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Foundations of Rhetoric Areas of Evaluation

Areas of Evaluation

The following list gives a general description of each assignment/area of evaluation. Specific requirements, due dates, and evaluation criteria will be provided in an Assignment Prompt for each project and paper, located in the “Assignments” folder on Blackboard.


Scholarly Contribution 20%

I expect you to read all assigned texts carefully and critically, and participate vigorously in all class discussions and activities, in-class and on-line. All participation should be conducted with respect and professionalism. We will likely disagree with theories, readings, approaches, and perspectives, and this is fine; however, we must also practice creating the sort of classroom environment of open, positive critical thinking that leads to a greater understanding of our world. Due to the highly interactive nature of this course and the emphasis on group work and class discussions, I expect you to attend all class meetings and to be on time. The scholarly contribution grade will be calculated as credit/no credit: meeting the criteria for contribution (see Appendix A) results in 100% credit for that session; failure to meet the full contribution will result in no credit. An absence from a session results in no credit. Tardiness to a session (arriving more than 5 minutes late, or posting after the deadline) results in half-credit, as long as the contribution still meets the criteria for contribution. For example, if you accumulated three absences and one tardy (or -3.5) out of 40 possible class sessions and discussion forums, and also failed to meet the standards for contribution in 5 other session, your grade in this category would be a B-, or 2.7 on the gpa scale (33.5/42 = 80% = B-).

Scholarly contribution not only includes coming prepared with the reading, but participating in small and large group discussion. In addition, each week you will be asked to find one rhetorical artifact to analyze using the theoretical lens explored that week. Failing to come prepared with the reading and the artifact contribution will result in 0 credit for that session’s contribution.

At the end of each week, you will participate in a group discussion forum on Blackboard, where you will each post an analysis of your artifact, and reply to your group members’ posts. Full participation in the discussion forum will include explicit connections to the readings and class discussions for that week, and complete replies to all group members. Your individual posts must be posted by noon Friday, and your responses to your group members by 11:59pm. You are not responsible for replying to any group member’s posts that are submitted late. Grading for Blackboard discussion forums is credit/no credit: either you fulfill all of the criteria of scholarly rigor, contribution, and timeliness, or you don’t. Each discussion forum post is part of the total number of scholarly contribution sessions in the semester. For example, each week will typically have two in-class sessions, and one online discussion session. Thus, we could potentially have 42 total scholarly contribution sessions in the semester; if you attended and fully contributed for all classes, but never contributed online, you would end up with a 67%, or D+ (1.3) in this category (28/42).

The learning purpose for this grading category is not only to motivate you to read the material closely, but to provide you with multiple and varied opportunities to understand theories of rhetoric and how they play out in contemporary social life, how rhetoric constructs knowledge, articulate the relationships among language and power that change over through time, culture, and technology.


Rhetorical Analysis 15%

The first formal assignment of the course will be a traditional analysis of a rhetorical artifact using a theoretical framework from our studies. You may use any of the rhetorical artifacts brought in by you or your group members during the class discussions (or a new artifact), and use those discussions as resources in the composing of this analysis. The purpose of this assignment will be to help you understand how to establish a theoretical framework in analysis, to develop your critical reading and analysis chops, and to develop a more sophisticated articulation of the relationship between language, semiotics, power, and social values, explaining how our lived realities are constructed rhetorically.

The rhetorical analysis will be published as a page or blog post on your website, and should utilize the various available modes of composing to do so: design and layout, imagery and/or video, hypertextuality, etc. The recommended minimum word count is 1250 words.

Due Sunday, Oct. 13, 11:59pm


Article Review 15%

The second major assignment will be a review of an article or chapter in a book that performs some sort of rhetorical analysis beyond the traditional Western tradition. The review needs to briefly summarize the critical argument, identify and explain the theoretical framework, and engage in a discussion with the article (main part) that examines how the article contributes to an understanding of rhetoric, which can include disagreement with the conclusions, approach, or framework of the argument. The purpose of this assignment is to further develop your understanding of how theoretical frameworks construct academic arguments and how rhetorical analysis and criticism operates as rhetoric itself; further, to understand how rhetorical theories outside the dominant Western paradigm offer new and important perspectives to the way we understand communication.

Your article must be chosen from the list of books or journals posted on Blackboard, and followed established rules of quotation and citation. The review will be posted on your website as a page or a blog, and should utilize the various available modes of composing in that space. The recommended minimum word count is 1250 words.

Due Sunday, Nov. 10, 11:59pm.


Ideographic Tracing Project 40%

The cumulative project of the semester, which we will begin working on by week 8, will use the method of ideographic criticism to trace a concept, symbol, or word (an ideograph) to explain how that concept gained rhetorical power in cultural/social discourse, and how that power is enacted, perpetuated, and perhaps how that power can be thwarted. This project should be multimodal and expansive, using all the resources of your website in its composing; in fact, your website really is this project, or rather this project is your website. It is activist in its purpose, an opportunity for you to “expose” something taken for granted as “natural” or “truth,” a pulling-back of the curtain, so to speak. For example, you could take the term “fake news” and trace its origins and evolution, examining how it came to be the rhetorical weapon of choice (in a meme-ish way) of the President of the United States to discount any unfavorable discourse, and what effect this has on public and political discourse and our understanding of reality.

The purpose of this assignment is, of course, a sophisticated application of a theoretical method of analysis, pulling from the varied practice engaged over the course of the semester to demonstrate an understanding and articulation of the role rhetoric plays in contemporary life, the various ways cultures construct reality and the “knowledge” that supports that reality, and the social and historical structures and institutions depending on these rhetorical constructions.

We will informally present and workshop these projects in the last week of instruction. They will be due (as websites) by 11:59p Sunday, Dec 8.

Final Reflection 10%

Learning is more than memorization and regurgitation of data; in fact, decades of research show that is not real learning at all. Real learning is the ability to take an experience and practice in one context and be able to transfer it to new, seemingly unrelated context. The purpose of this course is to widen not only your perspective and understanding of how language, texts, and communication practices work in the world, but to be able to take that understanding and apply it to other situations, including academic challenges in your major and minor. One element of learning transfer is the ability to critically understand the process of the practices you engaged in during the learning experience, and to be able to project that process into future contexts.

For this reason, the “final exam” will be an in-class reflection on what you learned in this class, and how that learning will be used in future activities: classes and academic projects in your major or minor, creative or professional contexts, even just your understanding of the political, social, and cultural rhetorics and discourses all around you.

You may plan, draft, and prepare for this reflection prior to the final exam session, but you must be present and composing during the exam period, Tuesday Dec. 10, 8:30-10:30a.  By the end of the period you will post this critical reflection to your website as a page or blog post. Recommended minimum word count is 1250.

Late Assignments and Make Ups

All assignments will receive an automatic half-letter grade permanent reduction for each week late. There is no revision of work in this course.