Rhetoric

The Rhetoric Department is dedicated to teaching the history, principles, and theories of rhetoric to students with intellectual curiosity and a desire to pry deeply into the workings of our symbolic universe. We define rhetoric as the ethical study and use of symbols (verbal and nonverbal) to publicly address controversial issues. We offer coursework devoted to the rhetoric utilized in legal, political, sports, religious, and media contexts as well as in classical and contemporary time periods. We also sponsor co-curricular opportunities where students put the theoretical principles behind argumentation and deliberation into practice on- and off-campus. Studying rhetoric helps students become effective speakers, listeners, and writers; understand their roles as ethical actors and citizens; and analyze how a variety of texts function persuasively. Such preparation leads students into productive careers in legal, political, professional, and academic contexts.

Student Learning Goals

  1. Rhetoric as a Liberal Art: to identify and  understand the historical and contemporary role of the field of rhetoric in the liberal arts, including but not limited to rhetoric’s origins, historical place in the trivium, contemporary applications in theory, criticism, and practice, and the importance of rhetoric in daily life.
  2. Critical Thinking: to acquire abilities in analytical reasoning, argumentation, problem solving, and critical decision making.
  3. Written and Oral Expression: to develop the facile written and oral skills needed to communicate effectively and ethically.
  4. The Methodologies of Rhetorical Studies: to learn and use rhetorical methods to generate and answer significant questions about public discourse while demonstrating analytical insight and creativity.
  5. Rhetoric and Democratic Practices: to understand the role of rhetoric in the productive functioning of democracy and the practices of citizenship and civic engagement.
  6. Intellectual Inquiry: to engage in independent intellectual inquiry that applies advanced research skills in rhetorical studies and demonstrates an ability to understand, evaluate, and synthesize relevant information.
  7. Engaging Difference Humanely: to encounter productively, engage, and manage diverse life experiences, worldviews, and cultures.

Introductory Level Courses

Introductory courses in Rhetoric focus on the principles and practice of effective and responsible message creation, presentation, ethics, and argumentation in public contexts. Students become competent in a variety of effective communication techniques, learn to cope with communication apprehension, and develop and exercise skills in critical thinking, argument formation, and argument analysis.

Intermediate Level Courses

Intermediate level courses focus on mastery of the basic concepts and significant theories of persuasion, reasoning, and communication. This study will include the history, theoretical development, and pragmatic uses of the theories and concepts in a variety of settings. Students will develop the ability to evaluate, compare, and critique these theories from a variety of perspectives. Students will also utilize these theories and concepts for the purposes of analysis and application to rhetorical and communicative interactions.

Advanced Level Courses

Advanced level courses are characterized by original research and theorizing. Students will learn to engage primary source material in both theory and criticism, and to produce new insights into the texts that they select as artifacts for examination as well as contribute to the broader scholarship in rhetorical studies. Papers produced in these contexts will be of high quality, possess substantial literature reviews, utilize original theoretical approaches to texts, and illustrate an awareness of the role of rhetoric within the intellectual history. These classes will prepare students to excel in their comprehensive exams as well as possible graduate training by providing them with the knowledge to speak critically and to view themselves as part of a larger scholarly community with which they are in dialogue.

Requirements for a Major

Select one credit from the following:1
Public Speaking
Argumentation & Debate
RHE-201Reasoning & Advocacy1
RHE-320Classical Rhetoric1
RHE-350Contemporary Rhetorical Theory1
RHE-497Senior Seminar1
One 300-level course1
Rhetoric Electives3
Total Credits9

Students considering a Rhetoric Major should take RHE-201 Reasoning & Advocacy even if they are unable to enroll in RHE-101 Public Speaking. Students do not need to wait to take RHE-320 Classical Rhetoric or RHE-350 Contemporary Rhetorical Theory until after taking RHE-201 Reasoning & Advocacy. RHE-370 Special Topics: Lit/Fine Arts is recommended for all senior majors and minors.

Recommended Sequence of Courses:

We recommend Rhetoric majors begin in RHE-101 Public Speaking or RHE-140 Argumentation & Debate during freshman year, take RHE-201 Reasoning & Advocacy and RHE-320 Classical Rhetoric sophomore year, RHE-350 Contemporary Rhetorical Theory junior year, and RHE-497 Senior Seminar senior year. Students may take elective courses at any point. It is strongly recommended that students complete the entire core (101 or 140, 201, 320, and 350) prior to 497 the fall of their senior year.

