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WRT 413:

rhetoric & ethics

Fall 2014, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-3:20 p.m.,

Marshall Square Mall 205B
Patrick W. Berry, pwberry@syr.edu, office: HBC 235
office phone: 315-443-1912
office hours: Fridays, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
and by appointment

Project #3: The Ethics of Controversy: An Analysis

Over the course of the semester, we have considered a number of ethical issues and have
examined how rhetoric shapes our understanding of the world. Whether exploring strategies for
judging rhetoric or reflecting on how multimodality and materiality change the way we
understand rhetorical ethics, we have been mindful of what it means to be a writer (and reader)
in the twenty-first century. Rather than subscribing to a singular ethical code for all people at all
times, we have come to see how ethical and rhetorical choices are contingent, created within
particular communities at specific times.
In your final project, you will focus on the ethical use of language in a particular controversy of
your choice. Drawing on the course readings, the assignment asks you to analyze rhetoric and
ethics of a particular controversy and to reflect on what it means to write in a way that is
responsible and ethical.
Why controversy?
As Kendall Phillips writes, Both popular and academic accounts of disputes utilize the notion
of controversy to indicate a type of preliminary state in which people are enmeshed and into
which arguments are issued. Controversy often involves oppositional arguments in which
deliberation is severely compromisedmaking rhetoric and ethics a critical concern.
How do I identify a controversy?
As we have discussed, its easy to find polarizing, unreflective pieces in the news. For this
project, I will ask you to avoid working with problematic oversimplifications of a particular issue.
I want you to identify a controversy that appears in one of these three publications: The Atlantic,
Harpers, or the New York Times Magazine. You should find one full-length article.
What are the components of this paper?
Your paper must include
1. an analysis of how the author of your article goes about developing his or her argument.
2. an exploration of rhetoric and ethics in this controversy as represented in your article.
You need draw on at least four of the course readings.
3. an explanation of why you selected this controversy, why you think its important, and
where you stand on the controversy.

4. a works cited page.

Who is my audience?
Your audience will be members of the Syracuse community. You should write this piece as one
might write a submission to a publication.
Your paper should be 2,100-3,000 words.
In addition, you will also need to produce a 5-minute presentation on your topic. This
presentation will be worth 10% of your project grade. The presentation should highlight some
of the things you worked through in your paper. It can be with or without a PowerPoint. If you
are using PowerPoint, please let me know at least a day in advance.
Monday, December 1: Post a draft to Blackboard. Your draft should be a minimum of 2,100
words. If you do not submit a draft by the due date, your grade will be reduced by one-letter
Tuesday, December 2: Presentations:
Ivy, Emily, Akili, Taskina, Tevion, Padraic, Rania, and Renata

Thursday, December 4: Presentations

Kelsey, Timothy, Tori, Hanna, John, Olivia, Michaela, and Jack

Thursday, December 11: Post final paper to Blackboard by end of day.