Sample Written Report Outline
of Interpretive Article
Class: Communication Theory
Name: Jeff Sprick
1. Article Reference Information
- Campbell, John A. (1975). The Polemical Mr. Darwin. The Quarterly Journal of
Speech, 61/4, 375-390.
2. Institutional Affiliation and Academic Rank of author at time of Publication
- John Angus Campbell, University of Washington, Assistant Professor of
a. Historical Context
- This study deals with Charles Darwins explanation of evolution and Natural
- Explores Darwins role as a rhetorician, as a storyteller of experiences.
Instead of just presenting the facts, he takes us with him on board the H.M.S. Beagle and
has us "discover" things right along with him.
- Darwin faces a considerable rhetorical
challenge in appeasing relatively religious and relatively agnostic audiences at
the same time. In response, Darwin uses key religious/theological terms to pacify his religious
audiences while simultaneously stretching their possible meanings to open up thought possibilities about science for his
b. Questions and/or problems the artifact
is designed to ameliorate
How did Darwin navigate
the tricky rhetorical waters of religious and scientific audiences to
win converts from both sides to his speculative hypothesis?
Darwin How did Darwin
adopt the style of his discourse to disarm and develop common
ground with skeptical audiences.
Audience for/of artifact
This work was published during the Victorian era; they are not the most
open in the world to his kind of studies.
They primarily understand what is created by God and do not question
what he has intended for them.
d) Rationale or Justification
- The artifact attempts to provides a rhetorical explanation for the success of The
Origin. Many did not realize Darwin's real motives. The author gives us a glimpse of how
Darwin concealed his true scientific motives and ideas. The article is often redundant,
but it sheds light on the man behind evolution, both how he works and the language he used
to play the Victorian political game.
- A combination of theory and criticism was used. Analogies and metaphors used to
induce the readers to "understand" the discoveries.
- Polemicist a controversial argument or person
- Breeder-Darwin uses to help describe Natural Selection
- Identification helps the reader take unknown concepts and understand
- Campbell views Darwin as a Polemical figure. That is, he is a controversial
figure who attempts to appease his reader through colloquial expressions and
familiar language for something foreign to his Victorian audience.
- The author supports this claim by pointing out the limitations of
scientific language of Darwins time. He emphasizes ambiguous verbosity so the
reader could infer something out of The Origin, and look past his controversial
- The limitations of his evidence was painfully clear. He had to use analogies for his
readers to understand such new concepts. Darwin used a personal approach, like that of one
friend talking to another, or as a humble guide might talk to a young apprentice. Instead
of utilizing abstract thought and scientific observation, he uses experiences so that the
reader will be struck by the same vision toward natural selection as Darwin was.
- He strikes down the old belief behind the mystery of mysteries, what is behind life, and
for the first time attempts to explain this by saying that only the strong survives while
the weak will perish. When Mother Nature finds a way, it will improve upon its plan. This
way of communication is still controversial to this day. Natural Selection is something we
cannot see. Some of his statements are scientifically unclear. He supports his claims with
rhetorical rather than scientific means.
- Darwin uses a humble and sermon-like style.
- Darwin's most significant metaphor was the comparison between a breeder and his stock.
Just like the breeder picks the strongest creatures to carry the bloodline forward, so
Nature selects those humans who will continue on.
6. Additional observations and lines of criticism
- More work on analogies and style used in evolutionary theory should be done across
different evolutionary scientist-rhetors.
- The article could have been condensed and less redundant.
- Article shows how the use of language can have a profound impact on people in an era
where the ideas behind the language would have led to charges of heresy.