A History and Theory of Rhetoric

Like words in sentence, we are useless without each other.
                                                                       I.A. Richards

The art of rhetoric has a long and diverse history in western culture.  Finding its beginnings in political advocacy and education we can follow rhetoric’s historical progression as a history of persuasion and, in the process, a study of the human animal as a languaged being destined to make and re-make a secure cultural environment through the processes of symbolic action and terministic dialogue.  From its recognized beginnings in ancient Greece, its profound place in the Roman Senate and education system, and on into our current post-industrial environment,  rhetoric continues to address the symbolic action of advocacy and education that form the basis of our cultural existence.   

 From a practical perspective, this course is designed for students who will use and/or teach rhetorical strategies and structures in the professional world.  From speech and communication theory to the teaching of critical and interpretational writing and reading, an understanding of rhetoric’s place in the history of ideas will help you see the “big picture” of rhetorical studies and the relative historical chain of events that has brought us into the political and deeply dialogic world we live in.


On line materials:
PBS Frontline Series

Notes on Gorgias

Longinus, On the Sublime

Burke, Definition of Man


Required Texts and Materials:
The History and Theory of Rhetoric.  James A Herrick.  Allyn and Bacon, 2001.
The Rhetorical Tradition.  Herzberg and Bizzell.  St Martin’s Press.  2001.
An active UWP Email account.

Process Response Journal: A Commonplace Book  
Each student will be required to maintain a current reading journal.  Rather than simple summary, I will expect you to maintain a progressive conversation of your ever-changing view and understanding of rhetoric relative to assigned readings and class discussion.  All entries will be one full page single-spaced.

Midterm Exam  
Midterm exam will be a take-home essay assignment.  I will supply a clear assignment guide with rubric.

Final Exam  
Final exam will be an in class writing assignment

Papers -- Two  papers will be required:
Paper one will comprise a dialogue on the nature of truth between the Sophists, Plato, and Aristotle.  All references will be taken from our readings and handouts.  Length: 5 to 7 pages.

Paper two will  be a persuasive research-supported essay that will discuss a rhetorical problem from the perspective of at least three of our featured rhetoricians.   Length: 8 to 10 pages

Graduate Credit:
Students taking this course for graduate credit will submit a research project of no fewer than 15 pages.   Projects will offer a deep study of a particular rhetorical school or rhetoric's application to the student's field of study.   All topics must be discussed with me in conference for approval.

Evaluation Schedule:

  • Journal                       20%
  • Midterm                     20%   
  • Final                           15%
  • Short dialogue paper  10%
  • Research essay           25%
  • Participation               10%

On Plagiarism and Cheating
Plagiarism is the uncited use of another's writing or ideas as your own.  This could mean copying work from a book or magazine article or it could mean using the work's ideas in your own words.  Plagiarism is, in all of its variations, intellectual theft--you are stealing someone else's ideas, someone else's work.  If I discover plagiarism in anyone's work, I will automatically fail that person for the assignment in which the plagiarism occurs.

·         Cheating on assignments, exams, quizzes, tests, etc. will bring the same consequences as plagiarism--a failing grade for the assignment at hand.  Turning in someone else's work as your own is a grave offense.  Recycling papers from other classes is, unless cleared by me, considered cheating in this class.  If you are accused of plagiarism or cheating, it is your responsibility to prove otherwise.

Simply put: BE HERE!!  Although I will accept three excused absences, anything beyond this (excused or not) will put your final grade at risk.  5 absences will lower your final grade by one full letter; 7 absences and you will fail the class.  As noted above, I have designated 10% of your final grade toward being here as well as your active participation in class discussions and collaborative exercises.  Being a student means taking an active part in your education.  Talk it up! Get loud! Be a part of us!

Late Work
Simply put: I do not accept late work unless previous arrangements have been made.  You may not make up late work unless we have made prior arrangements.  As well, if you are absent on the day I hand back assignments it is your responsibility to make a conference appointment in order to receive your work.




Reading Schedule

I  Week one
An Overview of Rhetoric

  • Rhetoric and Persuasion
  • Defining Rhetoric
  • The Nature of Rhetorical Discourse
  • Social Functions and the Art of Rhetoric

Herrick: 1-23
Rhetorical Tradition 19-24

One page journal entry: Your response to what to what you see as pertinent in our reading assignment and class discussion.  Be sure to use references from your text and/or class notes.

