SYLLABUS: CMST 450: Rhetorical Theory & Criticism


Instructor: Patricia Chantrill, Ph.D.                  I

Office Hours: 4:30-5:30pm Thursdays before class, Health Sciences Bldg. Lobby. Class time: R 5:30-10pm Riverpoint Health Sciences Bldg. 110C

Initially, the critical impulse manifests itself as a quest for more information and understanding. We take a significant step toward the role of critic when we actively seek additional knowledge about our world. Criticism is ”action-oriented -- it seeks to change the human condition.”

Learning Objectives: Our task is to master the theories, methods of analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of rhetorical discourse.

Method of Study: We will read/watch theoretical treatises and critical analyses of discursive, reason-giving texts including historically important public speeches and other examples from current events. We will also do critical practice of our own.

Text: Readings in Rhetorical Criticism, (2010) Carl R. Burgchardt, Editor. 4th ed.

Wordpress Blog:

Intro Prezi:

GRADING & Assignments:

1. Rhetorical Critical Essay (100 points): each student will choose ONE rhetorical figure (and his/her rhetorical artifacts) to research and analyze. Topical choices will be cleared by the instructor at the beginning of the term through a Proposal/Outline process (TBA). Students will compose one rhetorical-critical essay (10 pages MOL).. This final essay will be of publication quality.(Relevant bibliographic information and citations are included in all page totals.)

    These writing assignments are designed to facilitate the student’s ability to demonstrate productive criticism on a specified subject aimed at transforming problematic constructions of fear, power, hate and/or hegemony in rhetoric. Each essay should assess the aims and methods of rhetorical theory and criticism and the kinds of knowledge produced by the material covered throughout our quarter-long journey. The paper should be carefully crafted, advancing an insightful argument about theory and critical practices that draws upon the assigned readings and diligent research. They should assess the key contributions each critical perspective can or has made to a productive study of rhetoric that seeks to change the human condition.


2. Occasional, Random, Impressive Quizzes (3 @ 50 points each, 150 points total):  Most of these are so brief as to not even warrant the full word “quiz.” So, they are “Qs” with maybe five or six questions to help encourage regular reading and participation.

3. Final Exam: (100 points)  this exam will employ an objective format comprised of questions aligned to material from the textbook readings, additional readings, lectures and presentations throughout the course. It is comprehensive, but not brutal.

3. Blog Challenges (6 @ 20 points each, 120 points total):  Because we only meet once a week, it is imperative that we engage in alternative means to communicate with each other. The blogs will help serve as one of the alternatives available. Blog Challenges are announced, posted, and DUE before class starts Thursday evening. See the schedule for the due dates.

4. Ungraded Presentation: Students will group up and conduct one 20-30 minute panel discussion on the details and nuances of a single critical approach. Groups will provide study handouts for the rest of the class. Your teacher is available to help locate relevant materials and construct tangibles for distribution to the class. Groups will be assigned randomly; sign-up for presentation topics and times will take place during the first class meeting on the evening of September 25th.

Course Policies & Evaluation of Performance:  Every student is expected to read all assigned materials, attend all scheduled classes, make informed contributions to the class discussion, and demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the important examples and principles related to rhetorical criticism and theory. Every student is expected to be an active observer of everyday and event-based rhetoric. On a regular basis, every student is expected to bring in current examples of rhetorical events to share with the rest of the class.

Grading: Grades will be assigned on the basis of points earned from a total of 470 for the course. No late assignments, blogs or exams accepted.

Attendance & Participation: each student is granted 2 free absences on days when no student presentation or quiz is scheduled. All other absences (full night or partial) will result in a 10% deduction from the final grade. Regular contributions to the class discussion is expected and monitored by your instructor(s).

Academic Integrity: this course will abide by EWU’s Academic Integrity Policy(see EWU’s website for additional details). Notably, violations of academic integrity involve the use or attempted use of any method or technique enabling a student to misrepresent the quality or integrity of any of his or her work in the university and the program of study. Students are strongly urged to contact the instructor with any concerns regarding the academic integrity of exams, assignments, and/or intellectual property before turning in anything questionable.