Is it sometimes okay to use harsh language in an argument? How can I speak to someone with a completely different worldview from mine? When is the right time to bring up that tricky subject with my significant other?

These are questions that the study of rhetoric can help you answer! Rhetoric focuses on the methods and values of persuasive communication; it asks how we can express ourselves and influence other people in both ethical and effective ways. This course will introduce students to major ideas from the tradition of rhetoric, while focusing on the application of these ideas to everyday life. Each unit will end with a roundtable, where students will weigh-in on major questions from that unit. Students will be challenged to think and write about their own communication strategies, goals, and values, and interrogate how they may be improved. Special emphasis will be given to twenty-first century persuasion, including digital forms of communication.

This course is designed for 200-level undergraduates.

Required Text: The Rhetorical Act: Speaking and Writing Critically (Karlyn Kohrs Campbell et. al)

Header image description: New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a woman in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a mosque.

Sample Schedule:

WeekTopicSample ReadingCase Study
1What is rhetoric?“Rhetorical Acts” and “Rhetorical Purposes” (KKC)Making an Introduction
2Exigence“Understanding an Occasion,” “Rhetorical Purposes” (KKC)Giving a Wedding Toast
3Audience“The Audience,” “Adapting to your audience” (KKC)Roommate Disagreements
4Appeals“The Resources of Argument” (KKC)Leading a Student Organization
5Unit RoundtableRoundtable topic: Top five questions to understanding your rhetorical context
6Figurative Language“The Resources of Language: Naming, Abstracting, Negating” (KKC)Giving a Class Presentation
7Evidence“The Resources of Evidence” (KKC)Changing to the Student Handbook
8Style“Style: Formality, Literal, Economy, Ambiguity,” “Prior Ethos” (KKC)Posting on Social Media Platforms
9Delivery“Delivering a Speech” (KKC)Interviewing for a Job
10Unit RoundtableRoundtable topic: How to evaluate “good” rhetoric
11Refutation“Purpose Related Challenges” “Audience-Related Rhetorical Challenges” (KKC)Advocating for Social Change
12Media“The Medium of Transmission” (KKC)Discussing Politics Online
13Narratives“Subject-Related Obstacles: Complexity and Cultural History”Differences of Experience
15Unit RoundtableRoundtable topic: How can we improve our own rhetoric?
16Final ExamStudents will be given a rhetorical situation and a response. They will use their course material to evaluate the situation/response and provide an improved response that builds off what they have learned. This Exam will be open-note and given in class.

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