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Rhetorical Criticism Syllabus

Catalog Description

This course studies the purpose of rhetorical criticism, particularly as a practice of both critical inquiry and social agency. Students will examine multiple fields of public discourse, focusing on the rhetoric of social and political movements in the digital age.

3 credits.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students will be able to

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the traditional and emergent concepts, variables, and contexts of rhetorical criticism, including ethical standards by which to evaluate and create rhetorical messages.
  • Analyze specific discursive phenomenon by examining the technical strategies, rhetorical techniques, and discursive choices being used, particularly in the context of social, cultural and historical perspectives.
  • Articulate how the values and ethics of specific cultural, political, philosophical, aesthetic, religious, and humanistic perspectives inform rhetorical discourse, particularly in the digital age.
  • Compose rhetorically effective texts of criticism.
  • Engage with and present current scholarship in the field of rhetorical criticism

Supported BA in English learning outcomes

  • Students will develop their skill in crafting a compelling thesis-driven essay, with substantiating evidence.
  • Students will develop their skill in finding, analyzing, and utilizing secondary sources (including appropriate methods of citation).
  • Students will develop their skill in writing grammatically, coherently, and persuasively.
  • Students will develop their ability to identify and compare key literary movements and genres.
  • Students will develop their ability to explain and apply significant theoretical and critical approaches in the field of English studies.

Course Format

Because this course is focused on both the theory and practice of rhetoric and rhetorical criticism in the digital era, the majority of class projects will occur in digital, online environments, including blogs and multimedia forms like Prezi or YouTube. Each student will maintain an individual blog dedicated to the course, which will serve as the public space for all projects. This means that student writers will have real audiences beyond the instructor, and perhaps even beyond their peers.

All online, digital platforms I’ve chosen are free (Prezi.comand I chose these particular platforms because of their freedom from advertising and wide range of customization. Student blogs will be linked through my teaching blog,, allowing for accessibility and sharing within our classroom community. Students retain the choice to make work public or private.

Part of the focus of this course deals with how the public sphere mediates rhetorical choices; please consider the public nature of your writing when making choices in content. What is your purpose and to whom is it directed?

The following categories spell out how the course will work:

Required Texts

Technology Requirements

Areas of Evaluation

Classroom Environment

University Policies and Procedures

Click the link above to access university policies on Academic Integrity, Students with Disabilities, and Equity and Diversity.

Course Calendar

Click the link above to access the calendar of classes and readings.