Post-Truth Rhetorics 63

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Composition & Rhetoric
Post-Truth Comp & Rhetoric
School: Clemson University
Section: ENGL 1030-063
CRN: 20209
Semester: Spring 2018
Location: ASC 316
Time: MWF 9:05am-9:55am
Instructor: Michael Russo
Contact: On Canvas
Additional: Office hours
and more on our Canvas page.
#! This is a course description page, designed for students and containing the course syllabus and expectations.
#! If you are a student, then check this page regularly for updates.
#! All changes are recorded and documented on the course history page.

Post-Truth Composition and Rhetoric, ENG 1030-063, Clemson University, focuses on critical thinking skills through the teaching of rhetorical strategies in oral, print, and digital environments. Students will learn to critically “read” a variety of texts in different mediums – including speeches, podcasts, films, news media, peer-reviewed journals, and more. Students will also compose three larger rhetorical projects based on issues and research raised in the reading assignments and the in-class discussions. These three big projects, along with other smaller assignments, explore the use of rhetoric as tools of persuasion and conversation.

We will also attempt to learn how rhetoric works through attention to persona, audience, and the classic appeals (pathos, logos, ethos, kairos). Rhetoric teaches us how we might persuade others -- and to these ends, we will pay close attention to cultural and individual assumptions, how languages and design cues work in effective argumentation, and the ethics of persuasion. This approach is meant to build a foundation for learning strategies concerning the different types of writing in shared worlds.

The class theme frames the concept of “post-truth” within rhetorical theory, referring to the classic triad of logos, ethos, and pathos. Borrowing from the rhetorician and scholar, Bruce McComiskey, we ask how rhetoric and argument function in a society where the value of reason is diminished and audiences allow themselves to be swayed by pathos and ethos. This scenario has serious consequences not only for our public discourse but also for the study of composition. Within this frame, students are free to explore their own subjects of interest, so long as such exploration meets the standards and expectations Clemson University.

Learning Goals

During this course, there will be five key learning outcomes that will guide our learning, established by the Council of Writing Program Administrators.

Critical Thinking, Reading, & Writing
  • Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating
  • Understand a writing assignment as a series of tasks, including finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing various materials
  • Integrate your own ideas with those of others
  • Understand the relationships among language, knowledge, and power
Rhetorical Knowledge
  • Focus on a purpose
  • Respond to the needs of different audiences
  • Respond appropriately to different kinds of rhetorical situations
  • Use conventions of format and structure appropriate to the rhetorical situation
  • Adopt appropriate voice, tone, and level of formality
  • Understand how genres shape reading and writing
  • Write in several genres

Knowledge of Conventions

  • Learn common formats for different kinds of texts
  • Develop knowledge of genre conventions ranging from structure and paragraphing to tone and mechanics
  • Practice appropriate means of documenting their work
  • Control such surface features as syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling

Processes of Composing

  • Be aware that it usually takes multiple drafts to create and complete a successful text
  • Develop flexible strategies for generating, revising, editing, and proof-reading
  • Understand writing as an open process that permits writers to use later invention and re-thinking to revise their work
  • Understand the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes
  • Learn to critique their own and others' works
  • Learn to balance the advantages of relying on others with the responsibility of doing their part
  • Use a variety of technologies to address a range of audiences

Composing in Digital Environments

  • Use electronic environments for drafting, reviewing, revising, editing, and sharing texts
  • Locate, evaluate, organize, and use research material collected from electronic sources, including scholarly library databases; other official databases (e.g., federal government databases); and informal electronic networks and internet sources
  • Understand and exploit the differences in the rhetorical strategies and in the affordances available for both print and electronic composing processes and texts

Required Texts & Supplies

IMPORTANT NOTE: This list of resources will update as the class progresses. Students are expected to check the syllabus regularly. Some texts will be provided by instructor. Others, such as the Envision textbook, you will be required to buy or borrow.

Cover for Envision in Depth, by Alfano & O'Brien
Cover for Post-Truth Rhetoric and Composition, by Bruce McComiskey
Orson Welles delivering War of the Worlds
The Commissar Vanishes
Cover for the film, Wag the Dog (1997).
Fake News!?!

SUPPLIES: This is, after all, a composition course. You will need the tools of composition. Bring a pencil and paper to every class. Also bring your laptop, tablet, or whatever other digital device you feel comfortable reading, writing, and researching on. Please use your device responsibly. On days when we cover specific software, you will need to bring you laptop to class with the required software already installed.

