Rhetorical/Critical InquiryCOMN2150

Week 8: Varieties of Rhetorical Criticism


• Continue learning about the various approaches/methods to apply critical/rhetorical inquiry

• METHODS FOCUSED ON STORY (understanding & story)• Learn about Narrative (Dramatistic) Criticism

• Language as grounding for human reality & motivation • Characteristics of D/N criticism • The Pentad (Burke)

• Learn about Media-Centered Criticism • Power and importance of the medium itself in meaning• TV, Handheld Devices, Internet

Dramatistic/Narrative Criticism• D/N Criticism is broad approach (many ideas & scholars)• We see the world in a certain way because of the symbols & signs

we use (including language)• Human thought & action can be understood as drama,

narrative, or story• Can analyze at the level of the symbol, sentence, structure, etc. • Language generates social arrangements, power→ i.e. equity

and inclusion made possible through reflective language• Think of all the ways we engage w/ story

• Share and recount parts of our lives through story• See ourselves as characters

• Consume stories (TV, film, books, social media, news, sport)• All of this takes place through use of symbols, signs, and their

systems of meaning

Key Terms/Concepts

• Terministic Screens→ the vocabularies people use allow them to think and do certain things and prevent them from doing others (language shapes how we see the world)

• Ex. the language of battle (fight back, lost the fight, warrior, strength), mental health (struggle, issue, illness)

• Teleology→ useful when focusing on individual symbols, refers to “the process of perfection of the thing”, achieving the purpose or intention

• Ex. seeing the knife in a horror movie• Narrative Genres→ create certain expectations from

the audience, useful frame for determining how people engage, violate expectations

• Ex. Oliver Tree, My Favorite Murder

The Pentad (Burke) → people explain the world through story, creating motives, usually using one or more of the pentadic terms (a ratio) as a way of seeing

Dramatistic/Narrative Criticism

Example:● Surveillance

balloon & UFO’s

Analysis Stems from the MEDIUM Itself→ how do media interact w/ stories?

• Media= the plural of medium• Medium= channel of communication

• Means of producing/reproducing signs (technology)

• How a society/culture makes use of the above (social uses)

Question we ask as a critic: How media logic shapes stories and which stories do better in certain media because of their logics?

• Media logic→ the technology & how it is used creates certain ways of thinking

• EX. using touch screen of an iPad• EX. ability to control the “start” & “stop” (think of

the first TV sets)• EX. binging

Media-Centered Criticism

Focusing on some mediums & their characteristicsTelevision ★ Commodification→ advertising, audience demographics, stories/shows

themselves, TV set★ Realism→ cultivates perspectives on the world, the visual is more “trustworthy”,

popularity of reality TV ★ Intimacy→ calls our attention to “people”, think of how things are framed,

close-ups, re-enactments, human interest stories on the newsHandheld Devices – usually smartphones, not distinct from internet/computers★ Connective Power→ all info at our fingertips, think of how often something

pops into your head to “look up”, instantly contact anyone, asynchronous preference

★ Context Mobility→ total freedom of movement (wherever there is signal), control of context (important call, distraction from physical setting)

Computers & Internet→ requires access and “media logic”/knowledge★ Fluidity→ rabbit holes, can click from one random thing to the next, links

(creates flexibility/creativity but impedes attention/focus)★ Speed & Control→ similar to smartphones, creates expectations, impatience★ Dispersal→ connection to communities online who are spread around the

globe, may be far physically, but can be connected virtually, impact on face-to-face interactions

Media-Centered Criticism

Recap of the 7 Approaches/Methods

1. Culture-centered criticism→ cultural contexts are central for analysis

2. Marxist criticism→ material & economic conditions are fundamental

3. Feminist criticism→ representations of gender, empowerment & disempowerment

4. Psychoanalytic criticism→ motivations formed by early childhood experiences

5. Visual Rhetorical criticism→ visually oriented world, how visual texts work socially

6. Dramatistic/Narrative criticism→ language & sign systems as creating human reality

7. Media-centered criticism → characteristics of the medium impact reality & interpretation

Notes for Critics:● Approaches not mutually exclusive● Not all approaches covered● Differences in opinion among scholars● No “cookie cutter” way to apply

○ No need to apply all concepts from an approach to your text


★ Both methods focus on UNDERSTANDING-intervention○ Understanding & story are key to both of these methods

★ Narrative/Dramatistic Criticism○ Language we use to “tell our stories” impacts how we see

reality, think & act★ Media-centered Criticism

○ Each type of media has it’s own “logic” or way of operating both technologically and socially