ENGL 564 A: Current Rhetorical Theory

Current Rhetorical Theory: Money and Politics

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
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James (Rush) Daniel

Syllabus Description:

English 564: Current Rhetorical Theory (Winter 2021)

Monday and Wednesday: 1:30-3:20 (remote)


Instructor: James Rushing Daniel

Email: daniej9@uw.edu

Tuesday 10am-11am (https://washington.zoom.us/j/99795848042, Thursday 10am-11am (https://washington.zoom.us/j/96799173913)

While rhetoric is classically understood as the available means of persuasion, contemporary iterations have expanded the concept far beyond its traditional moorings in public address to include such diverse subjects as materiality, sound studies, animal studies, fantasy, and political economy. Accounting for the heterogeneous state of contemporary rhetorical theory is, accordingly, an increasingly difficult task that requires a detailed, interdisciplinary approach attuned to the ways in which theorists have revised, troubled, and expanded upon the concept of rhetoric.

In this course, we will chart rhetoric’s diverse methodologies and expanding boundaries through a specific line of inquiry, examining rhetoric’s engagement with economics and politics. Through exploring this topic, we will investigate the plurality of disciplinary approaches brought to bear on such topics as neoliberalism, political division, authoritarianism, and racism. Through this investigation, we will seek to map rhetoric’s extensive approaches to contemporary economics and politics and, more expansively, to understand the complexity and diversity of the field. 

This course will provide an orientation to recent developments in rhetorical theory with specific attention to theorists’ study of political crises, old and new, and the ascendency of what Mark Fisher terms “capitalist realism.” Readings will include recent work by Karma R. Chavez, Ralph Cintron, Dana Cloud, Ersula Ore, Arabella Lyon, Catherine Chaput, and others.

Learning Goals


This course strives to:

-Engage in and develop a deep understanding of the salient conversations on and stakes of studying rhetoric

-Familiarize you with some key concepts, methodologies, objects of interest, research questions, theoretical approaches, and insights that are central to contemporary rhetorical studies

-Focus on a range of professional academic genres and help students to deepen their own professionalization


Course Texts


Dana Cloud, Reality Bites: Rhetoric and the Circulation of Truth Claims in U.S. Political Culture


Ralph Cintron, Democracy as Fetish


Catherine Chaput, Market Affect and the Rhetoric of Political Economic Debates


Karma R. Chávez, Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities


Ersula J. Ore, Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, and American Identity


Cynthia Haynes, The Homesick Phonebook: Addressing Rhetoric in the Age of Perpetual Conflict


Arabella Lyon, Deliberative Acts: Democracy, Rhetoric, and Rights


Mark Garrett Longaker, Rhetorical Style and Bourgeois Virtue: Capitalism and Civil Society in the British Enlightenment


Assignments and Grades


Participation—5%—Our seminar relies on your contributions to discussion, group work, class activities, and presentations. Successful participation can mean many things: sharing insights from course reading, asking questions about tricky concepts, calling for clarification, tying together strands that emerge in our conversation, thoughtfully listening, asking a classmate to clarify a statement, reading a section from your reading responses, sharing external resources, thoughtful preparation of assignments, and so on. I am deeply sensitive to the various communication styles and comfort levels of individuals in the class, and I encourage quality over quantity in your participation. If there is anything for me to know about your participation style or that I can do to help you feel more comfortable engaging in the seminar, please let me know.


Leading Class Discussion—10%—On one day during the semester, each student will lead approximately one hour of class discussion on a text of their choosing. The student will be asked to begin with a short oral reflection (approximately 5-10 min.) and then lead the next hour of the class with prepared questions and chosen passages for close analysis.


Reading Responses—20%—approximately 500 words—For most class periods (in which no other writing project is due), you will be asked to submit a reflection on each reading. These responses are intended to help you prepare for class discussion and to provide a space for you to make summarize, synthesize and analyze the readings; to explore how concepts link to your interests beyond this course; to start drafting and conceiving your final project; to respond, critique, and extend the arguments you encounter; to puzzle over a particular idea or quotation; and so on. I will often use these responses to guide my preparation—attending to questions or points of interest as they arise. Accordingly, reading responses will be due in the morning before class.


Research Proposal—25%—4-5 double-spaced pages—You will be asked to submit a formal research proposal and plan for your final project. In the interest of professionalization, I would like this project to take the form of a journal article written toward a specific journal in composition studies, rhetoric, or a similar field. The proposal should, accordingly, demonstrate that you have rigorously investigated the journal in question and that your prospective project aligns with its focus. The proposal should specifically demonstrate that you are aware of the specific concerns, issues, questions, methodologies, scholars, language, and texts that are associated with your chosen journal. In the description of the project itself, you will outline your argument and the exigency to which it responds, include salient research questions, discuss how and why you plan to proceed, explain your methodology, and offer an initial bibliography. I will invite each of you to conference with me sometime around the proposal’s due date to discuss your interests and projects.


