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English 891TT, Fall 2014

Introduction to Rhetorical Theory

University of Massachusetts Amherst

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming
  • CLASS MEETINGS: Th 5:30 - 8:00 pm, Bartlett 109
  • OFFICE: Bartlett 267
  • OFFICE HOURS: W 1:00 - 2:30, Th 12:30 - 2:00, & gladly by appt.
  • PHONE: 545-2972 (o)
  • EMAIL:

  •  Description  |  Assignments  |  Texts  |  Calendar  |  Bibliography  |  Map of the Aegean  |  Timeline  |  Greek Alphabet  |  Rhetoric Links on the WWW


    The study of rhetoric is traditionally concerned with how messages are crafted by authors to achieve desired effects in audiences.  The oldest rhetorical theories were arts of public speech, but rhetoric has also been important as a school subject devoted to eloquence more generally, including arts of written composition.  Today, “rhetoric” is probably best known as a term of political abuse; but, in the academy, it survives in a variety of approaches for looking at the suasory functions of discourse.  Whether revived or moribund, capacious or narrow, rhetoric is one of the best developed and most powerful verbal disciplines available to us.

    This course is a graduate-level introduction to that discipline.  It will be divided into two parts: In the first, we’ll look at the development of ancient rhetorical theory and pedagogy in classical Greece, especially as that development can be traced in the works of Plato, Aristotle, their forerunners, and their successors.  In the second part, we’ll test the usefulness of rhetorical theory in contemporary life and examine modern and postmodern developments, especially as these have grappled with the new conditions of our lives and new ways of thinking about language, education, and community.

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    Work in the course will include the following components:

    3.  TEXTS.

    (Summer 2014: See this "note to students" for information about course texts, including a reading assignment for our first meeting on 9/4.)

    Most of the readings in the course will come from the following texts, all available for loan through the Five Colleges Libraries and for purchase at Amherst Books (8 Main Street, Amherst, MA; 256-1547;  They are listed here in the order in which we’ll read them.  At least one copy of each book has been placed on 3-day loan at W. E. B. Du Bois Library. There are many acceptable alternative editions of the Plato texts; the particular edition of Aristotle listed here is one, however, that I highly recommend.  Note that Havelock’s Preface to Plato, Jarratt’s Rereading the Sophists, Garsten’s Saving Persuasion, and Crosswhite’s The Rhetoric of Reason are all available as free e-books through the UMass Libraries.

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    4.  CALENDAR.

    day topics and assignments
    1 Th Sept 04 Havelock, Preface to Plato, Part I
    2 Th Sept 11 Plato, Gorgias
    3 Th Sept 18 Plato, Phaedrus
    4 Th Sept 25 Jarratt, Rereading the Sophists
    5 Th Oct 02 Aristotle, On Rhetoric
    6 Th Oct 09 Aristotle, On Rhetoric
    7 Th Oct 16 Murphy, “Roman Writing Instruction as Described by Quintilian” (PDF)
    8 Th Oct 23 mid-term papers due
    9 Th Oct 30 Garsten, Saving Persuasion       back to top
    10 Th Nov 06 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives
    11 Th Nov 13 Crosswhite, The Rhetoric of Reason
    12 Th Nov 20 Fahnestock, Rhetorical Style
    13 Th Nov 27 Thanksgiving: no class
    14 Th Dec 04 last day of class; progress reports on semester projects
      Th Dec 11 semester projects due

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