Intro.Composition & Rhetoric (CR)

A survey of
Composition and Rhetoric (CompRhet) presents interesting challenges considering
that this concentration is actually made up of two fields: Rhetoric as a field
of study in the Western Tradition traces its roots to Ancient Greece and Rome
and is strongly associated with civic practice; and Composition, a relatively
young field, established a foothold in the late 1800s at Harvard University and
really began flourishing as a subject of scholarly interest beginning with the
open enrollment initiatives of the 1970s. Despite their different histories,
the two fields are often combined into one disciplinary focus because of their
inherent interaction. Rhetoric has given us theories for analyzing and applying
effective means of persuasion, understanding how meaning is made, and
recognizing and dismantling discursive practices. Implicit in these acts is
some kind of composing whether the composition is written, visual, or oral;
being analyzed or produced; acting or being acted upon. And Composition, a
discipline that focuses on writing pedagogy and research, particularly how to
effectively teach students to write for certain audiences in different genres
and to various ends, necessarily draws from rhetorical theory in laying the
foundational structure for this work.

One of the goals
of the course will be to demonstrate an understanding of why these two fields
are commonly treated as one and articulate this relationship within the two
thousand year-old canon informing ComRhet. We will begin this work in Ancient
Greece and Rome with the theorists and practitioners who have impacted Western
thought for over two thousand years (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Quintilian,
and Cicero). How the rhetoric of a specific period and place reflects the life,
culture, and thinking of the people will be another focus as we move through
the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and into the Modern Era. An
understanding of rhetoric as having an epistemic function will provide the
foundation for situating the emergence of Composition as a disciplinary focus
in the latter half of the 20th Century within the changing attitudes
about class, race, and gender equality. We will then prepare for final projects
by looking at current scholarship in the field to identify thematic trends,
such as activist research, place-based pedagogy, indigenous and minority
rhetorics, and technical writing.



  • Weekly
    Responses to Readings (posted online)
  • An
    abstract proposal for a presentation (either individual or part of a panel)
  • A
    short paper prepared for a 20-minute conference presentation
    (We will use the guidelines for the Conference on College Composition and
    Communication as a heuristic for the abstract and conference paper).
  • A
    final research project, represented in a 20-25 page paper prepared for


Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg, eds. The Rhetorical
,  2nd ed. Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2000.

Villanueva, Victor and Kristin Arola, eds. Cross-Talk in
Composition Theory
, 3rd ed. NCTE, 2011.

Additional readings will be either uploaded online or provided as