  • Alfano, Christine L. and Alyssa J. O’Brien. Envision In Depth: Reading, Writing, and Researching Arguments (4th Ed.). Print. ISBN: 0134093984

Other Readings
  • McComiskey, Bruce. Post-Truth Rhetoric and Composition. ISBN: 978-1607327448
  • Plato. "Allegory of the Cave." Trans. Benjamin Jowett Link.
  • Bizup, Joseph. "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing." On Canvas.
  • "Abe Lincoln's Disembodied Head" (Lithograph, c.1860). Link.
  • "The Water Commissar" (Soviet Photograph, c.1930). Link.
  • Photo Tampering Throughout History. Website Link
Moving Pictures
  • Selfies - A Visual Analysis. (2013) Elizabeth Urbanski. TEDx.
  • Wag the Dog (1997). Dir. Barry Levinson. IMDb Info.
  • Thank You for Smoking (2005). Dir. Jason Reitman. IMDb Info
  • The Truman Show (1998). Dir. Peter Weir. IMDb Info.
  • F for Fake (1973). Dir. Orson Welles. IMDb.
  • Derren Brown: The Push (2016). Dir. Jon Richards. IMDb.
  • "How to Make Your Own Podcast using Audition CC." YouTube.
  • "Learn Premiere Pro in 20 Minutes." YouTube.
  • "Laws that Choke Creativity." Lawrence Lessig. TED.
  • "A Fair(y) Use Tale." Eric Faden. YouTube.
Audio Files
  • The War of the Worlds (1938). Orson Welles.
  • Welcome to Night Vale. (Student Choice). Link.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab. Link.
  • The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. Link.
  • Clemson Canvas System (used for homework and our online discussion group). Link.


Homework Assignments

20% of Final Grade:
There will be numerous in-class writing exercises supplemented with homework reading, writing, and analysis. These homework assignments will allow you to practice writing in different forms and genres (including electronic environments) for various audiences and purposes. So long as you turn your homework in on time and so long as your homework meets the requirements of the assignment, you will receive 80% credit for your work. If you do not turn the homework in on time, you will forfeit credit for the assignment and this portion of your grade will suffer. To repeat: the homeworks cannot be turned in late.

Online Forum Posts

20% of Final Grade: Weekly participation on the online discussion board is mandatory. New discussions will be posted on Canvas each Monday of every week. You will have one week to respond in the new discussion. You must write a response that's at least 250 words long. You are encouraged to tailor your responses to other students' posts, engage in conversation, and post more often than once. If you turn the discussion in on time, and if your response meets the requirements of the discussion prompt, you will receive 80% for your work. However, if you are inactive on the discussion board, then you will receive a 0% for every incomplete weekly post. Incomplete online discussions posts cannot be made-up or resubmitted.

The BIG Three

You are required to submit the larger projects below on time, and your submissions must meet the requirements listed on Canvas. Unlike homework assignments and online discussions, larger projects can be turned in late, but with a 5% reduction of the final grade for every day the assignment is overdue.

BIG 01: Visual Analysis

20% of Final Grade:

This assignment requires students develop proficiency in rhetorical analysis and argument by writing a paper that examines a visual text. The aim of this assignment is to support an argument about a work of visual media using the rhetorical tools of persuasion we discuss in class. Using the assigned readings and models provided by the instructor, make an argument that persuades readers of your claim using audience-specific language. The form of this assignment is an integrated textual and visual essay that utilizes the rhetorical elements of composition, presentation, intended audience, and argument. About 1200 words.

BIG 02: Researched Argument

20% of Final Grade (all four parts must be submitted in order to receive full credit for this assignment):

  • RESEARCH PROPOSAL: This assignment requires you to shift from visual rhetorical analysis to more traditional academic modes of research and authoring. Before doing any research, you must provide justification for why the research is important. You will write a detailed proposal that discusses your topic, planned method, and purpose concerning your researched argument. Provide an overview of your topic, your potential sources, whatever problems you think might arise in the course of your future research.
  • ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: After identifying potential sources for your researched argument, compile a list of at least 5 credible sources into an MLA-formatted annotated bibliography. List your sources in alphabetical order, provide complete MLA-formatted citations for each source, and compose a concise annotation for each source. These annotations should include summaries, quotations from your source, and/or supplementary information about the source (how helpful is it according to the BEAM taxonomy, what is the author's ethos and stance, does it provide background information, etcetera). Note, although you are required to have only 5 peer-reviewed or credible sources, you will probably have other (less-credible) sources as well -- for example, those that fall under the BACKGROUND category in BEAM.
  • GARBAGE DRAFT: Your "garbage draft" must include a full thesis, a basic argumentative structure, and a partially developed argument. This draft must be at least 5-pages long. It will not be graded for spelling, grammar, typos, or anything else to be expected in a draft assignment.
  • FINAL RESEARCHED ARGUMENT: The final researched argument requires students to practice rhetorical knowledge and develop an extended researched argument using traditional academic composition strategies. Write an MLA-formatted argumentative essay on a topic that matters to you and to a specific community of your own choosing. You must include a clear thesis, be persuasive, and support your claims with evidence from a variety of sources. The goal is not to achieve consensus, but to put forth a well-reasoned and well-supported argument that helps your audience move toward a deeper understanding of your topic. The final researched argument is a minimal of 8-pages long (excluding the Words Cited page). The Works Cited page must include 10 reliable sources formatted using MLA guidelines.

