Fall 2011 Course Information
WRIT 4260 / 5260—Section 001, course # 30587 / 30604—meets Tuesday/Thursday from 3:30 - 4:45 in SSB 216. Course home page: <>

Professor Information
Dr. Craig Stroupe
, 726-6249, Humanities 425,;
Office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m.
or by appointment.

Resources Needed

  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, ISBN 006097625X, Harper Perennial, 1993
  • Edward Tufte, Visual Explanations, ISBN 0961392126. Graphics Press, 1997
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3 Classroom in a Book, 9780321492029, Adobe Press, 2007
  • occasional articles or book chapters that I will make available from the course Moodle site. I will require you to print out these chapters and bring them to class.
  • a USB drive (aka, jump drive, pocket drive, thumb drive) for saving and transporting your work
  • occasional access to a digital camera, which can be checked out from ITSS.
  • access to a printer, or funds for printing


  • Your work on the major projects and various exercises (weighted according to the size and complexity): 80% total
  • Participation in class generally, including completing the readings, in-class activities and contributions, online discussions, attendance, conferences, quizzes, peer workshop responses, online discussions, class discussion, promptness: 20%

In addition to teaching the mechanics of graphic production, "Visual Rhetoric and Culture" draws widely on the disciplines of digital design, statistical visual analysis, graphic narrative theory, engineering, and technical writing to offer you the interpretive and strategic skills to critically conceive, produce, think about, and write about visual texts.

This course is designed to give you the skills, practice, and understanding to realize the following goals:

* employing principles of writing and design to create visual projects that convey analytical insight and narrative meaning;
* creating projects that effectively combine visual and verbal languages;
* discussing graphic work in critically and historically informed ways;
* working in productive relationships;
* using a variety of software to create graphic projects for delivery in digital formats
* engaging potential audiences of visual texts on a variety of rhetorical levels;


This course is organized as a set of projects and exercises, combined with a series of strategic and critical readings. The projects are long-term, individual works. The exercises are shorter, skills-based activities done as homework following step-by-step directions, followed up by a help session in class.

The Projects
As described on the Projects Page, these are larger pieces of work that you'll complete individually over a period of two or three weeks using the skills you learned from the exercises and insights from the readings and class activities. One of the projects is an essay about an image of your choice.

Late Penalties. There is a three-point penalty per day for late projects. Projects over seven days late will receive no credit. Exceptions are granted only in cases consistent with the UMD excused absence policy explained below.

Digital projects are late if the URL is not posted to the correct online discussion as of the day and exact time specified in the schedule. A digital project that's five minutes late is the same as one that's 23 hours late. Changes made to the projects after the assigned day/time may or may not be included in the evaluation.

Paper-based projects need to be submitted as a hard copy at the time and place assigned. I will not accept e-mail-attachments or electronic copies of paper-based projects. Due dates for all requirements are included in the online schedule, which will be updated throughout the semester.

Commentaries. Often, the assignment will require that you write a 500-word commentary on your project. Your commentary should fulfil both the general guidelines for commentaries as well as any project-specific requirements listed on the assignment page.

We'll do the exercises either together in class, or you'll do them as homework followed up with a troubleshooting (help) session during the next class meeting. The exercises give you a chance to learn particular skills or techniques, and the exercise files will generally be turned in via the class's online discussion board.

Late Penalties. Each day late will deduct 20% (a point for a five-point exercise, for example), with no credit given after five days.

Other Writing and Design Work
In addition to the design, creation, and/or writing of the projects themselves, you will complete

  • writings in the online forums
  • brainstorming sessions and preliminary writings or designs for your projects,
  • peer critiques for workshops
  • other writings as prompted in class


On days when readings are assigned, please do the following:

  • have the readings completed by the beginning of class;
  • As you read, mark in the book or on the printout, noting key terms, ideas, issues, questions, and names. Try following the techniques described on my page on Active Reading. These markings and notes will be extremely valuable to you in the exams.
  • Before class, complete any Preparation Sheets, Reading Guides or other preparatory activities that I have assigned. I will frequently ask you to read your responses aloud in class to help generate discussion.
  • expect brief quizzes or guided reading responses at the beginning or end of class. There are no make-ups on these responses if you are absent, late, or leave early


Since this class will function as a community of writer-designers, your regular attendance is absolutely necessary. The UMD policy states:

Students are expected to attend all scheduled class meetings. It is the responsibility of students to plan their schedules to avoid excessive conflict with course requirements. However, there are legitimate and verifiable circumstances that lead to excused student absence from the classroom. These are subpoenas, jury duty, military duty, religious observances, illness, bereavement for immediate family, and NCAA varsity intercollegiate athletics. For complete information, please see:
1. Allowed Absences:
You are allowed a small number of absences which you can spend however you wish: 4 allowed absences (in a MWF class) or 3 (in a TT class). Allowed absences do not excuse you from the work due or completed on the days you are absent, and some in-class activities and timely requirements cannot be replicated or made up. Save your "free" absences for a rainy (or snowy) day.

2. Unexcused Absences and Penalties:
Absences in excess of the budget of allowed instances deduct 3 percent each from your overall grade.

3. Excused Absences:
In the case of serious, legitimate, and verifiable conflicts that result in absences in excess of the allowed number, the absences can be excused if

1. you contact me prior to, or as soon as possible after, the circumstance resulting in your absence(s)

2. you provide written documentation from an authoritative source (e.g., a doctor, the Athletic Department) which speaks specifically to the reason you were unavoidably unable to attend class that particular day.

Like the other types of absence, documented, excused absences do not excuse you from the work due or completed when you did not attend, and some in-class activities and timely requirements cannot be replicated or made up.

4. Tardiness and Leaving Early
In addition to your budget of allowed absences, you also have 3 or 4 instances (depending on the TR or MWF schedule) of arriving late or leaving early to use if necessary. Instances in excess of this allowance will decrease your overall grade by 2 percentage points each. If you need to leave class early, even if it's one of your allowed instances, please arrange it with me in advance.


This class is designed to provide a number of avenues for building a productive sense of community, including brainstorming sessions, peer workshopping and critiquing, in-class "studio sessions," support groups, and various online communications and collaborations. Your sincere and regular contributions to maintaining this collaborative environment will count in your grade, and of course will greatly benefit your final products in the course. Because your work is the subject matter for this course, turning in all projects and writings on time is critical.

Students with Disabilities Policy
It is the policy and practice of the University of Minnesota Duluth to create inclusive learning environments for all students, including students with disabilities. If there are aspects of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or your ability to meet course requirements – such as time limited exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos – please notify the instructor as soon as possible. You are also encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Resources to discuss and arrange reasonable accommodations. Please call 218-726-6130 or visit the DR website at for more information.

Incompletes for the semester will be given only in the following very limited circumstances:

  • you must contact me in advance of the semester's end to make a request for an incomplete;
  • no more than one or two weeks of class, or one or two assignments, can have been missed;
  • you must be in good standing in the class (not already behind, in other words);
  • you must have a documented family or medical emergency, as required by university policy;
  • you must arrange a time table with me for completing the missed work that is acceptable to both of us.

Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Please see UMD's pages concerning these two issues: