ENG 696D: Classical Rhetorics

banner imageClassical Rhetorics

Thomas P. Miller
ML 473 (T. 11-12:30 and W 8:30-10)

Syllabus & Assignments | Schedule | Resources

(download Word version of the Syllabus)

Course Description

We will survey the figures and developments traditionally associated with classical rhetoric, but we will also look beyond the major theorists to examine rhetorical practices. We will explore such issues as the canonical status of The Classical Tradition, the historical development of orality and literacy, the origins of the humanities, and the marginalization of women's discourse by the valorization of the public good.  We will work on close reading and research strategies that you can use to read history rhetorically, with an eye to helping you historicize your own projects.  Rather than a seminar paper, you will write a series of short pieces that should help you with other projects such as the qualifying and preliminary exams. 


SapphoMany of the texts that we read will be on line, with links in the schedule page for the course and additional links on the resources page.  Though almost all our texts are available on line, I have ordered a standard anthology, which is also used in other history of rhetoric classes:

Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg, eds. The Rhetorical Tradition, Readings from Classical Times to the Present. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford Books, 2001

Major Assignments          
Instead of a final seminar paper, you will write a series of short essays to help you improve your skills with close reading and rhetorical analysis:

  • a book review (10% course grade): Sept. 8 draft to our Caucus site and Sept. 14 revision to my box
  • an influence study (15%): Sept.22  draft to Caucus and Oct. 1 revision to me
  • an annotated bibliography with cover memo (15%): Oct. 16 draft with memo to Caucus and Oct. 23 revision to me
  • an analysis of a controversy (15%): Nov. 3 draft to Caucus and Nov. 9 revision to me
  • research proposal, cover memo and portfolio (15%):  Nov. 18 proposal and memo to Caucus and Nov. 29 revision and portfolio with all major assignments and your responses to others' drafts due in class.
  • peer responses to drafts (10%)
  • memos and other assignments (10%)
  • presentation (10%)

These assignments will provide you with opportunities to work with genres and strategies that will help you develop your program of study.  In the second week of the semester, we will have a conference on how to organize your work in the course around a research program that will help you build on your interests to achieve your goals.  You will begin by writing a book review because that genre provides opportunities to improve your abilities to summarize, critique and compose arguments.  Book reviews are also a good place to begin publishing.  Reviews are included in virtually all journals, and they are not difficult to write, though they can be written in quite varied ways.   In the second assignment, the influence study, you will analyze the relationship between two or more books to explore how a scholar, theorist or teacher makes use of a source or tradition. For the annotated bibliography, you will work on the skills needed for your comprehensive examination and other research projects. You will write several paragraphs to position a proposed line of inquiry, nutshell the readings in abstracts, and use both the introductory paragraphs and abstracts to establish a claim to significance and position it within a body of scholarship.  In the controversia essay, you will review and analyze arguments on an issue, as you will have to do in qualifying and comprehensive exams, and in introductions to articles and dissertations.  You will also give a short presentation with a handout or on-line component that connects your program of research with issues we are addressing in class.  You will conclude by writing a short research proposal similar to a grant or dissertation proposal. This assignment is also similar to part of the reflective essay for your qualifying exam,  In conjunction with all these assignments, you will write scheduled memos to me to reflect on your work and help me and your colleagues to help you.

