Revisions will appear in hot pink.

48C:189g Communication Research Methods: Rhetorical Criticism

Spring 2008 TuTh 2:00-3:15 Lang 222

Catherine H. Palczewski, 273-2714, email:

Lang 341 office hours:

Tuesday: 4:00-5:00

Thursday: 3:15-5:00

If none of these times work, feel free to call or email to make an appointment.

I have already scheduled meetings with students at the following times (meaning I will be in my office). So, if you just have a quick question or need to drop something off, you will be able to find me then:

Tuesday: 1:00-1:30, 3:30-4:00

Wednesday: 11:00-11:30, 1:30-3:00

Forensic office hours, in Lang 218

Tuesday: 5:00-7:00

Description: This class will teach you various research models used in rhetorical criticism. In order to determine how texts work rhetorically, analysis is required of both the elements of the text and the rhetorical situation in which the text is presented. However, different questions are asked of the text depending on the theoretical assumptions one takes into the act of criticism. Thus, this course will introduce you to a range of methods, including: classical/rationalistic criticism (neo-Aristotelian, argument), dramatistic criticism (cluster criticism, generic criticism, metaphoric criticism, narrative criticism, pentadic criticism, and fantasy-theme criticism), and socio-political/ psychosocial criticism (ideological criticism, feminist criticism, and post-modern criticism). In order to understand how theories influence the outcome of criticism, each student will focus his or her semester's work on a single text, to which the student will apply multiple critical methods.


1. Understand how rhetoric constructs, maintains, and challenges social reality.

2. Understand and analyze the interactions between texts and contexts.

3. Become familiar with a range of methods for the study of rhetorical texts, with emphasis on primarily verbal texts.

4. Understand that rhetorical method is a heuristic vocabulary that enables more critical and self-reflexive analysis of a text.

5. Develop writing skills by applying the concepts learned in class to the research paper produced for the class.


Stoner, Mark and Sally Perkins. Making Sense of Messages: A Critical Apprenticeship in Rhetorical Criticism (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005). (MSM)

For students who have not taken 48C:080 Introduction to Research Methods, you should also purchase: Selections from Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Thomas R. Burkholder, Critiques of Contemporary Rhetoric (CB).

Readings linked to the syllabus, located on the appropriate week.

A copy of the MLA or APA style guide, if you do not already own one.

Graduate students also are required to read:

Nothstine, William L., Carole Blair, and Gary A. Copeland. Critical Questions: Invention, Creativity, and the Criticism of Discourse and Media (NBC)


Requirements: This class will focus on generating a presentation or publication quality paper. To do this, assignments center around a progressive paper -- meaning, the first paper becomes the introduction for the 2nd, the 2nd becomes the intro for the 3rd and 4th, and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th papers are combined to become the foundation for the final paper. You will need to learn appropriate citation format (APA or MLA), and will be expected to revise and edit your work as the paper progresses.

Even though there is an extensive peer review process built into the class, you still are expected to conscientiously proofread your own work. If a paper has numerous typographical, citation, or grammatical errors, I will return it ungraded.

Page limits on all assignments will be rigorously enforced. You should spend time finding ways to write more concisely and clearly. If I find your paper long-winded, and you go over the page limit, I will quit reading. (If however, you are brilliant and keep me captivated, I may not notice). And, given the expectations of each of the assignments, you probably will need to use the number of pages required. If, however, you are exceptionally concise, then I may not notice if your paper falls short of the required pages.

A bibliography should be turned in with every assignment. It will not count toward your page limit. On the top of the page, indicate the style (APA or MLA) that you think you ase using. You may include citations in the bibliography you have not yet used, but plan to.

Detailed descriptions of all assignments appear on this syllabus. You are free to ask questions in class about the assignments, or contact me outside of class by email or phone. But, please be aware, I will NOT answer any questions about an assignment in the 48 hours before it is due. I recognize that students procrastinate, so, consider this an inducement to begin work early. This means if you have a question, you need to be prepared to ask it in the class session before the paper is due. I will not answer questions after that time.

The total worth of the assignments is 100 points. The individual point value of each assignment is noted in parenthesis ( ) immediately following the assignment title. Simply doing the base requirements of each assignment will earn you a "C" -- this means you have done acceptable work. To earn a "B" you must go beyond the assignment expectations or fulfill them in an above average way. To earn an "A" you must go far beyond the assignment expectations and fulfill the base expectations in an exceptional manner.

