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Readings in
Rhetorical Criticism

fifth edition

Carl R. Burgchardt
Colorado State University

Hillary A. Jones
California State University, Fresno


The fifth edition of this anthology, like the previous editions, presents classical and contemporary approaches to rhetorical criticism and illustrates them for undergraduate and graduate students. While retaining the basic structure and perspective of previous editions, we have reorganized the book slightly and replaced some of the earlier selections with essays that reflect more recent scholarship, are more accessible to students, or represent an approach more clearly. In every case, our goal has been to make the fifth edition more useful for those who teach—and learn about—rhetorical criticism.

In this edition, as in previous ones, we have endeavored to (1) conform to a focused concept of rhetorical criticism; (2) offer a survey of landmark essays that are cited frequently in the literature; (3) provide access to some classic essays that are out of print or difficult to obtain; (4) introduce students to contemporary critical practice; and (5) present the major methods, approaches, and philosophies of rhetorical criticism in an even-handed way. The essays included in the chapters and listed in the “Additional Readings” section at the end of the book reflect the major historical and contemporary conversations concerning approaches to rhetorical criticism.

To include everything that merits anthologizing would have been impossible. Instead, we selected essays that could provide a starting point for discussion and be supplemented in a variety of ways. We chose some essays because they are famous, some because they illustrate a perspective particularly well, and some because they explore promising new directions. Finally, we sought pieces that refer to and engage with one another.

The essays analyze diverse objects of criticism, including traditional texts such as speeches, legal discourse, and books; mass-mediated objects such as news media coverage, cinema, television, and editorial cartoons; and material and embodied rhetorical objects such as architecture, monuments, and cultural practices.

Each chapter begins with a headnote that describes the selections briefly and
explains how they relate to each other. The headnotes provide background information and alert the student to important concepts in the essays; however, we have neither systematically outlined the readings nor attempted to recount all the salient points. We have attempted to prepare students to read productively, without interfering with their process of discovery.


The first chapter presents nine views on the purposes of rhetorical criticism. These essays, taken together, form the conceptual foundation for the volume, which often refers back to these trailblazing articles.

The subsequent chapters define and illustrate many of the most popular and enduring approaches to rhetorical criticism. Generally, each chapter presents an essay that proposes a particular approach or method, followed by one or more essays that apply and demonstrate it.

The “Additional Readings” section, structured to correspond to the chapter
organization, provides supplemental resources for students who are grappling with
methodological concepts or seeking additional scholarly models. This carefully selected bibliography features a variety of authors, critical objects, and methodological approaches that reflect the breadth and depth of rhetorical criticism.

The anthology can be assigned from the first page to the last, but alternative arrangements work well, also. Each chapter is designed to be a free-standing unit, but there is no assumption that students have read preceding chapters. For example, although Chapter 1 is meant to stand as an internally cohesive unit, some instructors may prefer to combine specific readings from this chapter with later essays or chapters in the book. Wichelns’s “The Literary Criticism of Oratory” could productively be assigned with Chapter 2 (“Traditional Criticism”), and Black’s “The Second Persona” and Wander’s “The Ideological Turn in Modern Criticism” complement Morris’s “Pink Herring & The Fourth Persona: J. Edgar Hoover’s Sex Crime Panic” essay (Chapter 10, “Gender and Queer Criticism).

Some instructors may prefer to group essays that analyze the same or similar critical objects from different perspectives. Hill’s and Terrill’s essays (Chapter 2,
“Traditional Criticism”) analyze presidential rhetoric, as does Lewis’s essay (Chapter 4, “Narrative Criticism”). Essays that rhetorically analyze the media coverage of events include those by Tonn, Endress, and Diamond (Chapter 3, “Dramatism”), Ott and Aoki (also in Chapter 3), and Squires and Brouwer (Chapter 10, “Gender and Queer Criticism”). Lucaites and Condit’s essay (Chapter 8, “Ideographic Criticism”) as well as Campbell’s essay (Chapter 10, “Gender and Queer Criticism”) could profitably be read in conjunction with Chapter 6, “Social Movement Criticism.” The “Additional Readings” section lists more essays that use the various methods to analyze similar critical objects.

