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English 447/547, Spring 1997


New Mexico State University

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming, PhD
  • CLASS MEETINGS: TTh, 8:55 - 10:10 a.m., EN 107,
  • OFFICE: EN 218
  • OFFICE HOURS: TTh, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m., & by appt.
  • PHONE: 646-3931 (English Dept.), 646-2239 (office/voice mail), 521-8664 (home)
  • EMAIL:

  • Objectives | Assignments | Texts | Grades | Calendar

    1.  Objectives.

    In classical rhetoric, "invention" (Gk. heuresis, L. inventio) was the first division or "canon" of the rhetorical art.  It comprised systematic guidelines to help speakers find and elaborate language in response to the forensic, legislative, and ceremonial occasions of political life.  Cicero defined invention as the "discovery of valid or seemingly valid arguments to render one’s cause probable"* (De Inventione, I.vii).  Elsewhere, he situates it in relation to the other four canons: "[S]ince all the business and art of an orator is divided into five parts, he ought first to find out what he should say; next, to dispose and arrange his matter, not only in a certain order, but with a sort of power and judgment; then to clothe and deck his thoughts with language; then to secure them in his memory; and, lastly, to deliver them with dignity and grace" De Oratore, I.xxxi.  In the oft-told story of the post-classical demise of rhetoric, invention so conceived was eventually eclipsed by one or more of the other divisions (arrangement, style, memory, and delivery); the art thus became trivialized because, without a theory of invention, it concerned only words and gestures.  So, for example, in literary studies, "rhetoric" came to mean stylistic studies of written, poetic discourse.  In a more recent version of the story of rhetoric, however, "invention" ? in all of its classical richness ? has been rediscovered.  Young and Liu refer to various post-WWII developments as having established invention "as the central theoretical issue of rhetoric and composition and its study as one of the most fertile and dynamic areas in discourse studies" (xiii).  Contemporary approaches to discursive production, however, often bear little resemblance to the "invention" of classical rhetoric.

    This course is both a survey of the history of rhetorical invention from classical to modern times and  an introduction to the myriad contemporary approaches taken to this topic.  Our focus will thus be historical and theoretical although we will pay some attention to two "applications" of theory: the design of research studies intended to elucidate aspects of rhetorical invention and the design of pedagogical programs aimed at helping people invent discourse in more efficient and effective ways.  The course is divided into two sections.  In the first, we'll conduct an absurdly fast-paced historical survey, reading and talking about rhetorical invention in oral cultures, classical antiquity, the middle ages, early modern Europe, and the period from about 1750 to 1950.  Most of our energy here will be devoted to two books: Cicero’s De Inventione and Sharon Crowley’s The Methodical Memory.  The last half of the course will be devoted to a "sampler" of contemporary approaches to invention (neo-classical, neo-romantic, social constructivist, cognitive, and others); here we’ll spend the bulk of our time looking at the rise of cognitive approaches to invention and the various responses they have occasioned.

    Although lots of our time will be spent reading other people’s ideas about invention, the course should also serve as a stage for the development of your own theories.  We will try, therefore, to focus as much of our energy as we can on problems that weave in and out of the texts we'll be reading (e.g., the susceptibility of invention to analysis, the teachability of invention, the respective merits of "objective" versus "subjective" approaches, etc.), problems that demand fresh inquiry.  I see the course as providing a foundation for historical study, empirical research, theoretical work, and pedagogical application.

    2.  Assignments.

    We'll proceed in the following way.  As far as the readings are concerned, you are expected to read all assigned texts thoughtfully, by the date due, and with an eye towards intellectual engagement in class.  You will write a minimum of ten 1-2 page (single-spaced) responses (summary, critique, analysis, or elaboration) on assigned readings (turned in or emailed to me before class on the day that reading is to be discussed).  You may choose which readings you write responses to.  Finally, you are expected to contribute actively to class discussions.  There will be a take-home, open-book essay exam at the end of the historical unit and due on or about Thursday, Feb. 27.  You will have approximately one week to write the essay, which should be in the neighborhood of 6-8 pages, typed, DS.  In addition, there will be several short exercises, especially during the second part of the semester.  These will consist of mini case studies of invention and will likely require that you collect a small amount of data for analysis.  For example, during our readings on problem-solving approaches to invention, you will be asked to collect a short think-aloud protocol of someone composing a short text.  What do you learn from such data?  What do you miss?  Finally, there will be an end-of-semester research paper involving either an empirical or theoretical question.  This will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-12 pp., typed, DS.  Class discussions will often revolve around your ideas for this paper; and there will be due dates for various intermediate versions (proposal, draft, etc.).

