University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Department of Rhetoric offers an interdisciplinary PhD program focusing on the study of rhetorical theory and the interaction of the historical concerns of rhetoric with contemporary critical theory across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Crucial to the department's approach is an investigation into the rhetorical constitution of the arguments of such fields as law, politics, literature, film, and philosophy. The interests of faculty and graduate students thus range throughout these fields and are informed by a critical interest in the rhetoric of disciplines. During their first two years, graduate students explore major areas in the history and theory of rhetoric and pursue a variety of special topics in seminars. Beginning in their fourth semester, they concentrate in greater depth on preparation for their doctoral qualifying examinations and dissertation research.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant comes from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. If the applicant is admitted, then official transcripts of all college-level work will be required. Official transcripts must be in sealed envelopes as issued by the school(s) attended. If you have attended Berkeley, upload your unofficial transcript with your application for the departmental initial review. If you are admitted, an official transcript with evidence of degree conferral will not be required.
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, not the Graduate Division.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants from countries or political entities in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to applicants from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:
    • courses in English as a Second Language,
    • courses conducted in a language other than English,
    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and
    • courses of a non-academic nature.

If applicants have previously been denied admission to Berkeley on the basis of their English language proficiency, they must submit new test scores that meet the current minimum from one of the standardized tests.

Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Doctoral Degree Requirements


Courses Required
RHETOR 200Classical Rhetorical Theory and Practice4
RHETOR 205Contemporary Rhetorical Theory and Practice4
RHETOR 230Rhetoric and History4
Three elective graduate seminars (two in Rhetoric and one outside of Rhetoric)
RHETOR 375Teaching Rhetoric2



RHETOR 200 Classical Rhetorical Theory and Practice 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2016
An introduction to the questions around which classical rhetorical theory and practice are organized. Through analysis of materials drawn principally from the Ancient Greek and Roman periods, possibly including later revivals of classical rhetoric, the course will examine the formation of rhetoric in the West as an intellectual stance from which to practice a range of related fields, including but not limited to philosophy, history, literature
, politics, religion, law, science, and the arts.
Classical Rhetorical Theory and Practice: Read More [+]

RHETOR 205 Contemporary Rhetorical Theory and Practice 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2017, Spring 2017, Spring 2015
An introduction to the questions around which contemporary rhetorical theory and practice are organized. Through an analysis of materials drawn principally from the 18th century to the present, the course will examine rhetorical inquiry in relation to critique as well as the disciplinary construction of knowledge-domains. The course will attend to rhetoric in relation to a range of fields, including but not limited to philosophy, history, literature
, politics, religion, law, science, and the arts.
Contemporary Rhetorical Theory and Practice: Read More [+]

RHETOR C221 Aesthetics as Critique 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2015, Spring 2013, Spring 2011
A close reading and discussion of the major texts of modern aesthetics, from the 18th century to the present, with emphasis on the Continental tradition of Kant, Adorno, and Derrida.

Aesthetics as Critique: Read More [+]

RHETOR 230 Rhetoric and History 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2016, Fall 2015
This course investigates both the concept of history and the practice of historiography, using an engagement with the literal and metaphoric archives of the past to consider their empirical and philosophical claims on the present. While the methods, themes, and historical reach may vary, the course requires Rhetoric graduate students to investigate pre-1900 material in some form and to consider both the pragmatics of conducting historical inquiry
and the interpretive frameworks that structure them.
Rhetoric and History: Read More [+]

RHETOR 240D Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Nonfictional Prose 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2010, Spring 1999, Fall 1997
Advanced investigation of the rhetorical dimensions of various modes of discourse. Specific topics to be announced.

Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Nonfictional Prose: Read More [+]

RHETOR 240E Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Political Discourse 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2011, Fall 2007, Spring 2006
Advanced investigation of the rhetorical dimensions of various modes of discourse. Specific topics to be announced.

Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Political Discourse: Read More [+]

RHETOR 240F Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Legal Rhetoric and Philosophy 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018, Spring 2017, Fall 2015
Advanced investigation of the rhetorical dimensions of various modes of discourse. Specific topics to be announced.

Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Legal Rhetoric and Philosophy: Read More [+]

RHETOR 240G Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Rhetorical Theory 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2017
Advanced investigation of the rhetorical dimensions of various modes of discourse. Specific topics to be announced.

Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Rhetorical Theory: Read More [+]

RHETOR 243 Special Topics in Film 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2014, Fall 2013, Fall 2012
A theoretical examination of a film topic which falls outside the purview of traditional categories of film analysis, such as "genre," "history," or "theory." Examples: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, The Essay Film, Feminist Film Practice, Cinema and the Phantasmagoria of History.

Special Topics in Film: Read More [+]

RHETOR 244 Special Topics in Rhetoric: Limited study 2 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2008
This course studies various modes of rhetorical discourse. Specific topics to be announced.

Special Topics in Rhetoric: Limited study: Read More [+]

RHETOR 250 Rhetoric of the Image 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2017, Spring 2016
A study of the visual image as a mode of discourse, together with an analysis of the terms in which images have been interpreted and criticized. Focus may be on the rhetoric of a particular image or set of images, or on more broadly theoretical writings about image.

Rhetoric of the Image: Read More [+]

RHETOR 295 Special Study 1 - 6 Units

Terms offered: Summer 2018 3 Week Session, Summer 2017 3 Week Session, Spring 2016
Open to qualified graduate students wishing to pursue special topics under the direction of a member of the staff.

