Rhetorical Illumination


COMM2111 — Rhetoric in Popular Culture Final Project

This assignment will consist of an essay of significant length to adequately discuss a topic relating to the role of “meaning” as created by popular culture. Your paper should be at least 5 pages (1500 words or more). Think of every example of popular culture (TV shows, movies, music CD’s, commercials, toys, established sports, fast food, etc.) as meaningful “texts” to be analysed. When we observe popular cultural “texts,” WHAT do these texts mean? HOW do they have meaning? WHO creates the meaning(s)? Consider this: when you observe a popular cultural text (e.g., a sitcom like “The Big Bang Theory” or a drama like “Breaking Bad”), those who write, direct, act, produce, and so forth work together to create some form of meaning.

You as an audience member may form a different meaning then was the intention of those who put together the text. Does a TV show like “Criminal Minds” affect how you think of serial killers and investigations into such people? If you watched “Dexter,” a show featuring a serial killer as the main character, does that affect how you view serial killers and the investigations into such people? If you compared “Criminal Minds” to “Dexter,” how would the main characters from each show interact? Can you even compare such different views of the world?

The popularity of so-called “reality” TV shows might be considered based on why viewers select entertainment that is called “real” yet seems produced in a very contrived manner. What interpretations could you make of a show like “Survivor?” How do “texts” deal with issues of gender, race, age, body-type, and so forth? What behaviours are considered acceptable or unacceptable in different situations?

Please keep in mind the articles you read for class as you consider topics. Any of the articles we discuss would be a good place to start for ideas. Also, each article has a bibliography of other sources you can use. If you develop a topic in an area of popular culture that already interests you, you will probably ENJOY writing your paper. I am happy to help with your selection of a topic, and will assist you in focussing your research.

Your final project may examine ANY aspect of how texts can work to create/manipulate/distort/highlight/interpret meaning. The following websites are good places to find a topic suggestion for your paper. Please note the details of the assignment after the list of suggestions. I will be posting this assignment on Moodle as a Word document, so the links below will be clickable.






The above suggestions are only that—suggestions. You may examine any type of text or texts. However, make use of sources to support any arguments you make. I expect you to conduct research. The library has a fine selection of scholarly journals (each of you has access to hundreds of articles through CBU’s library online service—check with a Reference Librarian if you are unsure of how to use this free service). Ensure that you cite all sources used. Please do not just DESCRIBE popular cultural “texts;” ANALYSE these “texts.” I expect you to touch on the historical foundation of your topic, even if very briefly. Popular culture as we consume it today has historical roots.

I expect your personal opinions and views, so please feel free to write in the first person (e.g., “I think….”). To a large degree, this is more of a reflection paper than a research paper, although I expect you to fully support your opinions and ideas. Please be as creative as possible in your discussion of your topic, with strong examples. Work on being clear and concise. Please ask if you have questions.

DUE DATE: upload your paper to Moodle NO LATER THAN Thursday, 10 December by 11:55 pm (2355). I do not accept excuses such as “I had a problem with my email and Moodle,” “the Moodle upload didn’t seem to work,” or “I sent it so you must have got it”). Late papers will NOT be accepted without exceptional reasons.

Good luck! Contact me if you have ANY questions.

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