ENGL 354 Modern Rhetorical Theory
ENGL 354 Modern Rhetorical Theory

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Assignment Values

Assignment Due Date Value
Rhetorical Term Presentation Continuous 20%
Respond, Reflect Apply Papers (3) See schedule 75%
Practice RRA Paper 09/15/2017 5%

Assignment Descriptions

Rhetorical Term Presentation

Once during the semester, you will be required to deliver a presentation on a key term in rhetorical theory. The list of terms can be viewed here. During this presentation, you will:

  • Define the term
  • Discuss it’s history
  • Provide at least two examples of its usage in:
    • Political Speech
    • TV Advertising
    • Popular Culture
    • Nonfiction Writing
    • Journalism
  • Discuss contemporary applications of the term
  • Ask the class a question for discussion about the term
  • Provide a list of five (5) scholarly sources that discuss the term

I have placed A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms and Soucebook on Rhetoric on reserve in the Evans Library Annex, on the First Floor, as starting places (they are the standard references in the field). Additionally, Wikipedia may be a useful starting point.

We will do one presentation per class, at the beginning of class. I will circulate a sign-up sheet and you may sign up for topics on a first come, first served basis.

You must be present on the day of your presentation to get credit for this assignment.

You will need to provide me with your slides at least an hour before class.

Finally, before the class meeting following your presentation, you will need to post a blog entry to our class blog with the definition of your term and your five sources. This blog will serve as our course reference for rhetorical theory.

Respond, Reflect, Apply Papers (3)

The primary assignment for this course is a series of relatively short papers in which you will engage closely with the texts we read. These are designed to help you better understand and to relate to the theoretical texts we will be reading in this class, while also allowing you to show your comprehension of the readings.

You will complete 3 of these papers, each 3-5, double-spaced pages in length, spaced throughout the course of the semester. Formatting for these papers should be 1” margins, 12 point, Times New Roman font.

For each of the papers, you will write three sections:

  1. Respond: engage directly with some aspect (usually a concept defined) with at least two texts in a substantial fashion. You must demonstrate that you understand the texts and have thought about their importance.
  2. Reflect: consider the relationship between the texts and a broader understanding of the concept in question, your understanding of language, or your knowledge of culture in general.
  3. Apply: bring in at least one example, either personal, cultural, or otherwise that helps make these concepts useful for you, personally or academically.

You must complete all three sections for full credit. Keep in mind that these papers are also intended to be short. You must be concise and particular as you engage with each of these three tasks. Additionally, these three tasks must be connected as one cohesive essay.

Attendance Component

You do not receive a separate attendance grade in this course; however, you will receive a portion of your grade on each RRA paper based on your attendance in class. If you miss more than one (1) class or are late to (2) during the unit to which your RRA responds, you will lose points for this portion of your RRA grade.

Possible Topics

Each paper asks you to think about the relationship between what we have read about language power and broader cultural contexts (include your own life). These sets of questions are intended as a starting point; feel free to digress as much as you want from them in the course of writing your paper.

Unit 1: The Public
  1. Public—Who or what is the public and why is it important to studying rhetoric? How is this concept new or strange or a problem? How do you see your relationship to “the” “public”?
  2. Propaganda—What is the basis of propaganda? What is it for, who does it serve, and who does it affect? Where and how does propaganda exist today and might it also be a positive concept?
  3. Public & Propaganda—What is the relationship between the public and propaganda? Does the existence of the public always imply its engineering? How does the changing nature of the public today also change the nature of propaganda?
Unit 2: Signs of Persuasion
  1. Signs—What is a sign? Why would this concept be a strange or new way of approaching linguistic power? Can you think of an example of signs having particular power in your life and how that happened?
  2. Misunderstanding—How might misunderstanding become a basis for rhetoric? How do we identify misunderstanding and how can we use it persuasively? Where do you see persuasive misunderstandings in your life?
  3. Time & Place—When are we doing rhetoric and when are we not? What are the costs and benefits of different understandings of situating rhetoric? When was a time you particularly felt rhetorical?
Unit 3: Rhetoric in the World
  1. Who Persuades—Who is capable of doing rhetoric? What relationship between users of rhetoric and oppression are implied here? Have you ever particularly felt excluded from persuasion and why?
  2. Myth—Does rhetoric manipulate myth? If rhetoric is mythic, what does that mean about are “civilized” age? Can you think of another myth you see persuasive in society today?
  3. Circuits—What does it mean for rhetoric to move in a public? If rhetoric circulates, what is it? Where have you seen rhetoric in circulation?

Practice RRA Paper

To get you started with the RRA papers, you have a practice RRA paper due in the third week of class. You will receive a completion grade for this assignment (did you turn in a complete assignment or not?); however, I will be providing detailed feedback on this first paper to get you familiar with the expectations for the RRA papers that will be graded with a rubric.

As with the RRA, feel free to be guided by any of the sets of questions below:

  1. Desire—What role does unconscious desire play in decisions? Does the presence of an unconscious mean we have to change how we think about persuasion? What would be an example of the unconscious governing rational decision making?
  2. Modernity—What do our readings allows us to question about society that the authors claim we did not notice at earlier moments? What do these changes imply for how we think about rhetoric? How are changing technologies changing our understanding of civilization today?