English 891TT, Fall 2012
Introduction to Rhetorical Theory
University of Massachusetts Amherst
INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming
CLASS MEETINGS: Th, 5:00 - 7:30 pm, Bartlett 310
CLASS EMAIL LIST: firstname.lastname@example.org
OFFICE: Bartlett 267
OFFICE HOURS: W, 11:00 -1:00 & gladly by
PHONE: 545-2972 (o)
Description | Assignments
| Calendar | Bibliography | Map
of the Aegean | Timeline | Greek
Alphabet | Rhetoric
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.
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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 ancient rhetorical theory and pedagogy 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.
Work in the course will include the following components:
- Reading and Discussion : Expectations for reading – both close and wide – will be high. I will provide guidance, but most of the responsibility here will be yours. To prepare and enrich our discussions, I ask that you come to every class meeting with a one-page (single-spaced) response to the relevant text that engages it in some way: summarizes one or more key points, connects the text to something you’ve read or experienced elsewhere, analyzes how a particular argument works, locates a problem in the text, asks a question to be pursued later in more depth, or makes some other kind of intervention not listed here. I will collect these responses at the end of class each week and read but not grade them. Please do not write more than a page and do not treat this as a formal paper – it’s meant to prepare discussion and jump-start our engagement with the texts.
- Midterm Paper : At mid-semester, you will turn in a 5-10 page (double-spaced) paper surveying recent scholarship on the history, theory, and/or pedagogy of classical rhetoric. There are two options for this paper. In option A, you will summarize and synthesize 4-7 article-length sources, from academic journals of the last decade, focused on a particular problem, issue, term, figure, or text that has arisen in our reading and/or discussion. In this option, in other words, you will identify a topic of interest to you, locate a handful of recent scholarly articles concerning that topic from a variety of journals, and then summarize and synthesize those articles. In option B, you will select an academic journal that specializes in rhetoric and then summarize and synthesize 4-7 articles of interest to you from the last decade. In this option, in other words, you will identify a journal, locate a handful of recent scholarly articles from that journal that interest you, and then summarize and synthesize those articles. Regardless of which option you choose, you will want to frame your summaries around one or more questions, interests, or goals you have regarding rhetoric. And you will want to end the paper by gesturing toward a larger research project that you might undertake later in the semester. Click here for journals in rhetoric.
- Semester Project : As the semester progresses, you will need to develop and pursue a research project relevant to this course. The project should come out of our reading and discussion, but the type of project and motivation behind it are otherwise unrestricted. The topic should be rich and complex; and it should be something that you’re genuinely curious and excited about. The project can be historical, critical, philosophical, curricular, bibliographic, or some other type; it can be a proposal for a longer project; it can be a resource of some kind; or it can be a conventional seminar paper. There will be opportunities to try out ideas and formulate plans for this assignment as the semester proceeds; I’m always happy to meet individually with you about it. Your work on this project will be “published” in three different forms, the first two serving as intermediate steps toward the last. back to top
- a 1-2 page (DS) written proposal turned in on Nov. 8 (week 10);
- a 10 minute or 4-5 page (DS) progress report shared on either Nov. 29 (week 13) or Dec. 6 (week 14); and
- a final paper of c. 12-20 pp (DS) due Dec. 13, one week after our last meeting.
(Summer 2012: See this "note to students" for information about course texts, including a reading assignment for our first meeting on 9/6.)
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; www.amherstbooks.com). 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. Note that Jarratt’s Rereading the Sophists and Garsten’s Saving Persuasion are available as free e-books through the UMass Libraries; and that the Murphy volume is optional – the required reading from that volume will be available as a PDF.
- Havelock, Eric A. Preface to Plato. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1963.
- Plato. Gorgias. Robin Waterfield, trans. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.
- Plato. Phaedrus. Stephen Scully, trans. Newburyport, MA: Focus P, 2003.
- Jarratt, Susan C. Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1998.
- Aristotle. On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. 2nd ed. George A. Kennedy, trans. New York: Oxford UP, 2006.
- Murphy, James J., ed. A Short History of Writing Instruction. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2012.
- Garsten, Bryan. Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2006.
- Connors, Robert J. Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1997.
- Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969.
- Ratcliffe, Krista. Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2006.
- Crosswhite, James. The Rhetoric of Reason: Writing and the Attractions of Argument. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1996.
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||topics and assignments
||Havelock, Preface to Plato, Part I
||Jarratt, Rereading the Sophists
||Aristotle, On Rhetoric
||Aristotle, On Rhetoric
||Murphy, “Roman Writing Instruction as Described by Quintilian”
||mid-term papers due
||Garsten, Saving Persuasion back to top
||Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives
||Thanksgiving: no class
||Ratcliffe, Rhetorical Listening
||Crosswhite, Rhetoric of Reason; last day of class
||Semester projects due