  • Book review (approximately 1000 words): You will write a short review of a recent or milestone book on classical rhetoric.  You could use this assignment to develop your understanding of the ancient period and classical rhetoric, to expand the course perspective to include other issues or traditions, or to make connections between the ancient period and your research interests.  You will work with your peers to revise the review, and then you will submit it along with a memo and a published review that serves as a model for your review.   You should analyze the model and the journal it comes from in a couple of paragraphs in your memo.  The memo should also include a paragraph on what you learned from writing the review and where you would like to go with your reading this term (the memos are discussed further below).
  • An influence study (1500 words): In this short essay, you will examine the influence of one book on another. You should select sources that you may want to continue to work with in your annotated bibliography, controversia essay, and research proposal.  The influence study will provide you with an opportunity to work on close reading and explications of texts of two books (or three books if you are working with one we read in class).  One of the books may be the one you reviewed in the first essay.  The idea is to begin with a couple of key texts and then in later papers to survey the developments associated with those texts.  In your analysis, you may want to consider how the different historical or philosophical contexts affect how the authors understand a key concern such as invention.  You may want to select
    • an ancient text and a modern study, theory, or pedagogy (for example a textbook based on ancient principles);
    • a scholarly book and a later scholarly book that is indebted to it (for instance a traditional study of the historical transition from orality to literacy and a more recent study that assumes that both literacy and orality are both highly mediated);
    • a text read in class and two other books by the same author (for example, Plato's Phaedrus and his Republic and Menexenus--which includes an account of a speech by Aspasia);
    • a couple of texts we read in class and a related work by either author (for example, Aristotle's Rhetoric and Ethics and a work by Cicero); or
    • a text that we read in class and a couple from a tradition that opposes or simply differs from
  • An annotated bibliography (approximately 15 items): The bibliography should include paragraphs summarizing each of the articles and books, and a cover memo of two or three paragraphs that frame the lines of inquiry in the sources. Your annotations should be well developed paragraphs of less than 100 words that summarize the sources and their claims to significance. You may include the works that you read for the other assignments, but you should not include other works that we have read for the course.  Your cover memo should be similar to the paragraphs used to frame the bibliographies for the preliminary exams.    This and the next assignments are meant to help you work on strategies that are needed in the comprehensive exams that you take after you finish your coursework.  Review the process for the Comprehensive Examination, and consider the skills and criteria that are involved.  A good example of the framing paragraphs and bibliography for the Comprehensive Exam is provided by Anna Varley's reading lists.
  • An analysis of a controversy (1500 words): This assignment draws upon the concept of controversia as sites for deliberative arguments. In it you will analyze a cluster of articles that address an important issue.  These articles will likely be ones drawn from your bibliography, and which you will use in your research proposal.  You should analyze how the articles emerge from or speak to an issue that has come up for debate in the field, perhaps a gender-related controversy or an argument about the relevance of classical rhetoric. As we will discuss, this assignment provides you with an opportunity to think about how you can make use of classical concepts such as stasis. This assignment is somewhat like the review articles in journals that examine several related books, but you will focus on 3-5 articles rather than books. You may examine an issue addressed by the book you reviewed to develop a program of research through the course.
  • A portfolio and research proposal (1000 words):  In the proposal, you will work on the challenges of outlining a program of research that you have not really done in depth.   You will face this sort of challenge when you submit your dissertation proposal and write for support to do research.   This assignment is meant to provide you with an opportunity to look ahead to the project of doing a dissertation and/or submitting a proposal to get funding.  Of course the assignment is considerably shorter than a dissertation proposal.  For information on the dissertation proposal, visit the RCTE Handbook discussion of the dissertation.  A good example is provided by Brian Jackson's Dissertation Proposal.  For this assignment as with the dissertation proposal or other proposals, you will need to frame a set of issues, briefly review the published research, establish a need for your proposed approach, and then go on to outline your line of argument and its significance.  As we discussed in class, you may decide to propose a rhetoric or composition course that includes detailed applications of classical rhetoric or another final project if you prefer.  If you want to work on an alternative final project, please email me.  In any case, the portfolio must include all your essays, memos, and assignments.  The portfolio will also include a cover memo that is discussed below.
  • Peer responses will be written for each of the above assignments (100-200 words).  Everyone will post drafts to our Caucus site a week before they are turned in to me, and you will have two days to write a response, also using the Caucus system.  You will apply the reading strategies that we discuss to the drafts to summarize the argument of the draft, analyze its strengths and weaknesses, and suggest revisions.  You may choose to meet as a group outside of class, but this is not required of anyone.
  • Memos (no more than 200 words): You will submit five memos via email to reflect on your work and help your peers and me respond to it.

   1.By August 29, you will send me the first memo to set up the discussion in our individual conference.  You will reflect on your assumptions, the course structures, and your goals for your work this semester.   We will use this memo for our conference in the second week of the semester and also to set up the peer response groups. 
   2.As noted in the discussion of the book review above, the second memo informs me about which journal you would submit the review to and why you chose the review you selected as a model.   You will put this memo in my mailbox in ML 451 on September14 along with a hard copy of your book review.  You do not need to post this memo to the Caucus site along with the draft of your book review.
   3.The third memo is the mid-semester review.  It should be posted to Caucus on October 9.   You should critique and suggest strategies for improvement in the course and/or your own program of work, including specific strategies and issues that you are working on.  This memo will be a useful point of reference for the final reflective memo submitted with your research proposal and portfolio.
   4.As noted in the discussion of the annotated bibliography above, the third memo is similar to the framing paragraphs for the reading lists that you will write for your preliminary exam.   You will submit this memo as the coversheet for the draft of your annotated bibliography to the Caucus site on Oct. 16, and on Oct. 23 you will submit the revision to me.  You should conclude the coversheet with questions for your readers to consider when they respond.
   5.The final memo will be the cover memo for the research proposal and final portfolio.   It should reflect back over your work, analyze what you learned and need to learn, and provide a context for your research proposal.   You will submit it with your proposal and portfolio in class on Nov. 29, but you do not have to submit it with your draft proposal to Caucus.

  • A presentation: You will give a group presentation in one of the last four classes to connect your interests with the works we are reading and the issues we are discussing.  We will draw up the groups for presentations in our conferences in the second week of the semester.  This "presentation" will not be a lecture: your group will lead a discussion of the texts we are working with (which you will help select). You will bring in related scholarship, and you should draw upon previous discussions.  I have blocked out the last four classes to address pedagogical applications, feminist perspectives, comparativist studies, and theoretical applications. You and your collaborators may decide to bring in a different figure, issue, or tradition into the class discussion.  You may also opt for an individual presentation.  The presentation is not an end in itself but a means for you to connect the course to your professional interests, and we will be flexible to arrange the presentations to achieve that purpose.  You should have your handout for the class and any additional or alternative readings one week before you are scheduled to present.  For the presentation, you may use your annotated bibliography and materials from the other assignments.