Special Study: Read More [+]

RHETOR 299 Directed Research 1 - 12 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2016, Fall 2015, Spring 2015
Open to graduate students who have passed their Ph.D. qualifying examinations.

Directed Research: Read More [+]

RHETOR 375 Teaching Rhetoric 2 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2017, Fall 2015, Fall 2014
Instruction in teaching argumentative writing and rhetorical analysis.

Teaching Rhetoric: Read More [+]

RHETOR 601 Individual Study for Master's Students 1 - 6 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2016, Fall 2015, Spring 2015
Individual study for degree or language examinations in consultation with staff member.

Individual Study for Master's Students: Read More [+]

RHETOR 602 Individual Study for Doctoral Students 1 - 6 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2016, Fall 2015
Individual study in consultation with faculty director as preparation for degree examinations.

Individual Study for Doctoral Students: Read More [+]

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


David William Bates, Professor. Enlightenment, early Modern European intellectual history, 20th century European and American intellectual history, history and theory of media and technology, history of political thought.
Research Profile

Daniel Boyarin, Professor. Talmud, rhetoric, Christianity, genealogy of, invention of Judaism.
Research Profile

Anthony J. Cascardi, Professor. English, comparative literature, literature, Spanish, Portuguese, philosophy, aesthetics, early modern literature, French, Spanish Baroque.
Research Profile

Pheng Cheah, Professor. Nationalism, rhetoric, legal philosophy, feminism, 18th-20th century continental philosophy & contemporary critical theory, postcolonial theory & anglophone postcolonial literatures, cosmopolitanism & globalization, social & political thought.
Research Profile

Marianne Constable, Professor. Law and language, legal rhetoric and philosophy, social and political thought, Anglo-American legal history, Continental philosophy, law and society.
Research Profile

Samera Esmeir, Associate Professor. Critical theory, Middle Eastern Studies, Legal and political thought, law and society, legal histories, colonialism and post-colonialism.
Research Profile

Shannon Jackson, Professor. Rhetoric, performance studies, American studies, 20th century art movements and critical theory, local culture and intercultural citizenship in turn-of-the-century United States, history and theory of theatre and performance art.
Research Profile

Michael James Mascuch, Associate Professor. Rhetoric, photography, autobiography, narrative and culture, media and society, documentation, early modern Britain.
Research Profile

Ramona Naddaff, Associate Professor. Rhetoric, aesthetics, theory of the novel, ancient Greek philosophy and literature, history of philosophy, contemporary French thought.
Research Profile

James Porter, Professor. Classical Studies, philosophy, critical theory, aesthetics, Nietzsche, Auerbach.
Research Profile

Minh-Ha Trinh, Professor. Gender and sexuality, women's studies, rhetoric, feminist postcolonial theory, film theory and production, music composition, ethnomusicology, contemporary critical theory and the arts.
Research Profile

Mario Wimmer, Assistant Adjunct Professor.

Michael Wintroub, Associate Professor. Religion, ritual, social change, rhetoric, history of science, early modern cultural history, travel, identity formation, alterity, cross-cultural contact, popular and court culture, state-building, humanism, vernacular consciousness and literature, mater.
Research Profile

Winnie Won Yin Wong, Assistant Professor. Labor and creativity, modern and contemporary art, intellectual property, China studies, consumer cultures.

Nasser Zakariya, Assistant Professor.


Alex Dubilet, Lecturer.

Felipe Gutterriez, Lecturer.

Nancy A. Weston, Lecturer.

Rebecca Wiseman, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

David J. Cohen, Professor Emeritus. Human rights;war crimes & trials;Indonesia & East Timor; Guantanamo & Abu Grahib;Sierra Leone Special Court;International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda & Former Yugoslavia;Classics;ancient rhetoric & history, classical Greek law;political/legal theory.
Research Profile

Bridget Connelly, Professor Emeritus.

Frederick M. Dolan, Professor Emeritus. Ethics, modernity, aesthetics, political theory, literature and politics, theories of interpretation, Continental philosophy, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt, Foucault, American political discourse, aesthetics and politics.
Research Profile

Daniel Melia, Professor Emeritus. Rhetoric, oral literature, Celtic studies, Celtic languages (Welsh, Irish), folklore, medieval history and literature.
Research Profile

Barbara Shapiro, Professor Emeritus. Rhetoric, political and legal thought 1500-1700, intellectual and cultural history, 1500-1700, early modern legal and political discourse, science and society, Tudor and Stuart England.
Research Profile

+ Kaja Silverman, Professor Emeritus. Feminist theory, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, queer studies, race, rhetoric, film, cinema, photography, time-based visual art, painting, post-structuralist theory, masculinity.
Research Profile

Thomas O. Sloane, Professor Emeritus. Renaissance literature, history of rhetoric, teaching rhetoric.
Research Profile

+ Linda Williams, Professor Emeritus. New media, film theory, pornography, melodrama, sex in cinema, popular genres, surrealist cinema, serial television.
Research Profile

Todd G. Willy, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of Rhetoric

7408 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-1415

Fax: 510-642-8881

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Daniel Boyarin

248 Barrows Hall


Graduate Student Services Adviser

Marcus Norman

7407 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-1416


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