This course will
trace what happened to rhetoric during various literary historical eras in
order to demonstrate how an awareness of rhetorical theory can lead to a fuller
appreciation of literary poetics during those eras.


The course will
have two major parts. In the first part, about half the semester, we will first
investigate the rhetoric/poetics nexus via considering Plato and Aristotle, both
of whom had a great deal to say about rhetoric and poetics. We will then seek
to explore the presence of classical (and other) rhetoric in at least four
texts: Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,
Shakespeare’s Othello, Milton’s Paradise Lost (selections), and Swift’s A Modest Proposal. In the course’s
second part, also about half a semester, we will bring our investigation of the
nexus between rhetoric and poetics up to the present via texts that members of
the class will choose. Students will also write their long independent research
paper on a text of their own choosing.

This is a
writing-intensive course that will feature regular class discussion. Required
reading not listed below may be available to download and print via Laulima.
But such texts are also readily available online, in the library, and in
anthologies such as the Norton.


Course Requirements

  • Steady attendance and active participation
  • Informal oral reports to the class
  • Informal writing assignments posted to the
    class’s Laulima site
  • A midterm essay on a pre-1900 text not discussed
    in class
  • Peer-editing/workshopping of the long research
  • Long research essay (and a brief oral
    presentation to the class on it)
  • Final exam = a retrospective essay (student
    choice: take home or in class)


Required Texts

  • Thomas M. Conley, Rhetoric in the European Tradition
  • Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Hertzberg, eds., The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present, 2nd edition