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Readings in
Rhetorical Criticism

fifth edition

Carl R. Burgchardt
Colorado State University

Hillary A. Jones
California State University, Fresno

This highly acclaimed book surveys major approaches to rhetorical criticism through significant essays that explain and illustrate them. From H. A. Wichelns’s groundbreaking “The Literary Criticism of Oratory” to very recent essays on visual argument, film studies, gender and race issues, and public memory, the essays in this volume reflect the historical development, diversity, and current practice of rhetorical criticism.

In this edition, important new selections from the literature and an updated organization reflect current issues, scholarship, critical perspectives, and classroom needs.

Collectively, the classic and contemporary essays in this book are among the most important and widely cited in the literature.


Readings in Rhetorical Criticism summarizes an article, provides context for the article within the field of rhetoric, and uses relatively current articles coupled with seminal articles to illustrate concepts. The strength of the book is the variation in the articles as well as the current nature of the articles chosen.”
Tracey Owens Patton, University of Wyoming

“It’s the best anthology of the most important essays. It’s the best foundation of rhetorical criticism.”
Steve Martin, Ripon College

“It has the major readings that students of rhetoric should be familiar with. The categories and organization of the book help students see how criticism has evolved over time.”
Abbe Depretis, Temple University

“It has a great collection of articles that introduce and help explain the history and development of rhetorical criticism since the inception of the field.”
Mark A. Gring, Texas Tech University

“It is the best and most complete collection. Excellent selection of studied essays and newer material."
John Louis Lucaites, Indiana University

“Good selection of key articles to choose from.”
Amos Kiewe, Syracuse University

“A collection of exemplary essays.”
Christina Foust, University of Denver


“It's a thorough and practical compendium of important scholarship in the field.”
Ann Burnette, Texas State University

“It has seminal essays that I absolutely have to have, and provides a variety of different genres of rhetorical criticism with multiple examples of each.”
Lawrance Bernabo, University of Minnesota Duluth

“It covers a broad range of appropriate topics and includes highly significant classic and contemporary articles.”
Catherine Dobris, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

“A solid collection of essays that provide exemplars of the critical frameworks discussed in my course. I appreciate the thoughtful additions that have occurred through the editions that keep the book grounded in our history but also current with the latest developments in our critical practice.”
Diane Blair, California State University, Fresno

“This is the go-to collection for the best and broadest accounting of historical and contemporary rhetorical criticism.”
Thomas Dunn, Colorado State University

“I love the text. I think it is the most comprehensive and useful text for rhetorical criticism. Helpful to have all these important articles in one place.”
Marissa Hill, Boise State University

“It introduces students to different types of rhetorical theory and criticism by requiring them to read said criticism. It covers a wide range of theories and stays contemporary.”
Rita Malenczyk, Eastern Connecticut State University

“Good variety.”
Michael J. Hostetler, St. John’s University

“It is the most comprehensive anthology of its kind.”
Matthew May, Texas A&M University

“I began using Readings in Rhetorical Criticism as a way of getting students to see a variety of perspectives, and to read actual criticism (not just textbook reading). It is easier now for students to find articles online than it was when I first began using the book—still I think it works well. It has good variety and it is collected, making it easier and giving it a weight.”
Michael McFarland, Stetson University

“I liked the range of material that was included. I also liked the way the studies were grouped.”
Richard Besel, California Polytechnic State University

“The introduction to each type of criticism provides an overview for students that explains how a specific type of rhetorical criticism asks a particular type of question about a text. It then provides seminal examples of each type of criticism in addition to more contemporary examples that allow students to see the variety of ways they might engage in their own criticism.”
Erin McClellan, Boise State University

“It allows my students to see how certain criticisms are done. It gives them an ideal model to aspire to.”
Kristina Campos Davis, Abilene Christian University

“It was nice to have students read foundational essays.”
Robin E. Jensen, University of Utah

“The readings are more complex and challenging than my students are accustomed to reading [but] . . . . Students need to be challenged. They do learn to read and apply more complex materials. They enjoy learning history and the way communication can be used by a variety of parties.”
Kaylene Gebert, Middle Tennessee State University

