Fall 2017 (Wabash College)

RHE 220: Persuasion
“Persuasion and Society:
A Survey in History, Theory, and Practice”

Course Description:

What is persuasion? What is rhetoric? How do both inform our cultures and societies? What are the connections, similarities, and differences between these terms? These are the central questions that we will work to answer this semester. This is a survey course and, as such, is designed to provide a broad view of the different theories, methods, media, arenas, and artifacts of persuasion and rhetoric. While much of our focus will thus be directed at covering a breadth of ideas and concepts, we will also be working for depth of knowledge each and every day.

We will work through six units in this course that, respectively, cover (1) ancient and contemporary definitions and approaches to persuasion; (2) technologies and rhetorical methods of persuasion as they apply to both publics and counterpublics; (3) political campaigns, including focuses on conventions, advertisements, and debates; (4) identity and social movements, including case studies on Women’s, LGBTQ, and Civil Rights; (5) persuasion in practice, with discussions touching on other areas and media of persuasion, including marketing, art, health, and drama; and (6) persuasion and global rhetorics, which will feature case studies from Mexico, Argentina, Egypt, Qatar, the Maldives, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, and Syria.

This course is, as such, designed to introduce students to the foundations of persuasion as expressed within both the ancient and contemporary rhetorical traditions. Moreover, it invites students to further develop their specific areas of interest in Rhetoric, whether it be the study of visual texts, fiction, the digital, or international rhetorics (to name just a few).


RHE 101: Public Speaking

Course Description:

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.