ENGL 354 Modern Rhetorical Theory

Course Description

Modern Rhetorical Theory is designed to introduce students to the development of rhetoric as a concept, discipline, and series of practices in the 20th and into the 21st centuries. The class also introduces students to practices of criticism and thinking about, with, and through academic conversations as scholars.

Students will read a wide range of works dealing with topics of linguistic persuasion. Additionally, students will write in a number of media and genres in response to these, and other, readings.


These are the assignments that will make up your grade in this class.

Assignment Values

Assignment Due Date Value
Participation Continuous 25%
First Paper 2015-02-26 25%
Second Paper 2015-04-05 25%
Third Paper 2015-05-06 25%

Assignment Descriptions


Your participation grade has three components:

  1. Attendance
  2. Participating in Class Discussion
  3. Class Discussion Leader (2)

For attendance, you are simply required to show up to class (see the policy page for more information on this). For participating in class discussion, I ask that you speak up and offer your opinion on the texts we are discussing. These texts are not facts; they are not perfect and there are certainly no right answers. Offer what you think!

The final, and most heavily weighted, component of your participation grade is the class discussion leader. For two readings, you will serve as a discussion leader. In a presentation at the beginning of class, you will identify one moment (a passage or an idea) that you think is the most interesting about the reading. You will then explain why you think this is interesting or important. Finally, you will ask the class one discussion question that will serve as a way of opening up the discussion. This should take around 2-3 minutes and is meant to be fairly informal. However, you are required to provide me with some written account of your presentation on the morning of the day you are presenting, so that I can be prepared to incorporate your ideas and your discussion question into class.

First Paper

For the first paper, pick some aspect of the history of rhetoric during the period of the class that you would like to know more about. Think about something, specifically, that you found controversial or open to resolution in the course readings. Write a 6 page analysis of the state of this issue, and argue for a position you think resolves the issue or introduces some new dimension to consider.

This paper will require you to conduct research outside of the material we have read for class.

Second Paper

Pick two of the various rhetorical theories of subjectivity we have read in this unit (or ones you find in a text from the first unit). Compare and contrast these two theories. Specifically, think about what is enabled and what is disabled by the two theories. Evaluate these two compared theories using a framework of your own design (grounding in a specific context, for accomplishing a specific task, etc).

Third Project

For this assignment, you will be asked to use think about rhetoric in the wild (ie. as it is used every day). To do this, you may use any framework or concept we have discussed (Mountford’s notion of space, the rhetorical situation, Rice’s ecologies, bistable decorum, etc). Specifically, this assignment challenges you to explore the rhetorical function, language, forces, etc. present in a space, classroom, organization, piece of official writing, discourse community, or other artifact at A&M. Rather than write a research paper, this project asks you to be descriptive and analytical as you consider how rhetoric functions in the wild. This project may (and should) incorporate multimedia aspects and does not need to be merely a paper, if you like.

You may either produce one document—an essay that uses whatever prose style you deem appropriate to explore your subject’s use of rhetoric—or you will produce two documents—an object that explores your subject and a brief (2-3 page) statement that explains your intent behind creating the object. This object may be a video, a Powerpoint presentation, a podcast, a Prezi, a Twine game, a generative poem, a collection of short stories or other creative writing, a painting, a chapbook, etc.

See the policies page for more information about grading scale and standards.