Academic Program



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 (bates.edu/rhetoric).

Major Requirements

The major consists of ten courses plus a thesis. A coherent program for each student's major is designed in accord with the following guidelines and in consultation with a member of the faculty in the rhetoric, film, and screen studies who is appointed as the student's departmental advisor. Students should consult with their major advisor about meeting their requirements. Students may count one Short Term course toward the major, unless they are using a Short Term course to fulfill the performance requirement, in which case, students may use two Short Term courses to satisfy the major requirements.

1) Core Courses. Two of the following (taking all three is recommended):
RFSS 100. What is Rhetoric?
RFSS 120. Introduction to Screen Studies.
AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History.

2) Performance. One of the following:
RFSS s16. Public Discourse.
RFSS s17. Introduction to Argumentation.

3) Theory. One of the following:
RFSS 240. Film Theory.
RFSS 252. Rhetorical Theory.
RFSS 276. Television Criticism.

4) Race/Ethnicity. One of the following:
AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History.
AF/RF 202. Coming of Age While Black.
RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.

5) Gender/Sexuality. One of the following:
RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
RFSS 260. Lesbian and Gay Images in Film.
RFSS 265. The Rhetoric of Women’s Rights.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.
RFSS 276. Television Criticism.

6) Seminars. Two of the following (with two different faculty members):
RFSS 391A. The Rhetoric of Alien Abduction.
RFSS 391B. Presidential Campaign Rhetoric.
RFSS 391F. Bollywood.
RFSS 391J. Film Festival Studies.
RFSS 391K. Cyborgs on Screen.

7) Additional Courses. In consultation with a major advisor, students take two additional courses in rhetoric, film, or screen studies. These courses may be from within the department, offered by other departments or programs, or taken off campus.

8) RFSS 457 or 458. Senior Thesis.

Pass/Fail Grading Option

Only one 100- or 200-level course may be taken pass/fail in fulfilling the major requirements.

Minor Requirements

The minor consists of six courses. A coherent program for each student's minor is designed in accord with the following guidelines and in consultation the faculty member who is appointed as the student's departmental advisor for the minor.

1) Core Courses. Two of the following three courses:
RFSS 100. What is Rhetoric?
RFSS 120. Introduction to Screen Studies.
AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History.

2) Performance. One of the following:
RFSS s16. Public Discourse.
RFSS s17. Introduction to Argumentation.

3) Race/Ethnicity. One of the following:
AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American
History.
AF/RF 202. Coming of Age While Black.
RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.

4) Gender/Sexuality. One of the following:
RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
RFSS 260. Lesbian and Gay Images in Film.
RFSS 265. The Rhetoric of Women’s Rights.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.
RFSS 276. Television Criticism.

5) Seminar. One of the following.
RFSS 391A. The Rhetoric of Alien Abduction.
RFSS 391B. Presidential Campaign Rhetoric.
RFSS 391F. Bollywood.
RFSS 391J. Film Festival Studies.
RFSS 391K. Cyborgs on Screen.

Pass/Fail Grading Option

Only one 100- or 200-level course may be taken pass/fail in fulfilling the minor requirements.