In recent years, the “critical rhetoric” approach has become prominent in the field of rhetorical criticism, as have criticism of visual rhetoric and practices of public memory. Teachers who wish to accentuate a critical approach can couple McKerrow’s vanguard essay (Chapter 1, "Purposes of Rhetorical Criticism”) with those by Ott and Aoki (Chapter 3, “Dramatism”), Zaeske (Chapter 6, “Social Movement Criticism”), or Ewalt (Chapter 8, “Ideographic Criticism”); or with any of the essays in Chapter 9 (“Critical Rhetoric”) and Chapter 10 (“Gender and Queer Criticism”). Public memory is featured in essays by Blair, Jeppeson, and Pucci (Chapter 1, “Purposes of Rhetorical Criticism”), King (Chapter 4, “Narrative Criticism”), Donofrio (Chapter 5, “Metaphor Criticism”), and Ewalt (Chapter 8, “Ideographic Criticism”).

As editors, we have attempted to reproduce the original essays faithfully. Computer conversion tools, along with laborious proofreading, were enormously helpful. We corrected only minor typographical errors. Occasionally, we inserted “[sic]” to indicate unorthodox or archaic phrasing in the original publication. When “[sic]” appears in roman type, the original publication included it. For the sake of consistency, we converted footnotes to endnotes


In revising this volume, we updated the readings, refined our classification of critical approaches, and, in general, attempted to create a more inclusive, accessible, and relevant book for scholars, students, and teachers, while maintaining the basic structure, selection criteria, and approach of the previous editions.

First, in response to insightful comments from colleagues, as well as our own sense of evolutions in the field, we reframed (and sometimes moved) chapters to illustrate the dynamic nature of rhetorical criticism, as well as its continuities, more fully. For example, we have combined the (previous) chapters on neo-classical criticism and close reading into a new Chapter 2, “Traditional Criticism,” to underscore the continuity and shared concerns of these two approaches. To reflect its prominence in the field, Chapter 9, “Critical Rhetoric,” has been updated and expanded. In order to represent more contemporary perspectives, Chapter 10, “Gender and Queer Criticism” has been overhauled: it includes three new essays on gender, sexuality, and intersectionality.

Second, whenever possible, we have introduced more recent illustrations of contemporary critical practices. Eight chapters each include at least one new essay. Most of the new selections were first published since the previous edition of this anthology went to press.

Third, we aimed to maintain the wide-ranging subject matter and critical variety of previous editions. New essays use cutting-edge (as well as more established) methods and perspectives to explore historical and contemporary objects, such as the films Schindler’s List, The Poseidon Adventure, and The Stepford Wives, as well as recent presidential oratory. Other essays take up rhetorical discussions surrounding the 9/11 memorial and the Homestead National Monument in Nebraska, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s strategies of judicial dissent, the rhetorical complexities in Native American resistance to removal discourse, African-American modes of expression, and the rhetoric of “passing.”

Fourth, in the chapter introductions, we have continued to emphasize that the critical approaches represented in the book do not constitute mutually exclusive categories. Several selections reflect more than one critical perspective and could legitimately appear in more than one chapter. We have tried to structure the material in a way that invites students and teachers to discover these connections between the readings.

Finally, the “Additional Readings” for the fifth edition have been expanded and updated to reflect current issues and conversations in rhetorical criticism scholarship


Most books require the help of many people to reach completion. This is particularly true in the case of a large anthology such as Readings in Rhetorical Criticism. Throughout the project, we relied on the goodwill, generosity, dedication, and hard work of numerous individuals.

