University of MinnesotaUniversity of Minnesota
Alan G Gross, Professor of Communication Studies


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Rhetorical Theory and Criticism

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Medical Science

Philosophy of Science

Sociology of Science

Essay Reviews



Rhetoric of Science - COMM 5110; WRIT 5777

TTh 2:30-3:45 Lind 215

Course Description

Rhetoric of science deserves the close attention, both of students of rhetoric and of disciplines other than rhetoric with an interest in science. Those interested in rhetoric will focus on the methodological innovations rhetoric of science has introduced.Celeste Condit’s The Meaning of the Gene and my Communicating Science, written with Joseph Harmon and Michael Reidy,take one innovative path: they attempt to gain a better understanding of science by combining social scientific and rhetorical methods, an attempt to incorporate the breadth possible with the one with the depth possible with the other. Leah Ceccarelli’s Shaping Science with Rhetoric and my Starring the Text take another path. Each attempts to reach beyond case studies, still the preferred genre in rhetorical criticism; each unites case studies into an argument in which cases are subsumed as evidence for a general claim.  At this point the course will move from rhetoricians to those historians, sociologists, and philosophers who have found a rhetorical perspective useful in their own work. We will look at the work of historians Bruce Hunt on physics and Frederic Holmes on chemistry. We will also read sociologist Richard Harvey Brown’s A Poetic for Sociology. Finally, we will read philosopher of science Stephen Kellert ‘s Borrowed Knowledge: The Challenge of Learning Across Disciplines. In all of this work, rhetoric is applied creatively to the solution of historical, sociological, or philosophical problems.
The grade in this course will be based on a term paper in which students apply rhetoric to their own field of study.


Richard Harvey Brown, A Poetic for Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977. ISBN 97880226076195
Leah Cecarelli, Shaping Science with Rhetoric. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. ISBN 9780226099071
Celeste Condit, The Meanings of the Gene. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999. ISBN 029916344
Alan G. Gross, Starring the Text. Southern Illinois Press, 2006. ISBN 0809326965
Stephen Kellert, Borrowed Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. ISBN 9780226429786
Course Packet from Paradigm.


Week 1. Condit. Parts 1 and 2.
Week 2. Condit Parts 3 and 4.
Week 3. Gross et al. Communicating Science.
Week 4. Ceccarelli Parts 1 and 2.
Week 5. Cecarelli Parts 3 and 4.
Week 6. Brown Chapters 1 and 2
Week 7.Brown Chapters 3, 4, and 5
Week 8. Kellert Chapters 1-3
Week 9. Kellert Chapters 4-6
Week 10. Kellert Chapters  7-9
Week 11. Student oral presentations. Term paper due.
Week 12. Student oral presentations
Week 13.Student oral presentations
Week 14. Student conferences
Week 15.Student conferences.

Senior Papers

Communication Studies majors are encouraged to complete the department's
senior paper requirement in this course. If you choose to write a senior
paper in this class you must:

1. Indicate your intentions by signing the instructor's Senior Paper
Form prior to the third week of class.

2. Register for COMM 3995 by contacting the undergraduate advisor
( <>) before the third week of class.

3. Request and attend a meeting with the instructor to discuss the
paper, a writing schedule, and the instructor's expectations.

4. Complete a paper that receives a B- or better and that conforms to
the department's standards for senior papers. These standards are
available online and from the advising office.

If the student accomplishes all four steps, she or he will receive a S
(satisfactory) in COMM 3995 and the senior paper requirement is
fulfilled. If the paper does not meet the department's standards or if
it receives a C+ or lower, then the student may revise and resubmit the
essay once. In the event of an unsatisfactory revision, the student will
receive a N (No Credit) in COMM 3995. Only grades of S or N will be
entered for COMM 3995—incompletes will receive a N.

The first draft of the senior paper is due April 6. If the instructor
requests a revision, that paper is due April 20. Information about the
senior paper requirement, including a list of department's standards, is
located on the web at or in
the advising office (278 Ford Hall).







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