According to Thomas Miller
“the rhetorical tradition is a fiction that has just about outlasted its
usefulness.” He makes this argument
because it is difficult for us to decide whose work, amongst all the persuasive
writers and speakers in the world, to study. We must ask ourselves whose work
best exemplifies the art of persuasive writing and why. In this course, we will
examine the work of a group of writers most often included in “the rhetorical
tradition.” However, we will also ask ourselves how this canon of rhetoricians
has evolved. Not only will we study the work of these rhetors to glean their
insights on the process of writing persuasively, but we will also ask ourselves
why these authors are often included in survey courses on rhetoric. Which
writers have been the focus of study on persuasive writing and why? How has the
rhetorical canon shifted over the years? Whose work continues to be excluded
Thus throughout this course we
will not only study “the rhetorical tradition,” we will also examine how this
tradition has been constructed and reconstructed over time and how we think it
ought to be constructed in the future. As we do so, we will reflect on the
historical and cultural situations that influenced these writers’ understanding
of what persuasive writing ought to look like.
We will begin with the study of classical rhetoric, examining insights
on the art of argumentation from the work of rhetors such as Gorgias,
Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. We will continue with a historical survey
that includes medieval rhetoricians (such as St. Augustine and Boethius);
Renaissance rhetors (including Christine de Pisan, Erasmus, and Bacon);
Enlightenment rhetoric (such as the work of Margaret Fell, Sarah Grimke,
Campbell, and Blair); and finally twentieth-century rhetoric (including work by
Martin Luther King, Kenneth Burke, Toulmin, Foucault, Derrida, Cixous, Henry
Louis Gates and Gloria Anzuldua.).
There will be a midterm, a
final, and a few short papers/quizzes.
(Available at UH Bookstore)
Timothy. Rhetorical Theory: An Introduction. Waveland P, 2011.
A. The History and Theory of
Rhetoric. 5th ed. Prentice Hall, 2012.