48C:123 Rhetorical Theory: Contemporary

Spring 2001

Lang 345

TuTh 12:30-1:45

Dr. Cate Palczewski

Lang 341

office hours: tba


Description: This course will provide an overview of a few of the key areas of controversy within rhetorical theory. The course is not structured as a survey of great theorists, but instead is structured as a survey of theoretical disagreements so that you may better understand what is at stake. These areas include: communication's role in defining humanity, power and communication, marginal groups and public discourse, gender/sex and rhetoric, evidence and public policy argument, and the impact of emerging communication technologies on theory.

Operating from the assumption that language reflects, selects, and deflects reality in its construction of how we perceive the world, the class will explore how, why, and what influences this process. In particular, the class will explore the following questions:

1) What constitutes communication, rhetoric, persuasion, speech?

2) What role does communication play in US social/political/cultural order/s? In particular, how might marginalized groups enter into the public realm to persuade while not giving up their integrity and identity? How might communication be conceived as a tool of liberation? Is rhetoric a mechanism with which to exchange information, a form of entertainment, a tool of statecraft, or a source of knowledge and power?

3) Does the role of communication differ between groups? Bell hooks writes that "speaking freely, openly has different meaning for people from exploited and oppressed groups. . . . coming to voice is an act of resistance. Speaking becomes both a way to engage in active self-transformation and a rite of passage where one moves from being object to being subject." How might we theorize this process and the differences it points to?

4) How does communication affect social change?

5) Does communication function differently in the public, private and technical spheres?

6) Does contemporary rhetorical theory have a class/race/cultural/gender/sexuality bias?



1) Familiarize one's self with rhetorical theory and the debates within it.

2) Improve one's understanding of the various traditions of communication within free societies.

3) Develop a more precise vocabulary with which to describe the functions and forms of communication.


Readings: packet, available from UNI's copy services, located in the basement of the library. Web documents available at the addresses included in the syllabus.



1) Precis: (1 at 5 points each, 4 at 10 points each) [3-5 pages each] You are required to write a precis, meaning a short summary of an article, 5 times throughout the semester. The precis is due one week after we discuss the article in class &endash; hence the due date is influenced by which articles you choose to write about. If we discuss an article on Tues., it is due the next Tues; if we discuss it on Thurs., it is due the next Thurs. You must write about an article from each of these general sections of the course: 1) Burke, 2) public sphere, 3) power, discourse and discipline, 4) personal testimony, credibility and feminist theory, and 5) cyberpolitics and cybermovements. The format of the precis is as follows:

A. Upper left hand corner, single spaced: (i) your name, (ii) the date of article discussion in class, and (iii) the date your paper is turned in. Skip one space.

B. Single spaced, correct bibliographic citation for the article. Skip one space.

C. Summary of key argument of essay. 1-2 paragraphs.

D. Explanation of key arguments with relevant examples. 1-2 pages.

E. Reactions to the essay, meaning a summary of at least one other publications' reaction to the essay. 1-2 paragraphs.

F. Your critical reaction to the essay, including points of agreement and disagreement. 1 page.

You should include key quotations from the essay in your summary of it.

2) Discussion: (20) 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 insofar as each person's analysis of the readings can be enhanced by others' insights. For a detailed description of the criteria used in the assessment of discussion, see my website at http://www.uni.edu/palczews/discussion.htm.

3) Final paper:

A. Proposal: (5) [3 pages of text, bibliography extra] You will turn in a short proposal that outlines the subjects covered in your final paper and the questions to be answered. The proposal should include in exhaustive bibliography on the topic (not included in the page limit), which covers books, Communication journals (see CIOS website or ComIndex), as well as mass media periodicals appropriate to your topic.

Due: February 22

B. Final paper (20) [15-20 pages] You will write a final research paper for the class. The exact content of the paper is left up to you, and may include any of the following:

*synthesis paper: indicating where points of agreement exist in the readings and working through points of disagreement,

*application paper: take a theory read about in class and apply it to a case study,

*extension paper: read additional essays by and about a theorist and expand upon the readings done in the class,

*comparison paper: compare theorists read in class, or compare a theorist read in this class to one studied in another class, or

*utility paper: examine a theory and explain how it would influence your participation in, or the structure of, a workplace.

