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English 549/649, Fall 1997


New Mexico State University

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming, PhD
  • CLASS MEETINGS: TTh, 11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., MH 170
  • OFFICE: EN 218
  • OFFICE Hours: TTh, 10:30 - 11:30 a.m., & by appt.
  • PHONE: 646-2239 (office/voice mail); 646-3931 (English Dept.)
  • EMAIL:

  • Objectives | Assignments | Texts | Grades | Calendar | Supplementary Readings

    1.  Objectives.

    In philosophical terms, an "argument" is a linguistic complex consisting of a claim and one or more reasons offered in support of that claim; and "argumentation" is the rational or social process involved in developing and presenting such things.  This course is a graduate-level introduction to the history, theory, practice, analysis, and pedagogy of argumentation, as seen from the rhetorical tradition, and with special attention to written arguments.

    In rhetoric and composition, "argument" was long seen as one of the four "modes" of composition (the other three were exposition, description, and narration, the four together often referred to as "EDNA") around which the freshman course was organized.  As the teaching and study of composition became more sophisticated in the latter half of this century, "argument" began to be seen as significantly different from the other three; it was thought to be more difficult and more important.  In many schools, freshman composition grew to a two-semester course with the second semester devoted to argumentative writing (i.e., the research paper).  More recently still, with the decline of EDNA as an organizing device, the revitalization of classical rhetoric in English Departments, and the rise of more overtly sociological and cognitive approaches to composition, argument has become, for many teachers and scholars, not simply a "mode" but the intellectual core of rhetoric itself.  From this point of view, argument is the central discursive means in our society for decision-making, truth-seeking, knowledge dissemination, etc.  In this exalted view, argument is at the heart of intellectual, professional, and political life.

    But once so construed, several problems emerge.  For one, argument can no longer be seen as the exclusive purview of the compositionist.  As a discipline or field of study, argumentation is a transdisciplinary object of interest to scholars in philosophy (informal logic), psychology (critical thinking), speech communication (debate), political science, linguistics, etc.  The other thing that happens, once argument is construed as a cognitive and social activity with fundamental intellectual and political implications is that our original definition begins to leak.  Outside of the classroom, the claim + reason(s) complex is always inextricably embedded in particular "real world" situations, and it is the situation, rather than the actual reasoning involved, that often appears to determine the effectiveness of an argument.  So questions abound in contemporary argumentation studies: Who argues, and why?  How do they argue?  Can we still talk about good and bad arguments in a "post-rational" world?  How do arguments change across social, cultural, historical, institutional, and practical contexts?  How should we teach argument?

    The course will be divided into three units: historical antecedents, the 1958 turn, and recent challenges.  There will be a heavy emphasis on history and theory (and thus, a lot of reading, thinking, and discussing).  But we'll be doing other things as well: learning a technical language, practicing different types of argument analysis, improving our own argumentative skills, thinking about pedagogical applications, and developing individual research questions.  Some of the key problems that I'll harp on will be: 1) the role of logic in argument pedagogies; 2) the possibility (or not) of argument evaluation; 3) "Reason" and its discontents; 4) argument across the disciplines; and 5) the critical thinking movement.  I hope you'll bring in your own "problems" as the course develops.

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    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 are expected to contribute actively to discussions; I see this course as an opportunity not only to learn about argumentation but to practice it with each other.

    I've arranged the course without a big research paper at the end; I believe we'll all benefit more from several smaller written assignments.  I want the focus of the class to be practice: the practice of argumentation itself, the practice of argument analysis and evaluation, the practice of formulating and pursuing problems in the study and teaching of argument.  I think we achieve that better with multiple short papers.  That said, I'm still very interested in your locating problems, texts, and projects of interest to you, and there will be lots of room for sustained individual inquiry.

    Graded work in the course will include

    1) report on an article or chapter of a book (10 minutes oral presentation with a 1 p. written handout).  By next week, I'll have a list of recommended articles and books from which you can choose.

    2) analyses and exercises, 7 at 2 pp. each (app. 500 words).  A good argument analysis often has three parts: first, an introduction to the analysis, including a summary of the argument itself; second, the actual analysis, including a brief summary of the analytic apparatus in use; and third, an evaluation of either or both the argument or the analytic tool used (what "purchase" does the tool provide, what does it miss?).  Exercises, by contrast, are actual arguments, following a particular inventional method, usually on a topic of your own choosing.

    3) lexicon entries, 2 at 3-5 pp. each (app. 750-1,250 words).  A good lexicon entry often has five parts: first, definition; second, significance of the term for argument study or teaching; third, elaboration with history, different approaches, examples, and applications; fourth, remaining problems for future inquiry; and fifth, brief bibliography.