1) Text Selection: (10) [5 pages]. Write a 5 page justification for studying your text. Keep in mind, this paper will become the introduction for the final eassay, as well as each of the essays to follow. Ultimately, this paper makes an argument as to why your text is worthy of study. The paper should include:

A) an introduction that situates the topic within a larger context (this will require historical research and appropriate citations),

B) background on when, where and to whom the text was delivered (this will require historical research and appropriate citations),

C) a description of the rhetor (this will require historical research and appropriate citations),

D) a description of the text (you should provide a 1-2 paragraph summary of the text that identifies its main thesis, outlines its structure, and highlights its substantive and stylistic elements),

E) a description of reactions to the text which may include an assessment of the text's effects (this will require historical research and appropriate citations),

F) a review of relevant scholarly literature on the text (this will require research in the scholarly literature and appropriate citations),

G) an explanation on why the text is rhetorically interesting (this can be a combination of your assessment of the text, as well as commentary from contemporaneous and scholarly reactions), and

H) a preview paragraph that outlines your research questions (this paragraph will transform into your thesis paragraph).

A-H represents a checklist for content. It is NOT an outline for the paper.

I suggest you find a speech text that is 5-10 pages long. Although rhetorical techniques can be used on visual texts, texts that combine the visual and verbal, movies, advertisements, and longer written texts, I encourage you to find a short speech as that is the type of text this class will best prepare you to analyze. For beginning critics, it is best if you select a primarily verbal text Bring enough clean copies of your text to class so that all class members and I can each have our own copy. Due: January 31.

Link to Cate's text. (to be added)

speech sources:

Scholarly communication literature can be found at:

Communication Institute for Online Scholarship:

Communication Abstracts

Also, many journals can be found in full text form in Expanded Academic ASAP, including Argumentation & Advocacy, Communication Studies, Communication Quarterly, and Western Journal of Communication. Rhetoric & Public Affairs is available in full text form from Project Muse. However, many of the journals (Western, Southern and QJS) are not available in full text form electronically. You will need to use indexes, and then actually risk paper cuts by visiting the library's journal section (in the basement).

Do not forget to search books as well.

2) Descriptive analysis of the text: (10) [8 pages]. Conduct a detailed descriptive analysis of the text using the methods outlined in CB Chs. 2-3. This paper expands upon the short description of the text provided in subpoints B, C and D from paper 1. Attach an outline of answers to the questions outlined on this link to your paper. These questions come from CB pages 28-30 and 50-56. Remember, your answers to these questions form the background work required to write the paper. The outline offers a way to organize your data. The outline of answers should NOT be the outline of the paper. This paper should provide a detailed description of the text's distinctive rhetorical choices, and whether they were fitting given the situation in which the text was delivered. This essay should make sense of the text in context. Due: February 14.

3) Classical Interpretation: (10) [12 pages]. This paper should focus on explaining the argument presented in the text and the audience reaction to the text. The paper also should identify the genre of the text and highlight any particularly noteworthy tropes. Thus, this paper develops subpoints D and E from paper 1. You are expected to do additional research on how others' responded, both in the popular and scholarly press. You also should use the concepts introduced in MSM chapters 9 and 10. Due: March 6.

4) Dramatistic or Sociopolitical Interpretation: (15) [15 pages]. Conduct a criticism of your text using one of the interpretive models introduced in MSM chapters 11-16. This paper gives you a chance to expand upon subpoint G from paper 1. This paper should focus on the more subtle ways in which rhetoric operates to persuade, how all language by its very nature is suasive. It should speak to the broad ways in which all discourse participates in an ongoing social conversation, and is not an isolated event. Due: April 3 .

5) Final paper -- Text Evaluation: (25) [20 pages]. Using the work done in earlier papers, write a holistic evaluation of your text. The final paper should include additional research and may include additional arguments. If you have not yet used concepts from chapters 14-16, you may find them useful in providing an evaluation of the text. This paper should make an argument about how to read the text. What is rhetorically significant about the text? Due: May 7, 1-2:50 p.m., Wednesday.

YOU ALSO MUST SEND YOUR PAPERS AS AN EMAIL ATTACHMENT TO CATE AT Your papers will not be considered "turned in" until you send them as an email attachment and until you also turn in all the peer edits done of your paper.