Although we recommend the above sequence, it is possible to take the classes in a different order or in different years for those who arrive to Rhetoric after freshman year.

For planning puposes, students should keep in mind that RHE-201 and RHE-350 are fall courses while RHE-320 is a spring course. Rhetoric majors who intend to study abroad should plan to take these core courses during their sophomore year if they will be abroad the semester it is offered in their junior year. 

Senior Comprehensive

Majors must pass two departmental examinations:

  1. a three-hour written exam; and
  2. a senior oral presentation.

Requirements for a Minor

Select one credit from the following:1
Public Speaking
Argumentation & Debate
RHE-201Reasoning & Advocacy1
RHE-320Classical Rhetoric1
or RHE-350 Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
Rhetoric Electives2
Total Credits5

Rhetoric (RHE)

RHE-101 Public Speaking

This course covers the fundamentals of rhetoric composition and delivery. Students research, compose, and deliver informative and persuasive speeches, and they lead a small group of their peers in a deliberative discussion. In addition, students learn and employ introductory principles of reasoning, argumentation, and rhetorical criticism. Finally, they analyze the videotape recordings of their speeches and learn to use electronic media in public presentations. This course is offered each semester.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-140 Argumentation & Debate

This course applies the principles of debate theory and practice to argumentation in the political and legal realms. Students will learn valid forms of reasoning and argumentation, common fallacies, argument analysis, clash, and rebuttal and how to apply this knowledge in the debate format. Students also participate in parliamentary debate and moot court simulations as mechanisms for learning foundational skills in oral argumentation. When possible, students will attend a live oral argument by the Indiana Court of Appeals or another appellate court. This course is offered every spring semester.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-187 Independent Study/Lang Studies

Enrollment Through Instructor and Department Chair.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-188 Independent Study/Lit Fine Art

Enrollment Through Instructor and Department Chair.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-190 Spec. Topics: Language Studies

A variety of courses dealing with specific issues or sub-areas in the discipline.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-201 Reasoning & Advocacy

This course focuses on the process of constructing, analyzing, and evaluating public arguments. This is a foundational rhetoric course because it focuses on the development and application of knowledge in critical thinking, argument analysis, reasoning, and advocacy. It emphasizes the nature and role of communication in public discussions and decision making. The course highlights the adaptation of logic and reasoning to human action in a democratic society. The class examines public argument in a variety of forms such as political debates, speeches, and editorials, Supreme Court decisions, advertising, and popular culture. Judicial argument is examined in the form of Supreme Court decisions. Finally, social argument is examined through an investigation of selected examples from popular culture. The course serves the purpose of exposing non-majors to the fundamentals of rhetoric and communication. It also prepares Rhetoric majors and minors for more advanced courses such as Classical Rhetoric and Contemporary Rhetorical Theory and Criticism. This course is typically offered once a yearin the fall semester.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-220 Persuasion

Students study the theory and practice of persuasion as part of decision making in a free society. The focus is on the individual's role as both persuadee and persuader with an examination of how to be critical, observant, responsible and ethical with regard to persuasive messages. The course examines persuasive language, propaganda, persuasive campaigns, and social movements. Students critically examine a variety of persuasive texts and participate in a campaign simulation.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-270 Special Topics Lit/Fine Arts

A variety of courses dealing with specific issues or sub-areas in the discipline are taught in a seminar setting.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-287 Independent Study/Lang Studies

Enrollment Through Instructor and Department Chair.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-288 Independent Study/Lit Fine Art

Enrollment Through Instructor and Department Chair.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-290 Spec. Topics: Language Studies

A variety of courses dealing with specific issues or sub-areas in the discipline are taught in a seminar setting.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-320 Classical Rhetoric

