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, philosophy, performative practices, global studies, critical race studies, and science, technology, and media studies. 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 has completed a basic degree 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 on a 9-point scale (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 the 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. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  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, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions 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.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


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



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, Dean of Arts & Humanities. 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 and contemporary critical theory, postcolonial theory and anglophone postcolonial literatures, cosmopolitanism and globalization, social and 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 and Associate Vice Chancellor for Arts + Design. 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

Fumi Okiji, Assistant Professor.

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

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

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, Associate Professor. Labor and creativity, modern and contemporary art, intellectual property, China studies, consumer cultures.
Research Profile

Nasser Zakariya, Associate Professor. Rhetoric.


Nancy A. Weston, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

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

James Porter

354B Dwinelle


Graduate Student Services Advisor

Claire Armetta

7407 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-1416


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