Landmarks of Rhetorical Theory

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Course Description

This course is a survey of some of the major conceptual innovations in the history of rhetorical theory. In particular we will investigate the conceptions of rhetoric prevalent in antiquity and how they inform contemporary perspectives on rhetoric. In order to carry this off, we will conceptualize rhetoric as an attempt to answer the following questions: what is the relationship between rhetoric and what we take as true, what we consider a legitimate use of power, and what how should we do with rhetoric as a tool for persuading others? This course counts toward the Analytical Inquiry: Society and Culture requirement.

Course Objectives

This course has one primary objective: to teach you the theoretical foundations of classical rhetoric. In particular, we will examine the development of the art and science of political persuasion in ancient Athens and Rome. We will examine the four primary models of political persuasion that emerged in Athens and Rome. We will cover some of the most important techniques that were taught to advocates in Athens and Rome. And we will explore how the philosophical debates that informed these models are still relevant today by applying these models to contemporary political controversies.

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this course, you should be able to:
Describe the four primary models of rhetoric that emerged in Ancient Greece and Rome and explain how each model defines truth, power, and the purpose of rhetoric(we will learn this by reading the original versions of the text and by learning to how to create a model that effectively compares the sophists, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, and using that model to categorize contemporary speakers).
Define and explain some significant terms of rhetorical art–the canons of rhetoric, genres of public speech, modes of proof and stasis theory(we will highlight these issues as they are introduced in Aristotle and Cicero, and will apply these terms of art to contemporary films that highlight rhetoric).
Use the philosophical concepts and rhetorical techniques introduced in classical rhetorical texts to understand and to develop insights into contemporary issues(we will learn this, first, through the discussion board, which will focus on each of your personal experiences of rhetoric, and, secondly, through writing papers that apply these ideas to several contemporary films that highlight rhetoric).

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