This course focuses on the origin and development of rhetoric and rhetorical theory during the classical period. The course begins in the pre disciplinary stage of Homer and the Sophists and examines such works as Homer's Iliad, Gorgias' Encomium of Helen, and Isocrates' Antidosis. The course then moves to Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus and the "disciplinizing" efforts of Aristotle (On Rhetoric). Finally, the course examines the efforts of Cicero (On Invention, Orator, and On the Orator), Quintilian (Institutes of Oratory), and Augustine (On Christian Doctrine) to reunite philosophy and rhetoric and include ethics within the realm of rhetoric. Students learn how rhetorical theories are generated out of the specific needs of particular political and social contexts. In addition, students examine the influence of literacy on human interaction and the study of rhetoric in particular. Finally, students trace the relationship between rhetoric and philosophy from pre-Platonic unity, through Plato's bifurcation, and finally to the attempts at reunification by Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. This course is offered in the spring semester.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts
Equated Courses: CLA-220

RHE-350 Contemporary Rhetorical Theory

Contemporary studies in rhetoric have broadened the conception of rhetoric beyond a narrow focus on public address to include the study of all symbols-verbal, audio, and visual-in diverse media. No longer simply interested in questions of persuasive effectiveness, contemporary rhetorical studies examine the role symbols can play in constructing or reflecting such elements as ideology, motive, and gender. This writing-intensive course highlights the growing complexity of the field by helping students to understand, use, and evaluate several of the most well-known theories and methods of rhetoric. In the process, students will learn how to interpret artifacts in several different ways and even to generate and apply their own rhetorical method. Consequently, the class is a methodological precursor to the senior project and should, ideally, be taken during the junior year. This course is offered in the fall semesters.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-360 Gender & Communication

As a culture, we often we take gender for granted. Yet, we live in a culture where men and women are molded and shaped by communicative practices and mass-mediated representations that generate our ideals of masculinity and femininity. This class examines this process-providing a platform for students to reflect upon gender formation and develop a theoretical vocabulary for describing this process. By the end of the semester, class participants will develop a more sophisticated understanding of the manner in which gendered messages and practices have shaped perceptions of their symbolic universe.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-370 Special Topics: Lit/Fine Arts

A variety of courses dealing with specific issues or sub-areas in the discipline are taught in a seminar setting.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-375 Legal Rhetoric

Legal Rhetoric examines the ways in which the legal sphere exerts social control and power through an exploration of the forms and function of rhetoric in shaping the law. Working from the belief that a legal ruling is the beginning, rather than the end, of the social life of the law, the course is also concerned with the social repercussions that result from Court decisions. Beginning with an examination of the classical connections between rhetorical theory and the practice of law, the course proceeds to discuss approximately a dozen significant Supreme Court cases and subsequent rhetorical analyses of these decisions. Students will develop an essay and presentation concerning the background and social importance of one of the cases under study. Additionally, students will engage in a semester-long project that culminates in an extensive rhetorical analysis on a case of their own choosing.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-387 Independent Study/Lang Studies

Credits: 1 or 1/2
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-388 Independent Study/Lit Fine Art

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor and the department chair.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-390 Special Topics/Lang Studies

A variety of courses dealing with specific issues or sub-areas in the discipline are taught in a seminar setting.Refer to the Course Descriptions document on the Registrar's webpage for Topics and Descriptions of current offerings.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-487 Independent Study/Lang Studies

Enrollment Through Instructor and Department Chair.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Language Studies

RHE-488 Independent Study/Lit Fine Art

Enrollment Through Instructor and Department Chair.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-497 Senior Seminar

The Senior Seminar is a capstone course for rhetoric majors. Rhetoric majors conduct an original and extended research project in a sub-area of the field. In the process, they read and discuss relevant texts and journal articles as a class. The course covers procedures for conducting each of the components of the project (i.e., discovery and refinement of a research question, selection of appropriate materials for study, selection of an appropriate method, literature review of appropriate scholarship, the analysis itself, and the preparation of the manuscript). This course also provides senior majors a forum for the investigation and discussion of the ethical issues and responsibilities they have as communicators. This course is offered in the fall semester. Prerequisites: Students are encouraged to take RHE 320 and 350 prior to taking 497.
Prerequisites: none
Credit: 1
Distribution: Literature/Fine Arts

RHE-IND Independent Study

Students may enroll in independent study courses for 0.5 or 1 course credit(s), with the approval of a supervising faculty member, the appropriate department/program chair, and the student's advisor. Registration forms for independent study are available in the Registrar's Office.
Prerequisites: none
Credits: 0.5-1

Jennifer Young Abbott (chair)

Jeffrey Paul Drury

Sara A M Drury

Todd F McDorman