Professor Daena Goldsmith researches and teaches about how we enact identities and relationships through what we say and how we say it. Her work focuses on interactions from everyday life, including the conversations we have with a spouse or partner, the advice we give to friends and family, and the stories we tell face-to-face and online. Her courses address the intersections of interpersonal interaction, media, and rhetoric.
An Interview with Daena Goldsmith
Didn’t you go to L&C as an undergraduate? How did you end up as a professor here?
I was an undergraduate here. I wanted to get back to a smaller college where I could develop relationships and work one-on-one with undergraduate students. Coming back to L&C was great because I have a fondness for the school. I’m really excited about the opportunity to come back and give back to the place that really transformed my life when I was a student. Our students are really smart and love learning. I love it that RHMS students come to class and have done the reading and they want to talk about what they read and what it means. I have also been able to work closely with students on my research. I’ve worked on a couple of projects where I had interviews with couples who were coping with heart disease or couples who were coping with cancer. Students have helped me go through and look for patterns in those interviews. I’ve also written a couple papers with students about the concept of openness, and one of those students has become a counselor. Other students have worked with me on the data collection for a new project on blogs. Our team experimented with different ways of archiving and coding a large body of constantly evolving data.
You said your specialty is in interpersonal communication. How do you merge your research with the Rhetoric and Media components of the major?
Since the major name change from Communication to Rhetoric and Media Studies, I have been finding ways to connect my work to both media and rhetoric. For media, I embrace social media. I’ve been getting up to speed on that literature, which is challenging because technology is changing rapidly and how people use it is also changing rapidly. It’s been fascinating to see how media becomes a part of interpersonal communication through the use of new technologies for connecting. As for rhetoric, I have always felt some connection with what rhetoricians do. In some ways, my work has been out of step with traditional interpersonal communication that was focused on what kinds of behaviors are the most frequent and on the causes and effects of behaviors. I wanted to ask, instead, what is most effective? These questions about effectiveness and how people adapt to particular circumstances are in some ways rhetorical questions. Additionally, I have merged gender and rhetoric in many of my classes. Gender is such an omnipresent part of how we communicate and how other people communicate with us and much of the theory about gender now is about performativity, which places you right in the middle of communication and rhetoric. I don’t know if it’s totally honest to say that I’m a rhetorician, but there are some interesting ways my work overlaps.
It sounds like you have found your place in the major! What are you up to when you aren’t grading papers?
I love being outdoors and I’m happiest when I’m near the water or the mountains. I like running because it gets me outdoors. But I’m also kind of a homebody. I have a huge garden and I like to freeze and can the things I grow. I love to knit and there are stacks of books in every room in our house.
BS Lewis & Clark College; MA., PhD University of Washington
RHMS 260 Empirical Research Methods, RHMS 270 Interpersonal Media, RHMS 303 Discourse Analysis, RHMS 320 Health Narratives, RHMS 332 Rhetoric of Gender in Relationships, RHMS 431 Feminist Discourse Analysis
My recent research has examined couples in which one person is coping with a serious health condition such as heart disease or cancer. For example: How can you encourage your partner to exercise or eat a healthful diet without sounding like a nag? How do couples talk about fears related to illness and treatments? Under what conditions is social support from friends and family helpful in coping with illness? I am beginning a book about the possibility of counter-narratives in online spaces, with blogs by mothers of autistic children as a case study. For more information, see my Teaching and Research website.
My curriculum vitae is available at my Teaching and Research website.