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Rhetorical Criticism: Theory And Practice

Rhetorical Criticism: Theory And Practice

Alisse Portnoy (Department of English, University of Michigan)
Michael Leff (Department of Communication, University of Memphis)
Steve Mailloux (Chancellor's Professor of Rhetoric, University of California, Irvine)
Ruth Amossy (H. Glaberg  Chair of French Culture and Director of the Research Group, Analyse du Discours, Argumentation et Rhetorique, University of Tel Aviv)

The four of us approach rhetorical criticism from different disciplinary perspectives and with differing research objectives but we share in a common effort to understand how narratives, arguments, and tropes shape our response to specific situations while they also shape and reflect our cultural environment.  Our interests include the history of rhetoric, neo-classical criticism, textual criticism, hermeneutics, literary theory, contemporary critical theory, discourse analysis, and argumentation.  We are eager to join a conversation about how (or whether) we can blend and apply these perspectives, and we look forward to learning about the views of emerging scholars.

The seminar will involve intensive study of critical theory and offer opportunities for practical application in the writing of criticism.  We will approach the theory of criticism by working through orientations based on aspects of the rhetorical process-production, reception, genre, and context.  We will pay special attention to the development of criticism within the disciplinary histories of English, Communication, and related fields, and we will attend to the role of the critic as it is constrained and enabled by these histories and their academic and cultural contexts.  Exercises in critical analysis and writing will also be an important part of the seminar.

Please contact Alisse Portnoy ( or Michael Leff (

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