Intr to Composition & Rhetoric

ENG 625c, sec 001

Mondays, 3:30-6:00pm

The two poles of “rhetoric” and “composition” are not united easily, even for the seasoned practitioner who is working in a particular institutional context and according to competing disciplines’ conceptions of how to teach [and] what counts as “good” writing. However, the two poles seem far less autonomous today, when newer turns in the field are toward embodied, new materialist, and (what might be the larger category of) “ecologies” of writing. These turns attend to place and space, bodies and objects, contexts and power, subjectivities and ethics.

This course will identify a few key ethical questions that have haunted the discipline for at least 2000 years and, then, leap forward into this newer turn toward ecologies to accomplish a few goals:

  1. to show how the separation of rhetoric and composition is not only superficial but unproductive;
  2. to explore how the Ancients and scholars working in the field today were both interested in a richer, more complex world that can be explained in terms of ecologies;
  3. to consider what this different (ancient, but also post-postmodern) conception of the world demands of us as we consider our ethical responsibilities to the discipline, to other living and nonliving beings, to our students, to writing, and even to the environmental crises we find ourselves in today, thanks, in part, to binary and hierarchical world views.

I hope that the course will not only introduce students to key values and practices that are celebrated and revised across centuries and cultures in the field, but that it will offer ways to connect, to bring different disciplinary interests into conversation with those values and practices and with the field’s history. In short, I hope that it will support our efforts toward an interdisciplinary graduate program.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. To identify a few versions of the history of the field;
  2. To explore recent turns in the field toward ecologies of writing, as well as what those turns might mean for the ways in which we write and teach writing;
  3. To reflect on the values and practices that have been and that are becoming central to the field of Rhetoric and Composition;
  4. To explore connections between students’ disciplinary and teacherly interests within the context of the field of Rhetoric and Composition;
  5. To create “a conversation” that emerges out of scholarly discourse in Rhetoric and Composition and to enter into that conversation in compelling ways in research-based writings.

Possible Assignments:

Students will share reading responses with me throughout much of the semester so that I can help them navigate the denser readings and help them explore and identify a topic for their final projects.

They will work in pairs and small groups to offer presentations on assigned readings, framed within larger questions/issues, so that they will be encouraged to take more ownership of the course content and work.

They will prepare a short presentation, as part of the department’s colloquia, on the theme of The Environment.

They will be required to share a literature review in the last half of the semester and to share drafts of their final projects toward the end of the semester.

The final project will be a scholarly paper that could be revised for publication.

Possible Texts:

Week 1: Gorgias, Encomium of Helen + Intros on Gorgias and on Classical Rhetoric from Bizzell and Herzberg’s Rhetorical Tradition

Week 2: Plato, Phaedrus

Weeks 3-5: Aristotle, On Rhetoric (excerpts) and On the Soul

Weeks 6-7: Johnstone, Listening to the Logos: Speech and the Coming of Wisdom in Ancient Greece

Week 8-9: Vitanza, Negation, Subjectivity, and the History of Rhetoric

Weeks 10-11: Selzer and Crowley, Rhetorical Bodies

Week 12: Hawhee, Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw

Week 13: Dobrin and Weisser, Natural Discourse

Weeks 14-15: Cooper, The Animal Who Writes

(Week 16: group conferences for final papers)