back home

English 550, Section 4, Spring 2004


University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming, PhD
  • CLASS MEETINGS: TR 9:30 - 10:45, 360 Science Hall.
  • OFFICE: 6187D  H. C. White Hall
  • OFFICE HOURS: W 1:00 - 3:00; & gladly by appt.
  • PHONE: 263-3367 (o)
  • EMAIL:

  •  Description | Texts | Assignments | Calendar | Lincoln's 2nd Inagural | Rhetoric Links on the WWW


    English 550 is an exploration of the methods and principles of literary criticism and is usually focused on a single method or group of methods.  The focus of this section is classical rhetoric.  For the ancient Greeks and Romans, rhetoric was the art of public discourse, a school subject intended to help students produce appropriate, pleasing, and effective language in the courtroom, assembly, and other civic spheres.  Its most important parts were invention, arrangement, and style.  Over the centuries, rhetoricians developed an elaborate body of technical terms, prudential rules, discursive models, and practical exercises to help people speak and write well.  This course is an introduction to that "technology" and its use in analyzing, criticizing, and producing texts.

    We will first learn about classical rhetoric itself, relying chiefly on James Murphy & Richard Katula's Synoptic History of Classical Rhetoric and testing out the vocabulary developed there on ancient political orations collected in the book's second part.  We will then apply what we learn from that text to three genres of modern English prose: the religious sermon, the scientific report, and the informal essay, discourse types often neglected in literature classes.  Our readings will come from 1) a collection of American sermons from the early 17th C. to today; 2) Charles Darwin's groundbreaking scientific argument The Origin of Species; and 3) an anthology of classic essays in English from Francis Bacon to Joan Didion.  In addition to careful reading of assigned texts, you will be expected to participate actively in class discussions, write regularly about the texts, and complete several medium-sized formal papers.  This course is officially designated "Writing Intensive."

    There are three main goals for the course: to learn about rhetoric as a historically important liberal art, critical method, and theory of civic life; to read sample texts from several important, but often neglected, genres of literature; and to learn how to use the former as a way to understand, analyze, and emulate the latter.

    back to top

    2. TEXTS

    Readings in the course will come from the following texts, all on sale at University Book Store.
    back to top


    Graded work in the course will include

    I use a 4 point system for evaluating your work: 4 for excellent; 3 for good; 2 for fair; 1 for poor; and 0 for unacceptable or missing.  Intermediate grades may be used (e.g., 3.5).  Final grades will be computed using the following formula:
    Participation 10%
    Exercises (5@3% ea.) 15%
    Test on Classical Rhetoric 15%
    Paper 1: Sermon Analysis 20%
    Paper 2: Science Analysis 20%
    Paper 3: Essay Analysis or Imitation
    Final Grade 100%

    Finally, attendance is required for this class.  A poor attendance record (2 consecutive or 3 total absences) will adversely affect your grade.  If you miss class 4 times over the course of the semester, you will not pass the class.  You are responsible for making up work missed due to absence, although such work may still be penalized.  Late arrival to class may also be counted as an absence.  Exercises and papers, including drafts, should be turned in at the beginning of class on the date due.  Late work will be penalized one letter grade or check level for each day late.

    back to top

    4. CALENDAR     (tentative)

    Unit I: Classical Rhetoric
    Jan 20 Tu Introduction to classical rhetoric

    22 Th No class

    27 Tu Historical origins of rhetorical theory

    Murphy & Katula chs. 1-2

    Gorgias' "Encomium to Helen" (pp. 264-267)

    29 Th Guest lecture on 5th C. BCE rhetoric

    Pericles' "Funeral Oration" (pp. 241-246)

    Exercise 1 due
    Feb 03 Tu Aristotelian rhetorical theory

    Murphy & Katula ch. 3

    Demosthenes' "First Philippic" (pp. 274-283)

    05 Th Roman rhetoric: the Rhetorica ad Herennium

    Murphy & Katula ch. 4

    Cicero's "First Catilinian" (pp. 284-295)

    Exercise 2 due

    10 Tu Roman rhetoric: Quintilian

    Murphy & Katula ch. 6

    12 Th In-class test on classical rhetoric

    Unit II: The Sermon

    17 Tu Introduction to the sermon; the Puritans: First Generation

    Warner: Cushman Winthrop Cotton Hooker

    19 Th the Puritans: Second Generation and after

    Warner: Danforth Mather Edwards

    Exercise 3 due

    24 Tu 19th C. sermons in the liberal tradition

    Warner: Channing Emerson

    26 Th 19th C. sermons in the liberal tradition cont'd

    Warner: Beecher Talmage Brooks

    Paper 1: draft due
    Mar 02 Tu 19th-20th C. sermons: fundamentalism

    Warner: Moody S. Jones McPherson Sunday

    04 Th 19th-20th C. sermons: the African-American tradition

    Warner: A. Jones Lovelace Franklin King

    Paper 1: final due

    Unit III: The Scientific Report

    09 Tu introduction to The Origin of Species

    Darwin Editor's and Author's Introductions (to p. 69)

    11 Th The Origin of Species cont'd

    Darwin ch. I (to p. 100)

    Spring Recess

    23 Tu The Origin of Species cont'd

    Darwin chs. II-III (to p. 129)

    Paper 1: revision due

    25 Th The Origin of Species cont'd

    Darwin chs. IV-V (to p. 204)

    Exercise 4 due

    30 Tu The Origin of Species cont'd

    Darwin chs. VI-IX (to p. 316)
    Apr 01 Th The Origin of Species cont'd

    Darwin chs. X-XIII (to p. 434)

    Paper 2: draft due

    06 Tu No class

    08 Th The Origin of Species cont'd

    Darwin ch. XIV (to p. 460)

    Unit IV: The Essay

    13 Tu introduction to the essay

    Montaigne (handouts)

    Paper 2: final due

    15 Th the 17th C. essay

    Gross: Bacon to Cowley

    20 Tu the 18th C. essay

    Gross: Dryden to Boswell

    (probably Swift Addison Steele Johnson & Goldsmith)
    Apr 22 Th the 19th C. essay

    Gross: Lamb to Thoreau

    (probably Lamb Hazlitt Hunt De Quincey Carlyle Emerson Dickens Thackeray Thoreau)

    Exercise 5 due

    27 Tu the 19th C. essay cont'd

    Gross: Eliot to Conrad

    Paper 2: revision due

    29 Th the 20th C. essay

    Gross: Chapman to Waugh

    Paper 3: draft due
    May 04 Tu the 20th C. essay cont'd

    Gross: Greene to C. James

    06 Th Last day of class

    Paper 3: final due



    Final grades due

    back to top