David Coogan

David Coogan

Associate Professor
(804) 827-8417
Hibbs Hall 417

About David Coogan

I am a rhetorician, a writing teacher, a writer, an organizer, and a podcaster. I study the way writing and literature can help people in prison find freedom. I teach courses in life-writing, persuasive writing, rhetoric and politics, and prison literature. In my life-writing course, students join incarcerated people at the Richmond City Jail as part of a program I created, Open Minds. More recently, I created a program called Write Your Way Out, which diverts low-level offenders from the courts to campus to take the same life-writing course they would take with VCU students at the jail. Learn more at www.writingourwayout.com.

Research/Teaching Focus

Rhetorical theory and criticism, prison literature, service learning, and composition

Selected Publications

I am the author of Writing Our Way Out: Memoirs from Jail (Brandylane, 2015), a book that explores all of the conditions, traps, and turning points on the path to prison in America and features the memoirs of ten formerly incarcerated men. I am also the author of The Public Work of Rhetoric: Citizen-Scholars and Civic Engagement (University of South Carolina Press, 2013), which presents the art of rhetorical techné as a contemporary praxis for civic engagement and social change inside and outside the academy. My articles on rhetoric, community engagement, and the teaching of writing have appeared in the journals Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Community Literacy, College Composition and Communication, and College English.


B.A. College of Wooster
M.A., Ph.D. SUNY/Albany


Edited. Writing Our Way Out: Memoirs from Jail. Richmond VA: Brandylane Publishers, 2015.

Ed. with John Ackerman.  The Public Work of  RhetoricCitizen Scholars and Community Engagement.  Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2010.

Electronic Writing Centers: Computing the Field of Composition. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1999.

Faculty photo by Patrick Scott Vickers – 2014