Argumentative Writing

Argument and Public Discourse

Arguments are swirling all around us all the time lately. Often they are mean-spirited, with neither side really listening to the other; but these kinds of “arguments” are very different from what was meant by argument among classical thinkers. Argumentation for classical rhetoricians such as Aristotle and Cicero meant the use of language to persuade someone to act in a certain way. This kind of argument is also still at work on different levels all around us—in ads on TV, music on the radio, political speeches, and on the internet. Understanding rhetorical theory—its scope in terms of strategies and how it influences identity construction, the making of meaning, and the mediation of power—is key to evaluating such arguments. In this course, we will look at a variety of forms of public discourse at the international, national, and local level to discover the rhetorical strategies at work, how they attend to the interests of a particular audience, and to ask ourselves what/whose purpose do such persuasive acts serve.

The classical rhetoricians of Ancient Greece believed for one to be a responsible citizen, one must be educated in rhetoric so that he could participate in public deliberations. In the 21st century, it is equally important to understand the arguments bombarding us as it is to construct our own arguments. Thus, in this course, in addition to examining how rhetorical strategies work as a means of persuasion in various texts, we will also practice employing those strategies so as to effectively participate in public discourse. Specifically, we will work throughout the course to understand how such skills can be employed in our own communities to affect/resist change.

Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee’s Ancient Rhetorics For Contemporary Students, 3rd edition. (Available at the UHM bookstore)

And other forms of media accessible through the newspaper, magazines, and Internet.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetoric at work in various forms of public discourse, which includes an understanding of the Rhetorical Situation and Kairos.
  • Demonstrate the ability to produce an argument using the rhetorical appeals.
  • Use knowledge of rhetoric to participate in public discourse confidently and knowledgeably.

Course Requirements

This is a Writing Intensive Course.

  • Attendance and Participation
  • 4 Response Papers (2-3 pages)
  • Critical Rhetorical Analysis (5-6 pages)
  • Final Project to include audience analysis (this will involve some fieldwork in the form of interviews, surveys, etc.) and creation of a multi-media argument (e.g., PSA)
  • Oral Presentation