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 Rhetoric(2006)  posted by  duggu   on 12/26/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Statue of Aristotle.
Statue of Aristotle. (Photo courtesy of Martin Haase [maha-online].)

Course Highlights

This course features detailed descriptions of its assignments and an extensive list of readings. Links to other rhetoric Web sites are also available in the related resources section.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the history, the theory, the practice, and the implications (both social and ethical) of rhetoric, the art and craft of persuasion. By the end of the semester, you will have been exposed to several of the key concepts of rhetoric (e.g., ethos, pathos, logos, invention, style, arrangement, kairos, stasis, commonplaces) and to the over-riding importance of writing to your audience. You will have gotten a taste of rhetorical history and theory. You will explore and analyze and respond to some key texts by significant writers. You will have had a chance to practice speaking and debating before the class. You will have written and revised several texts. You will have examined some of your core beliefs and assumptions. In this course you will act as both a rhetor (a person who uses rhetoric) and a rhetorician (one who studies the art of rhetoric). Because the study of rhetoric has always had as one of its goals the creation of active and informed citizens and because rhetors write to influence the real world and thus to become agents of positive change, the topics you choose and the essays you write will have the important purpose of persuading your readers (the class and me).

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.



A list of topics covered in the course is available in the calendar.

Course Overview

What is rhetoric? What are the ethical and social implications of using rhetoric? These are the ultimate questions that we will consider this semester. Studying rhetoric teaches us not only how to write and speak persuasively but also how to understand the rhetorical efforts of others. Understanding rhetoric gives us the means of judging whose opinion about issues is the most accurate, useful, or valid, because such knowledge allows us to see beyond the persuasive techniques to the essence of the ideas. Further, understanding rhetoric is the best way of understanding the assumptions of and the points made by those who disagree with our positions. Further still, understanding rhetoric is the best way for us to deepen and refine our own positions and beliefs by exploring our own assumptions and our cultural contexts. In short, rhetoric teaches us how to find the limits of our own positions, how to argue effectively against others' positions, and how to create powerful and persuasive arguments for our own beliefs.

At its best, rhetoric is used ethically by people of good will who wish to present their ideas forcibly but fairly to their communities. At its worst, however, rhetoric is used unethically by people to manipulate us instead of enlightening us, to spread propaganda instead of seeking truth, to make palatable those ideas and products whose adoption actually runs counter to our best interests. Understanding rhetoric, then, is our best defense against its abusers--e.g., political "spin doctors," advertisers, demagogues, apologists for immoral business practices, and hate mongers. Using rhetoric in an ethical manner is our best method for becoming agents for positive change in our society.


"Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him [sic]; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself [sic] against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress." - Kenneth Burke

Note: Written work must be emailed to me before the class meeting when it is due. Email it to me as a Microsoft® Word attachment (no other format) plus copy-and-paste it into the email itself. Work not emailed to me before class will receive a late penalty.

Course Details


This course requires your attendance, participation, and on-time production. I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused cuts: if you're not in class, you are not contributing.

  • There are 3 penalty-free cuts; save these for illness, religious reasons, job interviews, etc.
  • The 4th cut lowers your final course grade by 5 points; the 5th cut lowers it by an additional 10 points (i.e., by a total of 15); the 6th cut lowers it by an additional 20 points (i.e., by a total of 35).
  • The 6th cut means automatic failure for the course. This automatic failure occurs regardless of your average or the reason for the absences--no exceptions.
  • You must be on time for class. Class starts at 1:00 p.m. and ends at 2:25 p.m. Being more than 10 minutes late or having to leave class early will count as a cut.


As the writer, bring a written list of specific questions about your content and organization. As a reader, give specific advice about how to deepen and clarify ideas, organization, etc.

Written Work

The top of the first page of each of your essays must follow this format:

Your Name
Essay: Type
Meaningful Essay Title

John Doe
March 14, 2006
Essay: Ethical Argument
The Case For Letting Deer Vote in Elections

Essay itself starts here (2 spaces below title)


Your essays must have 2 versions, and you have the option of writing a third

  • 1st Complete Version for workshop: Only your peers comment on this version.
  • Mandatory Revision: Decide how many (if any) of the suggestions made by your workshop group to incorporate; then fine-tune and tweak the essay. I grade each Mandatory Revision.
  • Optional Revision: If you wish, you may revise any Mandatory Revision once as an Optional Revision if and only if you consult with the Writing Center before the due date for the Optional Revision (and give me the yellow form from the Center)-I count the higher grade.
    • At least 14 days before the due date for the Optional Revision, go online and schedule an appointment at the Center.
    • I will not correct any Optional Revision unless you have consulted the Writing Center. No exceptions (including "I couldn't find an appointment"). It is your responsibility to make an appointment early or to keep checking the online scheduler for cancellations.

Criteria for Evaluating Your Essays

Your essays will be evaluated for their:

  • Ideas, arguments, and analyses are interesting, insightful, and relevant
  • Complexity of the issue is acknowledged and explored
  • Assumptions (explicit or implicit, theirs and yours) are explicitly explained
  • You actively engage with ideas and with opposition's counter-arguments
  • Key concepts are defined and explained
  • Audience is accommodated
  • Essay and paragraphs are coherent
  • Evidence is varied, effective, and appropriate
  • Rhetoric (strategies, techniques, style) and Ethics are used effectively and accurately
  • Thesis is clear and explicit, and paragraphs have explicit topic sentences
  • Instructions for the assignment are fulfilled
  • Prose is varied, clear, accurate, concise, essentially error free
  • MLA format is used-- in-text citations and a Works Cited page


Issues about which intelligent, well informed, educated people of good will disagree.