BIG 03: Group Multimodal Argument

20% of Final Grade (all parts must be submitted in order to receive full credit for this assignment):

This group assignment requires students to develop and re-mediate one student's researched argument into a new form and genre, using multimodal composition strategies discussed in class (visual, textual, aural, tactile). Students will choose from their group which argument to develop, and each member will take on their own responsibilities (again dictated by the group). Examples of the form your multimodal argument might take: photo-essay, documentary, website, remix, collage/montage, video-game, podcast, mp3 file(s), blog, or another approved multi-media combination.

  • GROUP PRESENTATION: Group projects will be presented during the final week of class (see schedule for due dates). The presentations must feature a complete or near-complete version of your group's final multimodal project presented in a professional manner and discussing the rhetorical strategies you've learned throughout the semester. Presentations should NO LONGER THAN 20-minutes long (15-minutes presenting, 5-minutes fielding and answering questions from the class).
  • FINAL GROUP MULTIMODAL PROJECT: Your multimodal projects will be evaluated on the overall quality of the argument, the design quality, as well as the creativity and effort needed to produce a final product comparable to a traditional essay. This does not mean your project needs to include 2000 words, but it should represent an equal amount of work (researching, designing, writing, etcetera) as would have gone into a traditional paper. The project also requires a Works Cited, video credits, etcetera, in the form expected by the genre in which your are presenting and documenting all sources used. The final multimodal project must be submitted to Canvas by midnight, April 30 (the Monday following our last day of class). Important: your group project must be accompanied by a short written statement in which the group grades itself and its members based on effort, engagement, and participation.


Contract Grading

For more information on the pedagogic theory behind our grading system, see Peter Elbow: Unilateral Contract.

  • CONTRACT GRADING: You start with a B-grade (80%) in this class, and you are guaranteed a B-grade so long as you attend class regularly and complete all the assignments.
  • PASS/FAIL: All assignments will be graded pass/fail (0% or 80%). However, work that goes above and beyond what's been asked, or work is exceptionally polished will receive additional points in intervals of 5%. These additional points in conjunction with several extra-credit assignments will earn you an A-grade in the class.
  • LATE PAPERS: Homework assignments, online discussions, and extra-credit assignments cannot be turned in late. BIG projects – i.e., the visual analysis, the researched argument, and the group multimodal project – can be turned in late, but with a 5% reduction of your grade for every day the assignment is overdue.
  • MAKE-UP ASSIGNMENTS: If you receive a 0% on a homework assignment, an online discussion, or an extra-credit assignment, you cannot make it up. However, if you receive a 0% on one of the BIG projects, you will have the opportunity to resubmit the project with a 15% grade reduction.
  • Students are allowed up to THREE absences without penalty. The instructor reserves the right to drop/fail any student who has missed more than the allowed absences.
  • Arriving late to class or leaving early is unprofessional and will be factored into the attendance policy. Each recorded lateness will count as one tardy. Three tardies equal one absence. Any student will be marked absent if you arrive more than 5 minutes after the start of class (usually, about the time it takes to complete the roll call).
  • The instructor will determine what to do in case of extended illness or personal crisis on a case-by-case basis. However, excessive absences are an adequate reason for being failed in first-year composition, even if the student has turned in all the required papers on time. If you expect to miss a lot of class time, then you might want to consider dropping the class.
Document Formatting
Submitting your assignment via Google Docs.

All written assignments must be submitted in MLA-format unless otherwise specified. You will be using Google docs to write and share most of your written assignments. When using Google Docs, do not send your files directly to my email address. Instead, use the "GET SHAREABLE LINK" option, and be sure that "ANYONE WITH THE LINK CAN EDIT" is chosen from the drop-down menu (see the image to the right). Paste your link into Canvas in the relevant assignment. We will discuss how to do this in class, and a walk-thru guide will be made available. Additionally, our first assignment will be an ungraded "test assignment" in which you learn how to share files with Google Docs.

