A Critical Review of Black’s “Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method”

Edwin Black wrote his treatise, “Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method” (1965) while working on his Ph.D. at Cornell University. Black’s suggestion that Neo-Aristotelian practices based upon the assumptions and principles of theory limited the critic’s ability to understand the historical, social, political, and ideological context of texts provoked controversy among rhetorical critics of the day (p. ix). His method book, while, not welcomed by all scholars, opened the doors to new avenues of public discourse, and unchained subsequent generations of students and scholars to envision new ways to think, to explore, and to conceptualize the rhetorical process. The study method, published originally in 1965, was reintroduced to students in 1978 and has continued to be considered one of the most influential books in the field (Black, 1978).