Texas Tech University

Catherine "Katie" Langford

Associate Professor
Communication Studies

Email: katie.langford@ttu.edu

Phone: +1.806.834.1815

Research: Political, Rhetoric, Legal rhetoric 

Office: 262 B

Ph.D. The Pennsylvania State University, 2005
M.A. Texas A&M University, 2000

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Dr. Langford is a native Houstonian whose ancestors moved to Texas when it was still a Republic. Dr. Langford was a special education student throughout her primary and secondary education. Her elementary school told her mother that she needed to put Dr. Langford in extracurriculars so that Dr. Langford would be able to develop a sense of self-esteem, since they did not anticipate her performing very well in school. Three degrees later, she tells her Tech students that if she can do it, so can they, that people learn in different ways and there is no “right” way to learn.

She received a B.S. in Political Science from Texas A&M University. As an undergraduate, Dr. Langford was a member of Delta Delta Delta, a Supplemental Instruction tutor for Local & State Government, and an Aggie Hostess recruiter for the Texas A&M football team. She finished her major her junior year of college and took electives in Speech Communication. That's when she learned that she could study the topics of interest to her from a different perspective. She then decided to remain in Aggieland to pursue a Masters in Speech Communication at Texas A&M. She then went to The Pennsylvania State University to complete her doctorate, after which she hurried back to Texas when she accepted a faculty position at Texas Tech University.

In her free time, Dr. Langford likes to travel. Her favorite place she's visited domestically is Alaska; her favorite place she's visited internationally is Budapest. She has traveled through most of Western Europe, some of Eastern Europe, South America, and the Pacific. She generally likes to visit new places on every trip.

She is a foodie. She enjoys Michelin Stars, James Beard Awards, and celebrity chefs. She is known for making artisan ice cream, experimenting with different flavor profiles. Her new favorite is cardamom candied ginger; her friends like her sweet corn and raspberry. She also enjoys making homemade pasta and French macarons. She regularly does Whole 30, giving up all grain, legumes, sugar, dairy, and alcohol for 30 days at a time, she does not make her goodies during these times!

She enjoys a lot of good (and bad) TV and is always appreciative of suggestions for new shows to watch.

Since 2003, she has worked on and off for the Junior State of America, the nation's oldest non-partisan, non-profit devoted to the civic education of high school students. She has run programs at Georgetown, Northwestern, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Texas at Austin. For the past several years she has been teaching debate for the programs. Students from more than 30 countries participate in these programs.

Dr. Langford is continuing her own education by working part-time on a J.D. from the Texas Tech University School of Law. Since her research program primarily revolves around rhetoric and the law, and she was strictly self-taught until she started this part-time program, she thought her research program and teaching would be benefited through additional studies.

Dr. Langford has a veritable menagerie at home. She has two cats (Nittany & June Parker), a dog (Lucy), and two chickens (Hattie B & Phyllis). Please, do not try to give her any more fur/feathered babies!


Dr. Langford is a rhetorical scholar interested in public address. As such, her research manifests itself in three different forms of texts: legal rhetoric, political rhetoric, and the rhetoric of public memory. Each of these areas of research impacts the other. Legal opinions elicit political discourse and competing public memory. Political discourse encourages particular understandings of the law and memory. Public memory of events, persons, and laws impacts political and legal discourse. For example, lay persons do not read complete judicial opinions; they understand textual fragments of opinions operate as a simulacrum reproduced in public and political discourses.

Dr. Langford's research specifically focuses on constitutional interpretation, the First Amendment's freedom of speech and religion clauses, the Eighth Amendment and capital punishment, reproductive rights, racial identity, transgender rights, the US presidency, and statutory law.

Her book, Scalia v. Scalia, examines former-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's constitutional interpretation and legal decision-making in three areas of law: where the Constitution is clear (the Eighth Amendment), where the Constitution is silent (abortion), and where the Constitution is in tension (the religion clauses). She concludes that Scalia does not interpret the Constitution in the textualist manner he says judges should.

She has written about botched executions, the rhetoric of fetal personhood statutes, transgender rights on college campuses, George H.W. Bush's use of “the vision thing,” Barack Obama's Secular Messianic Style of discourse, whiteness in public memory, judicial dissent, the activism of #BlackLivesMatters, cyberprotests, and racial identity before the law. She also has a social movements textbook that focuses on 9 different major American movements (abolition, suffrage, labor, civil rights, peach/anti-war, women's liberation, prolife/prochoice, queer rights, and human rights). She jokes that she researches all the things you're not supposed to discuss over the dinner table.

She uses a variety of rhetorical methodologies. Primarily she relies upon close textual analysis, which allows the text to direct its own reading rather than forcing established ideologies of the author upon the text. She also uses Aristotelian theory, critical theory, Burkean theory, and metaphor in her analyses. She asks the following question of every text she investigates: what rhetorical work does this artifact perform? This question produces breadth of knowledge, because of the intertextual nature of legal opinions, political discussion, and public memory, as well as depth of knowledge, because of close textual approach that is concerned with textual density and movement.