If you are interested, you might wish to consider submitting your final essay to an undergraduate awards competition. The final details are not yet available, but here is the general information from last year:

The James L. Golden Award is open to original essays focusing on the history, theory or criticism of rhetoric both from undergraduates and from graduate students who, at the time of submission, have not been awarded the M.A. degree.

The outstanding essayist not only will receive recognition at the NCA Awards Event but will deliver the paper in a special session at the 2007 annual conference in Chicago. Submission of the paper will be taken as agreement to attend the convention. Travel support will be extended to the author of the winning essay (or senior author, in the case of a joint essay). Recognition will also be given to a Laureate group of top-rated papers.

Essays should be of a length not greater than 20 pages of double-spaced text in 12-point font (not including endnotes) with author-identification information detachable. Essays may have been presented orally prior to submission but may not have been previously published. No more than one essay may be submitted as a solely authored or co-authored essay in a given year by a particular individual; in the case of multiple authors, all authors of record must be students; award recognition shall be given to multiple authors and the prize stipend shall be divided between or among authors; however, travel support will be provided for only the first author.

Essays will be read by a panel of three judges and will be evaluated for their contribution to the understanding of rhetorical process and outcomes, for excellence of conception and grounding, for weight of argument, strength of evidence, and eloquence of expression.

Essays must be supported by a letter of nomination from a faculty member that may be sent separately.

Four (4) paper copies of the essay should be mailed to arrive by May 4, 2007 addressed to the Award Trustee:

Send nominations to: J. Michael SprouleProfessor, Department of Communication, Saint Louis University, Xavier Hall, 3733 West Pine Mall, Saint Louis, MO 63108-3305

6) Peer editing: (10) We will use peer editing as a way to improve the papers. When peer editing, you are expected to provide both stylistic and substantive suggestions. You also are expected to proofread the bibliography. Use the sample editing marks provided on the 1st day of class. Throughout the semester, you will have multiple opportunities to edit each others' work. You also will have a chance to edit the professor's work. Each time you turn a paper into the professor for editing, she will turn one into you. This is a chance to see scholarship develop, and provide another example of a text to be analyzed.

A. Papers 1, 2, 3, and 4: For the 1st four assignments, bring two (2) copies to class: one to turn in to me, and another to share with a peer editor. For each paper, your peer editor will change so that you may get as much diverse advice as possible. Peer editors should return the paper within one week of receiving it (edits for paper 1 due February 5, paper 2 February 19, paper 3 March 11, paper 4 April 8 ). Peer editors should make a copy of the edited paper to turn into me on the same day they return it to the author. Remember to sign the paper you edit so you can get credit for the work.

B. Papers 4 and 5: With the 4th and 5th papers, peer editing also will happen in class, prior to turning the paper in. Please check the syllabus for in-class peer editing days, and bring a copy of your paper to class on those days for feedback. When this occurs, the editor should sign the paper. When the final version of the each paper is turned in, the author should include all copies of peer edited papers.

Editing guidelines: In order to receive the minimum passing credit for editing, you are expected to provide the following each time you edit:

1. Substantive edits: You are expected to provide a minimum of three (3) substantive suggestions. In order to make a good substantive suggestion, it usually requires at least a paragraph of writing. Given the length of these edits, you may want to type them. These suggestions can include:
a. Additional arguments to be made about the text. You can point the author to a passage in the text that supports their argument, or that modifies their argument in some way. This edit encourages the author to inorporate more evidence from the text.

b. Additional citation on the history of the text. You can provide the citation for a relevant essay or book, and explain the contribution it makes.

c. Additional applications from the textbooks and readings. You can provide a quotation and page number from the class texts, and explain what is revealed by using the concepts from the texts.

d. Additional scholarly citations. You can provide citations for articles from scholarly journals and books that help develop a heuristic vocabulary for analysis. You should summarize the concept from the scholar, and then explain what it exposes about the text.

e. Major organizational changes. You can suggest a major reordering of the paper. This is more than moving the order of two paragraphs. Instead, it would constitute an alternative way to develop the argument.

f. Major differences in interpretation. You may disagree with some interpretive move the author makes. If so, make a case for an alternative read of the text, providing evidence from the text.

