My research and teaching are currently centered on the connections between early-sophistic rhetorical pedagogy and digital media design and development. I am interested in the reasons why early sophists like Gorgias and Antiphon tended not to approach the teaching of a subject by first imparting to students essential principles, but by encouraging them to engage in making (poiesis), and whether this pedagogical approach might constitute a best practice for digital scholarship moving forward. My recent projects include designing and developing Cup of Gold, a virtual reality game that introduces incoming students to basic library and information literacy skills, and authoring a 3D-printing guide. I also oversee the makerspace housed in the Smith Library Center at Southwestern University and teach an original course on Digital Rhetorics for the Communication Studies Department.

Andrew N. Rechnitz

Curriculum Vitae

janusBroadly conceived, my teaching philosophy is grounded in the belief that a rhetorical education should provide speakers and writers with viable strategies for responding maturely to opposing arguments. To promote this philosophy, I advocate an early-sophistic pedagogy that teaches students to generate arguments on different sides of the same issue. In antiquity, this agonistic form of composition was known as antilogiai (opposing logoi), or antilogy , and was characteristic of sophistic texts like the Dissoi Logoi, Antiphon’s Tetralogies, and Gorgias’s Encomium to Helen and Defense of Palamedes. When I introduce this form of argumentation to students, I often begin with a famous antilogy Aristotle attributes to Corax, who is thought to be one of the earliest rhetoricians. In this example a fight breaks out between two men, one of whom is noticeably stronger than the other. Because there is no hard evidence to prove who threw the first punch, and neither man wishes to be charged with assault, each pleads his case using arguments from likelihood (eikos). The weaker man, in his defense, advances the expected argument: being the weaker of the two, it is not probable that he assaulted the stronger man, since he would have knowingly put himself in harm’s way. The stronger man, in his defense, counters with an unexpected argument: it is not probable he, being the stronger, would have assaulted the weaker man, since everyone would immediately assume he was responsible for the crime.Read more

Image Project

Designing a Logo

Your challenge for this project is to research a local non-profit organization and design a new logo for it. For the research aspect of the project, you will need to discover as much information as you can about the organization (for example, who are the major stakeholders? Which part of the community does the organization serve? What is the organization’s primary mission?). While much of this information will be available on the organization’s website (assuming they have one), to really understand what kind of logo the organization might want, you also will need to interview employees and/or volunteers who work for the organization as well as some of the community members it serves, since both groups will constitute your intended audience.

The subject matter of your logo can be almost anything: a symbol, a seal, an important object, an historic building, creatively designed text…etc; however, once you’ve found a design you think will work for this project, you’ll need to again contact the organization to make sure they approve of your design choices and then make adjustments as necessary.

As previously indicated, you are designing this logo for an audience composed of people who serve the organization and the people who the organization serves, so before you dive-in to your project, think carefully about the scope of this audience. What your logo communicates to board members may not be the same thing that it communicates to the community, so you will need to adjust your design choices to make the logo appeal to as many of them as possible. Above all, remember that your intended audience will be expecting something that communicates, encapsulates, characterizes, or otherwise defines what the organization is, does, or aspires to do. What they won’t expect is a poorly constructed image surrounded by some illegible text that vaguely describes the organization; they’ll be expecting something targeted to them, something fresh, something exciting, and something appropriate for the medium in which it will appear (is this logo for their website, their pamphlets, both, neither? These are things you should be aware of before you start designing and also things to keep in mind all throughout the design process).

You can by all means use any program you feel comfortable with to make this image. Illustrator is an excellent program, and it’s available on most of the campus computers, but it is by no means the only program available. Whichever program(s) you end up using, the most important thing to remember about your image is that you must make it entirely by yourself. That’s going to be our mantra this semester: make IT (see what I did there?). So, don’t import any shapes, pictures, textures, or other preassembled objects into your deliverable (creative commons or not). Draw, type, stamp, color, and arrange everything within the program you have chosen to use. Finally, remember to carefully consider all of your design choices ahead of time (you can do this in your weekly reports!), since you’ll ultimately need to explain and justify these choices in your reflection papers.

Visual Argument

Seeing More Than One Side

For this assignment, you will create a visual argument according to the criteria outlined by J. Anthony Blair in “The Possibility and Actuality of Visual Argument” and compose a short paper that explains the rhetorical choices that went into designing the visual.

The criteria for the visual component of the assignment is as follows:

1) The visual must be composed according to the criteria outlined by J. Anthony Blair; specifically, it must present the audience with a choice between (at least) two possible positions one might take on a given controversy.
2) The visual must use at least two icons.
3) The visual must not use any words or numbers (you may, however, indicate that language is being used).
4) The visual must be your own creation.

