21W.747 Rhetoric, Fall 2002
Author(s)Strang, Steven M.
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For students with a special interest in learning how to make forceful arguments in written form. Studies the forms and structures of argumentation, including organization of ideas, awareness of audience, methods of persuasion, evidence, factual vs emotional argument, figures of speech, and historical forms and uses of arguments. From the course home page: Course Description Introduction to 21W.747 This course is an introduction to the history, the theory, the practice, and the implications (both social and ethical) of rhetoric, the art and craft of persuasion. This semester, many of your skills will be deepened by practice, including your analytical skills, your critical thinking skills, your persuasive writing skills, and your oral presentation skills. In this course you will act as both a rhetor (a person who uses rhetoric) and a rhetorician (one who studies the art of rhetoric). Because the study of rhetoric has always had as one of its goals the creation of active and informed citizens and because rhetors write to influence the real world and thus to become agents of positive change, 21W.747 has an optional Service Learning (SL) component: You may elect to write/work for a non-profit organization that deals with some social issue. To offset the 20-30 hours during the semester that the SL option will involve, those who select it will substitute their non-profit writing for essay #4 or use their experiences there as the main source for one of their essays. Further, their experiences may be the basis for their final extemporaneous speech (thus reducing time spent on research). What is Rhetoric? Rhetoric is the art and craft of discourse; it is the study and creation of effective communication and persuasion. Studying rhetoric teaches us not only how to write persuasively but also how to understand the rhetorical efforts of others. Understanding rhetoric gives us the means of judging whose opinion about issues is the most accurate, useful, or valid, because such knowledge allows us to see beyond the persuasive techniques to the essence of the opinions. Further, understanding rhetoric is the best way of understanding the assumptions of and the points made by those who disagree with our positions. Further still, understanding rhetoric is the best way for us to deepen and refine our own positions and beliefs by exploring our own assumptions and our cultural contexts. In short, rhetoric teaches us how to find the limits of our own positions, how to argue effectively against others' positions, and how to create powerful and persuasive arguments for our own beliefs. At its best, rhetoric is used ethically by people of good will who wish to present their ideas forcibly but fairly to their communities. At its worst, however, rhetoric is used unethically by people to manipulate us instead of enlightening us, to spread propaganda instead of seeking truth, to make palatable those ideas and products whose adoption actually runs counter to our best interests. Understanding rhetoric, then, is our best defense against its abusers-- e.g., political "spin doctors," advertisers, demagogues, apologists for immoral business practices, and hate mongers. Using rhetoric in an ethical manner is our best method for becoming agents for positive change in our society.
ethics, rhetoric, persuasion, analytical skills, critical thinking, persuasive writing, oral presentation, Rhetoric