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I would like some leftover pizza.

Thought the following might be interesting, in light of our recent readings. As we’ve seen, Manjoo suggests that media fragmentation has lead to fragmented reality bubbles or enclaves. But despite one’s political persuasion, there may be at least one commonplace we share as a nation: American exceptionalism. In the recent commentary, “The Opiate of Exceptionalism,” NYT reporter Scott Shane explores the consequences of what he regards as the disconnect between reality and our shared beliefs.

Interesting commentary on the role of logic (or the lack thereof) in partisan arguments, w/ a possible fix: “I’m Right! (For Some Reason).” 



On the ACA, from Bill Keller of the NYT. Based on Mooney and Cook & Lewandowsky, is this likely to be persuasive?



A recent piece on the topic of false equivalency in reporting from the NYT’s public editor (or ombudsman) Margaret Sullivan; I’d be particularly interested in your take on the debate between reporter Ethan Bronner and editor Sam Sifton:

  • “I hope it’s not The Times’s policy to move this matter back into the ‘he said she said’ realm,” [Bronner] wrote…. “It’s not our job to litigate it in the paper,” Mr. Sifton said. “We need to state what each side says.”

Note also her hedging on the issue; do you find this refreshing or frustrating?

A interesting take by journalist and media critic Jay Rosen, “The Clash of Absolutes and the On-Air Fact Check,” in which a news anchor confronts an elected official w/ a fact check; in light of Manjoo, are we seeing separate reality enclaves at work or simply potentially legitimate differences in interpretation?

In light of our recent discussion, from Paul Rogat Loeb: “‘My Vote Doesn’t Matter’: Helping Students Surmount Political Cynicism.”  Would be interested in your responses.

As I suggested, if you’re done w/ Gerhardt, I welcome another text for analysis. Any signed op/ed from the NYT, WSJ, or WaPo would be a good place to start, or you might want to treat a speech from the recent party conventions (ideas for DNC speeches  | ideas for RNC speeches); if you choose this latter option, be sure to watch the speech as well as read it, and please include a copy of the transcript with your essay.

We touched briefly last week on arguments concerning the value of a liberal arts education. There’s no shortage of these out there (see this recent defense typical of the genre from a college president; or a slightly more provocative commencement address by the late David Foster Wallace), but one might want to ask, why do such things need to be written? A hundred years ago, it was the engineers who had to justify that what they were studying was worthy of being called “college” work. What has changed? What is the exigence? What are the rhetorical commonplaces these arguments are responding to, and to whom are they persuasive?

And of course it need not be overtly political (see, e.g., the anti-Hank).

Update: and one for the sports fans. (Caution, contains extreme Phillytude.)


So it’s not all random LOLcats and status updates, after all. From the NYT: Social Networks Can Affect Voter Turnout, Study Says.

Speaking of which, you can download the MI Voter Registration form here. Cheers.


Welcome to ENG 403, Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Public Sphere.

You may access the course material from this site by clicking on “syllabus” or “readings” above or on the links menu to the right. There is no login required, but you will need the username/ password information, which I have emailed to all registered users and also posted through CTools. Let me know if you have any questions in the meantime.

Please note that we have a brief assignment due the first class day. From this website, download the PDF text of Monty Python’s “Argument Sketch” and watch the video. Then type up a 200-word response to the following question: “Is this an argument?”

Looking forward to meeting you Wednesday.