SCM 415: Rhetorical Criticism

SCM 415: Rhetorical Criticism

SCM 415: Rhetorical Criticism

MWF 11-11:50, LAB 206

Dr. W. Atkins-Sayre

Fall 2008

Instructor information:


Office: LAB 475

Phone: 601-266-4370


Web site:

Office Hours: M/F 10-10:50, T/TH 11-12, and by appointment

(please email me to set up a time)



Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Susan Schultz Huxman, The Rhetorical Act: Thinking, Speaking, and Writing Critically, 4th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2009).

Readings available on e-reserves at Cook Library and on course web site.

Course goals:

This course is an introduction to critical analysis of rhetoric, designed to enhance students' ability to function as effective critics and consumers of public discourse. Specifically, we will focus on understanding variables of situation, audience, and rhetor and how they influence the production and reception of persuasive messages. Case studies of significant rhetorical acts will be used to introduce important concepts. A wide range of issues will be covered through case studies, including several controversial issues in U.S. history such as the Vietnam War, slavery, the civil rights movement, feminism, religion, and race relations. Students will be expected to develop an understanding of the nature and function of rhetoric in various forms as a pragmatic tool that is used by rhetors to influence receivers' perceptions of symbolic reality.

Course objectives:

1. The student will demonstrate an understanding of rhetoric and rhetorical criticism

2. The student will demonstrate the ability to analyze rhetorical texts

3. The student will demonstrate the ability to construct clear and compelling written arguments

4. The student will demonstrate the ability to construct clear and compelling oral arguments

Course requirements:

Exams (3@20%=60%): Exams will consist of take-home and in-class portions. Take home papers will be 5-7 page essays responding to major course topics. In-class exam portions will not be comprehensive and will consist of short answer and identification questions.

Presidential election forum (30%): Individuals will form a persuasive speech targeted at changing audience opinion about presidential candidates. The group will develop a presentation together and turn in a group outline of that presentation. Audience members will turn in brief written critiques of the groups’ arguments.

Participation (10%): Students will be graded based upon participation in daily in-class discussions and activities and attendance.

Course policies:

1. Participation: I expect all individuals to participate in class discussions, assignments, and exercises. The course cannot succeed without that participation. Consequently, you need to read the assigned materials on the assigned days and come to class ready to interact in discussion or activity. I also encourage you to participate in your class grade throughout the semester by keeping track of grades and making appointments with me if you are concerned.

2. Late work: All written assignments will be due at the beginning of class on the assigned day. Papers and exams will be considered late if received after that time. Late papers incur a penalty of one letter grade (10 points) per calendar day. Exams will only be allowed to be taken late if you have made prior arrangements with me.

3. Attendance: I expect you to be in class everyday and on time. Absences will affect your participation grade. It is your responsibility to find out what happened on all missed days. Any assignments will be due on the due date at the beginning of class regardless of your absence (unless we have reached an agreement).

4. Grievance procedure: If you are dissatisfied with a grade (after carefully reading instructor comments), you will need to submit a typed argument explaining why you disagree with the grade. The paper should specifically mention why you disagree with the grade and use support (textbook, class notes, etc.) where appropriate. This paper will need to be given to me within one week after receiving the grade. I will then read the argument and respond either in writing, via email, or in a meeting.

5. Classroom rules: Please turn all cell phones off upon entering this class. Please be on time to class; I often make announcements that you will need to hear. Please do not start to pack up your belongings early. Do not read newspapers, text message, etc., during class. In short, be considerate.

6. Computer proficiency: Students enrolled in this course must have Internet access available to them, including email and web page access, and have the basic knowledge needed to efficiently use these Internet technologies. All course assignments will be posted on the course web site. You will be responsible for retrieving documents (syllabus, review sheets, exam questions, etc.) from the course web site. Please become familiar with the web site early in the semester so that you know where to find the necessary information. Problems with computers or printers do not excuse you from meeting deadlines. Please note that failures of technology (e.g., “my computer crashed,” “the file won’t open,” “the lab printer was broken,” etc.) will not lead to an extension of the deadline. Please do all that you can (by backing up files, giving yourself plenty of time to print, having back-up plans, etc.) to prevent these tragedies.

7. Academic Honesty

From the 2007-2008 Southern Miss Undergraduate Bulletin:

Plagiarism is scholarly theft, and it is defined as the unacknowledged use of secondary sources. More specifically, any written or oral presentation in which the writer or speaker does not distinguish clearly between original and borrowed material constitutes plagiarism.

Because students, as scholars, must make frequent use of the concepts and facts developed by other scholars, plagiarism is not the mere use of another’s facts and ideas. However, it is plagiarism when students present the work of other scholars as if it were their own work.

Plagiarism is committed in a number of ways:

1. reproducing another author’s writing as if it were one’s own

2. paraphrasing another author’s work without citing the original

3. borrowing from another author’s ideas, even though those ideas are reworded, without giving credit

4. copying another author’s organization without giving credit

Plagiarism is a serious offense. An act of plagiarism may lead to a failing grade on the paper and in the course, as well as sanctions that may be imposed by the student judicial system.