We wish to recognize the encouragement and sound advice of everyone who helped with previous editions. The valuable contributions of these individuals carried forward into the fifth edition: Heather Aldridge, Augustana University; John Arthos, Indiana University; Benjamin Bates, Ohio University; Jacinta M. Behne, Colorado State University; William L. Benoit, Ohio University; Thomas W. Benson, Pennsylvania State University; Dale A. Bertelsen, Bloomsburg University; Barbara Biesecker, University of Georgia; Lloyd F. Bitzer, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Edwin Black, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Jason Edward Black, University of Alabama; Barry Brummett, University of Texas at Austin; Thomas R. Burkholder, University of Nevada Las Vegas; Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, University of Minnesota; A. Cheree Carlson, Arizona State University; Jim Cherney, Miami University; Dana L. Cloud, Syracuse University; J. Robert Cox, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Adrienne Hacker Daniels, University of St. Thomas; James Darsey, Georgia State University; Ray D. Dearin, Iowa State University; Greg Dickinson, Colorado State University; Catherine A. Dobris, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis; Janis L. Edwards, University of Alabama; Keith Erickson, University of Southern Mississippi; Susan E. Fillippeli, Auburn University; Trischa Goodnow, Oregon State University; Jean Goodwin, Iowa State University; Richard B. Gregg, Pennsylvania State University; Charles Griffin, Kansas State University; Cindy L. Griffin, Colorado State University; Bruce Gronbeck, University of Iowa; Dan Hahn, New York University; Sara Hayden, University of Montana; Jeffrey Hobbs, Abilene Christian University; Davis Houck, Florida State University; Carol Jablonski, University of South Florida; Richard L. Johannesen, Northern Illinois University; Peter Kane, State University of New York, College at Brockport; David J. Kavalec, Colorado State University; Amos Kiewe, Syracuse University; Janis King, Southwest Missouri State University; Brenda K. Kuseski, Colorado State University; Randall A. Lake, University of Southern California; Ed Lamoureux, Bradley University; Michael C. Leff, University of Memphis; Camille K. Lewis, Bob Jones University; John Llewellyn, Wake Forest University; David A. Ling, Central Michigan University; Bruce Loebs, Idaho State University; John Louis Lucaites, Indiana University; Stephen E. Lucas, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Daniel R. Lutz, Colorado State University; John J. Makay, Bowling Green State University; Susan Mackey-Kallis, Villanova University; Roseann M. Mandziuk, Texas State University; Steve Martin, Ripon College; Suzanne McCorkle, Boise State University; Kelly McDonald, Arizona State University; Martin J. Medhurst, Baylor University; Charles E. Morris III, Syracuse University; Star A. Muir, George Mason University; Teresa Nance, Villanova University; Janice Norton, Arizona State University; Barbara O’Connor, California State University, Sacramento; Lester C. Olson, University of Pittsburgh; Tracey Owens Patton, University of Wyoming; Catherine H. Palczewski, University of Northern Iowa; Robert Patterson, University of Virginia; John Pauley, Eastern University; Larry Prelli, University of New Hampshire; Anne Pym, California State University, East Bay; Angela G. Ray, Northwestern University; Tom Roach, Purdue University Calumet; Jody Roy, Ripon College; Edward A. Schiappa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Mike Schliessman, South Dakota State University; Enid M. I. Sefcovic, Florida Atlantic University; Kara Shultz, Bloomsburg University; David Thomas, University of Richmond; Jacob Thompson, University of Northern Iowa; Laurie Thurneck, Saint Mary’s College; Mari Boor Tonn, University of Richmond; Pamela J. Tosch, Colorado State University; Rebecca M. Townsend, University of Massachusetts; Paul Turpin, University of the Pacific; Ron Von Burg, Christopher Newport University; Karen Whedbee, Northern Illinois University; Joe Wilferth, State University of West Georgia; Susan Zaeske, University of Wisconsin–Madison; and David Zarefsky, Northwestern University.

