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English 891TT, Fall 2016

Introduction to Rhetorical Theory

University of Massachusetts Amherst

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming
  • CLASS MEETINGS: W 5:00 - 7:30 pm, Bartlett 131
  • OFFICE: Bartlett 267
  • OFFICE HOURS: W 3-4 pm, Th 2:30-4:00 pm, & 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 2016: See this "note to students" for information about course texts, including a reading assignment for our first meeting on 9/7.)

    Most of the readings in the course will come from the following texts, all available for purchase through Amazon.  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 editions of the Plato texts; the version of Aristotle listed here is one, however, that I highly recommend.  Note that the Havelock, Jarratt, Murphy & Wiese, Lipson & Binkley, Rickert, and Gries texts are all available as free e-books through UMass Libraries.

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    4.  CALENDAR.

    day topics and assignments
    1 W Sept 07 Havelock, Preface to Plato, Part I
    2 W Sept 14 Plato, Gorgias and Phaedrus
    3 W Sept 21 Jarratt, Rereading the Sophists
    4 W Sept 28 Aristotle, On Rhetoric
    5 W Oct 05 Aristotle, On Rhetoric
    6 W Oct 12 Murphy & Wiese, Quintilian on the Teaching of Speaking and Writing
    7 W Oct 19 Lipson & Binkley, Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks
    8 W Oct 26 mid-term papers due
    9 W Nov 02 Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives       back to top
    10 W Nov 09 Fahnestock, Rhetorical Style
    11 W Nov 16 Friday schedule followed; semester project proposal due
    12 Nov. 20-27 Thanksgiving: no class
    13 W Nov 30 Rickert, Ambient Rhetoric
    14 W Dec 07 Gries, Still Life with Rhetoric
    15 W Dec 14 last day of class; progress reports on semester projects
    16 W Dec 21 semester projects due

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