Refer to the plagiarism tutorial on the Southern Miss libraries website ( for more advice about avoiding plagiarism.


If a student has a disability that qualifies under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and requires accommodations, he/she should contact the Office for Disability Accommodations (ODA) for information on appropriate policies and procedures. Disabilities covered by ADA may include learning, psychiatric, physical disabilities, or chronic health disorders. Students can contact ODA if they are not certain whether a medical condition/disability qualifies.

The University of Southern Mississippi
Office for Disability Accommodations
118 College Drive # 8586
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
Voice Telephone: (601) 266-5024 or (228) 214-3232 Fax: (601) 266-6035
Individuals with hearing impairments can contact ODA using the Mississippi Relay Service at 1-800-582-2233 (TTY) or email Suzy Hebert at .

Course Grading

The following grading scale will be used:

90 and above=A80--89=B70--79=C60--69=D59 or less=F

Support for Writing and Speaking

Keep in mind that you have support for both speaking and writing on the Southern Miss campus. For free, one-on-one tutoring in writing and speaking, visit the Writing Center and the Speaking Center. The Writing Center is located in Cook Library. For more information about their services, visit the web site: I encourage you to consider using the Writing Center, regardless of the strength of your writing. They will help strengthen your written argument.

For help with your presentations, you should plan to visit the University of Southern Mississippi Speaking Center. The Center is a free peer-tutoring center, focused on improving students’ oral communication through consulting. Consultants (undergraduate and graduate Speech Communication majors) meet one-on-one with students, at any stage of the speech-writing process, working on organizing, outlining, developing, and delivering speeches. The Center offers speaking handouts, a speaking library, and a video-recording room to record your speeches. For more information about the center, visit them at:

Cook Library 114


Tentative Daily Schedule

Date / Topic / Reading
Introduction to Rhetorical Criticism
W, August 20 / Introduction to course / Read prologue (pg. xviii)
F, August 22 / What is rhetorical criticism? / Chap. 1
M, August 25 / Descriptive analysis / Chap. 2
W, August 27 / Descriptive analysis, cont’d.—JFK speech / JFK speech (web site)
F, August 29 / Discussion day
M, September 1 / Labor day / No class
Historical Context and Rhetorical Problem
W, September 3 / Introduction to the rhetorical problem / Portion of Campbell and Burkholder (copies handed out)
F, September 5 / Problems of audience / Chap. 8
M, September 8 / Audience, cont’d—McCain NAACP speech / McCain speech (web site)
W, September 10 / Problems of subject and purpose / Chap. 9
F, September 12 / Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of Self”
Exam #1 posted on web site / Stanton speech (pg. 221)
M, September 15 / Problems of the rhetor / Chap. 10
W, September 17 / Rhetoric, cont’d—Obama speech on race / Obama speech (on web site)
F, September 19 / Discussion day
Take-home portion of exam #1 due
M, September 22 / In-class portion of exam #1
Resources for Rhetorical Action
W, September 24 / Uses of evidence / Chap. 4
F, September 26 / Evidence, cont’d.
Watch presidential debates
M, September 29 / Uses of argument
Get presidential forum assignments / Chap. 5
W, October 1 / Uses of argument, cont’d.
F, October 3 / Argument, cont’d.—R FK Vietnam speech / Kennedy speech (web site)
M, October 6 / Uses of organization / Chap. 6
W, October 8 / Organization, cont’d—Rice speech / Rice speech (pg. 153)
F, October 10 / Research/planning for presidential forum / Visit to Speaking Center
M, October 13 / Language, tone, and persona / Chap. 7
W, October 15 / Language, cont’d.—Douglass 4th of July speech
Exam #2 posted to web site / Douglass speech (pg. 182)
F, October 17 / Fall break / No class
M, October 20 / Genre and occasion / Chap. 14
W, October 22 / Occasion, cont’d—Reagan and Roosevelt speeches / Pg. 304
F, October 24 / Discussion day
Take-home portion of exam #2 due
M, October 27 / In-class portion of exam #2
Presidential Rhetoric
W, October 29 / Presidential rhetoric—an introduction / Campbell and Jamieson, chap. 1 (e-reserve)
F, November 1 / Presidential election forum
M, November 3 / Presidential election forum
W, November 5 / Presidential rhetoric, cont’d.
Evaluating Rhetorical Action
F, November 7 / Standards for evaluations / Chap. 11
M, November 10 / Evaluation, cont’d—Malcolm X speech / Malcolm X speech (pg. 256)
W, November 12 / Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization speech / Speech and Campbell article (e-reserve)
Types of Rhetorical Action
F, November 14 / Visual rhetoric / Chap. 12
M, November 17 / Visual rhet., cont’d
W, November 19 / Mediated rhetoric
Exam #3 posted to web site / Chap. 13
F, November 21 / National Communication Assn. Convention / No class
M, November 24 / NCA / No class
W, November 26 / Thanksgiving holiday / No class
F, November 28 / Thanksgiving holiday / No class
M, December 1 / Mediated rhetoric, cont’d.
W, December 3 / Summary
Take home portion of exam #3 due / Read epilogue (pg. 312)
T, December 9 / Final exam (exam #3) / 7-9:30 pm