2. Stylistic edits: You are expected to make a minimum of ten (10) style edits. They can include:

a. bibliographic citation corrections

b. internal citation corrections

c. typographical error corrections

d. grammar corrections

e. spelling corrections

f. sentence rewordings

7) Presentation: (5). During the final exam period (May 7, 1-2:50 p.m., Wednesday), we will have a formal presentation of all the papers. These presentations will be modeled after conference presentations of papers. Students will have approximately 8-10 minutes to present their papers. Depending on class size, the duration of the presentation may be lengthened. The presentation should provide sufficient background on the text and outline the core argument made in the paper. The student should also provide evidence to support the main argument/s advanced in the paper.

More helpful hints:

1) Do NOT simply read your paper for your presentation. The presentation should be formal and professional, but not scripted. I suggest you speak from a detailed outline (remember to include quotations from the text in the outline to illustrate the points you want to make). Please bring two copies of the outline: one to speak from and one for me. DO practice the presentation to make sure your outline fits within the time limits. Time limits will be enforced.

2) Presume the audience is not familiar with your paper, but is educated about rhetorical criticism. Thus, your presentation should include: a description of the speech, a description of historical context, and illustrative quotations from the text. Your presentation does NOT need to include detailed definitions of common rhetorical terms (i.e. rhetorical situation, persona, metaphor). However, do provide sufficient theoretical explanation of more complicated concepts so that the audience can follow your analysis.

3) Do not try to present all the arguments in your paper. You will not be able to cover everything in just 10 minutes. Instead, give a brief overview of all your arguments, and then pick one or two on which to focus the presentation.

8) Discussion: (15) Being a good participant does not mean that you always have the answer; it can also mean that you know when to ask the right questions and when to recognize that the answers have already been offered by the class but need to be synthesized. Discussion is a central component of this class and each person's analysis of his/her text can be enhanced by others' insights. Attendance in class is not sufficient to fulfill the discussion requirement, although it is necessary. You may be asked to submit discussion questions as part of this assignment. Should students not come to class prepared to discuss, weekly quizes may be instituted.

Given that there are no tests and quizes, I use discussion as a way to gauge whether students are keeping up with the assigned reading, and have been reading each others' texts. Given this is a communication class, you should be able to communicate your understanding of the readings. You should spend time preparing for discussion in class, reviewing speeches and taking notes from the readings. You should come to class prepared to ask questions about the parts of the readings you did not understand completely. You should be able to identify examples of the concepts covered in the reading that appear in the texts analyzed by class members. The textbook is quite basic, and so I assume that after having read it, you will be ready to apply the concepts. We will then use class discussion to develop the concepts at a more advanced level. I will not review the readings step by step in class, but instead will supplement them with more advanced applications and formulations.

For a detailed description of the criteria used in the assessment of discussion, see:

To receive a passing discussion grade, you should consistently participate, demonstrating competence in each of the five discussion elements: argument, questioning, synthesis, readings and hypothesizing. To receive a "B," you should participate in every class, and excel in at least 3 of the areas. To receive an "A," you should participate in every class and excel in all of the areas.


General Information: see my website, at This site includes my late policy, the university accommodation policy, as well as paper format descriptions. If you lose this syllabus, a copy is available on my website:


Syllabus: (This syllabus is subject to change, although that rarely happens.) If changes happen, they will be in hot pink.)


Week 1: January 15, 17: Introduction to class

Read: CB pp. 2-16, MSM preface, 1-2


Week 2: January 22, 24: Criticism as Critical Thinking and Writing

Read: MSM 3, 8

Brockriede, Wayne. "Rhetorical Criticism as Argument." Quarterly Journal of Speech 60.2 (April 1974): 165-174. (sent as an email attachment)


Week 3: January 29, 31: Descriptive Analysis of the Text

Read: CB pp. 17-30, MSM 46-52

Vail, Mark. "The "Integrative" Rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' Speech." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9.1 (Spring 2006): 51-78. link

January 31: text selection paper due, remember to bring an extra copy for peer editing.

***Remember to bring enough copies of your text for the entire class.

***Henceforth, each student should bring copies of all texts to class. We will use the class texts as examples for the purpose of discussion. Read and be familiar with all your classmate's texts.


