About the UnTextbook

About the UnTextbook
"Indoor Clouds" by Berndnaut Smilde

Last updated in May 2022

Welcome! The UnTextbook of Rhetorical Theory is a living (i.e. actively updated) online newsletter that contains detailed readings, curated content, and recorded lectures about rhetoric: its many histories, its methods of criticism, and its varied theoretical approaches.  

UnTextbook Feedback Survey

If you have used the UnTextbook individually or in a class, I welcome your feedback! This response survey is intended to collect responses from instructors and students who have used the UnTextbook. Any responses collected here will be used to improve this resource for future courses. No identifying information will be recorded unless you choose to provide it in your written responses. Thank you for your feedback!!  

Rationale for this Resource

In Spring 2020, I began the process of transitioning course content from the in-person version of my large lecture, "Introduction to Rhetorical Theory," to this online platform. My intention was to create an accessible repository for teaching materials that would enable students to access the course remotely while minimizing the stress associated with this transition. After several semesters, I added recorded lectures, supplementary embedded videos, synchronous meeting agendas, and guidance for written assignments. In its present form, the course now functions well for "flipped" modalities of teaching, both in-person and online. Given the significant labor cost associated with transitioning courses online, my hope is to (1) offload some of the effort of moving classes online by creating an open resource for other instructors to draw upon, (2) to provide a basis for instructors to justify the appropriateness of a rhetorical theory course for an online modality of teaching, and (3) to lighten the burden upon instructors and students at a time when online/in-person pivots are increasingly likely and unpredictable. The UnTextbook also provides a number of advantages over a conventional textbook.

  • There is no cost to either the instructor or the student.
  • It enables instructors to teach in a range of modalities, or to move between online and in-person administration as needed.
  • It is formatted for reading/watching/listening on mobile devices and computers.
  • The online newsletter format allows course content can be updated on the go, rather than releasing successive editions over time.
  • Chapters/entries offer multiple ways for students to receive the materials. The written chapters contain the same content as the posted recorded lectures (although occasionally, the material posted in the UnTextbook will be more detailed to avoid excessively long recorded lectures).
  • Chapters frequently indicate the "read-time" (although this time may be longer when viewing the embedded videos). This resource is intended to provide a course shell that harmonizes with instructors' and students' needs for online teaching while minimizing the amount of preparation required to teach.
  • An "assignment document" that is paired with the units of this course. Most notably, it includes descriptions of three "short paper" assignments: (1) an encomium speech (for chapters 1-5), (2) an article annotation (for chapters 6-9), and (3) a mini-rhetorical analysis (assigned during chapters 10-14 as a reflection on all of the concepts presented in the class). There are also study guides that pair with the exams designed for this course.
  • A "blank template" for weekly agendas, used for the synchronous-online administration of this course. It provides a twice-a-week shell for the units of the course with accompanying examples and activities. This document functions as a shared agenda to provide a roadmap of the individual class online class periods.
  • A general rhetorical theory resource document that will be progressively updated with new course content semester-to-semester. It contains links to other syllabi, resource documents, and handouts for undergraduate and graduate-level courses.  

Exam and quiz questions are currently available to confirmed course instructors on an individual basis. If you wish to access assessment questions, contribute to this resource, supply correction notices for content and/or broken links, or otherwise have feedback or requests regarding the Un-Textbook, please feel free to send a message to me using the email address listed at the bottom of this page.

Anyone who signs up to the website with their e-mail address can watch, listen to, and read the materials posted here. Please note when signing up that you will automatically subscribe to email updates to this newsletter. I typically use the email function to ensure that chapters are sent to enrolled students in my courses on a weekly basis. If you would prefer not to receive these weekly emails during the semester, please change the settings in your Ghost profile or reach out to me using the email address listed at the bottom of this page.  

For UMN-TC students enrolled in "Intro to Rhetorical Theory"

For students enrolled in "Introduction to Rhetorical Theory," I recommend subscribing to the textbook with your university email address to receive email updates each week that a new chapter becomes available. You can subscribe (or turn off e-mail updates) by clicking on the icon on the lower right-hand side of your screen. At the end of the semester, the subscription will expire, meaning that your email access to the un-textbook site will end. Please contact me directly if you would like to retain access to the resource.

I recommend that enrolled UMN-TC students using this textbook for the first time begin by reading the "Start Here!" entry addressed to them at the bottom of the main page. Then, watch/listen the recordings/transcripts and read the chapters. The recordings often cover less content than what is in the textbook, although they do offer a detailed overview of each chapter's content. Finally, complete the secondary reading(s) assigned in the syllabus, which are linked at the end of each un-textbook post. Students are expected to have completed these readings upon coming to class, and due dates for each reading are listed in my syllabus, which is updated semester-to-semester.

For UMN-TC students enrolled in "The Rhetoric of Secrecy and Surveillance"

Pages for a forthcoming class, "The Rhetoric of Secrecy and Surveillance" (5000-level) are in development and will be made available in Spring 2022. The entries for this class are shorter than those in the "Introduction to Rhetorical Theory" section and serve as jumping-off points for our in-class discussion. Students are expected to have completed these readings upon coming to class, and due dates for each reading are listed in my syllabus, which is updated semester-to-semester. At the end of each semester, email access to the un-textbook site will end. Please contact me directly if you would like to retain access to the resource.

There is not currently a week-by-week option to have chapters emailed directly to students in "The Rhetoric of Secrecy and Surveillance. Students enrolled in this class will have to visit the appropriate page to complete the reading(s) on the dates that they are due.

Selected Feedback about the UnTextbook

(Fall 2021-2) What comments or feedback do you have about the online textbook for this class?

Click here for the full, unedited, and anonymous Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 survey responses.

  • This was a very effective resource. I have not seen another class or instructor use this type of tool before and I thought it was one of the most useful tools in aiding my success in the class. Although attendance is optional, the un-textbook offers the option to learn by myself when I fall behind. I learn better with visual aid and tend to like to read information than listen to it, so I really loved the textbook. (Fall 2022)
  • I have never taken a class with an online textbook like this before. I can say I wish every course I took had an online textbook just like this. It is very clear and concise, easy to find information, and there are related websites, readings, and recordings linked to every chapter. (Fall 2022)
  • I have no comments, I really enjoyed the layout and found it very easy to follow. I also really liked the audio that was paired with it because if I didn't have time to sit down and read, I would listen to it like a podcast when walking between classes or cooking and I always felt like I retained the info. (Fall 2022)
  • I thought that it was a very well-organized, easy-to-follow textbook which was helpful. I am someone who has a hard time following along with the very outdated textbooks assigned in other classes and I thought that the layout, formatting, and content was very easy to read. (Fall 2021)
  • The format of the online textbook is engaging and accessible. I wish this type of format was used in other courses! Having a mixture of recordings, videos and reading helped to better comprehend the content. (Fall 2021)
  • I liked that it was available both in lecture and text form and included supplementary texts and videos to clarify concepts. (Fall 2021)


Please forgive any typographical errors, and I will do my best to make corrections quickly! If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to hall1039-[at]-umn-[dot]-edu. You can also find me on Twitter @atillahallsby.