“It suits the needs of my course perfectly. All of the essays generate excellent class discussion.”
Sarah Jedd, University of Wisconsin–Madison

“It has all the relevant essays I want to assign, so it is a good bargain for my students.”
Ann Johnson, California State University Long Beach

“Strong anthology so students don’t need to buy too many books.”
Chuck Goehring, San Diego State University

“It provides good examples in a way that is convenient and accessible to students.”
Matthew Sobnosky, Hofstra University

“Covers major areas and strong essays. Gives students major essays in the field. ”
Mary Triece, University of Akron


“It is the most comprehensive and easily accessible collection available.”
Martin Medhurst, Baylor University

"Readings meets our needs well. It is comprehensive and well produced. Students leave the course telling me that it gives them a solid foundation in the discipline and useful models for their own practice.”
Thomas W. Benson, Pennsylvania State University

“It’s the heart of the field—the ‘core’ of criticism.”
Jody Roy, Ripon College

“It’s a solid collection of essays that increasingly serves as a de facto canon for critical literature. The brief introductory essays are concise, clear, and valuable. The recommended readings are a good resource.”
James Darsey, Georgia State University

“It is the standard of its kind, a good collection of ‘fundamental’ essays that also allows me to be flexible with topics.”
Janis L. Edwards, University of Alabama

“I am pleased with the selection of essays. . . . There are few other books of this kind and none that are so carefully kept up to date.”
David Zarefsky, Northwestern University

“To my mind there is no substitute for Readings in Rhetorical Criticism. It is a real gift to have some of the most important articles in our tradition available in one place and organized in a way that makes sense for students.”
Dana L. Cloud, Syracuse University

“The edition presents the foundations of rhetorical criticism—in an accessible format—as well as new extensions and applications of the practice. Moreover, it provides great leads for further articles in the field.”
Jason E. Black, University of Alabama

“It is a good collection. Students need to read how scholars do rhetorical criticism.”
Anne Pym, California State University, East Bay

"It's a good collection."
James L. Cherney, Wayne State University

“It gathers together classic essays in the history of criticism along with more current pieces of criticism. This combination enables students to grasp historical transformations in criticism while never losing sight of its contemporary applicability.“
Larry Prelli, University of New Hampshire

“I chose this book because of all the books I reviewed (and previously used) it did the best job of addressing the origins of the field and providing a combination of classic and cutting edge texts. I have been very satisfied with the book and plan to continue using it in the future.”
Sara Hayden, University of Montana

“These are the bedrock materials for the subject—it is comprehensive and still within the grasp of undergraduates.”
John Llewellyn, Wake Forest University

“It’s the best (only) anthology of primary reading. . . . Please keep publishing it—it is the best of its type and the only book I would ever have my students purchase for this course.”
Steve Martin, Ripon College

“I adopted RRC for its comprehensive and even-handed treatment of the rich tradition of scholarship in Speech Communication on the theory and practice of rhetorical criticism. I'm satisfied!"
Jean Goodwin, Iowa State University

“It’s an excellent volume of collected readings. I welcomed the text for adoption and students appreciated the resource after our class was over.”
Kelly McDonald, Arizona State University

“Its essays highlight a wide variety of critical perspectives.”
Angela Ray, Northwestern University

“It works beautifully for my purposes.”
Catherine Dobris, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

“I wish you the best on the publication of an important and very useful anthology.”
Davis W. Houck, Florida State University


Carl R. Burgchardt teaches rhetorical criticism, United States public address, and media studies, with a special emphasis on film, at the Colorado State University. He received his B.A. from the Pennsylvania State University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has published essays and book reviews in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, the Western Journal of Communication, Argumentation & Advocacy, Adaptation, and the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. His book Robert M. La Follette, Sr.: The Voice of Conscience won the Outstanding Scholarship Award from the Colorado Speech Communication Association.

Hillary A. Jones teaches courses in rhetorical criticism, rhetorical theory, critical/cultural theory, visual culture, and new and digital media at California State University, Fresno. She received her B.A. and M.A. degrees from Colorado State University and her Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University. Her work has been published in Critical Studies in Media Communication, the Southern Journal of Communication, the Journal of Communication and Religion, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and Communication, Culture, and Critique.





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