This semester (Spring 2018) I am teaching three different courses at Wabash College: RHE 360/GEN 303 (Gender and Communication), RHE 320/CLA 220 (Classical Rhetoric), RHE 101 (Public Speaking). Please see overviews of each course below, as well as hyperlinked syllabi.
RHE 360/GEN 303: Gender and Communication
“Rhetorics of Gender and Sexuality”
How do we communicate gender?
This is the key question that we will work to address this semester in Rhetoric 360. There are few aspects of one’s identity more personal—and, to borrow from the second-wave feminist anthem, political—than gender and sexuality. The ways we perform our gender and enact our sexuality—in spaces both private and public—communicate myriad ideas and values. Our bodies communicate gender and sexuality: from the clothing we wear to the expectations of beauty that we strive to meet. Our institutions, too, are teeming with discourses of gender and sexuality: from our churches to our schools and sports stadiums. Still further, the diverse media of our contemporary moment reaffirms—and, quite often, resists—cultural expectations of gender and sexuality: television, film, video games, music, art, and more are key to the ways we communicate our gender. Rhetoric 360 will dwell with each of these communicative frameworks of gender and sexuality.
This course will invite you to engage in a multitude of different critical processes. We will dwell with historical social movements (e.g., the Gay Liberation movement) and with contemporary manifestations of gendered resistance (e.g., the 2017 Women’s March). We will, too, dwell with key theories of gender and sexuality (e.g., performance, intersectionality) as lenses through which we both communicate our own identities and are rhetorically positioned by others.
To aid in these goals, this course will be largely discussion-based. There will be brief lectures on key historical contexts, theoretical ideas, and disciplinary frameworks. Beyond these we will engage with course readings to make sense of a diverse set of gendered and queer rhetorical artifacts (everything from video games to bar bathrooms). Finally, this course endeavors to create a safe space for discussion—one in which we all feel comfortable drawing upon our personal experiences of gender as grounds for discussion.
RHE 320/CLA 220: Classical Rhetoric
“The Ancients: Histories and Historiographies of Classical Rhetoric”
What’s so great about Aristotle? Or Plato? Or Cicero? You are likely to ask yourself some variation of this question multiple times this semester. The ancients, this course will reveal, have much to teach us about the theory, tradition, and technē (that is, “art,” “skill,” or “craft”) of rhētorikē (“rhetoric”). The classical rhetoricians’ ideas have proved so instrumental in the shaping of history that Wabash’s Rhetoric Department has seen fit to make this course a requirement of the major. Our primary goal this semester is to experience the ancients—to discover the joy, knowledge and, on occasion, pain, that reading their ancient words brings.
This course covers roughly 1000 years of rhetorical history. Most of our time will be spent in the millennium between the 5th century BCE and the 5th century CE. During our fourteen weeks in RHE 320 we will dwell with a variety of theorists of Greek, Roman, and Christian origin. We will also, in so doing, trek across the ancient Mediterranean, with prominent stops in Asia Minor, Athens, Rome, North Africa, and Egypt.
Like the double-helix of a DNA strand, we will work through two, twinned and interconnected threads in this course. On the one hand, we will chart what has been referred to as the historical “canon” of rhetorical theory. Populated with the likes of D.W.M. (“Dead white men” such as Plato and Aristotle; see the two brightly colored lads in Raphael’s painting), this canon was, for centuries, the only account of rhetoric. It was the history of rhetoric. Consider this the “first H.”
Our “second H” will be revealed through a series of historiographic and disciplinary interjections and interludes. These interruptions remind us that the previous accounting of a single history of rhetoric is a fiction. Borrowing from the recovery work of feminist and other contemporary scholars of rhetoric, these historiographies (literally, the “re-writing of history”) of rhetoric reveal the forgotten women (such as the 5th-century BCE rhetorician and teacher, Aspasia, featured in Holiday’s painting) and other rhetors of the ancient world. This course will work to uncover such figures and places overlooked in traditional accountings of rhetorical theory and history.
RHE 101: Public Speaking
Why take a course in public speaking? You may be asking yourself this question currently, or perhaps you have asked it previously. Why, similarly, take a course in Rhetoric? What, exactly, does it mean to speak publicly? What is gained from switching the order of the words in this course? How—and why—should one communicate? These are some of the central questions that we will be addressing this semester.
Whether you strive to be a lawyer or politician, a salesperson or an astronaut, this course is designed to introduce you to theories—both ancient and modern—of rhetoric and public speaking, methods of public speaking and rhetorical criticism, and to give you ample practice in the technē (that is, the “art, skill, or craft”) of public speaking and rhetoric. You will give a number of speeches in this class and, too, you will be asked to write, criticize, declaim, discuss, and deliberate about issues of civic, public, and private importance.
This course is the introductory course in the Rhetoric department. It is important to take note of rhetoric’s status as one of the seven ancient liberal arts. Students, for millennia, have been tasked with developing their capacities for communication, persuasion, argumentation, delivery, and invention. A number of definitions of rhetoric have been proffered over the years, and we will work through several this semester. At its core, however, rhetoric inspires students to hone their critical thinking, listening, writing, and speaking skills—to effectively and ethically engage with, as Thomas B. Farrell has argued, “what matters” (“Sizing Things Up,” 1).
The study of rhetoric also necessitates an active engagement in issues of public importance, both contemporary and historical. This course, as an introduction to both public speaking and the Rhetoric major/minor at Wabash, encompasses each of these components. You will speak, write, listen, and engage in issues of civic, democratic importance in this course.