English 805

Department of English & Comparative Literature

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 

Professor: Dr. Candace Epps-Robertson


Office: 425 Greenlaw Hall

Office Phone: 919-962-8765

Office Hours: T & Th, 11:00AM-12:00PM & by appointment

Mon-Thursday I generally respond to emails within 24 hours. Friday-Sunday you can expect a 72-hour delay.

ENGL 805: Studies in Rhetoric and Composition-African American Rhetoric

Meeting Time: Tu 3:30-6:20

Location: Greenlaw 304




Course Description

Students will survey the ways in which African Americans have used a variety of communicative practices and discourses to construct and represent themselves, advance social justice platforms, and as a means of survival. Readings will cover a range of rhetorical practices, themes, and time periods.


As a graduate seminar, this course is grounded in the concept that you will bring knowledge and experiences that will help us to produce knowledge throughout the semester. As such, I rely heavily on student participation in all forms. We will read together, write together, and most importantly, have conversations about what we are reading and writing. We will read a combination of primary and critical texts with attention to how African Americans use language and action. Because this is a survey of African American rhetoric, we will also need to do the additional work of historicizing and contextualizing the pieces we read.


Course Goals

  • To understand definitions and rhetoric & African American Rhetoric
  • To develop your own theory (theories) & definitions of African American Rhetoric
  • To identify and analyze the rhetorical features of African American rhetoric through a historical survey
  • To develop a research project based around themes explored in the course & of interest to students’ individual research expertise


Required Texts & Supplies

Assignments and Percentages

N.B.: I’ve crafted the assignments with two things in mind. First, that you are all coming into the course with varying levels of experience. Second, I believe that a grad course should introduce the topic or inquiry at hand and help you gain skills and tools that will be useful as you continue to grow as scholars.


  1. Reading Responses/Blog Responses* (1 page/500 words max, 30% total) For each assigned reading (unless you are leading discussion) you should prepare a reading response. Your Reading Response should be 1 page, single-spaced, 12 pt. font. And should engage the assigned readings in a thoughtful and though-provoking manner. More than summary, the purpose of this writing is to examine connections between readings, your own interests, and to map themes as they begin to develop for you. You should include 3 questions you’d like to offer the class at the top of your page in bulleted format. The response is due by 5PM the Monday before class. *We will discuss on the first day of class whether we want to submit these via Sakai, or a course blog.


  1. Student-Led Discussion (20%): Once during the course of the semester you will sign up to lead a discussion and activity for a portion of class. Your responsibility will be to read the assigned readings, and then lead one hour of class. During your discussion period you may do a number of things: lead students through a reflection of the reading, introduce us to an outside reading from your field or area of interest, generate questions for discussion, and/or create an activity to have us think critically about the readings. You should consult with me first about your planned activity. I will circulate a Google Doc for a sign-up sheet.


  1. Pathing Project* (50%): The project is less about developing a particular argument and more about your following a question or topic you are interested in, reading in-depth to discover what’s being said/done in that area, and working to write and develop a plan for future research. The project will consist of several components spread out through the course of the semester:


  1. A proposal outlining the subject, theory, question, or issue you wish to read and research, 1-2 pgs. (Due in Weeks 4-5)
  2. A consulting meeting with me to discuss the proposal. (TBD)
  3. A bibliography-in-progress of works consulted and read for the project (15-20 sources). (Due Week 10)
  4. A 12-15-minute conference-style presentation that includes a multimedia component on your findings
  5. The final written product should address the following questions: Why are you interested in this topic? How did you come to this project? What your sources have told you about the history of this topic/contemporary conversations? And, most importantly, a plan for what you will do next (further reading, research, courses, and/or writing and additional projects), 18-25pages. (Due on our Final Exam Day)

*N.B.: I will work with MA students to reduce the required page lengths for the final project.

If you are currently working on a project that connects to our course and would like to inquire about how you may use the final project as a means to continue that research, please talk to me as soon as possible.

