Methods of Rhetorical Criticism
Fantasy-Theme Criticism
1)         Code the artifact for:

  1. a) setting themes
  2. b) character themes
  3. c) action themes

2)         Construct the rhetorical vision(s) from the fantasy themes
Feminist Criticism (2nd Wave)
1)         Analyze the construction of gender.

  1. a) How are men and women (or masculinity and femininity) depicted?  What is depicted as standard, normal, desirable, appropriate behavior?
  2. b) How is the audience positioned (male or female point of view)?
  3. c) What are the various choices open to men/women in terms of standpoints, material and social lives, strength of identity, and degree of control?

2)         What are the implications of the construction of gender?
Does it affirm and support the ideology of domination?  If so, how is this domination constructed and maintained?  Whose interests are marginalized, silenced or excluded? Or does it challenge the ideology of domination?  If so, how does the individual(s) claim identity and engage in acts of self-determination?  How is the subordinate position resisted (e.g., themes, styles, values, forms of communication or relationships that serve as models for alternatives to the ideology of domination)?
Feminist Criticism (3rd Wave)

  • Identify the strategies of disruption (generating multiple perspectives, cultivating

ambiguity, reframing, enacting, juxtaposing incongruities)

  • Explore the impact of the strategies of disruption

Generic Criticism
Option 1: Generic Description
1)         Identify the situational elements
2)         Describe the artifacts selected for analysis
3)         Identify the substantive and stylistic elements
4)         Formulate the organizing principle
Option 2: Generic Application
1)         Identify the nature of the established genre (situational elements, substantive and stylistic
elements, and organizing principle)
2)         Compare the characteristics of the artifact to those of the genre
3)         Evaluate the artifact in terms of the genre
–Is it a good example of the genre? (Does it share the common features of the genre?)
–Does it violate the expectations of the genre?  Why? (It doesn’t really belong in this genre; It is a hybrid – characteristics of more than one genre; the artifact is poorly created; the rhetor is trying to improve upon the genre – explain why the changes should be considered improvements)
Pentadic Criticism
1)         Identify the five elements of Burke’s pentad:

  1. a) Act
  2. b) Agent
  3. c) Agency
  4. d) Scene
  5. e) Purpose

2)         Identify the dominant term(s) and provide support for your choice.  What is the corresponding philosophy and why is it significant to the artifact?
Narrative Criticism
1)         Identify the objective of the narrative (what is the story’s purpose?)
Does it encourage action?  Defend an act?  Teach a lesson? Bring comfort? Etc.
2)         Identify the features of the narrative:

  1. a) Setting

–how developed/detailed?
–does it change?
–how does it relates to plot/characters?

  1. b) Characters (who is depicted and how?)
  2. c) Narrator

–direct narrative or mediated by a narrator?
–audible or inaudible?
–what kind of person?
–what degree of power/authority?
–how reliable?
–what is the point of view?

  1. d) Events

–at least 2 (kernels, satellites)
–active or stative
–type of plot (epic, dramatic, epistemic, soap opera)

  1. f) Structure (building blocks: words, scenes, camera angles, photographs)
  2. e) Temporal relations (brief period, many years, order of events, past or                                    present tense, flashbacks or flash-forwards?)
  3. f) Causal relations (cause-effect relationship)
  4. g) Audience

–to whom is the narrative addressed?
–ideology or attitude?

  1. h) Distribution across media (single or multiple forms)
  2. i) Degree of interactivity (what kind of audience participation is required?)
  3. j) Mechanics (what devices are required to experience the story?)
  4. k) Theme (what is the general idea illustrated in the narrative?)
  5. l) Type of narrative (comedy, romance, tragedy, irony, or something else)

3)         Assess the narrative. Does it fulfill the objective?  What does it tell us about our culture?
Ideological Criticism
1)         Identify the presented elements in the artifact (e.g., words, font styles, camera angles,
clothing, gestures, etc.)
2)         Identify the suggested elements linked to the presented elements
3)         Formulate an ideology (i.e., What are the major themes?  Identify the ideology in 1-3        sentences.)
4)         Identify the functions served by the ideology (i.e., Does it encourage the audience to
accept a particular position on a social issue?  Does it represent a marginalized or oppositional perspective that it invites the audience to consider?  Does it encourage the audience to construct themselves in a particular way? etc.)
Visual Criticism

  • Identify the technological modality (method used to construct the image – TV,


  • Identify the compositional modality:


  1. Content (what we see)
  2. Color (colors used; dominant hue; symbolic use; etc.)
  3. Spatial Organization (how elements are arranged in relation to each other)
  4. Editing (dissolves; fade-ins; slow-motion; quick cuts; etc.)
  5. Expressive Content (emotional feeling evoked by images)
  6. Sound (music; spoken dialogue; artificial or real noise)


  • Identify the social modality (economic, social, and/or political relations, institutions, and

practices surrounding the image)
Cluster Criticism

  • Identify the key terms in the artifact (based on frequency or intensity)
  • Chart the terms that cluster around the key terms
  • Discover an explanation for the artifact (the worldview constructed by the rhetor)