Rhetoric and Writing Commentary

The Assignment


The overarching question to the Rhetoric and Writing category of required commentaries might be stated broadly as follows: What role do rhetorical factors play in the production and comprehension of texts? Rhetorical factors to be studied include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • the interrelationships among form, audience, context, and purpose;
  • writing as a recursive process;
  • role of contemporary technologies and/or digital media in composing multimodal discourse

When critics and scholars address issues of rhetoric and writing, how do they do it? What are the possible methodological ways of relating rhetoric to English studies, the arts of persuasion, human communication, the role of technology in communication, and so on?

More specifically, you may choose to write a writing commentary if you have completed a course project for which questions like these might be relevant:

  • How do issues of form, purpose, audience play a role in your artifact?
  • What aspects of the writing process as articulated by scholars of rhetoric and writing are relevant to your artifact?
  • How have critical methods for dealing with rhetorical issues evolved?
  • What impact did rhetorical features like style, medium, point of view, types of proof, identification, figurative language, and so on, have on your artifact?
  • How does your artifact not address issues of rhetoric and writing, but possibly might (or should)?

The Commentary Assignment

Your commentary should not attempt to be a comprehensive study of issues of rhetoric and writing. Rather, it should identify a relevant issue or issues of rhetoric that are present in—or implied by—your artifact. The artifact may or may not use the term “rhetoric,” but your commentary should use it, or related terms, and use that term or terms with accuracy and appropriateness for students of rhetoric and writing.

Your commentary should contain at least two sections: a section of 300-600 words with the bolded subhead “On Rhetoric and Writing in General,” and a section of 300-600 words with the bolded subhead, “On Rhetoric and Writing in [Your Artifact].” These sections may be presented in either order—i.e., the general exploration first, followed by the specific treatment of your artifact, or vice versa. Whatever the order, the general part should provide your understanding of some aspect of the role of rhetoric and writing in composing and understanding texts. The artifact commentary should provide a brief description of your artifact and then some analysis of that artifact in terms relevant to the material in the general section. In other words, the two sections should have some connection.

The object, once again, is not to be comprehensive in your analysis of rhetoric and writing, but rather to be authentic in using/defining terms, making references, and identifying ideas and traditions, as you choose to raise them in your general statement about rhetoric and writing and your specific application of those ideas to your artifact.


  • Before writing your commentary, you should consult the evaluation rubric for this assignment.
  • Structurally, your commentary may contain just two sections (i.e., the general disciplinary category section and the specific artifact section)—or, as you wish, may contain additional sections, like an introduction and conclusion. Please note: The goal of the project is to provide a working definition of the general category (or at least part of it) and an illustration of that definition by way of your artifact. The commentary as a whole may not have the traditional “beginning-middle-end” structure of typical critical or course essays, but some of those features may be embedded in the two main sections. Also, the two main sections should mutually set up and refer to one another. That is, each section should not be filled with random, unconnected observations, but rather they should share a common context to some degree.
  • The artifact section of your commentary requires a summary of the artifact. But instead of composing a full, detailed summary of the artifact (which itself could take pages), you should compose a purposeful summary—i.e., a summary that sets up the definitions and illustrations in the two main sections.
  • Your commentary should be 2-4 pages, double-spaced, in length.
  • You should follow your instructor’s requirements for submission procedures and due dates of commentaries in your course.