COMM 6500/COML 5660 Fall 2002                                                                                                                                                                                           

MW  2-3:30, HLMS 77                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

G. A. Hauser, Hellems 86                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Office hours: M 11:00 - 12:00, Tu 11:00 – 12:00, and by appt.                                                                                                                                               



Readings in Rhetoric: Comparative Systems and Theories of Rhetoric



1.                   8/26                   Introduction


2.                   8/28                   How to think about theories of rhetoric                           Reading:  P. Albert Duhamel, “The Function of Rhetoric as Effective Expression;” Douglas

                                                                                                                                                                                Ehninger, “On Systems of Rhetoric;” Nancy S. Struever, “The Background of

                                                                                                                                                                                Humanist Historical Language:  The Quarrel of Philosophy and Rhetoric,” see



3-6.               9/4-9/16            Plato                                                                                                       Gorgias, Encomium; and Isocrates,  Against the Sophists, in Bizzell & Herzberg (B&H);

                                                                                                                                                                                                Martha Nussbaum, “The Protagoras: a science of practical reasoning,” and “Interlude I:  Plato’s anti-tragic theater,” see Readings; Plato, 7th Letter, handout; Gorgias and Phaedrus (B&H).


7.                   9/18                   Plato problems and studies                                                                Think paper of 3-5 pages (typed, double spaced).

                                                                                                                                                                                See guidelines below.  Papers will be presented and discussed in class.


8-12.             9/23-10/7          Aristotle                                                                                                                Rhetoric; Nussbaum, “Non-scientific deliberation,” see Readings.


13.                 10/9                   Aristotle problems and studies                                                         Think paper on Aristotle’s Rhetoric according to the guidelines below.                


14.                 10/14 Enlightenment Overview                                                                    E. L. Tuveson, The Imagination as a Means of Grace, Ch. 1, and Gerard A. Hauser,

                                                                                                                                                                                “Empiricism, Description, and the New Rhetoric,” see Readings.


15-16.           10/16-10/21       George Campbell                                                                                  The Philosophy of Rhetoric (B&H).


Progress report on final paper due October 23


17.                 10/23 Campbell problems and studies                                                         Think paper on Campbell’s The Philosophy of Rhetoric according to the guidelines



18.                 10/28 20th Century:  prefigures and overview                                           Vico, from On The Study Methods of Our Time (B&H), Selected Writings, see Reader;

                                                                                                                                                                                Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense;”  Richards, from

                                                                                                                                                                                Philosophy of Rhetoric; and Weaver, “Language is Sermonic” (B&H).


19.                 10/30 Mikhail Bakhtin                                                                                    From Marxism and the Philosophy of Language and The Problem of Speech Genres



Book review due November 4


20-24.           11/4-11/18        Kenneth Burke                                                                                     From A Grammar of Motives, Language as Symbolic Action (B&H); A Rhetoric of

Motives; Maurice Charland, “Constitutive Rhetoric: The Case of the Peuple Québécois,” see Reader



25                  11/20 Kenneth Burke problems and studies                                              Think paper on Burke’s Rhetoric of Motives according to the guidelines below.                         

NB:  This period (25) to be rescheduled due to NCA conflict.


26.                 11/25 Ch. Perelman & L. Olbrechts-Tyteca                                                From The New Rhetoric, The Realm of Rhetoric, The New Rhetoric: A Theory of                                                                                                                                                                                         Practical Reasoning (B&H).

NB:  Nov 27 is listed as a Friday class.


27.               12/2                     Virginia Woolf/Hélène Cixous                                                           A Room of One’s Own, Chapter Five, and “The Laugh of Medusa” (B&H).


28.               12/4                     Jürgen Habermas                                                                                 “On Systematically Distorted Communication,”  “Towards a Theory of                                                                                                                                                                                                         Communicative Competence,” and “The Public Sphere,” see Readings.


29.                 12/9                   Michel Foucault                                                                                   From The Archeology of Knowledge, and “The Order of Things” (B&H).


30.                 12/11 Concluding thoughts                                                                          Robert Hariman, from Political Style, Chapter Six; and Gerard Hauser, from Vernacular

                                                                                                                                                                                 Voices, Chapter Nine, see Reader



Course Description


This seminar is intended to introduce students to historically significant models of rhetoric with an eye toward their value and applicability in the present day.  Rhetoric has been a subject of scholarly reflection and instruction in the Western tradition since the fifth century BCE.  The concerns of this tradition have been strongly influenced by the changing forces of significant philosophical, political, and social developments and by the pragmatic roles that they accorded language and discourse.  At the same time, rhetoric has retained a continuous concern for how discourses influences social and political life.  Originally these concerns were confined to politics, the courts, and the affairs of state.  These were later extended to the pulpit and epistolary forms, and during the modern period to letters.  Today those who are writing about rhetoric come from the broad spectrum of the humanities and social sciences, in which there is a growing discussion about the role of rhetorical discourse in social practices, intellectual practices, and discourse in general irrespective of context or setting.


