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Sarah Kornfield
Hope College

Contemporary Rhetorical Criticism invites students to explore a wide range of texts, applying both traditional methods and very recent approaches. Clear presentations of theory and principles, with abundant examples, explain and illustrate the rhetorical workings of historical and contemporary public address, films, television shows, musical performances, and other verbal, visual, and material texts—even personal interactions.

The book emphasizes the considerations in choosing methods to analyze particular texts. Each chapter includes guidelines for “choosing this method” and outlines the “strengths and weaknesses of this approach,” guiding students to choose the most appropriate method or methods for a particular text. Summaries of research examples show various ways scholars have used each method—sometimes in combination with others—to reveal their texts and engage with issues of concern.

As students approach their own works of rhetorical criticism, the first two chapters guide them through the process of exploring a text in context. Two appendices guide them through the process of composing a formal critical essay.


  • Methods approach provides strong instruction on critical methods—without constraining students to using a single method for a particular text.

  • “Choosing This Method” and “Strengths and Weaknesses” sections guide students in choosing methods appropriate to their own texts.

  • Research summaries in each chapter provide guided tours of works from the literature, pointing out the ways in which scholars have applied each method to particular texts.

  • Abundant examples from historical and contemporary texts, from civic, political, mass-mediated, digital, even personal discourse, show the pervasive applicability of rhetorical criticism.

  • Diverse rhetorical critics and texts reflect engagement with race, ethnicity, immigration, gender and sexuality, public memory, and other pervasive issues of historical and contemporary concern.

  • Guidance for analysis and writing (Chapters 1 and 2, Appendices) takes students through the process of assessing their own texts and writing critical essays.


This textbook is well written, thorough, and thought provoking.
Tasha N. Dubriwny
Texas A&M University

The discussion of method is one of the best I’ve seen in a textbook! Great sections on strengths and weaknesses and how to choose each method.
Anne Marie Todd
San José State University

The author’s consistent focus on taking approaches to criticism that produce insights about text-in-context relationships, rather than “cookie cutter” work, is a real strength.
Daniel Grano
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

This book not only profiles newer methods and contemporary topics of interest to our students, it also sparks the curiosity that drives careful analysis and produces true insights of value in daily life.
Joan Faber McAlister
Drake University

I really appreciate the step-by-step process of showing students how to assemble a rhetorical essay, including the development of the research question.
Rebecca A. Kuehl
South Dakota State University

Kornfield’s book is very accessible and up to date, uses a wide variety of examples, is perfectly pitched for undergrads (in terms of accessibility and narrative voice), and speaks to issues of race, gender, and class. 
Jason Del Gandio
Temple University

Kornfield seamlessly integrates examples of rhetorical artifacts that my students would find not only understandable but intriguing.
Hillary K. Palmer
University of Georgia

The choice of providing a summary of each case study rather than the whole published essay is a significant strength. The students will develop an understanding of what the journal essay finds without requiring them to slog through the conventions of journals and academic writing.
Nancy J. Legge
Idaho State University

This is the finest criticism textbook I have ever read—and I think I’ve read them all.
Martin J. Medhurst
Baylor University

The depth and clarity of content is excellent.
Charles E. Morris III
Syracuse University


It is an impressive, thorough tour of criticism methods and theories.
Meredith M. Bagley
University of Alabama

I like the overall perspective that guides the work—the focus on how rhetoric unites some people while it marginalizes others, and on rhetorical dynamics of democracy, sexism and racism.
George Dionisopolous
School of Communication
San Diego State University

The book does a fine job of relaying the everyday nature of criticism, pointing out how these approaches might be applicable to communication in daily life.
Jeff Bennett
Vanderbilt University

The major strengths of Professor’s Kornfield’s book are its clear, concise, and useful definitions of rhetoric, rhetorical terms, and key ideas.
Jason Edward Black
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

She does a good job of explaining the rhetorical theory that sets up the critical method. Her explanations are not overly technical and I think a student with little exposure to rhetorical theory can follow them easily.
John Self
Truman State University

This text is clear, approachable, and interesting in a way that will be engaging for students.
Nancy J. Legge
Idaho State University

Methods Approach

The text covers all the methods in appropriate depth and with admirable balance.
Peter Marston
California State University Northridge

