Dr. Helene A. Shugart
Office: LNCO 2858
Office hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10:45-12:15; and by appointment
Foss, Sonja K. (2004). Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland
Readings on e-reserve through Marriott Library.
Course Description and Objectives
This course is designed to foster critical analysis skills as applied to a wide variety of messages, skills that are
particularly exigent in our contemporary, increasingly mediated culture. In particular, this course examines the
history of communication criticism as well as many contemporary methods of communication analysis. The
course attends to both the theory and praxis of communication criticism; as students learn of the assumptions
and approaches that undergird each method of analysis, they will have the opportunity to apply those methods in
the analysis of a variety of discourses, including speeches, advertisements, news reports, television programs,
films, songs, and so forth. Students will demonstrate their comprehension and apply their understanding of
methods of communication criticism in quizzes, written essays, and participation.
To cultivate understanding and use of basic methods for analyzing and evaluating discourse.
To explore various critical perspectives that contribute to a more sophisticated apprehension of
To develop proficiency in logical, written analysis of discourse.
To encourage critical engagement with issues of culture and power in the context of communication
Examinations must be taken and papers submitted on schedules days. Students who do not observe this
policy will not be permitted to make up their exams, and late papers will not be accepted. Exceptions
may be made for those with dire circumstances confronting them, but only if those circumstances are (a)
made known to me in advance, if at all possible; (b) documented; and (c) verifiable.
Regular and thoughtful participation is expected and required in this course as part of the grade;
accordingly, attendance in class is necessary in order to meet that requirement. Students are expected to
have read and reflected on class readings in order to ensure the relevance and thoughtfulness of their
contributions. In order to ensure further the quality of class discussions, please be in class on time and
remain in class for the entire period; interruptions can be distracting. See the following link for more
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that reasonable accommodation be provided for
students with physical, sensory, cognitive, systemic, learning, or psychiatric disabilities. Students
requiring such accommodation should speak with the professor at the beginning of the semester in order
to make appropriate arrangements for this course. The Center for Disabled Student Services (Olpin
Union, 581-5020) will also need to be informed. See the following link for more information:
The registrar cautions students that withdrawing from a course and other registration matters are the
student’s responsibility. The last day to withdraw without tuition penalty is 17 January; the last day to
withdraw is 2 March. See the following link for more information:
In accordance with university policy (as articulated in the Student Code), academic misconduct—
including cheating, fabrication of information, and plagiarism—is not tolerated in this course. A student
found engaging in this behaviour will receive a failing grade. If at any time you are unsure whether
your actions constitute academic misconduct, please see the professor in order to clarify the matter. See
the following link for more information: http://www.admin.utah.edu/ppmanual/8/8-10.html
Course Requirements and Grade Distribution
Short essays (10%, 15%, and 15%): 40%
Final essay: 20%
Quizzes (4 @ 5% each): 20%
A = 93-100 B- = 80-82 D+ = 67-69
A- = 90-92 C+ = 77-79 D = 63-66
B+ = 87-89 C = 73-76 D- = 60-62
B = 83-86 C- = 70-72 E = 59 and below
Grades will be assigned according to the standards reported in the class schedule; see the following link for
more information: http://www.acs.utah.edu/sched/handbook/grpolicy.htm
Each short essay will be a 4-6 page typed, double-spaced paper; the final essay will be 8-10 typed,
double-spaced pages in length. Please note that character size for the paper is not to exceed 12 points;
another gauge of appropriate length is that a typewritten page (12-point font) contains about 250 words.
Papers should be written in accordance with a writing style manual, such as APA or MLA, available at
the library. Particular notes on the format: no cover page is necessary—simply name, course
information (including professor’s name), and date in upper left-hand corner, and staple in left-hand
corner (no folders, please).
Be sure that your essays are mechanically correct; observe proper spelling and rules of punctuations and
Because your short essays are brief, they should be concise; clearly state your thesis in the first
paragraph and systematically apply the components of the method you are using to your artifact or
“text,” providing supporting evidence from the artifact under consideration.
Papers may be turned in any time prior to the due date, but they must be submitted by the date noted on
the syllabus (see “Course Policies,” above).
Short essays: For each short essay, choose a method(s) that we have read about and discussed in class and
apply it to any text/artifact of your choosing. Please note that although you have great latitude in choosing
your method and text, your grade will be based in part on how effective that method is for the text in
question. Each essay should feature a different method, although you may use the same artifact more than
once if you wish, bearing in mind the suitability of the method in question for the text.
Final essay: For the final essay, you may apply any method(s) you wish—even one you have applied
before—to a text, although if you have used it(them) before, you must select a different artifact. Because
this is a longer essay, you will be expected to elaborate on and extend your analysis relative to your short
essays, applying the method(s) at hand more thoroughly and offering more supporting evidence for your
Four quizzes will be administered throughout the semester; they will not be announced beforehand. They will
cover material from the text, the reading packet, and class lecture that will have been covered prior to the quiz.
Students who are late to class or absent will not be given the opportunity to make up a quiz.
One of the most effective ways to hone critical analytical skills is to explore the means of doing so in depth as
well as to apply those skills on a regular basis and in informal, spontaneous settings. Because the classroom
affords us an opportunity to do both, participation is weighted fairly heavily in this course. Students are
expected to be prepared for class discussion (i.e., have read assigned material) and, of course, to contribute to it.
Frequent opportunities for application of critical method will be presented in class in the form of artifacts
brought to students’ attention by the professor or by artifacts brought to class by students; in the former case,
those artifacts are noted in the course schedule (below), and students are asked to have viewed or reviewed,
whenever possible, those artifacts in their entirety prior to class in order to enrich class discussion.