    3.  Texts.

    Readings in the class will come from the following texts:
  • Lord, A. (1960). The Singer of Tales. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Cicero. (1949). De Inventione; De Optimo Genere Oratorum; Topica. Trans. H. M. Hubbell. Cambridge University Press [Loeb Classical Library].
  • Crowley, S. (1990). The Methodical Memory: Invention in Current-Traditional Rhetoric. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • LeFevre, K. B. (1987). Invention as a Social Act. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Turner, M. (1991). Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Simon, H. A. (1996). The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1987). The Psychology of Written Composition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. *
  • Billig, M. (1996). Arguing and Thinking: A Rhetorical Approach to Social Psychology, new ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Young, R. E., & Liu, Y. (Eds.) (1994). Landmark Essays on Rhetorical Invention in Writing. Davis, CA: Hermagoras Press. *
  • Texts indicated with an asterisk (*) are optional; the rest are required.  In addition, there will be supplementary articles and chapters that I will either photocopy and distribute in class or put on reserve in the library.

    4.  Grades.

    I use letter grades on papers but translate these to numbers for computing your final grade (e.g., A-=91.7; B+=88.3, etc.).  Final grades will be computed using the following formula:
  • Summaries (@2.5% ea. X 10)  25%
  • Essay exam  25%
  • Case studies (@5% ea. X 3)  15%
  • Research paper  35%
  • Final Grade  = 100%

  • 5. Calendar

    Week 01 Th Jan 16 Introduction to class and one another

       Unit I: Invention as Historical Construct

    Week 02 Tu Jan 21 The oral tradition
       READ: Lord
     Th Jan 23 READ: Lord
    Week 03 Tu Jan 28 The classical art
       READ: Cicero
     Th Jan 30 READ: Cicero
    Week 04 Tu Feb 04 READ: Cicero
     Th Feb 06 Medieval theories
       READ: Augustine
    Week 05 Tu Feb 11 Early Modern theories
       READ: Ramus, Bacon, Descartes
     Th Feb 13 Romantic theories
       READ: Coleridge
    Week 06 Tu Feb 18 18th-20th Centuries
       READ: Crowley
     Th Feb 20 READ: Crowley
    Week 07 Tu Feb 25 READ: Crowley
     Th Feb 27 take-home essay exam due
    Week 08 Mar 03 - 07 Spring Break

       Unit II: Contemporary Approaches

    Week 09 Tu Mar 11 neo-classical
       READ: Booth, Bitzer
     Th Mar 13 No class: CCCC
    Week 10 Tu Mar 18 READ: Vatz, Consigny, Kinneavy
     Th Mar 20 Structural
       READ: Burke, Young/Becker/Pike
    Week 11 Tu Mar 25 Neo-romantic
       READ: Miller, Coles, Elbow
     Th Mar 27 Social constructivist
       READ: Lefevre
       paper proposal due
    Week 12 Tu Apr 01 Psychological: conceptual schemata
       READ: Turner
     Th Apr 03 READ: Turner
    Week 13 Tu Apr 08 Psychological: heuristic search
       READ: Simon
     Th Apr 10 READ: Flower & Hayes
    Week 14 Tu Apr 15 Psychological: developmental issues
       READ: Bereiter & Scardamalia
     Th Apr 17 READ: Bereiter & Scardamalia
     Th Apr 24 Social psychological
       READ: Billig
    Week 15 Tu Apr 22 READ: Billig
    Week 16 Tu Apr 29 Situated action
       READ: Lave, Suchman, response
     Th May 01 ideological
       READ: Bizzell, Berlin, Bartholomae
    Week 17 Tu May 06 mediated action
       READ: Wertsch, Wood
     Th May 08 final paper due; course evaluations