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"All living things are critics." -- Kenneth Burke

Course schedule
(subject to change, so don't print out once and treat as gospel; refer back regularly)

Class session
Texts, Readings, Resources

Week 1: Aug. 26

Introductions, getting to know each other, setting up the course

The purposes of rhetorical criticism

Read by Wednesday: Foss, Chapter 1

Read for Friday: Foss, Chapter 2

Week 2: Sept. 2

The purposes of theory, theoretical approaches


Read for Wednesday: Be ready to discuss our readings; leaders will submit takeaways and residuals.

Read for Friday: Foss, Chapter 3

Access all readings here: cubanxgiants.berry.edu/304/readings

Samples of good takeaways/residuals (borrowed from Sports Communication) here: ONE | TWO

And Dr. Carroll's memo to Sports Communication writers

Week 3: Sept. 9

Getting started with theoretical approaches

First approach: Neo-Aristotelian Critique

Steve Jobs at Stanford: Commencement, 2005

Second approach: Cluster Criticism

Read for Friday: Foss, Chapter 4

Read for Wednesday: Be ready to lead discussion on your assigned reading; leaders will submit takeaways and residuals, typed up and printed out.

Access all readings here: cubanxgiants.berry.edu/304/readings

"I take calculated risks, but I'm bad at math." -- Zoe Wooten

"If it makes a good story, I want the story." -- Ram Maderos

Week 4: Sept. 16

Purposes of criticism (Foss) & Second Approach: Cluster Criticism

Dr. Carroll on Black and Campbell

For Wednesday: Read Wayne Booth, "What's Supposed to be Going on Here?"

Due Friday: Research project proposal. What should it look like? Here's an example
UPDATED DUE DATE: Monday, Feb. 6

No additional readings this week; the listing at left is for our reference.

Week 5: Sept. 23

Fantasy-Theme Criticism (Ch. 5)

For Wednesday: Read Foss, Chapter 5

Week 6: Sept. 30

Monday: Applying Fantasy-Theme Criticism

Wednesday: Feminist Criticism (Ch. 6)

No class Friday: Mountain Day Olympics

For Monday: Read Trump's Jan. 6 address; also available: a timeline of the events of Jan. 6 from Poynter

Due Monday: Research project proposal re-submits.

For Wednesday: Read Foss, Chapter 6

Due Friday: Literature review

Week 7: Oct. 7

Generic (or genre) approaches. Close textual analysis. Public address scholarship.

Read for Monday: Meg Tully

Inside Amy Schumer, two artifacts:

Due Wednesday: Read Foss, Chapter 7 (quiz probable; come prepared)

Read for Friday: Banksy at Disneyland, Foss, pages 229-236

Week 8: Oct. 14

Ideological approaches. More on genre.

No class Monday: Fall Break

Due Monday: Read Foss, Chapter 8

Be sure to avail yourself of the many resources Berry has arrayed for you to improve your writing, including:

  • The Academic Success Center and its writing tutors
  • Subject-specific tutors (shout out to Morgan)
  • Your professor's office hours
  • A writer's handbook
  • Your classmates

Read for Wednesday: Condit's "Pathos in Criticism"

Week 9: Oct. 21

Metaphor and Metaphoric Criticism

Read for Monday: Foss, Chapter 9

Read for Wednesday: Metaphor in Obama biography OR seminal methods article from 1967 (class will divide up)

Due Friday: Main body of the paper (context and analysis)

Week 10: Oct. 28

Narrative and Mythic criticism

Read for Monday: Foss, Chapter 10

Read for Wednesday:Religion, Sport, and the Return of the Prodigal Son: The Postsecular Rhetoric of LeBron James’s 2014 ‘I’m Coming Home’ Open Letter

Due Friday: Smooth draft of paper (complete) for workshopping

Week 11: Nov. 4

Pentadic Criticism

Read for Monday: Foss, Chapter 11

Read for Wednesday: "The Rhetoric of Bush's 'War on Evil'"

Due Friday: Peer review reports and annotated manuscripts

>>The rubric I will use for the peer review and drafts
>>The writer's report you will use to organize your feedback for your writing partner

Week 12: Nov. 11

Generative Criticism

Peer reviews

B.L. Ware and Wil A. Linkugel, “They Spoke in Defense of Themselves: On the Generic Criticism of Apologia,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 59 (1973): 273-283.

