New Course in Rhetorical Theory [Real]

First, let me say that Rowan is doing fine. She's sort of rejecting the concept of sleep today (its 11:30 and still no nap--a very bad sign), but otherwise o.k.

In Marc news--official Marc C. Santos news--I've been asked to design an undergraduate course in Rhetorical Theory. I spend some time Googlin' around the net to see what I could find, and basically saw two approaches. The first relied heavily on either Bizzell or Hawhee; these courses offered a pretty broad/historic survey. The second approach was heavily (heavily) steeped in 20th century pomo--but often looked more like a literary/cultural studies theory course than a rhetorical theory course. I'm going to try to split the difference (which means I bound to fail) and go for something like this:

  • Week One: Plato's "Gorgias," Republic VII (emphasis: the split between rhetoric and dialectic, rhetoric is too risky)
  • Week Two: Aristotle's Rhetoric, Books I and II (emphasis on traditional appeals, relation to the audience, kairos)
  • Week Three: Cicero selections from De Oratore (emphasis: defense of rhetoric, response to Plato) and De Inventione (stasis)
  • Week Four: Lanham, "The Q Question," Nussbaum intro to Cultivating Humanity, Jarrett intro to Rereading the Sophists
  • Week Five: Paper Week One
  • Week Five: Kenneth Burke selections from Permanence and Change (piety, perspective by incongruity); Blakesley's Elements of Dramatism Chapter 1 (pentad)
  • Week Six: Kenneth Burke Rhetoric of Motives 17-65 (identification); "Definition of Man" essay; Corder's "Argument as Emergence" (rhetoric as narratology, not persuasion)
  • Week Seven: Rhetoric (returns to?) Composition: Bitzer "Rhetorical Situation," Ede and Lunsford "Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked," something by either Toulmin or Lauer on invention (not sure yet--might do both).
  • Week Nine: Paper Week 2
  • Week Ten: Grassi, "Philosophy as Rhetoric"; Levinas "The Thinking of Being and the Question of the Other"; Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa"
  • Week Eleven: Derrida "At this very moment in this work here I am" (ethical relation between writer, audience, and knowledge) and Learning To Live Finally (pomo relation to audience)
  • Week Twelve: Ulmer, selection from Heuretics or Internet Invention; Davis, "Preambulatory Emmissions from Breaking Up [at] Totality
  • Week Thirteen: Rickert, "In the House of Doing: Rhetoric and the Kairos of Ambiance, "Edbauer "Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies," Hawk "Toward a Rhetoric of Network (Media) Culture: Notes on Polarities and Potentiality" (pomo complexification [sic] of r/c bedrock)
  • Paper Week 3
  • Week Fourteen: Rheingold selections from Smart Mobs, Porter, "The Chilling of Digital Information: Technical Communicators as Public Advocates"
  • Week Fifteen: Projects
  • Week Sixteen: Projects

I've taken the "paper weeks" from Rickert who took them from Frank who took them from ????: on a paper day, everyone in the class distributes a short paper and reads it to the class. I'm interested in this pedagogically in terms of delivery and kairos--two elements that are often a bit more muddled (Rickert might say) in traditional academic [for class] writing.

As far as the final project, I believe this will be on a per-student basis. I will allow traditional papers, disciplinary annotated bibliographies, wikipedia projects, multimedia projects (perhaps something out of Ulmer)--just about anything the students can offer.

I've still got to write up the course description, but I know I'll be leaning toward providing students with a thorough understanding of the history of rhetoric and of the principle rhetorical concepts and techniques. Such historic understanding should help them to understand the fundamental positions underlying the work they do as technical writers. Familiarity with traditional rhetorical concepts and conventions should help all facets of their writing process, from invention to revision. I'll have to clean this up and look at the other new course proposals in my department to get a sense of length/depth/sophistication. But I think I've got a legitimate course brewing here...


gvcarter said...