Grading Scale

I will use the following scale to calculate grades:

A 100-93                     A- 92-90                     B+ 89-87

B 86-83                       B- 82-80                     C+ 79-77

C 76-73                       C- 72-70                      D+ 69-67

D 66-60                      F = 59 and below

Attendance and Participation

You are part of a vibrant intellectual community. During our course we will continue to work together to make helpful, engaged, thoughtful relationships with one another. We will strive to create a community where we can ask difficult questions respectfully, disagree productively, and build knowledge. To do this, I suggest we abide by the following: come to each class session and come prepared to discuss our readings. If you must miss a class please be sure to catch up on what we’ve covered, turn in assignments, etc. This is a graduate seminar and because we only meet once a week, attendance is paramount to your performance. If you must miss more than one class, please speak to me as soon as possible. Second, participate in our class discussions. We all have something to add and I am a firm believer in allowing space for all voices to be heard.


Late Work

Please make every effort to turn assignments in on time. If you must miss a class, please speak with me as soon as possible about turning in your work. If you have a valid reason for missing class or not turning in work, please speak to me.

Additional Policies

Plagiarism consists of the unattributed or unacknowledged use of another’s words or ideas and is a most serious breach of the Honor Code. The Honor Code applies to everything that we do at this university, including our use of outside sources in our research and writing. Our work in this class will conform to the principles and procedures defined in the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance ( The research that we do this semester, whether primary or secondary, print or online, formal or informal, will require careful documentation on your part.


The University is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment and to ensuring that educational and employment decisions are based on individuals’ abilities and qualifications. Consistent with these principles and applicable laws, it is therefore the University’s policy not to discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status as consistent with the University’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct. No person, on the basis of protected status, shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation under any University program or activity, including with respect to employment terms and conditions. Such a policy ensures that only relevant factors are considered, and that equitable and consistent standards of conduct and performance are applied.

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender are Civil Rights offenses subject to the same kinds of accountability and support applied to offenses against other protected categories. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, I encourage you to investigate these resources:


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ensures that no qualified person shall by reason of a disability be denied access to, participation in, or the benefits of, any program or activity operated by the University. In compliance with UNC policy and federal law, qualified students with disabilities are eligible to receive “reasonable accommodations to ensure equal access to education opportunities, programs, and activities” ( If you anticipate such accommodations, please notify me as soon as possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Additionally, you may seek out student support services at the Accessibility Resources and Service department ( and through the Learning Center (

Additional Course Resources

  • The Writing Center. The Writing Center assists members of the University community who have writing needs that are not met in the classroom or by other services on campus. The Writing Center is located in the Student and Academic Services Building. Appointments are made by visiting the Writing Center’s website at <>.
  • The Learning Center. The Learning Center is designed for a range of students: those who need help with basic reading problems, those who are good readers but who wish to become even better, and those who wish to improve their study skills. The Learning Center is located in the Student and Academic Services Building (SASB North) and is open all year (except for regular University recesses) from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Students may register at any time during the year. If you have any questions, call the Learning Center office at 919-­-962-­-3782 or visit their web site at
  • The Academic Advising Program. Academic Advising offices are located in Steele Building. In addition to providing guidance related to course enrollments and majors and minors, Academic Advising can help with any problems you may be having with progress in your courses or other concerns you may have. Contact Academic Advising at 919-966-5116 or visit their web site at
  • Student Success and Academic Counseling. The Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling in SASB North, Room 2203 can be useful in solving problems non-mainstream students sometimes encounter. Contact CSSAC at 919- 962-1046 or visit their website at
  • Counseling and Wellness Services. The staff at CWS (located in the Student Health Building) provides positive, professional counseling for students who need academic, vocational, and personal guidance. Contact CWS at 919-966-3658 or visit their web site at

Dean of Students Office. Located in suite 1106 of the Student Academic Services North Building (SASB), the Dean of Students provides support services for all students and assists with transitions or other challenges students may be having in and out of the classroom. Contact their offices at 919-966-4042 or via e-mail at or visit their office at