21W.747 | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate




These are the three essays there were assigned in the course:

Essay 1: Rhetorical Analysis of a Speech (PDF)

Essay 2: Rhetorical Genre Analysis (PDF)

Essay 3: Rhetorical Analysis of One Text (PDF)

In rhetoric, how you write is as important as what you write. An essay with numerous writing glitches suffers in terms of being a rhetorical act of communication (your ethos is damaged) and in terms of grade.

Consultation at the Writing & Communication Center (WCC)

  • You must consult with the WCC’s professionals about your first essay no later than the day before the Mandatory Revision of Essay 1 is due. There is an automatic 1 whole grade penalty off your course grade if you do not (no excuses or exceptions).
  • You may consult at any stage—the “developing your ideas” stage, before your draft is done in workshop, before submitting your Mandatory Revision.

Each essay must have 2 versions and might have a 3rd if you wish.

  • Reader-Ready Revision (RRR) for Workshop: I do not comment in writing on this version—former students have requested this approach in order to elicit more in-depth and thoughtful workshop comments.
  • Mandatory Revision: This draft incorporates any suggestions from your workshop group and from the Writing Center that you find useful. I grade the Mandatory Revision of each of your essays.
  • Optional Revision: If you wish, you may revise any Mandatory Revision once as an Optional Revision.
    • But if and only if you consult with the WCC before turning the Optional Revision in to me. No exceptions.
    • I will average the original grade and the revision grade (but will add in the revision grade twice) so if the Mandatory Revision essay received a C and the Optional Revision received an A. I would add C (6 pts) and A (12 pts) and A (12) = 30/3= B+ (10) so B+ would be the grade that counted.


Audience is a crucial concept for rhetoric. Each of your essays is written to 75 college students and professors who have not taken this course. Write the names of 5 college friends of yours (here at MIT or elsewhere) who have not taken a rhetoric course. They are part of your audience; the other 70 students & professors in your audience are strangers to you (hence you cannot make personal references or adopt the tone of a friend—you need an academic style and tone since some of your audience members may turn out to be potential employers of you in a few years). Your tasks in each essay are the following:

  • Teach your readers something about rhetoric.
  • Teach them something about rhetorical analysis (this means you have to explain the purpose and value of whatever type of rhetorical analysis you are doing in each essay).
  • Teach them something about the artifact(s) and / or controversy you are writing about.
  • Demonstrate to them the value of doing rhetorical analysis and argumentation.

Criteria for Evaluating Your Essays

One of your purposes in writing any essay in this class is to teach us all something about rhetoric and to demonstrate your understanding of the subtleties of the texts we have read and your ability to explicitly use rhetorical and ethical concepts to analyze them and to convince us (your readers) that your analysis, interpret—ation, and argument are valid. Your essays should show novelty in analysis and persuasion.

Your essays should go beyond hard work; they should show insight and should provide a clear, nuanced discussion. Always your goal should be to create new knowledge. Your essays will be evaluated for:

  • Clarity
  • Coherence and Consistency
  • Interesting, insightful, & relevant content
  • Appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos
  • Depth of thought
  • Effective use of rhetorical strategies, techniques, and style
  • Explicit explanation of assumptions (yours and theirs—whether theirs are stated or implicit)
  • Explicit use of ethical concepts where appropriate
  • Active engagement with ideas and with opposition’s counter-argument
  • Awareness of your audience (i.e., the audience is accommodated)
  • Clear and explicit thesis and topic sentences
  • Prose that is varied, clear, accurate, concise, interesting, and essentially error free
  • Adherence to format—e.g., use headings when requested, use MLA documentation style

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Presentation Assignments
Instructor Insights