Paul Heilker

Paul Heilker

Paul Heilker

Associate Professor


406 Shanks Hall
181 Turner St. NW
Blacksburg, VA 24061


(540) 231-8444


Department Membership


Please note Dr. Heilker is currently reassigned to the Honors College and is not available for graduate student advising.


  • Modern Rhetorical Theory
  • Writing Pedagogy
  • Language, Violence, and Nonviolence
  • The Essay
  • Rhetorical Constructions of Autism

Professional Activities

  • University Honors: Presidential Global Scholars Program
  • Phi Beta Kappa, VT Chapter
  • Blue Ridge Writing Project


  • PhD. Texas Christian University, 1992
  • M.A. Colorado State University, 1989 
  • B.A. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1985

Research Interests

    Awards and Honors

    • University Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects, 2006
    • College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Advising, 2008

    Selected Publications


    The Essay: Theory and Pedagogy for an Active Form (NCTE, 1996)

    Edited Books

    Keywords in Writing Studies (University Press of Colorado, 2015)


    • "Coming to Nonviolence."  JAEPL: Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning 20.1 (2015): 44-51. 
    • "Autism, Rhetoric, and Whiteness."  Disability Studies Quarterly 32.3 (2012).
    • "On Genres as Ways of Being."  Writing on the Edge 21.2 (2011): 19-31.
    • “Twenty Years In: An Essay in Two Parts.” College Composition and Communication 58.2 (2006): 182-212.

    Additional Information

    Central to his recent scholarship is the idea that rhetoric is a way of being in the world through language, that discourses and their constituent genres require us to inhabit and enact strikingly different ways of being in the world, and his work now focuses on the relationship of writing to violence and nonviolence. He believes that we cannot effectively re-imagine the human condition as less violent using the same discursive tools that created our currently hostile conditions, that we cannot bridge our deep disagreements and schismatic worldviews using the same schemas of discourse that constructed today's antagonistic realities. To create a less hostile and violent future, we need less hostile and violent discourses, and we need to teach these alternative ways of being in the world to students.