Critical/Interpretive Essay: Critical/interpretive essays submitted for publication on VOD should be 15-30 pages, double-spaced in Times New Roman 12-point font. Each essay should be accompanied by a separate title page with (1) the author’s contact information; (2) an author’s note with the author’s name, institutional affiliation, and acknowledgements (if any); (3) an abstract of approximately 75 words; and (4) and a list of key words.
The critical/interpretive essay should be prepared in conformance with the endnote style of the Chicago Manual of Style’s (16th edition). The typical essay would include the following:
- An introduction articulating a clear and original argument about the speech or debate and its historical and/or rhetorical significance. The argument should make clear how the speech is relevant to one of the seven deliberative themes featured on VOD.
- Biographical information about the speaker, particularly information that is relevant to the speech or debate (e.g., significant childhood experiences, religious background or training, educational and professional background, political experiences and/or rhetorical training). The biographical information in the essay also might include a consideration of the speaker’s reputation and credibility at the time of the speech.
- Discussion of the historical, political, and/or cultural context of the speech, including both long-term trends and immediate events that illuminate the rhetorical exigencies that gave rise to the speech or debate under examination. This might include an analysis of the issues or controversies that the speech or debate engages, information about the location and the occasion for the speech or debate, and analysis of the various audiences for the speech, both immediate and removed.
- An analysis of the speech or debate itself, engaging existing scholarship on the speech/debate, drawing upon archival sources that shed new light on the text, and/or providing an original interpretation based on close textual analysis.
- A discussion of the speech or debate’s legacy and relevance to ongoing social and/or political controversies and debates.
- A conclusion that reflects on the implications of the analysis and the legacy of the speech for democratic deliberation, particularly as it relates to the seven deliberative themes featured on VOD.
In all critical essays, passages quoted from the featured speech (or speeches) should be cited with parenthetical references to the paragraph where the quoted material appears in the authenticated speech text published on VOD. At the first parenthetical citation, add an endnote explaining the parenthetical citations and referring readers to the text published on VOD. Here is an example of such an endnote:
“All passages from Kerry’s April 22, 1971, speech before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations are cited with reference to paragraph numbers in the printed text that accompanies this essay on the VOD website.”
For more detailed information about formatting and style in critical/interpretive essays submitted to VOD, visit our Formatting Documents for VOD page.