Research Project—40%—while I would like to see a minimum of approximately 20 double-spaced pages, the length of your article should be guided by the requirements of the journal you have selected—Your work throughout the quarter and the prior proposal will culminate in a journal article that speaks to course themes and that emerges from your individual research needs and interests. Articles will vary and I will collaborate with each of you as you design them, but they should be projects that deal with at least one text from the quarter and at least nominally engage with contemporary rhetorical theory.


Formal assignment sheets will be distributed throughout the quarter.


Policies and Administrative Details


Plagiarism:  All work for this course must be your own and written exclusively for this course.  The use of sources (including ideas, quotations or paraphrases) must be properly documented. Talk to me if you have any questions regarding what constitutes plagiarism.


Attendance: If you must miss class, please notify me by email.


Written work: Except for in-class writing, all written work must be typed and double-spaced in Times New Roman font with one-inch margins and 12-point font.


Late or Missed Work: It is important that you complete your assigned work on time since it affects both your progress and the progress of others in the course. If you are not able to finish an assignment on time, please notify me in advance.


Office Hours: I hold office hours on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 to 11. If this time doesn’t work for you, let me know and we can make an appointment to meet at another time.

On Accommodations: Please let me know if you need accommodations of any sort. I am happy to work with the UW Disability Service Office (DSO) to provide what you require, and I am very willing to take suggestions specific to this class to meet your needs.  More information on support at UW may be found on the DSO web site at http://www.washington.edu/admin/dso/


Questions or Concerns: If you have questions or concerns about this course, please do come talk with me during office hours or email me. If you are not comfortable discussing your concerns with me, you may wish to contact Acting Chair of English Anis Bawarshi at bawarshi@uw.edu.


Week 1: Contextualizing Contemporary Rhetoric


Monday, January 4th

Introductions, review of the history of rhetorical theory


Wednesday, January 6th

Read: Rivers and Weber, “Ecological, Pedagogical, Public Rhetoric” (PDF on Canvas)


Week 2: Rhetoric and Truth


Monday, January 11th

Read: Cloud, Reality Bites: Rhetoric and the Circulation of Truth Claims in U.S. Political Culture, pp. iv-74

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Wednesday, January 13th

Read: Cloud, Reality Bites: Rhetoric and the Circulation of Truth Claims in U.S. Political Culture, pp. 75-168

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Week 3: Crisis Rhetoric


Monday, January 18th



Wednesday, January 20th

Read: Hayes, The Homesick Phonebook: Addressing Rhetorics in an Age of Perpetual Conflict, 1-190

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Week 4: Rhetoric and Deliberation


Monday, January 25th

Read: Lyon, Deliberative Acts: Democracy, Rhetoric, and Rights, 1-102

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Wednesday, January 27th

Read: Lyon, Deliberative Acts: Democracy, Rhetoric, and Rights, 103-182

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Week 5: Rhetoric and Democracy


Monday, February 1st

Read: Cintron, Democracy as Fetish, 1-116

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Wednesday, February 3rd

Read: Cintron, Democracy as Fetish, 117-186

Write: Research proposal (due by 9am)


Week 6: Rhetoric, Race, and Violence


Monday, February 8th

Read: Ore, Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, and American Identity, xiii-84

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Wednesday, February 10th

Read: Ore, Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, and American Identity, 85-142

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Week 7: Intersectionality and Solidarity


Monday, February 15th

NO CLASS (President’s Day)


Wednesday, February 17th

Read: Chávez, Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities, 1-150

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Week 8: Rhetoric, Affect, and Political Economy


Monday, February 22nd

Read: Chaput, Market Affect and the Rhetoric of Political Economic Debates, 1-86

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Wednesday, February 24th

Read: Chaput, Market Affect and the Rhetoric of Political Economic Debates, 87- 161

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Week 9: Virtue Rhetoric


Monday, March 3rd

Read: Longaker, Rhetorical Style and Bourgeois Virtue: Capitalism and Civil Society in the British Enlightenment, 1-73

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Wednesday, March 5th

Read: Longaker, Rhetorical Style and Bourgeois Virtue: Capitalism and Civil Society in the British Enlightenment, 73-136

Write: Reflection (due by 9am)


Week 10: Reflecting


Monday, March 8th



Wednesday, March 10th



Final papers due Friday, March 12th by 5pm


Research Proposal

Due Wednesday, February 3rd

4-5 pages double-spaced


            In preparation for the major paper of the course, you will prepare a research proposal that both outlines the journal that you aim to place your article in and details the argument of the project. Please note that your final project can take up any topic and need not be strictly a rhetorical theory paper. All that I ask is that you include at least one of the texts from the quarter in the piece and that rhetoric, to some extent, inform your piece.