The full descriptions of the theoretical/conceptual basis behind the methods provide the students with a strong grasp of the literature, the scholars who have contributed to those theories, and the current rhetorical critics using those methods.
Andrew Hansen
Trinity University

Kornfield’s book not only has clear accounts of the range of mainstream methods, it also brings in cultural studies, affect theory, visual rhetoric, and new materialist thought.
Dana Cloud
Independent Scholar

Each method chapter in the Kornfield book is theoretically driven. These discussions are well explained and accessible, and they outline the theories with richness that is accurate to the scholarly tradition in rhetorical criticism.
Kathryn Cady
Northern Illinois University

I really appreciate the author’s commitment to emphasizing the appropriate fit between methods and texts.
John Dowd
Bowling Green State University

“Choosing This Method” and
“Strengths and Weaknesses”

The reflections in each chapter on a method’s strengths and weaknesses, and what it means to choose that specific method, are excellent.
Charles E. Morris II
Syracuse University

“Choosing this Method” walks students step by step through the requisite considerations in a way that is practical and question-driven. I really appreciate that these sections guide students through questions rather than directives.
Hillary Palmer
University of Georgia

I like the section of each chapter that explains why a critic would choose a method. This gives students insight on what kind of texts are appropriate for that particular method, thus helping them understand what methods will work best for the texts that they choose to criticize.
John Self
Truman State University

It is beneficial that the chapters conclude by offering suggestions for how to develop an essay using that particular approach to criticism. The strengths and weakness section in each chapter is also advantageous.
Angela M. McGowan-Kirsch
The State University of New York Fredonia


The examples from contemporary politics and student-relevant pop culture have the potential to connect with students in meaningful ways and illustrate important concepts and principles.
Stephanie L. Hartzell
California State University, Long Beach

Examples incorporated into each chapter promote excellent discussion of scholarly texts. Summaries of scholarly articles are accessible examples of rhetorical criticism.
Anne Marie Todd
San José State University

The book strikes an inclusive balance between addressing canonized works, theories, theorists, and authors while also focusing consistently on contemporary scholarship, including the voices of women, people of color, queer scholars, and others who are often marginalized in textbooks that survey the field.
Daniel Grano
University of North Charlotte at Charlotte

Instead of students having to read the critical essays that make up the case studies in each chapter, the author walks them through the essays, not only listing the major points and examples, but commenting on how these are examples of the particular type of critical approach that is the subject of that chapter.
Lawrance Bernabo
University of Minnesota Duluth

I like how the case studies are presented: rather than providing a long, possibly challenging article that students are asked to absorb in the learning process, Kornfield walks the reader through the article, showing moves the critic made and how they led to valuable insights.
Meredith M. Bagley
University of Alabama

It is an excellent choice to offer models of criticism drawn from the actual world of practicing rhetorical critics. The “translations” are very well done.
Charles E. Morris III
Syracuse University

Guidance for Analysis and Writing

This is one of the best textbook discussions of how to write an academic paper.
Andrew Hansen
Trinity University

The two appendices titled “Analyzing a Single Text” and “Analyzing Multiple Texts” are important additions. These are topics I always need to discuss in detail in my rhetorical criticism classes.
Peter Marston
California State University Northridge

The book offers excellent guidelines for analyzing texts and writing criticism. The section on crafting a critical essay is terrific.
Anne Marie Todd
San José State University

I like the appendices, which deal directly with the mechanics and organization of outlines and drafts for critical essays.
John Dowd
Bowling Green State University

I also like the two appendices that focus on how to write a critical essay. 
Jason Del Gandio
Temple University


Sarah J. Kornfield is an associate professor of communication and an affiliated professor of women’s and gender studies at Hope College, where she teaches courses in rhetorical criticism, rhetorical theory, gender communication, and television culture. She received her BA from Wheaton College (Illinois), her MA from Texas A&M University, and her PhD from the Pennsylvania State University. 

Professor Kornfield’s research has been published in Rhetoric & Public Affairs; Critical Studies in Media Communication; Feminist Media Studies; Women’s Studies in Communication; Women & Language; Communication, Culture & Critique; the Journal of Communication & Religion; the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media; and the Journal of International and Intercultural Communication.   




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