Weekly Schedule and Preparation Guide


Basic Info

Office Hours
Weekly Schedule

January 28

February 4 11 18 25

March 4 11 25

April 1 8 15 22 29

May 5


There are other books that you should have at your elbow:

There are some other essays that I am assuming you have read. If you have not, I recommend that you read them early in the semester:

There are lots of other basic essays for rhetorical criticism, but these are the best of the lot.

Weekly Schedule

Wednesday, January 28

Introduction and Administration

Activity assigned: Visit to an archive. You will select an archive in the Washington area to visit for the purpose of the assignment in two weeks.

Wednesday, February 4

Part I: Where do project ideas come from?

I have two objectives in this first part of the course. Primarily, I want to explore the invention process – the birth of ideas for projects. In doing so, however, I want your judgment working as well: What is it about an essay that provides insight? We will ask that question about the essays we read in discussion.

Reading: Nothstine, Blair, and Copeland, cc. 1, 3-7.

Exercise: Time to begin thinking about your project for the semester. Prepare a one page presentation: (1) What you want to look at? (2) What you want to know about it? (3) Why you want to know? (How you came to the problem?)

Seminar Activities:

Discussion of Readings.

Exercise: Be prepared to discuss the topic you would like to pursue for your criticism this summer. Explain how you became interested in the topic. Relate your discussion to these readings.

Wednesday, February 11

Part II: Historical Method

A. The Purposes and Forms of History

Reading: BG, c. 1.
Exercise: In the journals in communication or a collection of essays on the History of Public Address, find (1) an article that is written to reconstruct a communication event or theory of communication from the past, and (2) an article that is written to make a particular argument about an event or theory from the past. Bring them to class. Write a page (no more than 250 words) addressing the significance of the research in one of the articles. Evaluate how well the author establishes the significance of his/her work.

We start tonight by meeting the historian. Why does s/he do what they do? What motivates their work. We will discuss the essays you found.

B. Digging up the bones of history: history as discovery

Reading: BG, cc. 2, 4. Wilbur Samuel Howell, "The Declaration of Independence: Some Adventures with America's Political Masterpiece." Quarterly Journal of Speech 62 (1976): 221-33.

We are concerned with the gathering of historical fact. The process involves two sensations: a "hypothesis-proof" cycle and a "solving the mystery" puzzle. The text provides some advice, Howell provides a glimpse of the ecstasy of discovery.

Wednesday, February 18

C. Using an archive

Exercise: Bring in a one page photocopied report on your archive. What is there? How are the finding aids? What is the process for access? How is security?

We want to begin by discussing some rules, etiquette, and techniques for using archives. Your historical report will require that you work in an archive and we want to get started on that.

D. Interpreting the Past: history as narrative experience

Reading: Thoughts on Narrative; Marie Hochmuth Nichols, "Lincoln's First Inaugural: Part I." Methods of Rhetorical Criticism: A Twentieth Century Perspective. Ed. Bernard L. Brock, Robert L. Scott and James W. Chesebro. 3rd ed. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989. 32-54.
Exercise: Think of the most exciting speech you ever encountered. This might be when you were ten or, who knows, it might have been Barock Obama's speech on election night. Write a page in which you narrate the speech to your reader in such a way that you produce the say sense of excitement in the reader.

We are concerned with telling a story as a skill. This is, in fact, an essential skill of qualitative research. Even in modern ethnography understanding the forces that merge in a moment and providing an account of how they create the moment are essential skills.

Wednesday, February 25

E. Historical Evidence and Logic

Reading: BG, cc. 5-8. Terry Croy on Carrie Chapman Catt

We will study different kinds of historical evidence, rules for establishing their reliability, and pitfalls for the unwary. And how we work with that evidence for form arguments. Much of historical work is finding and creating linkages. There is (I probably should say are) a logic (or many logics) of history. Discussing it (or them) leads us to discuss paradigms, sufficiency of proof, and concepts of causality.

Wednesday, March 4

F. Writing History

Exercise: Write two short (no more than 2 pages each) accounts of the events surrounding the speech you selected for last week's exercise. Write it from two different perspectives.

We will discuss the historical work you have read and problems you have encountered in writing history. We also want to review the primary writers' skills in history -- arguing and constructing narrative.

Part III: Writing.

A. Outlining

Reading: Outlining handout.
Exercise: Outline your historical report

No skill in writing contributes as much to different dimensions of the activity as the ability to outline. Tonight we will talk about how to make it pay off.

Wednesday, March 11

B. Envisioning Your Reader

Reading: BCW, cc. 1-2. NBC, cc.8-10.
Exercise: Write no more than one page that describes the reader for your research. You should identify the reader and some of the expectations that you have about what they can understand, and can accept.

The importance of the reader cannot be overestimated. You must always write with a reader in mind, making choices that will communicate your position. We will explore the implications of this.

C. Formulating Your Argument

Reading: BCW, part III.

We have identified both historical logic and critical logic. This reading focuses on the more common problem of identifying your claim and providing support.

Wednesday, March 25

D. Quoting and Footnoting

Reading: BG, cc. 12-13.

There is a right and a wrong way to insert quotations and footnotes into works. That way has little to do with impressing the instructor with how much you have researched. We will talk about the right and wrong ways.

Wednesday, April 1

Assignment Due: First submission of Criticism

E. The art of revising

Reading: BG, cc. 13-14.

The secret of good writing -- revision. We want to talk about the process. In the process we will talk about the life of the critic.

F. The Mechanics of Writing

Reading: The Table of Contents of either the Chicago or the APA manual.

Yuk!! Form!! It is important to you. It tells a lot about you. So come with questions. Try to stump me on how to's.

Wednesday, April 8

G. Using Theories in Criticism: Schools of Criticism

Reading: NBC, cc. 11-14 (including Leff essay).

What is the role and the dangers of seeing criticism as derivative of theory?

H. Creating Images

Reading: BCW, c. 16. BG, cc. 10-11. Edwin Black, "The Sentimental Style as Escapism, or the Devil with Daniel Webster." Form and Genre. Ed. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Falls Church VA: SCA, 1976. 75-86.

Good historical/critical writing not only argues, it creates in its audience the experience of the rhetorical act. These chapters in Barzun and Graff are also splendid. Does Black succeed in creating nineteenth Century America for you? Why or why not? How does he try? We want to talk about techniques for putting drama in writing.

Wednesday, April 15 through May 6

Part IV: Critics Workshop.

We will be reading and writing, working on particular problems. Problems in writing are natural to critics. Every critic learns to work on specific problems. You are invited to bring your specific problems to class. So will I. We will concentrate on them and work toward specific objectives in regards to them. We will also treat some additional topics in criticism. We will select from among the following and even add some possibility to the list based on a feel for where there might be benefit.

Last Revised 8 April 2009