Rhetoric, Community, and Culture

The Western rhetorical tradition traces its beginnings to Ancient Greek
and Rome where it emerged as a course of study and civic practice over 2000
years ago. Although rhetoric has mostly been formalized as a course of study
following this Western tradition, rhetoric has been practiced by people all
over the world in culturally-grounded ways—after all, despite its dominance and
perceived universality, the western rhetorical tradition is also culturally
bound. While our work in this course will include becoming familiar with the
major theories and theorists in this Western tradition, we will also spend
considerable time looking at how rhetoric is understood and practiced in other
cultural contexts. Throughout, a major theme with be examining how rhetoric functions
within and responds to cultural boundaries, both ideological and geographic. We
will also interrogate what it means to use “rhetoric” as an identifier of the
discursive practices of non-Western peoples, Native Americans and Hawaiians for
example, and consider in what ways doing so reproduces the dominance of the
Western tradition and its corresponding Western culture.


As we examine rhetoric in its various spatial and temporal contexts—an
examination that will begin in Ancient Greece and take us through the
Renaissance and into contemporary times, through Europe and the Americas and
into the Pacific—we will work to situate the rhetorical theories and practices
in social, historical, and political contexts and examine the persuasive
effects of rhetoric in particular communities.


Course Requirements

  • Attendance and participation
  • Several (3-4) short informal responses to readings (1-2 pages)
  • A 5-page essay rhetorically situating a branch of rhetorical theory or
    individual theorist
  • Mid-term and Final exam


Required Texts (available
at UHM Bookstore)

  • Herrick, James A. The History and Theory of Rhetoric 5th Ed.
    Boston: Pearson, 2013. ISBN: 13: 978-0-205-07858-5
  • Additional texts will be available via the internet or as pdf.