Introduction to Composition & Rhetoric

Wednesday 3:15-5:45

Despite a robust body of scholarship in both Composition and Rhetoric, the two fields are often combined into one disciplinary focus in the academy because of their inherent interdependance. 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 emerged in response to increasing diversity in the academy with its focus on writing pedagogy and research that explores how to effectively work with all writers, necessarily draws from rhetorical theory in laying the foundational structure for this work. Shared by both fields is a commitment to civic action, and an overarching goal of this course will be to interrogate how and the extent to which different approaches in the field address that commitment.

While we will engage with the intersection between composition and rhetoric throughout the course, the majority of our focus will be on rhetoric. We will begin the course with a brief overview of the history and evolution of rhetoric beginning in Ancient Greece and Rome with Aristotle, Quintilian, and Cicero, then quickly move through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and into the Modern Era. We will then engage with more contemporary contributions by scholars of Native American and Pacific rhetorics and cultural rhetorics, with close attention as to how these projects attend to social justice concerns, especially in terms of language and literacy practices. 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. As we move through these different periods and trajectories, our work will be guided by the ethical considerations that address each of our own commitments as practitioners and researchers.

Student Learning Outcomes:
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate:

an ability to historicize Composition and Rhetoric studies within academia and as a response to political and social movements.

an understanding of the varied areas of research and practice in the field, their intersections, and how they can facilitate civic action.

an ability to critically situate research, both one’s own and other’s, within scholarly conversations.

an ability to produce scholarly discourse in response to current conversations in the field and in appropriate genres (abstract, conference proceeding, article)

Possible Assignments:

Periodic (3-4) Short Responses to Weekly Readings OR one Short Synthesis Paper (~5 pages or 1500 words) on Weekly Readings: 10%

Journal article selection: 10%

Mid-term Colloquium Project: 30%:

  • Literature Review (7 pages or ~2100 words) informing colloquium topic
  • Colloquium Paper
  • Colloquium Presentation

A final research project 40%:
(We will use the guidelines for the Conference on College Composition and Communication or another comparable CR conference as a heuristic for this project).

  • An abstract proposal for a presentation (either individual or part of a panel)
  • A conference paper (10 pages or ~4000 words) prepared for a 20-minute conference presentation
  • In-class Presentation

Possible Texts:

selections from (all will likely be available digitally):

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

Gross, Lawrence. Native American Rhetoric. UNM Press, 2021.

Kennedy, George. Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times, The University of North Carolina Press , 1999.

Wu, Hui & Tarez Gramban, eds. Global Rhetorical Traditions.  Parlor Press, 2022.

and the following Journals:

College English,

Rhetoric Review

College Composition and Communication