English 15: Rhetoric and Composition

Section 229, Summer 2019. LEAP Pride Mass Media, Nittany

Course Schedule with Assignment Due Dates | Course Description & Requirements | PolicY Statements | Assignments

 Course Description & Requirements

Course Description

“Rhetoric may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” – Aristotle, Rhetoric

 “Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups... So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

― Philip K. Dick, How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

Contemporary American culture is saturated with both rhetoric and media. A politician might use rhetoric to sway the opinions of voters. A parent might use their own available means of persuasion to convince their child to call home at least once a week. Such rhetoric is inevitably carried by media in non-fictional and fictional circumstances alike: a user’s smartphone might display Britain’s Prime Minister speaking to Parliament and moments later it might display Peter Quill addressing his crew in Guardians of the Galaxy. Rhetoric and media function together.

This class will prepare you to critically and productively engage with media using rhetorical principles. You will closely analyze verbal and visual texts drawn from mass media and popular culture, such as speeches, podcasts, comics, films, and television shows. Your analyses will be driven by rhetorical considerations, such as purpose, audience, genre, stance, and, of course, media.

You will apply what you learn in your own work as a rhetor. As a writer and participant in the ever-changing media landscape, you will become more attuned to your goals, more aware of the ongoing conversation surrounding the topic, and more resourceful in terms of the appropriate delivery of your information, the rhetorical appeals at your disposal, and the needs and expectations of your audience. In other words, we hope you’ll come to write with skill, conviction, sophistication, and grace—if not immediately, then soon.

Required Textbooks and Materials

1.     Bullock, Richard H., et al. The Norton Field Guide to Writing: With Readings and Handbook. Fourth Edition, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-393-61739-9.

2.     Penn Statements, 2017 edition.

3.     A Submission Folder: A 2-Pocket Folder with your name printed clearly on the upper right-hand corner of the cover.

4.     Paper for in-class writing assignments: a supply of loose-leaf pages or a notebook or legal pad with perforated pages.


To pass this course you must complete all the major assignments, submit all process work, fulfill all the weekly reading and writing assignments, and submit assignments on time. You are expected to attend all class meetings and to participate in draft workshops, in-class exercises, and classroom discussions. All proposals, drafts, peer review work, papers, and revisions must be handed in on time; failing to turn in a proposal on time or appearing at a draft workshop without a draft is equivalent to turning in an assignment late (i.e., normally a penalty of one grade per late day). Final drafts of an assignment will NOT be accepted until a written proposal has been approved and a draft has been completed and peer reviewed. Please keep all graded assignments until the end of the semester.

With the exception of Assignment 4, all assignments must be submitted in printed, stapled form in your Submission Folder. If you are absent, submit your assignment to my mailbox in the English department mailroom (430 Burrowes Building).


Three absences are permitted without penalty. You do not need to notify my why you will be absent. Each absence beyond the third will decrease your participation grade by one. Note that in-class work cannot be made up.

If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the assignments, class notes, and course changes from a classmate. In addition, if you miss class on a day that written work is due, it is your responsibility to make arrangements to submit that work to your instructor. In-class work cannot be made up.

Note that, per University policy (Policies and Rules, 42-27), a student whose absences are excessive “may run the risk of receiving a lower grade or a failing grade,” regardless of his or her performance in the class.


Your final grade will be determined by the grades you receive on written and in-class assignments, according to the following weighting:

1.     Participation: 10%

2.     Short Responses: 15%

3.     Planning Worksheets, Rough Drafts & In-Class Work: 5%

4.     Peer Review Responses: 15%

5.     Assignment 1 (A1): Rhetorical Analysis – Essay: 10%

6.     A2: Position Argument – Editorial: 15%

7.     A3: Evaluation Argument – Film Review: 15%

8.     A4: Memoir Podcast: 15%

See the Assignments section for details on each of the above.

Major assignments and final grades will follow the below grading scheme.

Because you build your final grade through your performance in each component of the course, I will not round final grade number values up or down. For example, 93.5 is less than 94.0, so that’s an A-; 69.9 is less than 70.0, so that’s a D.

100 to 94.0 is an A
<94.0 to 90.0 is an A-
<90.0 to 87.0 is a B+
<87.0 to 84.0 is a B
<84.0 to 80.0 is a B-
<80.0 to 77.0 is a C+
<77.0 to 70.0 is a C
<70.0 to 60.0 is a D
<60.0 to 0.0 is an F