Academic Program

Professors Kelley-Romano and Nero; Associate Professor Cavallero (chair); Visiting Assistant Professor Rippetoe; Visiting Lecturer Allsup

Rhetoric, film, and screen studies offer an interdisciplinary approach to the study of human communication that focuses on the intersectional nature of meaning and knowledge.

Rhetoric is a vital aspect of modern democracy. Courses offered by the Department of Rhetoric, Film, and Screen Studies teach students to understand how citizens use the symbolic in processes of negotiation within democratic states. Historically, this understanding has come through study of oratory, writing, and debate. But as the public sphere has expanded, so have the skills needed for successful agency: skills also now address visual media such as film, television, and virtual worlds.

Courses examine the production of meaning in texts and screen texts through the study of the systems that create texts; the form of those texts; and the historical, sociocultural, and economic milieus that mediate their circulation and interpretation. Courses are informed by theories that examine race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class, among other categories. In addition to introductory courses, students are required to take courses in performance. Students take two seminar courses with two different professors to further expand their exploration into the breadth of rhetoric, film, and screen studies. All students complete a senior thesis.

Argumentation and debate are traditional aspects of the practice and study of rhetoric, and have long been considered essential elements to a functioning public sphere. Bates has a storied tradition of excellence in debate, and students may study argumentation in courses or participate in competitive debate, or both. The Brooks Quimby Debate Council (BQDC), teaches students basic elements of rhetorical practice and theory.

More information on the rhetoric, film, and screen studies curriculum is available on the website (