ENGL607 - Readings in the History of Rhetorical Theory to 1900

This course introduces students to the history of rhetorical theory and provides them with methods of interpretation beyond the literary, methods especially useful for nonfiction writings.  We will read canonical works by men in the rhetorical tradition (works by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Erasmus, Blair, etc.) paired with non-canonical works on rhetoric by women (works by Pan Chao, Margaret Fell, Mary Astell, Hannah More, Mary Augusta Jordan, and the Black elocutionist Hallie Quinn Brown, etc.). This course thus examines the history of rhetorical theory, the basis of our liberal arts education, from within the tradition, and at the same time questions it from without the tradition. We will outline the major theories and treat their historical place in education and society, their politics (broadly conceived), their influence on the teaching of composition, and their relation to poetics and science. Topics such as the ethical status of the art, public vs. private models of discourse, concepts of audience, techniques of persuasion, as well as application to our own study of literature and teaching of writing, will be handled in discussion. Requirements include study-papers on key concepts, a report on a library collection,  quizzes on key concepts, 2 short rhetorical analyses, a take-home final, and an 8-10 pp. research paper in the field of the history of rhetoric and composition.