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Idaho State University
Robert Watkins

Robert Watkins

Assistant Professor of English

Office: LA 207-F



PhD, Rhetoric & Professional Communication (2014), Iowa State University

MA, English - Literature & Writing (2008), Utah State University

BA, English - Professional & Technical Writing (2005), Utah State University


My research informs my teaching and my interests are in visual literacy through comics. My dissertation looked at comics as a mode of introducing students to visual literacy by having them both read and create comics. Relying on progymnasmata—an ancient rhetorical practice dedicated to presenting the complex in a step-by-step, accessible fashion—I teach students to create visuals as arguments and technical instructions. A spin-off theme is challenging the alphabetic text’s inherent superiority to the visual verbal. These themes appear in many of my past conference presentations.

One lesson I teach from comics is images should reinforce the text’s message, not repeat them. For example, in comics if a panel's drawing shows a man hitting another man, there shouldn't be a caption that reads, “the man hit the other man.” This basic rule allows the visuals to speak for themselves. This can be applied to business and scientific writing on multiple levels, such as slide presentations (students usually come to the conclusion that note cards and slides aren't the same thing), document design, research posters, and personal ethos.

Teaching is a constant adventure in adaptation. I'm constantly looking for—and implementing—methods that not only cater to teaching specific English courses, but how those methods can be incorporated into other courses where the approach isn’t expected. Whether it be something as simple as augmenting my authority to one course while loosening it to a Bakhtin-jester status in another, my end goal is to make sure students learn that written, visual, and aural communication is vital in their lives and not nearly as painful as they might think.

Selected Awards

Johnson-Sheehan Grant, Iowa State University, Spring 2013

Graduate College Teaching Excellence Award, Iowa State University, Summer 2012

Freda Huncke Endowment Graduate Teaching Fellowship, Iowa State University, Fall 2009

Selected Publications

Watkins, Robert, and Tom Lindsley. "Sequential Rhetoric: Using Freire and Quintilian to Teach Students to Read and Create Comics." Digital Humanities Quarterly. 9.4 (2015). (Won the Best Online Comics Studies Scholarship of 2016).

Watkins, Robert. "The Blueprint/Product Disparity: Learning from Lofty Plans and Humble Products." InVisible Culture 23 (2015).

Watkins, Robert, and Tim Elliot. "Sexy Art, Speculative Commerce, and the X-Men #1 Launch Extravaganza." The Ages of X-Men. ed. Joseph Darowski. McFarland: Jefferson, 2013.

Watkins, Robert. "Words Are The Ultimate Abstraction: Towards Using Scott McCloud for Teaching Visual Rhetoric." Kairos. Kairos and Creative Commons, online, Summer 2008.


Co-recipient of Best Online Comics Studies Scholarship of 2016.

Courses Taught


  • 7731: Practicum in Teaching Composition
  • 4407: Topics in Professional Writing
  • 3308: Business Communications