ENGL487 - Foundations of Rhetoric

Credit only granted for: ENGL487 or COMM401.

Principles and approaches to the theory, criticism, and historical understanding of rhetorical discourse.

            In this course we will read texts of the rhetorical tradition, the theories and guides for speaking and writing persuasively, from the beginning to 1900. We will study the canonical theories of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Augustine, Erasmus, Campbell and others. But we will also read communication theory by women outside the canon, by Pan Chao, Sei Shonagon, Margaret Fell, Mary Astell, and the Black elocutionist Hallie Quinn Brown. We will learn traditional rhetorical categories, such as invention and levels of style, and apply them in rhetorical analysis. We will discuss the issues of classical rhetorical theory, such as the moral use of rhetoric, and art vs. nature. We will also examine the ways rhetorical theory changes when it is adapted to new, less privileged groups of speakers--such as women's emphasis on conversation rather than public speech.

            Class will be mainly discussion with occasional lectures, with student reports on crucial topics. Requirements include a mid-term and final examination, three one-page reports (written and oral) on theoretical topics, a 5-page paper (and revision) using rhetorical analysis, and a longer 7-8 page research paper either comparing two theories or using a theory to analyze a text from the time it was widely taught.

Select student comments on 487 from last spring:

 "I have never taken a more structurally sound and efficient course. I am always amazed at how knowledgeable and friendly Prof. Donawerth is (I've coined the term "Time Traveling Sorceress of Divine Knowledge" to describe to people how impeccable she is). Her feedback is consistently timely and very helpful. Although this is probably one of the toughest classes I've taken so far, it is also one of my favorites, thanks to Prof. Donawerth."

"Professor Donawerth is an incredible teacher. I've never had a teacher more responsive to my concerns. I know that I can bring anything to her and receive honest, helpful feedback."

            "Even as a non-English major, I still felt welcome in the classroom and could understand the class material well."

"I really enjoyed the in class discussion. It was very refreshing to have the opportunity to hear other student's point of view. In addition, we got to hear oral presentations from every student in class, so we got to hear from each other quite a bit. I also found the in class writing exercises very valuable, even though they weren't graded."

            "I really liked the ability to submit a revision of the first rhetorical analysis paper. It was helpful not only for my grade but for my overall writing ability."