Read for Monday: Foss, Chapter 12

Read for Wednesday: Ware and Linkugel article

Week 13: Nov. 18

Critical Rhetorics of Race

Read for Wednesday:#AllLivesMatter as Post-Racial Rhetorical Strategy

Due Wednesday: Final, finished rhetorical criticism papers

>>The rubric I will use for final papers

Week 14: Nov. 25

Individual project presentations

No class Wednesday or Friday: Thanksgiving


Week 15: Dec. 2

Individual project presentations | Takeaways & Residuals




pepp patty

keep your eyes on the prize!


Course Description: Students will analyze how persuasion occurs in public discourse by studying foundational rhetorical theories and methods of rhetorical criticism.  Through reading and writing criticism, students will evaluate the interplay of audience, situation, and rhetor; the rhetor’s choice to persuade in a particular manner; and how public discourse influences audiences. 

Course Purpose & Objectives: By successful completion of this course, students will: 

  • explore, cultivate, and demonstrate critical knowledge about human rhetoric in a wide variety of circumstances
  • develop a new awareness about the depth, complexity, and richness of texts and visual artifacts as rhetoric
  • write more clearly, speak more ably, and analyze, interpret, and evaluate messages more soundly
  • explore and analyze the ways in which communication technologies impact and generate rhetorical texts
  • engage in textual analysis of written, visual/aural, and embodied forms of communication
  • learn how to approach a message from multiple critical perspectives

Purpose: The course is intended to provide students with a grounding in the qualitative research method of rhetorical criticism and with practice using many of this method’s theoretical approaches. Rhetorical criticism aims to accomplish systematic investigation, analysis, and explanation of symbolic acts and artifacts to better understand rhetorical processes. Rhetorical critics are interested in discovering what a text or artifact teaches about the nature of rhetoric.

What you will need (required)

Textbook: Sonja Foss, Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice (5th ed.) (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press)

What you may want (recommended, not required)

  • Carl R. Burgchardt and Hillary A. Jones, eds., Readings in Rhetorical Criticism, 5th ed. (Strata)
  • James Jasinski, ed., Sourcebook on Rhetoric (Sage)
  • Jim A. Kuypers, ed., Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action (Strata)
  • John Louis Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill, Contemporary
  • Rhetorical Theory: A Reader (Guilford)
Catherine Palczewski, Richard Ice, and John Fritch, Rhetoric in Civic Life, 2nd ed. (Strata)

Stuff you need to know:

Professor: Dr. Brian Carroll
Office: Laughlin Hall 100
Office phone: 368.6944
E-mail: bc@berry.edu
Home page: cubanxgiants.berry.edu
Blog: WanderingRocks.wordpress.com

Office hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays 1-5pm; Wednesdays 3-5pm, by appointment, or just drop by


  • Attendance: Be on time, just as you would for a job, surgery, or even a haircut. Everyone gets one unexcused absence or late arrival, maybe two, with no questions asked. Stuff happens. After that, unexcused and/or unexplained absences and/or lateness will result in point deductions from the "professionalism and participation" portion of your grade -- one point for each unexcused absence and/or late arrival. And late is late – one minute or ten minutes. It’s binary. What is excused is at the instructor's discretion, so you are best served discussing situations and extraordinary circumstances prior to class whenever possible. Medical attention typically is excused. Weddings, family reunions, vacations, job interviews, grad school visits, Winshape retreats, your roommate’s birthday? These are NOT typically excused. Save your free passes for these non-academic excursions.

    Late submissions (deadlines): Submit assigned work on time, printed out for grading, and submit this work in person. Do not email the professor your work; your professor does not offer a printing service. Similarly, posting your assignment somewhere in Canvas will not “count” as making deadline. Late work, including any work submitted any other way than that which is authorized, will be penalized one letter grade per class session. Work submitted a week or more after deadline will not be eligible for points. In-class quizzes cannot be made up, regardless of the reason it was missed. The instructor is very reasonable when consulted PRIOR TO deadlines. Finally, please appreciate that deadlines are also for instructors, so that we can move on, as well. In short, deadlines are real, they are our friends, and they will be enforced.