II   Week two and three
The Origins and Early History of Rhetoric

  •   The Rise of Rhetoric in Ancient Greece
  •   The Sophists
  •  Apasia and the role of Women in Ancient Greek Rhetoric

Herrick 31-47
Rhetorical Tradition

  • Encomium of Helen (Gorgias) 40-42  
  • Against the Sophists (Isocrates) 43-49
  • Antidosis (Isocrates) 50-54

1.    One page journal entry:  Discuss your understanding of the sophistic view of truth with regard to advocacy. Be sure to use references from your text and/or             class notes
2.    Write a one pager that addresses one of our three readings

III  Weeks four and five
Plato V the Sophists
a.    Socrates v Polus: Rhetoric as Power
b.    Socrates v Callicles:
c.    Is Plato Fair to the Sophists?
d.    Rhetoric in Plato’s Phaedrus:  A True Art?
e.    Components of a Techne of Rhetoric
Rhetorical Tradition
Phaedrus (Plato)  113-143 (I would prefer you read the Fowler translation in our text)

One page journal entry:  Your response to Plato’s Socrates’ (Phaedrus) view of rhetoric with regard to sophism.  Be sure to use references from your text and/or class notes

IV  Weeks five and six
Aristotle on Rhetoric

a.    Rhetoric and Dialectic
    The Rhetorical Settings:
1.     Deliberative
2.     Epideictic
    The Artistic Proofs

Rhetorical Tradition
Selected excerpts from Aristotle’s Rhetoric TBA

One page journal entry:  Note and discuss the differences between Aristotle’s and Plato’s rhetorical positions. Be sure to use references from your text and/or class notes

V   Week seven
The Romans
a.    Historical – Cultural Overview:  The Rhetoric of Politics, Power and Education
b.    Cicero

93- 114
Rhetorical Tradition
Excerpts from:
De Oratore (Cicero)  All of Book I
Institutes of Oratory (Quintillian) : BOOK II  (Chp I – II)   (Chp IV – V)   (Chp VIII)   (Chp XIV to Chp XX)

One page journal entry:   Choose one of the rhetoricians from our readings and identify/discuss how your rhetor represents a Roman World-View.  Be sure to use references from your text and/or class notes

VI  Week eight
Rhetoric in Christian Europe

The Renaissance
a.    From the medieval era to the Renaissance: An Overview
b.    Women and Renaissance Rhetoric
    Italian Humanism
    The Turn Toward Dialectic: Rhetoric and the Critics
1.    Agricola
2.    Peter Ramus
121-131 and 145 - 164

Rhetorical Tradition
From the Advancement of Learning (Bacon) 625 - 630

Writing: Choose one
1.    One page journal entry:  Why were things so quiet in the medieval era? Be sure to use references from your text and/or class notes.

2.    One page journal entry:  Discuss how the Renaissance revived rhetoric.  Be sure to use references from your text and/or class notes.

VII  Week nine
The Enlightenment: The move toward a rhetoric of the written word
a.    An Overview – Defining the Enlightenment
     British Rhetoric – 18th century
Scientism – Campbell
Belletrism -- Blair
Neo-Classical – Whately
Rhetorical Tradition
Excerpts from:
Campbell  749 – 755
Blair  796 - 802
Whately  828 - 836

One page journal entry:  Align one of the rhetoricians discussed in this chapter with the general consensus of Enlightenment thought.  Be sure to use references from your text and/or class notes

VIII  Week ten
The Rhetoric of Situation, Drama, Narration
a.    Rhetoric and Social Context
    Kenneth Burke and Rhetoric/Language as Symbolic Action
    Terminstic Screens
b.    The Pentad
b.    The Rhetorical Situation
    Lloyd Bitzer


Lakoff and Johnson: from Metaphors We Live By
Luntz Playbook
Lakoff - Simple Framing
Lakoff - Framing the Dems

Rhetorical Tradition (and Handouts)
Selections from Kenneth Burke:
Language as Symbolic Action 1034 - 1041
Definition of Man  (handout)
The Psychology of Form
Lloyd Bitzer
The Rhetorical Situation (handout)

One page journal entry:  Discuss how Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical theory addresses the ideas put forth by Bitzer and his concept of the rhetorical situation.   Be sure to use references from your text and/or class notes

Optional assignment:  Discuss how Burke and Bitzer represent Greek rhetorical ideals.

IX    Weeks eleven and twelve
The Feminization of Rhetoric: Women in 20th Century Rhetoric and Rhetorical Studies
a.    Anne Berthoff
    Patricia Bizzell
    Andrea Lundsford
    James Berlin

Selected handouts TBA

Revisiting the History and Culture of Rhetoric: A Review
Research workshop
Journal reviews
Peer response
Outcomes seminar: how much did we learn?
A final word

Handout:   James Berlin:  Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Class.