Argumentative Writing

Argument and Public Discourse

Argument­ is at work all around us—in ads on TV, music on the radio, in political speeches, and on the internet. When rhetoric first gained attention in the western tradition over 2000 years ago, it was considered an essential skill for anyone wishing to engage productively in the social, political, and legal life of a community. Unfortunately, so much of this highly regarded rhetorical act has devolved into yelling and talking over or at another. In this class, our work will be to reclaim argument as an intellectual engagement that involves the rational assemblage of points in such a way so that they are persuasive to a particular audience, and then learn to mobilize this skill to use to our advantage. 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 formulating and evaluating arguments. So, in this course, we will look at a variety of forms of public discourse to uncover the rhetorical strategies at work and to ask ourselves what/whose purpose do such persuasive acts serve, what exactly is being argued, and for whom a particular rhetorical act is persuasive. Through this engagement, we will regularly talk about the act of writing——approaches, processes, styles, and product—our own and that of the texts we encounter

Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee’s Ancient Rhetorics For Contemporary Students, 5th 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.



  • Possibly: 3-4 Short Response Papers (1-2 pages)
  • Critical Rhetorical Analysis of an Existing Argument (5-6 pages)
  • Informal Mini-Presentations on Theoretical Concepts
  • Final Project: Constructing an Argument (as a written text or multi-media)
    Oral Presentation of Final Project