Requirement details

Essay (10 August)

Start thinking about your essay right away. I'm not kidding. This is a graduate RCD course; you should be writing and thinking about rhetorical and literary issues at an advanced level, and you should know how to write and research an academic essay; ergo, you should get to it right away. That sort of work cannot be done properly in the last week or two before the due date.

The most obvious kind of essay for this course would be an examination of some aspect of Booth's thought with respect to another element (ethics and genre in Booth, for instance, or agency and pathos), or an examination of some aspect of Booth's thought in relation to rhetorical or literary theory generally (Boothian ethos compared to Aristotelian ethos, or Booth's view of argumentation contrasted with Perelman and Olbrecht-Tyteca's view, or Booth's sense of values in relation to Marxist values), but you can also do a critical analysis of some symbolic amalgam (For whom the bell tolls, Lost, an Audi commercial, a Bush 'oration', ...) in Boothian terms; or study the impact of McKeon's thought on Booth, or Burke's, or Bakhtin's. The keyword is Booth; the invention and development are up to you. Just start those processes early, research steadily, and compose diligently. And if you have any concerns about your topic, please contact me. A poor choice is not the sort of thing you should find out about retroactively at this stage of your education.

I am not a big fan of word counts as a measure of when you should stop writing your essay, or how far you should prune back your ramblings—let the matter determine the vestle—but if it's under 3000 words, you probably haven't developed enough matter for an appropriate graduate research essay, over 6000 and you've probably been either too ambitious or too undisciplined, or both.

Do not rely solely on the course readings and presentations. Do more research both on Booth directly and on any other theorists, movements, materials implicated in your argument.

You should target a publication with this essay: find a journal, write the paper with that journal in mind, and submit a memo with the essay outlining why your essay fits the journal.

My evaluation (including suitability for the target journal) will depend on the cogency, conceptual sophistication, research depth, and rhetorical appropriateness of the essay—standard-issue academic criteria. It will be graded as follows:

Articulation of the problem you are addressing: 15%
Research into the theory and the object text(s): 20%
Use of readings as evidence in the essay: 20%
Quality of argument: 30%
Style and grammar (sentence and paragraph structure, diction, spelling, punctuation, agreement, ...): 15%


From many students' perspectives, the digital universe has made plaigiarism more tempting than ever before (it has also made plaigiarism detection easier than ever before), and it has made issues of intellectual property increasingly fuzzy. But ideas and words do have agents behind them, and we need to respect the intellectual labour of those agents. Familiarize yourself with policy #71. I will enforce it.

6 June
Craig & Stiles
The rhetoric of irony
20 June
Irene & Paul
Critical understanding
4 July
Kathleen & Susie
The company we keep
Format and expectations

It is always convenient to divide the labours by page count (different sections of the text assigned to different people), but I have no requirements in this area at all. You can divide by theme. You can divide according to external structural concerns (background, argument, implications, applications, etc.). One person can do all the talking; you can alternate. It's completely open. What I care about is solely the state the class is in when you're finished: we should all have a clearer, more focused sense of what the book does, how its positions relate to other theoretical perspectives, and what it should mean to us as we go about our daily engagements with discourse.

You should contextualize the book, not necessarily to Booth's historical milieu, but to your own understanding of text/discourse/literary/rhetorical theory machinery--bring in Habermas, Burke, Lyotard, Vico, Foucauld, Aristotle, whomever--framing our understanding of this specific book in the wider arena of engaging texts. Increasingly, as we move through the course, part of this framing should be Booth's own texts.

You--and your audience--will have all read Rhetoric of fiction and Modern dogma, and specific relevant essays from Essentials (some assigned for your specific session); make use of this common ground.

All of Booth's books have been reviewed fairly broadly, in journals the library possesses (physically or virtually). That's the best place to start. But you should also draw on the essays in Antczak, on the other reserve readings, the linked web-materials, and any other relevant dope you uncover.

All of Booth's books are also epitomized on the Booth-site that grew out of an earlier version of this course. Part of your assignment will involve a critique of the epitome relevant to your project. Please ensure you submit a memo to me commenting on the critique, suggesting any changes you feel are called for (including even specific re-writes).

It should be around 60-90 minutes.

If you need overheads, data projectors, singing cows, let me know ahead of time, and I'll see what I can do.

  There will be an overall mark, assigned by the success of the presentation, and a mutual assessment mark, where each person in the duo assigns a grade, with some justificatory commentary, to the other. Your grade will be 60% the former, 40% the latter. Sample assessments follow
Bart Trab , 96
He surprised the hell out of me. I always thought he was a bonehead, but he knows everything there is to know about mid-last-century critical theory, and provided virtually all of the background. He worked very hard, especially on the last-minute group-dynamic issues when one of our members dropped out and moved to Thunder Bay, and was relentlessly encouraging to everyone. Can we get him to head the interim government in Iraq?
Lisa Asil , 42
A complete washout. She missed meetings, fought with us about trivial issues (or, worse, matters we'd already decided) when she did show up, and blew her deadlines. In the end, we gave her some small jobs, chasing down references and writing precís, but nobody was happy with what she did, and we had to throw all of it out, completely dropping that section. If I meet her five years from now, and find that she graduated and got a stable job, I'll eat a yak, horns and all.
Marge Egram, 78
A good team player. She never seemed to go out of her way, and her contributions weren't particularly inspired--pulled her weight, though, and brought her sections in on time. She clearly wanted the presentation to succeed, but was happy to let others do the main work.