Week 4: February 5 (Fritch guest lecture), 7: Descriptive analysis of the Rhetorical Situation

Read: Rhetorical Situation chapter (sent as email attachment) (for tuesday)

CB pp. 49-56, MSM, pp. 52- 68 and chapter 5 (for thursday)

Murphy, John M. "'Our Mission and Our Moment': George W. Bush and September 11th." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6.4 (Winter 2003): 607-632. link


Week 5: February 12, 14: Moving from Description to Evaluation

Read: MSM 6 - 7

Selections from a collection of essays published in Communication Studies, 54.3 (Fall 2003) -- available on Expanded Academic ASAP. You are required to read 2 of the following.

1. Sandra J. Berkowitz, "Originality, conversation and reviewing rhetorical criticism."

2. Barry Brummett, "Double binds in publishing rhetorical studies."

3. Joshua Gunn, "Publishing peccadilloes and idioms of disposition: views from the habitus of scholarly adolescence."

4. Steven B. Hunt. "An essay on publishing standards for rhetorical criticism."

5. Catherine Helen Palczewski. "What is "good criticism"? A conversation in progress."

EVERYONE must read:

1. Mike Allen. "Special section: what constitutes publishable rhetorical scholarship: heavy lies the editor's fingers on the keyboard."

2. John W. Jordan, Kathryn M. Olson, Steven R. Goldzwig. "Continuing the conversation on "what constitutes publishable rhetorical criticism?": a response."

February 14: descriptive analysis paper due, remember to bring an extra copy for peer editing.


Week 6: February 19, 21: Classical Criticism

Read: CB pp. 73-81, MSM 9-10

Zarefsky, David. "Making the Case for War: Colin Powell at the United Nations." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 10.2 (2007): 275-302. link



Week 7: February 26 (guest lecture), 28: Dramatistic Criticism

Read: CB 92-98, MSM 13

Ott, Brian L., and EricAoki. "The Politics of Negotiating Public Tragedy: Media Framing of the Matthew Shepard Murder." Rhetoric and Public Affairs 5.3 (Fall 2002): 483-505. link


Week 8: March 4, 6: Narrative and Fantasy Theme Criticism

Read: CB 82-91, MSM 11-12

March 6: classical analysis due, remember to bring an extra copy for peer editing.


Week 9: March 11, 13: Ideological Criticism

Read: MSM 14

Frank, David A. and Mark Lawrence McPhail. "Barack Obama's Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention: Trauma, Compromise, Consilience, and the (Im)possibility of Racial Reconciliation." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 8.4 (2005): 571-593 link


Week 10: March 18, 20: spring break


Week 11: March 25 (Feminist Criticism), 27 (round 1 of peer editing of 4th paper)

Read: MSM 15


Bring a draft of your 4th paper to class on March 27, as peer editing will occur in class.

Over the weekend, revise paper 4 in response to in class edits.


Week 12: April 1 (round 2 of peer editing of paper 4 ), 3 (Feminist Criticism con't.)

Bring a draft of your revised 4th paper to class on April 1, as peer editing will occur in class.


Demo, Anne Teresa. "The Guerrilla Girls' Comic Politics of Subversion." Women's Studies in Communication 23.2 (Spring 2000): 133-156. link

April 3: dramatistic analysis due; remember to turn in all edited versions with your paper. The version of paper 4 edited on April 1 should be different from the version edited on March 27. And the version you turn in should be different from both. By the end of class on April 1, everyone's 4th paper should have gone through at least 2 close edits, and one revision based on the edits. In other words, after the edits on March 25, you should make revisions, and then have the revised version edited on the 1st. The edited papers should be turned in with paper 4 on April 3. Remember to bring an extra copy for additional peer editing


Week 13: April 8 Postmodern Criticism, 10 (guest lecture): writing your ideas

Read: MSM 16

Blair, Carole, Marsha S. Jeppeson, and Enrico. Pucci, Jr. "Public memorializing in postmodernity: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial as prototype." Quarterly Journal of Speech 77 (3, August 1991): 263-288. (to be distributed)


Week 14: April 15, 17: Visual Communication

Read: MSM 17

Catherine H. Palczewski, "The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam: Visual Argument, Icons, and Ideographs in 1909 Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcards," Quarterly Journal of Speech 91.4 (November 2005): 365 - 394. link


Week 15: April 22, 24: The evaluation process and generative criticism

Read: CB 109-124, review MSM 7


Remember to complete a draft of your final paper for editing next week.


Week 16: April 29, May 1: Peer editing of final paper.

Remember to bring copies of your final paper to class for editing.


Week 17: Finals week: May 7, 1-2:50 p.m. Wednesday

Final papers and presentations due.