For the fifth edition, we gratefully acknowledge the insightful and supportive advice of the following people who served as reviewers or responded to our survey of adopters: Lawrance Bernabo, University of Minnesota Duluth; Richard Besel, California Polytechnic State University; Diane M. Blair, California State University, Fresno; Ann Burnette, Texas State University; Patricia A. Chantrill, Eastern Washington University; Dana L. Cloud, Syracuse University; Kristina Campos Davis, Abilene Christian University; Abbe Depretis, Christopher Newport University; Catherine Dobris, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis; Thomas Dunn, Colorado State University; Christina Foust, University of Denver; Kaylene O. Gebert, Middle Tennessee State University; Chuck Goehring, San Diego State University; Joshua Gunn, University of Texas at Austin; Mark Gring, Texas Tech University; Marissa Hill, Boise State University; Michael Hostetler, St. John’s University; Sarah Jedd, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Robin E. Jensen, University of Utah; Ann Johnson, California State University, Long Beach; Amos Kiewe, Syracuse University; John Lucaites, Indiana University; Rita Malenczyk, Eastern Connecticut State University; Roseann M. Mandziuk, Texas State University; Steve Martin, Ripon College; Matthew May, North Carolina State University; Erin McClellan, Syracuse University; Michael McFarland, Stetson University; Martin J. Medhurst, Baylor University; Catherine Palczewski, University of Northern Iowa; Tracey Owens Patton, University of Wyoming; Jessica Prody, Colgate University; John Saunders, University of Central Arkansas; Matthew J. Sobnosky, Hofstra University; Mari Boor Tonn, University of Richmond; and Mary Triece, University of Akron.

Carl is grateful to all of the graduate students at Colorado State University who read and discussed the book during seminars. Their questions and comments helped hone his thinking about rhetorical criticism.

Hillary is grateful to the students in her rhetorical criticism courses at California State University, Fresno, for their tenacity and dedication in engaging with this material, their honest and open feedback as we field-tested new essays in class, their graciousness in sharing their insights as they applied these methods to new texts, and their courage, entrusting me to help them to see the world in new ways.

For the fifth time, Kathleen M. Domenig, editor and publisher of Strata, has exceeded all expectations. We are grateful for her attention to detail; her dedication to quality and transparency; her patience, tact, knowledge, and experience; and her encouragement and friendship. She is simply the best.

Carl wishes to acknowledge the continual love and support of his family. Daughter Jane Burgchardt Wright helped with the second and third editions of the book. As a teenager and young adult, she assisted with the scanning, proofreading, and indexing. That essential work is still reflected in the current volume. Carl also wants to recognize the many conversations he had about Readings in Rhetorical Criticism with his daughter Lucy A. Burgchardt, who was working towards a doctorate in Communication Studies during the preparation for the book. Her encouragement and brilliant insight were indispensable. As always, he thanks his mother, Elva L. Burgchardt, for always believing in him. Finally, Carl would like to acknowledge co-editor Hillary Jones for her considerable contributions to the fifth edition. Nothing is more pleasing to a teacher than to see a former student become a peer. Hillary has become that and more. Her knowledge, critical acumen, and editing prowess are abundantly evident in the fifth edition.

Hillary wishes to acknowledge: Carl, for the opportunity to join the team as a co-editor for the book that founded her own study of criticism, and for his consistent support and intellectual inspiration; the numerous talented rhetoric and media studies professors with whom she has studied criticism over the years, particularly her undergraduate honors thesis adviser Carl Burgchardt, her master’s thesis adviser Cindy Griffin, and her doctoral thesis adviser Thomas W. Benson, as well as Greg Dickinson, Jeremy Engels, Rosa Eberly, Marie Hardin, J. Michael Hogan, Matthew McAllister, and Brian Ott, all scholars who enriched her love for the craft; her parents, sister, and pups for their ongoing emotional support; and Greg Lankenau, her spouse, for helping to sustain her as a scholar and a person. She is endlessly grateful for his intellectual engagement, generosity of spirit, and personal inspiration . . . and for allowing the book manuscript to take over the kitchen table.

We wish to dedicate the fifth edition of Readings in Rhetorical Criticism to the memory of Michael C. Leff, who served as a mentor and model of scholarly excellence to the co-editors of this book and to generations of students and colleagues in our field. For Carl, Mike always seemed to be around at just the right moment to provide support. He strongly advised Strata to publish the first edition of Readings in Rhetorical Criticism, when it existed largely as a concept and a tentative table of contents. Carl cherishes the encouraging words and sage advice Mike generously offered—often over a lunch he would buy for an impoverished graduate student or young assistant professor. Thank you, Mike, for everything



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