Skinnell

Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing, Department of English & Comparative Literature, San José State University, San Jose, CA