Argument I

Course Overview (Rationale and

In ancient Greece and Rome, the very
center of education was the study of persuasion–or rhetoric–because it
was believed to be a necessary skill for citizens to obtain for participation
in public deliberations. Citizenship and argumentation thus went hand in hand,
and they were the backbone of democracy. Today is not so different: current
scholars of rhetoric maintain that a primary goal of education in language arts
is “civic discourse,” the term commonly used to reference discussion,
negotiation, and persuasion among citizens in a shared public forum about
communal matters. The difference, however, between now and ancient times is
that our public forums have radically changed, as have our notions of
citizenship: discussions now happen among relative strangers in print and
online, and those discussions circulate around the globe almost
instantaneously. This is certainly due to new communications technologies, but
it’s also a phenomenon that is integrally bound to globalization. Much of our
civic discourse these days is necessarily about national and global issues, as
environmental, cultural, political, and economic concerns often involve players
and commentators from across the nation, not to mention from multiple countries
around the planet.

Thus in this course you will explore
and apply theories of classical rhetoric, reading and writing as a scholar of
rhetoric and as a citizen actively invested in specific issues that are both
local and national (and potentially international). While some of what you
write will be private or for the class only, some of these writings will also
be public: you will write and publish arguments as freelance commentators on a
webzine that we will collectively develop; you might also have the
option of submitting your writings to established online venues.  (Do know
that, if you are concerned about public writing, you may choose to use a pseudonym
or write anonymously.)

Assignments and Evaluation:

  • Daily
    Updates (10/100)
    On a regular basis, you will
    be required to post updates and/or responses to updates as a means of
    recording and reflecting on current events. This will be done in a social
    networking site for the class.
  • Short Exploratory Essays 
    Approximately once to twice per week you will be required
    to write a short, semi-formal essay that you will post to our class blogsite.
    You will write approximately 6-10 of these during the course. The essays will
    be about 500-700 words each, and they will be written in response to a prompt
    about the subject matter we are exploring at that time. Usually (though perhaps
    not always) they will be responses you write to readings in our class textbook.
  • Written
    Public Arguments–Blogging (60/100)
    You will
    produce three substantive commentary essays (20 points each) on public
    issues that you are following. These will be arguments that will be
    published on a public blog/zine we produce.


In addition to intensive reading of
online articles on a daily basis, you will be required to use the following

Sharon and Hawhee, Debra: Ancient
Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, 5th edition
.  (Note that we will be using the 5th
edition; please do not purchase an earlier version. An electronic version will
be available for a lower price.)