15 Secs.
Silly Stuff
At Table

Site updated
June 13, 2005

Aristotle and Alexander the Great

Rhetoric and Social Change
COMM 36-01

Dr. A. Christiansen
Spring 2002

Dame Rhetoric
Meets MWF 10:50-11:50, Theater 205, Spring 2002
Dr. Adrienne E. Christiansen; Office 301B Humanities; Mailbox 301 Humanities; Telephone x6714
On the Web: christiansen@macalester.edu
Home 651-292-1118
Office Hours:

A sign up sheet for twenty-minute meetings during office hours is located on my door in 301B Humanities. Signing up in advance is the best way to insure that I can meet your needs for assistance; I may not be able to help you if you "drop by" at your convenience. Please see me for an appointment if you have class or work during my regularly scheduled office hours.

  • Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Thomas Burkholder, Critiques of Contemporary Rhetoric, 2nd Edition, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Inc., 1997).
  • Charles E. Morris III and Stephen H. Brown, Readings on the Rhetoric of Social Protest (State College, PA: Strata Publishing Inc., 2001).
  • James Darsey, The Prophetic Tradition and Radical Rhetoric in America (NY: New York University Press, 1997).
  • Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Style Manual
    readings on reserve, on electronic reserve, and on-line in WebCT


This course is designed to heighten your awareness and appreciation of language. We focus on the strategic use of discourse in order to persuade one another and bring about social change. You will learn how to analyze public discourse, how to develop and apply appropriate critical methods in order to highlight the rational, aesthetic, ethical, and persuasive dimensions of discourse, and how interpret and evaluate the ends of these texts. This course primarily draws upon texts generated in historical and contemporary social movements in order to illuminate and vivify the concepts of rhetorical criticism. Students will have ample opportunity to demonstrate their own critical insights through in-class oral participation, examinations and written critical analyses.


Students completing the course should be able to do the following:

  • Identify multiple conceptions of rhetoric and rhetorical critical methods
  • Utilize critical tools like descriptive analysis, historical-contextual analyses and rhetorical problem
  • Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of different critical methods
  • Develop and apply appropriate critical methods in order to interpret rhetorical acts
  • Write clear, cogent criticisms of rhetorical acts
  • Understand and be able to identify rhetorical genres and their qualities
  • Appreciate the historical and contextual influences on rhetorical acts
  • Recognize the relationship between public discourse and social change


Reasonable accomodations will be provided for students with physical, sensory, cognitive, learning, and psychological disabilities. Please contact the Disability Services Office located at Macalester Health Services, 696-6275, to discuss accomodations.


Attendance and participation are essential in this course because most of the class time will be spent carefully analyzing rhetorical texts together. Your learning experience depends on your attentive involvement in class activities and this includes having read assigned materials in advance of the class discussion. If you fail to attend class regularly, I will talk to you in person about this problem, and in serious cases, will suggest that you drop the course altogether.


You are expected to turn in your written work when it is scheduled. Students who have good reasons for needing an extension may be granted one, but requests for an extension must be made in advance of the due date. Please phone and leave a message about emergencies. You run a very great risk of my simply not accepting late papers if you show up with one without talking about it to me in advance of the due date.


Cheating on examinations and plagiarism (passing off as your own the work of others) are examples of academic misconduct. You will fail any assignment where I catch you cheating. In egregious cases, I will fail you for the course and may take other punitive steps.


Examination #1 = 20% (Take home essay)
Criticism #1 = 16% (5-10 page Descriptive Analysis)
Criticism #2 = 16% (5 page Historical-Contextual Analysis)
Criticism #3 = 16% (5 page Rationale for Critical Perspective)
Criticism #4 =16% (5-10 page Evaluation)
Final Criticism =16% (20-30 page "Full Blown" Rhetorical Criticism)

Students must complete all of these requirements in order to pass this class.


The first examination is a take-home, essay style. You are responsible for obtaining a copy of the exam questions, for explanations and directions given when they are distributed, and for turning in your examination on time. You will have one week to write your answers. Unless arrangements are made with me in advance (please phone to leave a message about emergencies), your grade will be lowered (or rejected outright) if you try to turn in a late examination.


Your papers will focus on a single rhetorical act and will reflect the different developmental stages of rhetorical criticism. Papers will be written in essay form, with an introduction, a central idea or thesis that is clearly stated, developed, explained, argued, and supported with evidence, with a conclusion that summarizes. Please type double-space on one side of the paper. You are expected to proofread this material and correct errors in typing, punctuation, spelling, syntax. Leave at least one-inch margins at all four sides of the paper so that I may comment on your ideas. You should consult the MLA Style Manual for appropriate formatting of your paper, including footnotes and Works Cited pages. Errors in typing, punctuation, spelling, syntax and grammar will seriously compromise your grade on these assignments.

The first four papers should be no more than five typewritten pages not including a title page, endnotes, and Works Cited. Your analysis should treat a single, major rhetorical act such a significant speech, book, a major essay, etc. It could also critique a series of smaller, yet important, works such as a number of posters by the Guerilla Girls or a series of editorials by a single author. I expect you to do research for your paper by examining the analyses of other critics--reading book reviews, criticism and commentary. The work of others should be used as a stimulant, a point of comparison, a method of testing what you are doing.

Papers 1-4 will be rewritten, revised, reconceptualized, and synthesized into an organic whole, a "full blown" piece of rhetorical criticism for the final, 20 page paper. The final paper SHOULD NOT simply be the earlier four pieces "stuck together" with the help of a word processor.

Please see me if you are not sure that the item you have chosen is suitable or if you are having difficulties finding a suitable item to critique.

Ultimately, your final paper will be a critical examination of the rhetorical act, NOT a mere description of it or a summary. Cite material or summarize when you are using materials as evidence or illustration.

The ideal analysis is one that goes beyond the observations of the casual reader (or listener or viewer) to enable those who read your criticism to understand how an act works, what audience it seeks, what appeals it makes, what assumptions are made, etc. When someone reads your critique, it should raise new questions, provoke new and original interpretations, and cause us to weigh the grounds for evaluation more carefully. A GOOD ANALYSIS ATTEMPTS TO SHOW HOW AN ACT WORKS TO ACHIEVE ITS END FOR THE AUDIENCE IT SELECTS. You must give me a copy of the rhetorical act that you are analyzing when you turn in your first criticism paper.

I have taken portions of William Zinnser's book On Writing Well and put them on reserve for you at the library. These brief pages are a joy to read and describe the kinds of writing that I most value (clean, clear, simple, precise, uncluttered). I strongly encourage you to read these pages so that you will clearly understand my expectations of your writing.

Any material to which you refer that is not general knowledge or comes from a source other than yourself should be placed in quotation marks and footnoted. (See section on plagiarism in the MLA Style Manual for help in deciding whether to cite a source). Sources you consult should be listed in a Works Cited page at the end of the essays. Both footnotes (or endnotes) and Works Cited must follow the form of the Modern Language Association Stylebook.

Return to top of Rhetoric and Social Change Syllabus

Return to Adrienne's Home Page