She currently is working on a second book with attorney David Grassmick, titled, Legal Fictions of American Private Property, which argues that idea of private property is a legal fiction and that everything government does distributes property. Our definition of property is expansive; your body is property; your time is property; your thoughts are property; what people call “rights” are property. Everything can be treated as “property” in an analytical construct about discourse and power. The purpose of our project is to disturb that order and create opportunities to write a new narrative about ordered liberty.


  • Rhetorical analysis 

Research Areas

  • Political communication, Rhetoric, Legal rhetoric 

Selected Publications

Langford, C.L. (2017). Scalia v. Scalia: Opportunistic textualism in constitutional interpretation. Tuscaloosa, AL: Alabama University Press.

Langford, C.L. (2015). Tinkering with the machinery of death: The body-as-gauge in discourses about capital punishment. Argumentation and Advocacy, 51, 153-170.

Langford, C.L (2014). The secular messianic style in Barack Obama's “call to renewal” speech. In J. Mercieca & J. Vaughn (Eds.), The rhetoric of heroic expectations: Establishing the Obama presidency (170-190). College Station: Texas A&M University Press.


  • Catherine L. Langford, Textual Tales: Justice Antonin Scalia's Approach to Constitutional Interpretation. Under contract at Alabama University Press.
  • Catherine L. Langford, Communicating Protest: The Fight for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in American Social Movements. (Dubuque, IA: Great River Learning). 2016.

Book Chapters:

  • Catherine L. Langford, “Trans*Forming Higher Education to Advance Workplace Diversity,” in eds. Chaundra L. Scott and Jeanetta D. Sims, Developing Workforce Diversity Programs, Curriculum, and Degrees in Higher Education (Hershey, PA: IGI Global). Forthcoming.
  • Catherine L. Langford, “What Binds This Nation Together: Barack Obama's Secular Messianic Style in His Second Inaugural,” in eds. Jason Edwards and Joe Valenzano, The Rhetoric of Civil Religion: Saints, Sinners, and Symbols. Forthcoming.
  • Catherine L. Langford, “The Secular Messianic Style in Barack Obama's ‘Call to Renewal' Speech,” in eds. Jennifer Mercieca and Jason Vaughn, The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014): 170-190.
  • Amy N. Heuman and Catherine L. Langford, “Tradition and Southern Confederate Culture: Manifesting Whiteness through Public Memory at Texas A&M University,” in Public Memory, Race, and Ethnicity, ed. G. Mitchell Reyes (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2010): 120-144. * Co-constructed, collaborative manuscript.
  • Catherine L. Langford, “A Politics of Erasure: The Intersection of Race and Color-Blind Rhetoric in Supreme Court Opinions,” in ed. Dennis S. Gouran, The Functions of Argument and Social Context (Washington, D.C.: National Communication Association, 2010): 289-295.

Teaching Focus

Teaching experiences at three universities have provided opportunities to teach a variety of courses, especially those related to quantitative methodologies and public opinion. These include courses taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, such as Mass Communication & Public Opinion (undergrad/graduate), Public Relations & Public Opinion (undergrad), Applied Research Methods for Public Relations (undergrad), Mass Communication Research Methods (undergrad), and Quantitative Research (graduate).

Other courses taught include Mass Communication Seminar (graduate), Principles of Public Relations (undergrad), Intro. to Electronic Media (undergrad), and Computer-Mediated Communication (undergrad/graduate).

Leadership & Awards

  • 2018 Top Paper Award - Communication Technology Division. AEJMC Midwinter Conference.
  • 2016 Top Paper Award - Communication Technology Division. AEJMC Midwinter Conference.
  • 2015 Favorite Professor. Student-Athlete TECHSPY Award. Texas Tech University.
  • 2014 Faculty Development Leave. Texas Tech University.
  • 2012 James Madison Prize for Outstanding Research in First Amendment Studies from Southern Speech Communication Association's Freedom of Speech Division for “Race and Racism in the Collective Memory of the Law.” Awarded in 2013.
  • 2012 Teaching Academy's Departmental Excellence Award. Texas Tech University. $25,000. (Wrote and submitted the application.)
  • 2012 Engaged and Integrated Scholar. Texas Tech University Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Community Engagement. Office of Community Engagement.
  • 2011 President's Excellence in Teaching Award. Texas Tech University. $1500.
  • 2011 Outstanding Director of Summer Programs. The Junior Statesmen Foundation.
  • 2010-present. Teaching Academy. Texas Tech University.

Research Chair for the Political Communication Interest Group for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

Committee member - Inez Kaiser Graduate Students of Color Award Committee for the Public Relations Division (AEJMC)