Doug Coulson
Associate Professor, Department of English
Carnegie Mellon University

A casuist was viewed ... as a kind of lawyer or special pleader in morals, such as those who, in London, are known as Old Bailey practitioners, called in to manage desperate cases—to suggest all available advantages—to raise doubts or distinctions where simple morality saw no room for either—and generally to teach the art, in nautical phrase, of sailing as near the wind as possible, without fear of absolutely foundering.

Thomas De Quincey, Casuistry (1839)

Rhetoric is notoriously difficult to define, but Aristotle famously claimed that it is the faculty of discovering the available means of persuasion ”in any particular case,” and it has frequently been associated with case-specific, practical, and situated forms of thought and communication. As a result, the study of judicial discourse is particularly useful as a laboratory for exploring a variety of conceptual issues involving rhetoric. I draw upon my legal training and experience as a litigation attorney before entering academia to study rhetoric and argumentation surrounding law, authority, and legitimacy in judicial cases. More broadly, I’m interested in the discursive construction of past events, conflict resolution, and the history and theory of rhetoric.   

You can read more about my current research on the Research and 
Publications and Talks pages. You can also visit my faculty page at Carnegie Mellon University here. The Courses page outlines recent and current courses.

Please feel free to contact me at or follow me on Twitter.

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