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The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture

The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture
Considering Mediated Texts

Fourth Edition

January 2024 | 376 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Can television shows like Stranger Things, popular music by performers like Taylor Swift, advertisements for products like Samuel Adams beer, and films such as The Hunger Games help us understand rhetorical theory and criticism?

The Fourth Edition of The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture offers students a step-by-step introduction to rhetorical theory and criticism by focusing on the powerful role popular culture plays in persuading us as to what to believe and how to behave. In every chapter, students are introduced to rhetorical theories, presented with current examples from popular culture that relate to the theory, and guided through demonstrations about how to describe, interpret, and evaluate popular culture texts through rhetorical analysis. Authors Deanna Sellnow and Thomas Endres provide sample student essays in every chapter to demonstrate rhetorical criticism in practice. This edition’s easy-to-understand approach and range of popular culture examples help students apply rhetorical theory and criticism to their own lives and assigned work.

Chapter 1. What Is Popular Culture and Why Study It?
Chapter 2. Expanding the Rhetorical Tradition
Chapter 3. A Narrative Perspective
Chapter 4. A Dramatistic Perspective
Chapter 5. A Symbolic Convergence Perspective
Chapter 6. A Neo-Marxist Perspective
Chapter 7. Feminist Perspectives
Chapter 8. A Music Perspective: The Illusion of Life
Chapter 9. Visual Perspectives
Chapter 10. Media-Centered Perspectives
Appendix. Writing a Popular Culture Rhetorical Essay
Key features


  • New co-author Thomas G. Endres brings fresh new perspectives and insights.
  • New Learning Outcomes have been added to the beginning of each chapter.
  • Expanded treatment of diversity, equity, and inclusion integrated throughout with examples and applications.
  • New "Considering Social Media" feature in each chapter encourage critical thinking about how the rhetorical functions of social media permeate our lived experiences today.
  • Updated research expands on the coverage of theories throughout each chapter.
  • New and expanded examples of popular television programs, social media, films, advertisements, and music illustrate concepts and theories throughout the text.
  • New student sample essays have been added on topics including the Terraforming Mars board game and the Ocoee massacre documentary. 


  • Each chapter introduces a rhetorical theory, explores familiar examples from popular culture, and demonstrates how to describe, interpret, and evaluate today’s texts through rhetorical analysis.
  • The author walks students through the steps necessary to write analyses of various forms of popular culture, including stage musicals, film, television, popular music, and advertising.
  • End-of-chapter Student Essay boxes and Challenge exercises get readers involved in the hands-on process of popular cultural criticism.
  • Applying What You’ve Learned boxes embedded in each chapter foster critical thinking and retention of key concepts.

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