Final papers should include as much of the class readings as possible.

Draft Due: March 22 A draft of the final paper is due on March 22 for the purpose of peer editing. Bring a copy of your draft to class on March 22, 27 and 29. Over those three days, you will share your paper with 3 other people for the purpose of detailed editing and discussion. I expect much of this discussion will be formative, in the sense that it will help you form the argument in your final paper. However, you must bring a paper with sufficient substance so that others can give you guidance on the final paper. Peer editing will also occur April 12. A revised version of the paper should be brought to class on that day. When you turn in your final paper, also turn in both copies of the edited versions of your paper. Your responsiveness to editing suggestions will be factored into your final grade.

Final version Due: 3:00 May 3

4) Peer editing (5). When you peer edit on March 22, 27 & 29, and again on April 12, sign all those papers you edit. If multiple people edit on the same copy, use different colored pens so that your suggestions can be differentiated. You will receive credit for the quality of your editing. When peer editing, you are expected to provide both stylistic and substantive suggestions. Use the sample editing marks provided on the 1st day of class.

5) Final paper presentation (5). You will present the results of your final paper to the class during the final exam period: 3:00-4:50 May 3, Thursday. The length of presentations will depend on the number of students in the class.


General Information: see my website, at www.uni.edu/palczews/general.htm. 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: www.uni.edu/palczews


Syllabus: (the syllabus may be modified)


January 9, 11: Intro to Rhetorical Theory

Jan 11 -- Burke, Kenneth. "Definition of Man." In Language as Symbolic Action. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. 3-24.


January 16, 18: Burke Basics

Jan 16 -- Condit, Celeste Michelle. "Post-Burke: Transcending the Sub-stance of Dramatism." Quarterly Journal of Speech 78 (1992): 349-355.

Jan 18 -- Burke, Kenneth. "Dramatism." In International Journal of the Social Sciences, Vol.7. Ed. David L. Sills. New York: The Macmillian Company, 1968. 445-452.

Burke, Kenneth. "Introduction: The Five Key Terms of Dramatism" and "Container and Thing Contained." A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. xv-20.

Madsen, Arnie. "Burke's Representative Anecdote as a Critical Method." In Extensions of the Burkean System. Ed. James Chesebro. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993. 208-229.


January 23, 25: More Burke

Jan 23 &endash; Burke, Kenneth. "Terministic Screens." In Language as Symbolic Action. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. 44-62.

Jan 25 -- Kauffman, Charles. "Names and Weapons." Communication Monographs 56 (1989): 273-285.


January 30, February 1: Contemporary Issues in Theory

Jan 30 &endash; Scott, Robert. "On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic." Central States Speech Journal 18 (1967): 9-16.

Black, Edwin. "The Second Persona." Quarterly Journal of Speech 56 (1970): 109-119.

Feb 1 &endash; Bitzer, Lloyd F. "The Rhetorical Situation." Philosophy & Rhetoric 1 (1968): 1-14.


February 6, 8: The Public Sphere, defined

Feb 6 -- Habermas, Jürgen. "The Public Sphere." In Jürgen Habermas on Society and Politics: A Reader. Ed. Steven Seidman. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989. 231-236.

Fraser, Nancy. "Rethinking the Public Sphere." In Habermas and the Public Sphere. Ed. Craig Calhoun. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992. 109-142.

Feb 8 -- Habermas, Jürgen. "Further Reflections on the Public Sphere." In Habermas and the Public Sphere. Ed. Craig Calhoun. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992. 421-461.

Asen, Robert. "Seeking the 'Counter' in Counterpublics." Communication Theory 10 (2000): 424-446.


February 13, 15: The Public Sphere, extended

Feb 13 -- Goodnight, G. Thomas. "The Personal, Technical, and Public Spheres of Argument: A Speculative Inquiry into the Art of Public Deliberation." Argumentation & Advocacy 18 (Spring 1982): 214-227.

Fabj, Valeria and Matthew J. Sobnosky. "AIDS Activism and the Rejuvenation of the Public Sphere." Argumentation & Advocacy 31 (Spring 1995): 163-184.

Feb 15 -- Foss, Sonja K. and Cindy L. Griffin. "Beyond Persuasion: A Proposal for an Invitational Rhetoric." Communication Monographs 62 (March 1995): 2-18.