    Email etiquette: Related to the above, when emailing your instructor, please keep in mind that he is a person, not a vending machine for information, grades, etc. Begin each and every email with an address and a greeting, something like, “Dear Dr. Carroll. I hope this finds you well.” It’s courteous, and it doesn’t take much time to write. It’s also polite to thank someone for whatever was provided in response to your request. Speaking of email, it is the authorized communication channel for faculty and students at Berry, so you are responsible for checking your email and promptly responding to your instructors as needed.

    Distractions:  The instructor needs your attention and your respect, as do your peers seated near or around you. Your instructor is easily distracted, so he needs your help. Practically, this means:

      • ZERO unauthorized device use of any kind, including laptops, iPads, smartphones, and Apple watches. Put your devices away and make sure they are either off or on ‘silent.’ Use a device, even an Apple watch to check a text, and you will be marked as having been “absent” for that class session.
      • Doing homework for other classes somewhere else.
      • Avoiding the zipping up of backpacks and clearing off of desks prior to being dismissed.
      • Avoiding repetitive noisemaking, such as clicking pens, crinkling food wrappers, and clanging water bottles.

    Decorum: Related to the distractions described above, please remember that the classroom is the professor’s workspace and our shared learning space. It’s not your living room or den, in other words. You cannot, therefore, disappear with your phone into the restroom for 20 minutes whenever you might like. Getting up, leaving, using the door, returning, occasionally tripping over someone’s backpack and/or spilling their beverage – all of this distracts and interrupts. So, go the bathroom BEFORE you come to class. If nature calls – and I mean SCREAMS – ask for permission to (briefly) exit the classroom. Leave your phone behind. Students are permitted one or two “emergencies” during the semester, but deductions will be made from your professionalism and participation grade for chronic bathroom escapes or their equivalents.

    Academic integrity: Because academic integrity is the foundation of college life at Berry, academic dishonesty will have consequences. You are invited to consult the College Catalog for an articulation of the College’s policies with respect to academic integrity. Specific to this course, academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: unauthorized collaboration, fabrication, submitting the same work in multiple courses, hiring a ghostwriter, asking an AI generator to write something for you that you later submit, failing to cite sources for your research (and, therefore, submitting others’ work as your own), consulting non-authorized sources or texts during an exam period, and aiding and abetting academic dishonesty by another student. Violations will be reported. Students who are sanctioned for violating the academic integrity policy forfeit the right to withdraw from the class with a grade of “W.” Attached to the course syllabus is the pledge of academic integrity you will be asked to sign for most major assignments.

    Class recording (Zoom): Per Berry policy, students are required to attend class in-person. Classes will not be available for remote learning, at least not regularly or without advance warning and authorization. Any recordings will only be available to students registered for this class and cannot be re-transmitted, distributed, or otherwise shared without the expressed, written consent of the instructor, who owns the copyright to the intellectual property contained in or by the recording.  

How you will be graded:

Takeaways/Residuals and activities 15%
Project proposal 10%
Literature review 15%
Analysis 15%
Smooth draft and peer review 15%
Final, finished paper & presentation 15%
Paper presentation 05%
Professionalism and participation 10%

To compute your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to the grading system summarized here:

59 and below

Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

Academic Success Resources

Consultants at the Berry College Writing Center are available to assist students with all stages of the writing process. To schedule an appointment, visit berry.mywconline.com. The Academic Success Center provides free peer tutoring and individual academic consultations to all Berry College students. The ASC Session schedule is available on ASC Website: berry.edu/ASC.

Specifically, Morgan Thoem is a tutor specific to this course, an alum of the course. You can visit her in the ASC during her office hours, Mondays 8-10pm or Wednesdays 6-10pm.

Accommodation Statement

The Academic Success Center provides accessibility resources, including academic accommodations, to students with diagnosed differences and/or disabilities.  If you need accommodations for this or other classes, please visit berry.edu/asc for information and resources.  You may also reach out at 706-233-40480.  Please note, faculty are not required, as part of any temporary or long-term accommodation, to distribute recordings of class sessions. 

Finally, I believe we are here for a good time, not a long time, so let’s have some fun!

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