9 January: Course Introduction and Overview
11 January: Introduction to Criticism
Readings: Sillars & Gronbeck, Chapter 1 (on e-reserve)
Foss, Chapter 1
16 January: Writing Criticism
Readings: Foss, Chapter 2
18 January: Neoclassical (Neo-Aristotelian) Criticism
Readings: Foss, Chapter 3
23 January: Neo-Aristotelian Criticism cont’d
Readings: Brown (in Foss, pp. 56-64)
25 January: In-class analysis: I Have a Dream
30 January: Cluster Criticism
Readings: Foss, Chapter 3
1 February: Cluster Criticism cont’d
Readings: Elliot (in Foss, pp. 94-100)
Paper #1 due
6 February: Generic Criticism
Readings: Foss, Chapter 7
8 February: Generic Criticism cont’d
Readings: Varallo (in Foss, pp. 205-211)
13 February: Generic Criticism cont’d
Readings: Madison (on e-reserve)
15 February: Narrative Criticism
Readings: Foss, Chapter 10
Bruss (in Foss, pp. 377-380)
20 February: Narrative Criticism cont’d
22 February: Pentadic Criticism
Readings: Foss, Chapter 11
Ling (in Foss, pp. 392-400)
27 February: Pentadic Criticism cont’d
Video: A Time to Kill
1 March: Values Analysis
Readings: Sillars & Gronbeck, Chapter 9 (on reserve)
Paper #2 due
6 March: Values Analysis cont’d
Readings: Sandeen (on e-reserve)
8 March: Values Analysis cont’d
Advertisements: To be provided in class
13 March Semiotic Analysis
Readings: Sillars & Gronbeck, Chapter 7 (on reserve)
15 March Semiotic Analysis cont’d
Readings: Shugart (on e-reserve)
Advertisements: To be provided in class
19-23 March: No classes: Spring Break
27 March: Semiotic Analysis cont’d
Video: The Lion King
29 March: Feminist Criticism
Readings: Foss, Chapter 6
Krause, Vang, & Brent (in Foss, pp. 182-186)
Paper #3 due
3 April: Feminist Criticism cont’d
Video: Tough Guise
5 April: Ideological Criticism
Readings: Foss, Chapter 12
Orbe (on e-reserve)
10 April: Ideological Criticism cont’d
Readings: Brookey & Westerfelhaus (on e-reserve)
12 April: “Freestyle” in-class analysis: The First Supper
17 April: Class Presentations
19 April: Class Presentations
24 April: Debrief
Final Papers Due
Sillars, M.O., & B.E. Gronbeck. (2001). Communication criticism today (Chapter 1). In M.O.
Sillars & B.E. Gronbeck, Communication Criticism: Rhetoric, Social Codes, Cultural Studies
(pp. 3-21). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Brown, G.W. (2004). The power of Saddam Hussein’s war rhetoric. In S.K. Foss, Rhetorical
Criticism: Exploration and Practice (3rd ed.), (pp. 56-64). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland
Elliot, K.C. (2004). A cluster analysis of Enron’s Code of Ethics. In S.K. Foss, Rhetorical Criticism:
Exploration and Practice (3rd ed.), (pp. 94-100). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Varallo, S. M. (2004). Family photographs: A generic description. In S.K. Foss, Rhetorical Criticism:
Exploration and Practice (3rd ed.), (pp. 205-211). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Madison, K.J. (1999). Legitimation crisis and containment: The “anti-racist-white-hero” film.
Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 16(4), 399-416.
Bruss, R. (2004). Boy Story 2: A narrative analysis. In S.K. Foss, Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration
and Practice (3rd ed.) (pp. 377-380). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Ling, D.A. (2004). A pentadic analysis of Senator Edward Kennedy’s address to the people of
Massachusetts July 25, 1969. In S.K. Foss, Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice
(3rd ed.), (pp. 392-400). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Sillars, M.O., & B.E. Gronbeck. (2001). Value analysis: Understanding culture in value systems
(Chapter 9). In M.O. Sillars & B.E. Gronbeck, Communication Criticism: Rhetoric, Social
Codes, Cultural Studies (pp. 185-209). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Sandeen, C. (1997). Success defined by television: The value system promoted by PM Magazine.
Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 14, 77-105.
Sillars, M.O., & B.E. Gronbeck. (2001). Semiotic codes: Verbal, acoustic, and performed texts
(Chapter 7). In M.O. Sillars & B.E. Gronbeck, Communication Criticism: Rhetoric, Social
Codes, Cultural Studies (pp. 141-163). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Shugart, H.A., Waggoner, C.E., & Hallstein, D. L.O. (2001). Mediating third-wave feminism:
Appropriation as post-modern media practice. Critical Studies in Media Communication,
Krause, D.R., Vang, S., & Brent, S.L. (2004). Americanising Gay Parents: A Feminist Analysis of
Daddy’s Roommate. In S.K. Foss, Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice (3rd ed.),
(pp. 182-186). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Orbe, M.P. (1998). Constructions of reality on MTV’s “The Real World”: An analysis of the
restrictive coding of black masculinity. Southern Communication Journal, 64, 32-47.
Brookey, R.A., & Westerfelhaus, R. (2001). Pistols and petticoats, piety and purity: To Wong Foo,
the queering of the American monomyth, and the marginalizing discourse of deification.
Critical Studies in Media Communication, 18(2), 141-156.