Griffin, Cindy L. "The Essentialist Roots of the Public Sphere: A Feminist Critique." Western Journal of Communication 60 (Winter 1996): 21-39.


February 20, 22 Power and discourse

Feb 20 -- Foucault, Michel. "The Discourse on Language." Trans. Rupert Swyer. In The Archeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon, 1972. 215-237.

Feb 22 -- Olson, Lester C. "On the Margins of Rhetoric: Audre Lord Transforming Silence into Language and Action." Quarterly Journal of Speech 83 (February 1997): 49-70.

hooks, bell. "The Oppositional Gaze." Black Looks. Boston: South End Press, 1992: 115-131.

February 22 &endash; proposal for final paper due.


February 27, March 1: Disciplining the Discipline and ourselves

Feb 27 -- Blair, Carole, Julie R. Brown, and Leslie A. Baxter. "Disciplining the Feminine." Quarterly Journal of Speech 80 (November 1994): 383-409.

Ono, Kent. "A Letter/Essay I've Been Longing to Write in My Personal/Academic Voice." Western Journal of Communication 61 (Winter 1997): 114-125.

March 1 -- Nakayama, Thomas K. and Robert L. Krizek. "Whiteness: A Strategic Rhetoric." Quarterly Journal of Speech 81 (August 1995): 291-309.


March 6, 8: Personal Testimony

Mar 6 -- MacKinnon, Catharine A. "Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: An Agenda for Theory." Signs 7 (Spring 1982): 515-544.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. "Feminist Discourse and Its Discontents: Language, Power, and Meaning." Signs 7 (Spring 1982): 603-621.

Mar 8 -- Kauffman, Linda S. "The Long Goodbye." In American Feminist Thought at Century's End. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1993. 258-277.


March 13, 15: spring break


March 20, 22 (peer editing) Credibility

Mar 20 -- Code, Lorraine. "Credibility: A Double Standard." In What Can She Know?. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991. 222-264.

Alcoff, Linda and Laura Gray. "Survivor Discourse: Transgression or Recuperation?" Signs 18 (Winter 1993): 260-290.

Draft of the final paper is due March 22 for the purpose of peer editing.


March 27, 29 (peer editing, con't.)


April 3, 5 Feminist theory

Apr 3 -- Condit, Celeste Michelle. "Opposites in an Oppositional Practice: Rhetorical Criticism and Feminism." In Transforming VIsions. Ed. Sheryl Perlmutter Bowen and Nancy Wyatt. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc., 1993. 205-230.

Condit, Celeste M. "Gender Diversity: A Theory of Communication for the Postmodern Era." In Communication: Views from the Helm for the 21st Century. Ed. Judith Trent. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1998. 177-183.

Apr 5 -- Foss, Sonja K. and Cindy Griffin. "A Feminist Perspective on Rhetorical Theory: Toward a Clarification of Boundaries." Western Journal of Communication 56 (Fall 1992): 330-349.


April 10 Cyberpolitics, 12 (no Cate)

Apr 10-- Riley, Patricia, et al. "The Dark Side of Community and Democracy: Militias, Patriots and Angry White Guys." Argument in a Time of Change. Ed. James F. Klumpp. Annandale, VA: National Communication Association, 1997. 202-207.

April 12 &endash; peer editing


April 17, 19: Cyberpolitics

Apr 17 -- www.rheingold.com/texts/techpolitix/civil.html "Virtual Communities, Phony Civil Society?"

www.rheingold.com/vc/book/9.html "Chapter 9: Electronic Frontiers and Online Activists."

Apr 19 &endash; Palczewski paper, at www.uni.edu/palczews website

www.webgrrls.com (review site, including mission, benefits, and wisdom)


April 24, 26: Cybermovements

Apr 24 -- Poster, Mark. "Cyberdemocracy: Internet and the Public Sphere." Internet Culture. Ed. David Porter. New York: Routledge, 1996. 201-217.

Apr 26 -- Tsagarousianou, Roza. "Electronic Democracy and the public sphere." Cyberdemocracy. Ed. Roza Tsagarousianou et al. London: Routledge, 1998. 167-178


Final 3:00-4:50, May 3 , Thursday