Postwrite is your explanation of your rhetorical decisions (i.e., rhetorically analyze your own essay). A Postwrite must accompany each Mandatory and Optional Revision. It has the following headings:

i. My Essay's Overall Purpose(s)
ii. My Rhetorical Strategies and Techniques
iii. What I Am Proudest of in this Essay
iv. If I Had More Time, I Would Have ...
v. Questions for Steve (optional)


I correct the way technical editors do-namely, I correct the first occurrence of an error and explain how to fix it, then I leave it up to you to go through the rest of your essay and make similar corrections.

There are no penalty-free extensions. Please do not ask. If you have to pass something in late, then you have to pass it in late. There will be a 1-point penalty for each class meeting that the assignment is late.

I use an easy-to-figure system: each task is worth a certain number of points which, when all added together, equal 100 points. I use the standard scale to determine your course grade:

points grades
90-100 A
80-89 B
70-79 C
60-69 D
0-59 F

Here are the values of each activity:

Activities values
Self Intro Speech (Oral) 5
Self Intro Speech (Written) 5
Sophist Essay 10
Ethical Argument Essay 15
Critical Rhetorical Analysis 15
Rhetorical and Ethical Analysis Project 25
Final Persuasive Speech (Oral) 10
Final Persuasive Speech (Written) 10
Postwrite Total 5

The sum of the total points is your grade for the course: i.e., a total of 89 is a B; a total of 90 is an A. I cannot push a final grade of 89 up to an A, nor can I round off (so an 89.9 is still a B).

Extra Credit Possibilities

Writing a thoughtful and coherent essay (250 words) on any one of the topics/questions at the end of any of the assigned readings in One Hundred Great Essays (or in handouts) or the "Additional Case" in Ethics and College Student Life: A Case Study Approach will add anywhere from 0-2 points to your final total (depending on the quality of the essay). It must be emailed to me before the beginning of the class for which the essay is assigned. I cannot accept it later than that-please do not even ask. A maximum of 3 extra credit essays for the semester.

Attendance: If you have no cuts for the whole semester, I will add 3 points to your grade total.

  • Only 1 cut for the whole semester, I will add 2 points to your grade total.
  • Only 2 cuts for the whole semester, I will add 1 point to your grade total.


In all academic writing, then, you must give citations each time you use

  • someone else's ideas
  • someone else's words
  • someone else's phrasing
  • someone else's unusual information.

Further, you show appropriate respect for other writers and thinkers by giving them credit for their ideas, their structures, their phrasings, and their information. In Western culture, not giving credit is an insult as well as an act of dishonesty.

In other words, never take credit for someone else's words, ideas, or style (this prohibition includes material found on the Web). Although the material on the Web is free, you did not create it; someone else thought it, researched it, wrote it-and that someone must be given credit.

There are 4 guidelines for using sources in your academic writing:

  • Unless a professor explicitly requests a paraphrase or unless you are translating a sophisticated technical source into language for the layperson, there is never a good reason to paraphrase a source--either summarize it in your own words or quote it exactly.
  • When you quote, quote exactly, use quotation marks, and cite the source.
  • When you use information that might not be considered common knowledge, cite the source.
  • When in doubt, always give a citation. Citing sources enhances your ethos with your readers.

In sum, your essays should always be your own work (but you are encouraged to seek writing advice from the Writing Center and from workshops). Your essays should always be your new work created specifically for this course. Using work written for other courses will result in an unchangeable zero.

If I so request, you must hand in hard copies of all the sources that you used for writing an essay, as well as your notes and rough drafts. If you cannot produce these materials when requested, the essay will receive a zero and will not be allowed to be replaced by another essay. Also, you are responsible for ensuring that others do not copy your work or submit it as their own.





Below is the course calendar. Each week - with the exception of Weeks 3, 10, and 13 - consists of two class days.

week # topics key dates
1 Introductions Day 2: Written version of speech due

Everyone gives speech in class
2 Rhetoric, Invention, and Ethics  
3 Rhetoric and Speeches Workshop: Sophist Project
4 Rhetoric and Ethics  
5 Ethical Analysis and Ethos  
6 Ethical Argument Day 1: Oral Workshop - Ethical Argument

Day 2: Oral Workshop (cont.)
7 Pathos and Style Day 1: Mandatory Revision of Ethnical Analysis due
8 Rhetorical Analysis Day 2: Workshop - Critical Rhetorical Analysis Essay
9 Rhetoric and Persuasion Day 1: Mandatory Revision of Critical Rhetorical Analysis Essay due
10 Rhetoric and Satire Deadline for Optional Revisions of Sophist Project and/or Ethnical Analysis
11 Rhetorical Analysis Day 1: Workshop - Rhetorical and Ethical Analysis Project

Day 2: Mandatory Revision of Rhetorical and Ethical Analysis due
12 Rhetorical Strategies  
13 Rhetoric of Personal Essays Typed version of speech due

Final speeches begin
14 Conclusion Day 1: Speeches (cont.)

Day 2: Wrap-up activities   Tell A Friend