In this seminar we will consider significantly influential theories of rhetoric in terms of the system of presuppositions and historical circumstances that conditioned each and as comparative models for scholarly inquiry into the constitutive dimensions of discourse, including the ways by which discourse constitutes social and political relations of knowledge and power.  The seminar is organized historically, and emphasizes close reading of major theoretical texts rather than survey.  Members of the seminar will write several smaller papers in the comparative mode and one major research paper.  The major systems/theories of rhetoric to be examined will include those of Plato, Aristotle, George Campbell, and Kenneth Burke.  Developments of the twentieth century will receive focused attention during the last half of the seminar.



Course Requirements:


·                     Three think papers of 3-5 pp. each, typed and double-spaced.  They should contain the kernel of your analysis of the primary text.  They should develop their analysis with reference to an interpretation raised in one of the secondary sources read.  You should be prepared to elaborate on your paper in class discussion.


·                     One 2000-word book review of a history of rhetoric.  Texts to be assigned.  Due on or before November 4.


·                     One research paper, approx. 15pp., typed and double-spaced, due December 2.  The assignment is described below under “Research Paper.”


·                     One exam:  a comprehensive final. 


·                     Class participation:  students are expected to attend class, to have completed the assigned reading prior to class, and to contribute to class discussion in ways that indicate critical reflection on the theories studied and rhetorical theory generally.



Student Evaluation:


·         Major paper:                                 35%

·         Portfolio                                         20%

·         Final:                                              25%

·         Class Participation                       10%

·         Book Review                                 10%


The grade for portfolio will be based on your “think papers.”  These papers will be commented on as they are turned in.  You are to return the portfolio with each subsequent assignment and at the end of the course.  At that time a final grade will be assigned, based on the overall quality of your work and with emphasis on your improvement in meeting the assignment.


The grade for class participation will be based on your contribution to class discussion.


N.B.        Normally, I will not give deferred grades.  It is important that you complete assignments on time.  If you sense a problem completing your work by the end of the semester, you should see me as soon as the problem is evident.



Course texts:


Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg, The Rhetorical Tradition, 2d ed.


Aristotle, On Rhetoric, trans. George Kennedy.


Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives



Office Hours:


I have set aside Monday and Tuesday from 11 – 12 for office hours and by appt.  I do hope you will visit me during office hours to discuss the theories we will be considering and your own thinking about rhetoric.  The more we discuss our common subject, the more intelligible and interesting it will become.



Think Paper:


Theoretical discussion can get carried away with abstractions and we can lose sight of the concrete experiences the theory supposedly explains.  To overcome this temptation, we will pause at several junctures to apply some dimension of the theory we have been discussing to a real communication event.  Our concerns include what the theory will permit us to say, how this stacks up against alternative rhetorical frameworks, and the value of our findings.


At the end of our discussion of Plato and at four other times during the semester we will devote a period to entertain your “think pieces.” So that we may have a common frame of reference, our concrete text will be Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “After Ten Years.”  Bonhoeffer was a leading and radical theologian of his time.  He was active in the resistance against Hitler, which involved him in act of duplicity and overt plots of violence.  “After Ten Years” was written at Christmas 1942 for Gen. Claus Oster and Hans von Dohnyani, who were collaborators with him in subversive activities against the Nazi regime, his friend Eberhardt Bethge, and his parents, whose copy he had hidden in the rafters of their home.  He was arrested shortly thereafter.  Although never formally charged, he was kept in prison and was hanged on April 9, 1945, for his part in the failed assassination attempt against Hitler.  The letter is concerned with the question of whether those who were opposing Hitler’s Nazi regime had accomplished anything after a decade of resistance and, more importantly, whether they had any moral ground to stand on.  You will wish to gather additional background on Bonhoeffer and the activities in which he was a collaborator. 


Your paper is to develop an argument that tests the theory or, better, some aspect of the theory we have been most recently considering.  Your paper should, therefore, develop this aspect of your reflection.  For example, it may focus on what the theory permits us to say about Bonhoeffer’s appeals; or how Bonhoeffer’s rhetoric gives insight into some aspect of the theory; or how his performances escapes the theory, indicating a serious theoretical gap; or countless other themes that help us assess the strengths and weaknesses of a theory’s efficacy as an account of rhetorical transactions.  At least suggestively (you may wish to do more), you are to bring in one other theorist already considered to clarify how the main theory you are writing about stands in relationship to others.


Keep in mind that we are testing theories, not engaging in rhetorical criticism of Bonhoeffer’s comments.  Hence your paper should make clear at the outset the point you wish to establish about the theory.  The final paragraph should offer some reasoned evaluation on the “so what?” of it all.



Research Paper:


Your research paper must deal with one or more of the theorists considered in the course.  Your focus may be on a problem of interpretation of doctrine, of application of doctrine, of theoretical development growing from a doctrine, of historical relationships to other doctrines, including significant rhetorical theories not considered in the course, or other suitable, theory-based topics.  (That is to say, I do not wish you to write a critical study of some body of discourse.)  Your papers are to demonstrate a careful reading of relevant texts and a developing familiarity with salient secondary literature.  The final paper will be due in class December 2.  Early submission is gratefully accepted.


To avoid “spinning our wheels” we need to keep in touch on your projects.  Hence, you are to submit a statement of topic and progress on paper by period 17, or October 23.  It would be a good idea if we discussed your projects prior to October 23 so we both may be on the same page.