    4) problem paper, 1 at 3-5 pp. (app. 750-1,250 words).  This is not a typical research paper or semester project but is rather a short but smart paper identifying a rich, significant problem that requires future work.  Think of this as a conference proposal, a concept paper, a study sketch, a course proposal.  You might want to organize it according to Swales & Najjar's four moves for research article introductions: establish an area of research that is significant, important, or relevant; summarize previous work in that area; identify a gap in current understanding; propose a way to fill that gap (or forget the last and spend your time just trying to adequately formulate the problem itself).

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    3.  Texts.

    Readings in the class will come from the following texts:
  • Crosswhite, James. (1996). The rhetoric of reason: Writing and the attractions of argument. Madison: U of Wisconsin P.
  • Fisher, Alec. (1988). The logic of real arguments. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
  • Fulkerson, Richard. (1996).Teaching the argument in writing. NCTE.
  • Kuhn, Deanna. (1991). The skills of argument. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
  • Perelman, Chaïm, & Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca. (1969). The new rhetoric: A treatise on argumentation. Trans. John Wilkinson & Purcell Weaver. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P. [orig. publ. in French, 1958.]
  • Toulmin, Stephen. (1958). The uses of argument. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
  • These texts are required.  In addition, there will be supplementary articles and chapters that I will put on reserve in the library.  Finally, I will provide you with a list of articles and books recommended for individual reading.
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    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:

    Analyses (@5% X 7)  35%
    Article/chapter report  10%
    Lexicon entries (@15% X 2)  30%
    Problem paper  25%
    Final Grade  = 100%

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    5.  Calendar

    Week 01 Th Aug 21  Introduction to class
    Unit I: Historical Antecedents,  Homer to Peirce
    Week 02 
    Tu Aug 26 
    read Homer: The Iliad, Bk. IX (on reserve) 
    Th Aug 28 read Antiphon, The First Tetralogy; Lysias, On the Refusal of a Pension to the Invalid; and Demosthenes, The First Philippic. (on reserve) 
    Week 03  Tu Sep 02  Aristotle: the syllogism (Fulkerson) 
    Th Sep 04 Aristotle: the enthymeme (Gage, McBurney), Aristotle: the example (Hauser) 
    Week 04 
    Tu Sep 09 Aristotle: topical reasoning (Huseman, Fulkerson), Aristotle: fallacy theory (Fulkerson); Analysis #1: Aristotle 
    Th Sep 11 Cicero: the epicheireme, topics cont'd (Leff, Ochs), stasis theory (Dieter, Fulkerson) 
    Week 05 
    Tu Sep 16 medieval argumentation, guest lecturer, Prof. Dan Pinti, read Thomas Aquinas (on reserve); Analysis #2: Stasis 
    Th Sep 18  modernism: science (Peirce, Popper), symbolic logic (Fisher), Analysis #3: Scholasticism 
    Unit II: 1958 and the Turn to Practical Reason
    Week 06 
    Tu Sep 23  Stephen Toulmin, The Uses of Argument 
    Th Sep 25  Stephen Toulmin, The Uses of Argument 
    Week 07 
    Tu Sep 30  Stephen Toulmin, The Uses of Argument; responses; Analysis #4: Toulmin
    Th Oct 02  Chaïm Perelman & Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric
    Week 08 
    Tu Oct 07  Chaïm Perelman & Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric; Lexicon entry #1 due
    Th Oct 09  Chaïm Perelman & Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric; Analysis #5: Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca
    Week 09 
    Tu Oct 14  Chaïm Perelman & Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric; responses
    Th Oct 16  Alec Fisher, The Logic of Real Arguments
    Week 10 
    Tu Oct 21  Alec Fisher, The Logic of Real Arguments; Analysis #6: Fisher
    Th Oct 23  Deanna Kuhn, The Skills of Argument
    Week 11 Tu Oct 28  Deanna Kuhn, The Skills of Argument
    Th Oct 30  Deanna Kuhn, The Skills of Argument; Analysis #7: Kuhn
    Unit III: Recent Challenges and Responses
    Week 12 
    Tu Nov 04  feminism, multiculturalism
    Th Nov 06  Rogerian argument, narrative
    Week 13 
    Tu Nov 11  Reason and its discontents
    Th Nov 13  lecturer, Prof. Reed W. Dasenbrock; read Putnam, Rorty (on reserve)
    Week 14 
    Tu Nov 18  James Crosswhite, The Rhetoric of Reason
    Th Nov 20  James Crosswhite, The Rhetoric of Reason
    Week 15 
    Tu Nov 25 James Crosswhite, The Rhetoric of Reason; Lexicon entry #2 due
    Th Nov 27  NO CLASS: Thanksgiving Holiday
    Week 16 Tu Dec 02  arguing across the disciplines/media; read Fleming, "Arguments in Design," "Can Pictures Be Arguments?" (On Reserve)
    Th Dec 04  Last day of classes
    Week 17  Tu Dec 09  Exam Week
    Th Dec 11  Problem paper due
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