The criteria for the written component of the assignment is as follows:

1) Create a tag-line/sub-heading that identifies the publication where your visual argument will appear (e.g. National Geographic).
2) State the argument in words according to the criteria outlined by J. Anthony Blair.
3) Explain the rhetorical choices you made in your visual argument, and support those choices with evidence from the articles we read (use MLA citation style, including a Works Cited page).
4) If you make rhetorical choices in your visual argument that are not discussed in either of the articles we read, make a case for why you think they will be effective (e.g. “The blood-spatter is the largest object and appears in the center of the visual because it is being emphasized more than any other object. The reason the blood-spatter is being emphasized is that the audience should focus on it first in order to perceive the logos of the argument, which proceeds as follows”).

AV Project

Discovering a Field of Research

Your challenge for this project is to interview two or more university faculty members from the same discipline (they can be from Southwestern and/or other schools) and ask them about some aspect of the field in which they specialize. You might, for example, ask them about the most interesting research projects that have been published over the last decade; the major issues that scholars in their field are grappling with at the moment; big questions that remain unanswered in their field; the most important discoveries that have ever been made in their field; or the most influential figures in the history of their field. Whichever line of questioning you end up choosing, make sure you stick to it and that you collect enough information to report on ten figures, research findings, issues, discoveries…etc. Once you have enough data, you will produce a short video with a soundtrack that creatively communicates your findings.

Because you’ll be making this A/V project for people with some level of investment in the field you’ve chosen to research, think carefully about the makeup of your audience. A video focused on influential figures that is aimed at the physics community may look and feel very different from a video on influential figures aimed at the art community. Are you composing a soundtrack for people interested in philosophy? If so, how will you need to adjust your editing choices to make the audio appeal to as many of them as possible? What kind of visuals will help engage members of the math community? What design choices will you implement to help your project appeal to students, faculty, and (if applicable) those working in the private sector? The answers to these questions are not readily apparent, so as you are designing your project, it will be important to get feedback from different kinds of people with different levels of investment in the field. Be sure to document all of your interactions with these potential audience members as you go.

You can by all means use any programs you feel comfortable with to compose your A/V project. iMovie and GarageBand are both excellent products, they’re available for free on all macs, and you’re required to watch tutorials on them for homework; however, they are by no means the only programs that you can use. If you prefer to work on a PC running Windows, Audacity and Movie Maker are free to download and are certainly capable of doing the job. Whichever programs you end up using, much like the image project, the most important thing to remember about your A/V project is that you must make it yourself. Do not import into your deliverable any video clips that extend beyond a few frames or audio samples that extend beyond a single note or beat (creative commons or not). In other words, you can use a sample of a single bass note you find on the Internet, but you can’t import an entire bass line that someone else has put together. Likewise, you can use a few frames from a video clip you find, but you can’t import anything over a second or two. Instead, you need to compose, record and edit the majority of the media you use in this project. Finally, remember to carefully consider all of your design choices ahead of time (you can do this in your Weekly Reports!), since you’ll ultimately need to reflect on why and how you made these choices in your short papers.

Rhetorical Analysis

Reading (Con)text

For this assignment, you will undertake a textual and contextual analysis of a text (in the broad sense) that makes some kind of argument related to democracy. Although you will need to summarize some of the text, rather than being purely informational, please be sure that you use the vocabulary from the chapters we discussed to identify different elements of the rhetorical situation. While you write the analysis, remember that you are not being asked to agree or disagree with the author’s position; instead, you should concentrate on interpreting how the rhetorical choices that the author makes serve to strengthen or weaken the argument (remember to make use of arguments from probability and to keep you language fairly loose). To create a believable interpretation, you will need to support your analysis with specific examples from the text that demonstrate how well the rhetorical choices made by the author work. Also, remember that there is no “correct” method for doing a rhetorical analysis. It will be up to you, the writer, to make connections and to emphasize what you feel are the most important aspects of the text to analyze. Should you find that your article lends itself more to one area of analysis than another, you can certainly concentrate your efforts.

In terms of organization, please be sure to order your paragraphs in a way that helps highlight the connections you are making. Doing so will require that your transitions between paragraphs help the reader see how, for example, the intended audience also sets limitations on the author, or how the motivation for writing the argument has an effect on what appeals the author chose to include. In the final section of your analysis, please briefly recap your analysis and offer an interpretation of the overall success or failure of the argument. Again, do not offer your opinion about the content of the argument (e.g., “this argument makes no sense”), but do offer your interpretation on how effective the argument might be for its intended audience based on the connections you discuss in the body paragraphs of your paper.