            The first half of the paper of the paper should offer a detailed analysis of the journal you are intending to publish in. While there are no strict requirements for this section of the paper, it would be helpful to your preparation to include some or all of the following elements:

  • The name of the journal
  • The submission guidelines (specifically the length of articles and the citation style)
  • A brief discussion of the aims and scope of the journal
  • A brief discussion of the editor and the scholars who appear on the editorial board. What areas do they publish in? Does their association with the journal offer a sense of its orientation?
  • A discussion of recent articles in the journal (if the journal offers any awards to its authors, these essays will be the best place to look)
    • How do articles in the journal present arguments?
    • How does the journal characterize the field or fields within its purview?
    • What structure do articles in the journal tend to take?
    • What methodologies are used?
    • What concerns, topics, ideas, and/or terms appear frequently in the journal?
    • What conversations, subfields, or scholars appear frequently?
    • What writing style or stylistic conventions do you notice?
    • How is rhetoric taken up in the journal, if at all?


I would be happy to guide you to a specific journal given your topic (and, of course, you may choose a journal in a field other than rhetoric), but the following is a list of journals by topic that are worth considering. If your paper is in the area of rhetorical theory, consider Rhetoric Society Quarterly; Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric Review; enculturation; Philosophy & Rhetoric; Rhetoric and Public Affairs; Argumentation and Advocacy; Western Journal of Communication; or POROI. If your paper is in the area of writing studies, you might consider College English; College Composition and Communication; Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Language, Literature, Composition, and Culture; Writing on the Edge; Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy; Composition Forum; or Composition Studies.

            This list is not comprehensive and excludes journals in writing center studies, writing across the curriculum, technical writing, and writing administration. I would be happy to suggest journals if you are interested in these areas. Please note that some of the journals above, College English and enculturation in particular, span the rhetoric/composition divide and often publish articles in both areas. Additionally, be particularly aware of how the journal understands disciplinarity and rhetoric. This is one of the most important areas of placing an article well—framing a discipline differently than the field typically does (unless you are engaged in an explicit act of reframing) can easily lead to a rejection.


            The second half of the proposal should detail the argument of your proposed project and offer a prospective summary of the piece. Once again, while there are no strict requirements for this part of the proposal, consider including the following elements:

  • Title of the article
  • The central argument or intervention of the article
  • The sections of the article
  • The methodology (or theoretical framework) to be used
  • The names of the texts that will inform your methodology/framework and how they will inform the piece
  • A discussion of the analysis to be conducted, including a discussion of the texts/data that will be analyzed
  • A discussion of the various conversations that your piece will contribute to. Who are your interlocutors? Who are you positioning yourself against?
  • A brief notation of how rhetoric will be taken up in your piece and how you are understanding rhetoric
  • A discussion of your overall contribution to the field you are writing in


I recommend that you use your findings from your journal research to inform your proposal. The kind of argument, methodology, and interlocutors should, at least in part, should be calibrated to the journal you have chosen. While journals certainly provide extensive leeway with respect to topic, there are certain directions and choices that will make a piece a poor fit for a journal.

            Be aware that your article will likely change significantly while you are writing it. This is quite standard, but please be aware of how your changes might be viewed by your prospective journal. Major shifts in scope, methodology, or interlocutors might mean that a different journal would be a better fit than the one that you select here. Of course, I’m completely comfortable with any changes that you wish to make—the purpose of this assignment is to be useful to you.


Final Paper

Due March12th by 5PM

15-20 pages double-spaced (minimum)


As our previous discussions and the proposal have articulated, I would like the final paper for the course to conform to the guidelines of a specific journal. Rather than provide concrete guidelines for the final assignment, I’d prefer that you use the submission guidelines and your research of your chosen journal’s specific conventions to guide your choices.

            That said, I would like to see a few specific elements in your final submission:


  1. A cover letter addressed to the editor of your chosen journal that outlines the project and explains why the journal is a strong choice for your project (these are typically 1 page)
  2. An abstract (~150 words)
  3. The paper itself
  4. A bibliography


As you work towards the final paper, please note that I don’t expect the paper to be ready for submission by the time you submit it to me. There can be incomplete sections or an incomplete literature review or application. However, I would like to be able to see the entire scope of the paper in your final submission. There should be specific sections identified in the paper and some writing in each.

      As a final note about your contribution, theory papers typically follow one of three models: 1) an application of the theory that is fundamentally a reflection of the theory itself, 2) a theoretical application that is, above all, about the object of study, and 3) a comparison of theoretical approaches that either combines both or privileges one over the other. While there are other forms of theoretical writing in the humanities, most articles take one of these three forms. As you proceed, you should be aware of which you are writing. Are you fundamentally interested in the theory or in the object? If you are comparing theories, are you looking to privilege one or are you looking to combine them.

      As always, I’m happy to meet with you any time or to look at any rough drafts you would like to send to me.




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Prerequisite: teaching experience.
Last updated: 
October 23, 2020 - 10:14am