Introduction to Rhetoric

ENG 300 is typically a “survey” course that introduces students to a canonical history of rhetorical theory and practice. Many key figures of ancient history are necessarily read and discussed, from Aristotle and Plato to Quintilian and Cicero. It is designed to give students a foundational overview and some historical grounding in the field, and as such the course will satisfy the pre-1700 requirement for ENG majors.

At the same time, however, challenges to that canonical history have arisen over time, ones that include figures studying and/or practicing the art of rhetoric from the margins of traditional power structures.  So we will look at those, too.

Finally, “rhetoric” has moved from being understood commonly as “persuasive discourse” to being understood much more broadly and deeply, as a social dimension of action, knowledge, and identity. With that in mind, we will look at how rhetoric is manifested in popular culture–in social media online, in TV and movies, in old and new media content up to and including the beginning of the 21st century.

In the course, then, you will read foundational material in rhetorical history and theory, you will informally write about it in a series of blog posts for the class, and we will discuss the readings and your thoughts in class Zoom sessions and in asyncrhronous exchanges online. In addition, you will consume (watch/view/read) new media popular culture forms of rhetoric and discuss and/or write about those as well. Finally, there will be a mid-term and take-home exam.

All readings will be provided for free via PDF posted to our course website.  You may find the need to pay for a movie or TV show once or twice on Youtube or Amazon, so that might come to a maximum of $25.  That will be your only cost for this course.