Argumentative Writing I

If you’re
quite young and very lucky, chances are you haven’t had to do a great deal of
argumentative writing. If you’re heading into a career which will require you
to work effectively with other people, chances are the skills you’ll pick up in
this course will be some of the most useful you’ll ever learn. 

Aristotle, for instance, says that if we wish to work
effectively with others we will need “1) to reason logically, 2) to understand
human character and goodness in their various forms, and 3) to understand the
emotions—that is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the
way they are excited.” Aristotle is talking here about appeals to logos,
and pathos, three bases of classical argument
which writers and rhetors in (arguably) all media, all disciplines, and
throughout Western history have consciously elaborated, refined, and mined.

Through our readings and discussions this semester, we’ll
interrogate the implications and powers of such seemingly simple notions as logos,
and pathos. We’ll acquire an
extensive vocabulary of rhetorical tropes that appeal to these bases; then
we’ll analyze, discuss, and respond to manipulations of language, image, music,
food, nature, genre, product, technology, and the information/entertainment
media that we see (or suspect of being) around us.

Since this is a writing-intensive course, you’ll be writing
many classical and creative exercises in class: ethopoeia, eidolopoeia, copia, enargeia,
collaborative writing, and so on.
You’ll contribute to our e-mail forum on Laulima by posting weekly an informal
300-word summary/ reaction letter to our readings and discussions.

In addition, this course requires
four four-page essays which will be workshopped in class, graded, and
rewritten. The essays include (1) a rhetorical analysis of a recent political
speech or act; (2) a critical response to that political speech with a one-page
cover memo explaining your rhetorical approach; (3) a rhetorical analysis of a
popular song’s performance: its lyrics, looks, music(s), means, and messages;
(4) a researched response to a recent editorial from a major (online) newspaper
with a one-page cover memo explaining your rhetorical approach. Each student
will do two ten-minute team presentations analyzing a public statement of that
group’s choosing. We will conference individually at mid-semester to review our
work together and to decide on a topic for a fifth essay of five pages which
will take the place of a final exam. The fifth essay, which you will explain to
the class in a ten-minute presentation, will be both a rhetorical analysis of
and a researched response to a public issue or statement. This essay will also
include a cover memo explaining your rhetorical approach.

Final grades will be determined by the following criteria:

  • E-mail forum (20%)
  • Quizzes (announced) (10%)
  • Team discussions (10%)
  • Four essays with rewrites (40%)
  • Fifth essay with presentation and rewrite (20%)

EDITION) by Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee. Available at the UH Bookstore and