Length: 6-8 pages, double-spaced, with a 12 pt. Times New Roman font.

Below you will find some helpful questions to get you started on the rhetorical analysis, but they are by no means exhaustive. For a more comprehensive list, see chapters two and three in your textbook. 

Audience: Can you define the probable readers in terms of age, gender, occupation, education, position of power? What values do target readers share with the writer (warrants/presuppositions)? What range of positions on the issue might target readers hold before reading?

Text: What features of the text seem most crucial to understand—the claim, the arrangement of arguments, the supporting evidence, the appeals, the style? What features of the essay make it a more convincing or persuasive argument? What parts of the text are most difficult to read? Why? What parts are most appealing? Why?

Writer: What do you know about this writer? What specific qualifications does the writer present to build credibility with the target audience? What appeals to the writer’s character do you see in the essay? In what ways does the author identify with the readers? Does this level of audience connection help the essay? How?

Motives: – What seems to have prompted the writer to present this argument (what is the exigency)? What, if any, is the writer’s history of work on this topic? Does it seem reasonable to suggest that a particular event prompted the writer? What value(s) might have inspired the writer to publish this argument in the selected venue?

Interactive Website Project

Grounding the UX/UI in Rhetorical Analysis

Your challenge for this project is to use a combination of HTML, CSS, and jQuery to design and develop a professional website that will help future employers learn about who you are and what you can do. Whether you choose a one-page layout, a layout with individual pages, or some combination of the two, your website should contain a profile section, a portfolio section, and a section that describes the site itself (you are also free to add additional sections as you see fit). In terms of content, the minimum requirements for these three sections are as follows:

The profile should include a one-paragraph description of your scholarly and/or professional interests, an updated resume, and a recent picture of you.

The portfolio section should showcase the work you have been doing this semester; it can also include any other projects you are currently working on or have done in the past that you feel are relevant to your anticipated career path. Make sure to properly situate the audience by providing them with a short summary of each project you showcase.

The third section of your website will serve as your short paper for this assignment. Foremost, it should reflect on how your analysis of the rhetorical situation factored into design and development choices related to the UX/UI.

Public Argument

Joining the Conversation

It is finally time to engage in a debate: drawing on your research and the persuasive strategies you have studied throughout the semester, you will produce an argument advocating your own position within a controversy pertaining to some aspect of democracy.

By now you have very likely decided where you stand on the larger issues of your controversy, but you will still need to decide exactly what you want to accomplish in your argument. In the previous assignments, your purpose was mainly informative and evaluative (a combination of description, explanation, and analysis). For this assignment, your purpose is mainly persuasive. Before you begin, consider asking yourself some questions about your own motives for writing this argument: do you want your audiences to change their minds about something? Do you want them to open their minds to something? Do you want them to get out and do something? You’ll need to be very clear about what you hope to accomplish vis-à-vis your audience when you write this final paper, as an argument designed to get someone to go out and do something often looks very different than one designed to get someone to believe something (else).

You will also need to determine how you want to make your argument. To get a sense of how to make your argument, you will want to study the arguments offered by a handful of sources that advocate your selected position, as well as some key sources that call your position into question. Taken together, these sources will act as helpful guides for you, but you do not want simply to repeat and rebut the arguments other writers have already made; rather, you will want to come up with your own unique angle, example, or source that makes your argument different and interesting. You might offer, for instance, new information you gathered through an interview with someone connected to your controversy, compelling results of a survey or experiment that you have conducted, or a close analysis in which you expose the hidden weaknesses of a familiar argument.

The rhetorical strategies that you choose to utilize will depend on many factors, but in general, strong advocates will use a combination of persuasive appeals, credible sources, and rhetorical analysis in an effort to persuade their intended audiences. You will need to think carefully about the general makeup of your intended audience and write a tagline at the top of your essay describing who this audience is and where you intend to publish your argument. An argument addressed to people who already agree with your position will sound quite different from one crafted to persuade a skeptical audience to change their minds, so it is important to know who your primary audience is and to respect their initial positions. Generally, it is most productive to address people who have some knowledge of the issues involved but whose own positions on the subject have not yet been solidly determined. What strategies might persuade such people? And where will your argument need to appear to reach them?