Undergraduates might also enjoy Geoff Sirc, William E. Coles, Walker Gibson, Ken Macrorie, and Donald Murray. Also, the first Octalog that features the likes of Bob Connors-Sharon Crowley-Susan Jarrett-James Berlin-Victor Vitanza does a nice job of dramatizing some of the stakes of rhetorical theory/historiography. ****Your reading list looks good, but as you're aware, many of the readings pose challenges to even committed graduate students. Enjoy the project.shuns! ;-)

Casey said...

This looks awesome, Marc -- you could really set some undergraduates up to have an advantageous start in graduate school. Assuming this is a 300- or 400-level class (?), you might want to have them do supplementary 10-15 minute presentations on some reading that's not assigned to everyone... Is that what "paper day" would be?


Insignificant Wrangler said...

The difficulty of the course is something I am considering-- I initially thought of using Deb Hawhee's Ancient Rhetorics rather than a dedicated theory-laden coursepack. In the end, I looked at upper-level literary theory courses at the undergraduate level and thought: if they are pushing the "big" stuff, why can't a rhetoric class? I also looked at the undergraduate rhetorical theory course at Purdue and a few other places with robust undergraduate writing majors. But even then, I'm concerned.

Geoff: I really thought about Sirc, but went with Ulmer instead. I know they are different, but they both represent the impact of pomo on composition. The Octalog is a great addition--I think I'll add that to the Bitzer/Lundsford week to give a sense of the impact various rhetorical dispositions have on comp.

Casey: Paper day is something Thomas does with his graduate classes--it goes back to a professor Frank at Arlington (and probably further back than that). Essentially, everyone in the class writes a moderately long paper (in Thomas' class, this was one legal-size sheet; but with some font and margin manipulation, we would regularly push 5 double-spaced pages onto that one sheet!). I've thought about class presentations based on Hawhee's book--the presentations would be on traditional rhetorical topics and tropes. I think the reading list is "heavy" enough that I don't want to pile on too much more--unless its secondary material meant to elucidate the readings themselves (but I don't want to spend all our time getting the readings "right"; I'd rather students use the writing to work towards their own theoretical understanding of how/why we rhetoric).

Thanks guys. I'll have more on this next week.

gvcarter said...

Does the sheer coverage of those upper-level lit theory classes speak to a canonical drive? Sure, I get the "big stuff," but maybe an undergraduate course--particularly for writing majors--might go in a different direction.less. In my undergraduate Memory and Digital Writing Class, for example, I limit myself, as I do in my other courses as well, to four total books (Yates-Barthes-Baker-Sacks). I use a handful of other essays/links related to the theme of each book, but they are primary. ****Sidenote: I tried assigning -Heuretics- during my first semester, but find I can reference Glue's efforts with plentiful on-line materials like Byron's Bystory: http://mason.gmu.edu/~bhawk/bystory/index.html.*****In any case, good luck with the development of the course. Good to hear Rowan is doing well!

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Geoff-- I used the upper-level lit theory courses in terms of difficulty; I intentionally avoided going for breadth. That's why I only use Burke to represent early-mid 20th century and Derrida for pomo.

I do use quite a few other essays, and I think that might be too much. I figure I'll try it this was, and, if it doesn't work, I'll pair it down. Thanks for the advice.

Alexis said...
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EnthyAlias said...

Well, you know how I went: breadth over depth. Yours is an interesting compromise on having to span the full history. I'm lucky I can bracket the 20th & 21st centuries into a separate class. And considering what I've taught so far (only classical - we start medieval next week), I honestly think the best stuff is behind me. Do I really have to talk about sermonic and epistolary rhetorics? Ugh.

Oh, and I'm totally going to steal some of your groupings for my spring course on contemporary. I’ve given up trying to find a textbook and I’m just going with a coursepack of readings. The question is: how many is too many? I’m teaching power hours Mon & Wed, so I’m not sure how much to assign on each. How are you planning to spread this wealth out?