Course Resources


Course syllabus
Course calendar
Research resources


Pre-course readings
Assigned readings
Resource readings
Texts to analyze
Resource textbook:
Stoner, M. & Perkins, S. (2005). Making Sense of Messages: A Critical Apprenticeship in Rhetorical
Criticism.Boston: Allyn & Bacon


Optional Assignment Sign-Up Calendar
Reading Comments Calendar

Session Objectives

Focus Group Release Form for your review

Session #11
  • To reflect on answers to basic questions assignment

Posters with answers to basic questions you treated:

Session #10

  • To articulate the relationship of visual elements of rhetoric to discursive elements

Critique of Birdsell & Groarke's treatment of "Visual Propositions"
B & G assert, "...even if highly abstracted and presenting only a fraction of the geographic information about a given location, a map purports to be an accurate ("true") representation of the arrangement of places in space" (p. 106). No, accuracy is irrelevant; rather we look for functional representations. For example, the London Tube Map is used daily by hundreds of thousands of people. The map is NOT "an accurate ("true") representation of the arrangement of places in space"; it is functional in representing an understandable guide to tube lines and stations but is completely inaccurate in representing location, distance, etc.

The Tube Map, while wildly distorting of almost every conceivable element of the London's existence, is exceptionally functional and meaningful.
London Tube Map
London Surface Map Shifted to match Tube Map
The link above shows how the Tube map distorts relative locations a surface map intended to function as a representation of relative location.

B & G go on to assert that, "Visual metaphors and symbols are used to convey propositions in political debate and discourse" (pp. 105-6). No, they may augment propositions but the foundation for rhetoric is essentially in discourse. Even they must comment on the Bush cartoons for them to make sense within the context of the article.

For further example, take a look at this cartoon:

You cannot know what this is about apart from being told what "Dale Farm" is; what a "traveller" is and the time frame and cultural location of this message. Even those to whom it was directed had to have information on those topics in order for the cartoon to have any meaning. Notice that once you are informed (discursively) about what Dale Farm is and what group of people "travellers" names, you can "get" the joke (you also bring already existing information about the class of people called "bankers" garnered from previous talk, readings, TV or internet viewing, etc; so all significant elements of the joke now are articulated.) At this point you can see the argument offered by the cartoon--but not because of its own visual merits!

OK, so B & G, finally get it right at the end in their discussion of context/s as controllers of and resources for understanding the potential implied assertions made by any visual element of any rhetorical effort.

Let's try another case or two....

Reading Comments Presenters:
  • Keith Sheffield
  • Danessa Quintos
  • Kyle Tanaka

Some pages from Graphic History text for discussion

Session #9
  • To analyze Barker's Wanted,A Young Woman to Do Housework...
  1. Describing Barker's, Wanted....
  2. Gloria's analysis

  • To examine the quality of Suddoth's essay as criticism
  • Dr. Stoner makes some observations
  • We apply criteria

Reading Presenters:
  • Christina Ortega
  • Grace Taholo

Session #8
  • To describe the rhetorical qualities of Barker's Wanted,A Young Woman to Do Housework...
  • To determine the relative efficacy of cultural v. feminist critique of Wanted....
  • To synthesize ideas from previous readings regarding the nature of rhetoric's focus, scope, function and value.

Reading Presenters:
  • Minh Nguyen
  • Christina Salomon

Describing Barker's, Wanted....
Jig Saw: Tentative answers to questions that drive the course (i.e. final exam questions):
  1. What is the focus of rhetorical criticism?
  2. What is the scope of rhetorical criticism?
  3. What is the function of rhetorical criticism?
  4. What is the value of rhetorical criticism?

Class members present oral report on progress on term projects (2 mins each)

Session #7
  • To describe the rhetorical qualities of Ghandi's Grievances
  • To identify the rhetorical devices Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca associate with the primary rhetorical goal of "communion"
  • To apply those devices to Ghandi's Grievances
  • To articulate your insights about the nature of informal argument (and narrative as a sub-set) to the development and maintenance of society.

Note: this is a revised version of the hard-copy handout you have.
Presenters on the New Rhetoric:
  • Savannah Mulderrig
  • Scott Thompson

Dialectic defined

Session #6 (3/4)
Review our progress on our objectives so far
Review calendar and projects upcoming

  • To define and illustrate the key concepts of the New Rhetoric presented in the Crosswhite essay and the Ritivioi essay
  • To articulate the fundamental problems of reasoning about justice and related values issues treated by Perelman in the New Rhetoric
  • To describe the rhetorical qualities of Gandhi's Grievances

Session #5 (2/25)
  • To determine the nature of "good reasons" within the framework of narrative paradigm
(Dr. Ian Stoner will speak to us briefly on the topic; he is lecturer in the Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota)
Reading commentators:
Michael Mann
Gloria Whalen
Revisit the "rudimentary search model" (session #4) to see where we can take the analysis.

Sessions #4 and 5 (2/18)
  • To articulate the nature of the narrative paradigm, generally.
  • To articulate the nature of and elements of narrative argument, specifically as moral argument
  • To differentiate narrative probability and narrative possibility as essential rhetorical functions
  • To analyze "The Machine Stops" using narrative concepts

Begin narrative analysis (a rudimentary search model; use to describe the message)

Check out this dramatic version of The Machine Stops produced for an English TV series, Out of the Unknown:

Reading Commentators: Amanda Burk and Corbin Wright

Session #3 (2/11)
Overall goal: To explore the nature of knowledge that critics create about rhetoric/communication
  • To define "emic" and "etic" criticism
  • To compare Hart & Daughton's directives for analysis to our definitions of etic or emic criticism
  • To assess your own predilections in approaching criticism

Document to capture our definitions
Agree or disagree: In chapter 3 H & D offer a generic set of topics that appear to by "hyper-etic" (objective), but their use leads to a "hyper-emic" (subjective) treatment of messages

Agree or disagree: In Chapt 4 A Topical Approach to Ideas (p. 61 ff) H & D offer an etic approach; in "A Judgmental Approach to Ideas"(p.67ff) they offer and emic approach. I suggest that H & D are not sufficiently aware of the nature of the approaches they advocate.

Session #2 (2/3)
  • To define or characterize rhetoric as a concept
  • To define or characterize criticism as act
  • To reflect on your prior work as a critic of rhetoric

Session Handouts

Session #9
Feminist Criticism (Diane Davis, UT, Austin)
Session #8
A history of feminism

Session #7

"Residue" of Critical Description of Gandhi's Grievances; catalog of critical terms that may be used for analysis; terms selected on the basis of what "fits" with the qualities turned up in the description.

Session #6
Perelman's Project (Prezi)

Session #5
Questions for assessing the logic of a narrative

Session #2


post all homework you complete on your wiki page
Week 1# Jan 28 for Feb 4
To assess the nature of your previous critical work
To contextualize your previous work in new theory
1) Post on your wiki page your best paper from ComS 100B (or equivalent course if transferred)
2) Review your paper in light of our reading so far and
3) answer at least two of the following questions below the essay (Copy the questions, paste them in, then answer each in a short essay)
  • Was the text you examined, in fact, rhetoric? Justify your answer using what we've read so far.
  • What does your study teach someone about how the message studied worked as rhetoric? (If it didn't, freely admit that and explain what it did do.)
  • What seem to be the assumptions you were making about the critical process and critical product? (This asks you to do some analysis of your analysis--"going meta")

The best answers (score of 2) use
  • relevant examples from your essay to
  • illustrate assessments based on specific ideas from the readings, and
  • sources are cited in APA form