Minimum Requirements:
6 pages (12 max)
12pt. font.
3 academic journal sources or book chapters (or some combination of both)
5 additional sources (these can also be academic)


Digital Rhetorics

This course serves as a practicum for students who are interested in learning how rhetoric can be applied to the analysis, design and development of digital media projects. The coursework will be divided into four units: Units I and IV will focus on rhetorical analysis and web development; Unit II will examine visual rhetoric and graphic design; and Unit III will explore multimodal rhetorics and audio/video production. For each of these units, you will produce a high-quality project geared toward a specific audience and write a short paper that explains how you utilized rhetorical principals to guide the design process. After completing these units, you will propose, design, and execute a final project that showcases the digital rhetoric skills you have acquired. Throughout the semester, you also will submit weekly reports that chronicle your experience applying rhetoric to digital projects, preferably using different media platforms.

Student Comments

“As much as it pains me to say it, having to learn to teach ourselves has been incredibly valuable. I have utilized that in both my other class & for my internship. Before this class, if I didn’t know something, I would just say I guess I don’t know but I have realized the importance of asking people around me & researching the topic. I realized that if I have a question, chances are someone else had the same question & therefore there’s probably an answer.”

Spring, 2015

“I feel like this has been the most beneficially organized and taught class that I have taken @ SU, and I have taken some GREAT classes.”

Spring, 2015

“Studio Sessions, flexible project ideas, and instructor suggestions to allow students to explore their own skill was great.”

Spring, 2015

“It took a while for me to get used to his teaching methods because he is so different than the S.U. professors. I like his method more.”

Spring, 2015

RHE 309S

Critical Reading and Persuasive Writing

The purpose of this course is to practice rhetorical skills that promote engagement with public arguments related to some form of democracy. Students might, for example, study public arguments about the effects of social media on emerging democracies, compare arguments on the democratic process in ancient Athens to arguments being made today in the United States, or analyze arguments for and against democracy as a viable form of social organization. To aid in this purpose, throughout the semester we will read and discuss a number of articles related to different aspects of democracy. Additionally, we will refer to Crowley and Hawhee’s Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students to help guide us in the general practices of textual and contextual rhetorical analysis, scholarly research, invention, arrangement, style and delivery. Finally, we will work through the progymnasmata (preliminary exercises) used to teach rhetoric in antiquity, and we will also memorize Antiphon’s First Tetralogy for (daily) in-class recitations.

Student Comments

“The instructor adopted a very unique method of teaching that I felt benefited our learning very much. He sincerely cared about both our understanding of the material + our interest in the course—evident in the way he talked to us, his revision policy, and the pacing of the course. He expressed a passion for Rhetoric + learning that helped add energy to the class. Overall I enjoyed the course, benefited from the various assignments in ways that will be applicable to my career-choice, and felt comfortable like he was fully invested in the course.”

Spring, 2014

“I think overall, I appreciated that everything was put up for discussion (our readings, posts, writing). This helped answer my questions and possible doubts I had about, for example, the introductory paragraph of my paper. My classmates’ + instructor’s feedback in class definitely helped me improve my written assignments, and I was able to hear from several different POV’s.”

Spring, 2014

“Enjoyed the class. Enjoyed Andrew as a teacher & as a speaker. Struggled with some of the class material/subject matter but Andrew’s enthusiasm/knowledge carried me through.”

Fall, 2012

“Sadly, I don’t feel like I have become a better writer. However, I accept full responsibility for this. I really enjoyed this class, but too often I struggled to keep up and missed opportunities to learn. Well, actually, I did improve in some aspects, but I don’t feel like I took full advantage of what this course had to offer. The professor was extremely engaging and approachable.”

Fall, 2012

“Andrew is an amazing professor. He is very successful at engaging the class in discussion and contributing to our development as writers and rhetoricians. My only concern with the course is that while the writing and assignments were substantive, they were not as extensive as I would have liked. I would love to work with Andrew in an upper-division course that explores a deeper conceptualization of rhetoric.”

Fall, 2012

“Andrew Rechnitz is a wonderful, knowledgeable instructor that demonstrated true passion and awareness toward what he taught. Furthermore he always appeared concerned about his students. A great quality about Andrew was his promptness toward responding to emails and grading assignments. Altogether, the course was valuable and really has helped pave the way toward preparing me for future writing courses. Thanks Andrew!”

Fall, 2012

“i am currently taking another rhetoric class as well as this one, and RHE309S actually helped me a lot to understand rhetoric in general as well as my other class. i really enjoyed the smaller writing assignments b/c it gave me a chance to be creative. Awesome class.”

Fall, 2012
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