  • IMPORTANT: When logging into Google Docs, use your account (not your personal account).

I will not answer emails from students who miss class and desire to know what happened in their absence. Also, I do not need to know the reason you miss class unless you plan to be absent for an extended period of time.

Electronic Devices

This course requires the use of computer technologies in and out of class. Students are expected to bring their laptops to class with batteries fully charged. While some class time is provided for computer literacy instruction, the instructor will either provide additional help on an individual basis or recommend other support for advanced applications. You are encouraged to use laptop computers, tablets, and cell-phones in this class (except in cases when you are asked to put them away). But you are expected to use these devices --especially your cell-phone -- for in-class activities only, with respect to other students and to the instructor. Disruptive behavior will result in a marked absence.

Academic Dishonesty

The following is Clemson’s official statement on Academic Integrity: “As members of the Clemson University community, we have inherited Thomas Green Clemson’s vision of this institution as a 'high seminary of learning.’ Fundamental to this vision is a mutual commitment to truthfulness, honor, and responsibility, without which we cannot earn the trust and respect of others. Furthermore, we recognize that academic dishonesty detracts from the value of a Clemson degree. Therefore, we shall not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form.”

A simple definition of plagiarism -- one that we will expand upon this semester -- is when someone presents another person’s words, visuals, or ideas as his/her own. The most serious offense within this category occurs when a student copy-pastes text from the Internet or from a collective file. This type of academic dishonesty is a serious offense that will result in a failing grade for the course as well as the filing of a formal report to the university.


Clemson University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, veteran’s status, genetic information or protected activity (e.g., opposition to prohibited discrimination or participation in any complaint process, etc.) in employment, educational programs and activities, admissions and financial aid. This includes a prohibition against sexual harassment and sexual violence as mandated by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This policy is located here.

  • Mr. Jerry Knighton is the Clemson University Title IX Coordinator and is also the Director of Access and Equity. His office is located at 111 Holtzendorrf Hall, 864.656.3181 (voice) or 864.565.0899 (TDD).

Schedule of Classes

The following is a tentative breakdown of meeting times and assignments.
This schedule WILL update as the class progresses, including added homework assignments and other small changes.

