Outline: Rhetoric and Raymie E. Mckerrow Essay

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Western Journal of Communication
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rwjc20 Criticism is as Criticism Does
Raymie E. McKerrow

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School of Communication Studies , Ohio University
Published online: 25 Aug 2013.

To cite this article: Raymie E. McKerrow (2013) Criticism is as Criticism Does, Western Journal of
Communication, 77:5, 546-549, DOI: 10.1080/10570314.2013.799284
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10570314.2013.799284

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Western Journal of Communication
Vol. 77, No. 5, October–December 2013, pp. 546–549

Criticism is as Criticism Does

Downloaded by [Trent University] at 13:25 10 October 2013

Raymie E. McKerrow

While there are numerous approaches to criticism, this essay takes the position that each is worthy of being considered in relation to the question or problem being addressed. That means, in practice, that whether or not the essay contributes to theory development will depend on the purpose underlying the critical act.
Keywords: Critical Scholarship; Gatekeeping; Purpose; Theory

The title is a play on a more commonly known phrase, popularized in the movie,
Forrest Gump. That phrase, ‘stupid is as stupid does,’ implies that a ‘‘person who does stupid things is still stupid. You are what you do’’ (Urban Dictionary). Likewise, criticism ‘‘is what it does’’—it really can’t be other than what is done through the act of being critical, whether the object or target is another person, an idea, an event, or any other artifact. This does not mean that the critical act is flawless, and always acceptable. Criticism may be offered at inappropriate times, it may be an unintentional (or intentional) misunderstanding of the event or idea being targeted, or it may simply be weak or even deluded. It may reflect poorly or well on the person engaging in the critical act, or on the target, or both. The practice of academic criticism follows the same orientation as that engaged in interpersonal interactions. That is, it too is defined by what it does—either well or ill. A key difference, separating the interpersonal interaction from the act of writing a critical essay, is that convention dictates specific styles or approaches that have been deemed appropriate and useful in engaging discursive events. Whether marked as primarily Ideological, Narrative,…