Rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, has a long history going back to ancient Greece and Rome. In ancient times, the study of rhetoric was a prerequisite for participation in political affairs of the polis, or the Greek city-state. For those taking an active part in civic affairs, the ability to identify and evaluate arguments put forth by others and respond appropriately was of crucial importance. Because of this, instruction in rhetoric was part of the trivium of classical education (the other two subjects were grammar and logic). While this tradition still serves as the foundation for current rhetorical studies, our contemporary world is characterized by new communication technologies, which are radically transforming the nature of rhetorical discourse. Where the ancients had to rely primarily on oral communication, today we just as frequently engage in written and even digital forms of communication. We also no longer engage solely with our local communities, but new communication technologies enable us to engage in national and even global debates.
It is the purpose of this course to introduce students to classical rhetoric and its application to civic discourse in the contemporary world. Students in this course will learn to identify and evaluate arguments in their traditional oral and written forms, as well as in their more recent digital and multi-modal forms. Students will further receive plenty of practice in composing arguments that are suitable for a variety of purposes, contexts, and audiences. For the duration of the course, students will closely follow local and national debates covered in the news, which will serve as starting points for their own compositions.
Attendance and participation
Short exploratory essays and reading responses (about 8 total)
Three written arguments (1200-1500 words)
Peer review workshops
Required Text (available at the UHM bookstore)
Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee’s Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students.
Additional readings will be posted on the course website.