  • Students are expected to CHECK THE SCHEDULE REGULARLY.
Section 01: Visual Manipulations
Date Reading Due Assignment Due Notes
Wed.01.10 n/a n/a Course introduction.
Fr.01.12 READ: Envision, Chapt. 02
& READ: "What Your Selfies Say About You," pp. 383-385
Introductory forum post. (Google Docs Workshop.) (Note: from now on all forum posts are due on Monday at the start of class/)
Mon.01.15 MLK DAY: NO CLASS n/a n/a
Wed.01.17 READ: Envision, Chapt. 10
& WATCH: CBSN: Facebook & Fake News
❆ ❆ Pushed ahead because snow. ❆ ❆ (Note: Last day to register/add class)
Fri.01.19 ❆ ❆ Pushed ahead because snow. ❆ ❆ Upload Test Assignment to Canvas, with Sharing Permissions
Bring to class an example of "fake news" and prepare to discuss.
Mon.01.22 READ: Plato, "Allegory of the Cave"
& WATCH: Wag the Dog (1997)
Canvas Writing Assignment
& Forum Post
Wed.01.24 READ: Envision, Chapt. 01
& EXPLORE: Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms
(Note: Last day to drop without W-grade)
Fri.01.26 n/a Immersion Report
Mon.01.29 WATCH: The Truman Show (1998)
& EXPLORE: NYFA: Glossary of Film Terms
Canvas Writing Assignment
& Forum Post
Wed.01.31 READ: Envision, Chapt. 03 Chose, know, inundate yourself with your object of analysis for the upcoming paper.
Fri.02.02 n/a Defend your lens.
Mon.02.05 n/a Visual Analysis
& Forum Post
BIG PROJECT 01 DUE: Visual Analysis
Section 02: Countering with Research
Date Reading Due Assignment Due Notes
Wed.02.07 READ: McComiskey, Post-Truth Rhetoric and Composition (in full) (Discussing kairos in depth)
Fri.02.09 READ: Envision, Chapt. 04 List of possible research topics.
Mon.02.12 MEETING IN COOPER LIBRARY (Cooper 309) Research Proposal
& Forum Post
Research Proposal Due
Wed.02.14 Bizup: BEAM (Canvas files)
Mon.02.19 READ: Envision, Chapt 07 Canvas Writing Assignment
& Forum Post
Mon.02.26 Annotated Bibliography
& Forum Post
Annotated Bibliography Due (w/extra credit option)
Wed.02.28 READ: Envision, Chapt 06
Fri.03.02 (Note: Last day for midterm evals)
Mon.03.05 Wingperson presentation w/rhetorical justification
& Forum Post
Wed.03.07 READ: Envision, Chapt 08 (Choosing Research Groups)
Fri.03.09 Background assumptions and definitions homework.
Mon.03.12 Canvas Writing Assignment
& Forum Post
Wed.03.14 Pattern Recognition Assignment
Fri.03.16 n/a Garbage Draft Due Garbage Draft Due (Note: Last day to drop without final grades)
Mon.03.19 SPRING BREAK n/a n/a
Wed.03.21 SPRING BREAK n/a n/a
Fri.02.23 SPRING BREAK n/a n/a
Mon.03.26 Canvas Writing Assignment
& Forum Post
Extra Credit Film Analysis
Wed.03.28 Review at least one group-member's garbage draft. Difficult Peer-review (on Slack) & write up your own conclusion (for class)
Fri.03.30 PRINTED last-chance draft, as near complete as possible, minimal style, reduced page count.
Mon.04.02 n/a Researched Argument
& Forum Post
BIG PROJECT 02 DUE: Researched Argument Paper
Crafting Multimodal Projects
Date Reading Due Assignment Due Notes
Wed.04.04 LISTEN: War of the Worlds
Fri.04.06 LISTEN: Welcome to Night Vale
& DOWNLOAD: Adobe Audition
Bring at least one minute of prerecorded vocal audio to class, along with your computer and headphones. (Audio Workshop 1)
Mon.04.09 WATCH: How to Make a Podcast
& DOWNLOAD: Adobe Premiere Pro
Canvas Writing Assignment (audio only)
& Forum Post
(Video Workshop 1)
Wed.04.11 WATCH: Premiere Pro in 20 Minutes (Video Workshop 2)
Fri.04.13 WATCH: Laws that Choke Creativity
& WATCH: A Fair(y) Use Tale.
(Video Workshop 3)
Mon.04.16 n/a YTP (clean), 2-4 minutes
& Forum Post
(Webdev Workshop)
Wed.04.18 n/a
Fri.04.20 n/a
Mon.04.23 n/a LAST Canvas Writing Assignment
& LAST Forum Post
Wed.04.25 n/a Multimodal Presentation BIG PROJECT 03 DUE: In-Class Presentation
Fri.04.27 n/a Multimodal Presentation BIG PROJECT 03 DUE: In-Class Presentation
Mon.04.30 No Class Meeting Upload final project and self-reflection by 11:59 pm. FINAL PROJECTS DUE BY MIDNIGHT

Extra Credit

  • Extra Credit Citations: You are required to submit your annotated bibliography in MLA-style citation format. For every other format you choose to submit in, you will receive a 10% boost to the assignment grade. For example, if you were to submit your annotated bibliography in MLA, APA, & Chicago format, you would receive 100% on the assignment. Limit is 110%.
  • Extra Credit Analysis: Film Analysis for EITHER F for Fake (1973) OR Thank You for Smoking (2005) OR The Push (2018). Details on Canvas.
  • Extra Credit Conference: Attend the Carolina Rhetoric Conference at Clemson University, FEB 09-10. Details on Canvas.


The Writing Center

The Writing Center is a free tutoring service available to the entire student body, regardless of major or academic standing. It provides students opportunities to discuss questions or problems related to academic writing—from generating a topic and thesis to organizing a draft and integrating appropriate citations. The Writing Center’s goal is to help Clemson students become confident and effective writers. As an English 1030 student, you should feel free to utilize the Writing Center to receive additional help or feedback on any course assignments or projects. You can make an appointment with a tutor by visiting the Writing Center’s website, by calling them at 864-656-3280, or by simply stopping in.


Clemson University values the diversity of our student body as a strength and a critical component of our dynamic community. Students with disabilities or temporary injuries/conditions may require accommodations due to barriers in the structure of facilities, course design, technology used for curricular purposes, or other campus resources. Students who experience a barrier to full access to this class should let the professor know, and make an appointment to meet with a staff member in Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible. You can make an appointment by calling 864-656-6848, by emailing, or by visiting Suite 239 in the Academic Success Center building. Appointments are strongly encouraged – drop-ins will be seen if at all possible, but there could be a significant wait due to scheduled appointments. Students who receive Academic Access Letters are strongly encouraged to request, obtain and present these to their professors as early in the semester as possible so that accommodations can be made in a timely manner. It is the student’s responsibility to follow this process each semester. You can access further information here.