Rhetoric, Media, and Professional Communication courses

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RMPC Home | Program | Faculty | Courses | Declaring your English major

Here is a sampling of some of the RMPC courses that you can take. The descriptions below are taken from selected course syllabi, so course specifics may vary somewhat from term to term. For a complete list of courses offered by the Department of English Language and Literature, see our Course List. For a list of courses being offered in the current academic year, see This Year's Courses.

Introduction to Rhetorical Studies

Icons of people talking.
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. We see rhetoric all around us, in every mode of communication. We know we hear rhetoric when we hear a politician give a campaign speech, but we also hear rhetoric when we listen to an ad, a song, or a friend’s story. Visual materials, built environments, even the clothes we wear are all ways of making arguments about the world and ourselves.

This course is about the ways in which arguments are built and used. We will analyze persuasive documents, and we will produce some as well. We will work on our critical reading skills and our expressive writing abilities.

Genres of Business Communication

Woman talking on phone.
Genres of Business Communication is designed to provide you with communications skills for your professional life. Assignments in English 210F will introduce you to the major genres of business writing, and help you develop the critical thinking skills necessary to define your purpose and audience—why and for whom you are writing. You will also develop your ability to write persuasively using key rhetorical principles and appeals to ethos, logic, and emotion. You will learn how to present an argument for common real world scenarios such as recommending a course of action or maintaining trust and goodwill with your clientele.

But most importantly, English 210F will help develop your ability to communicate in a professional, concise, and appropriate style for the business world.

Introduction to Digital Media Studies
ENGL 293

Icons relating to digital media.
In this class, our focus is to analyze several forms of media systems, from McLuhan’s electronic “global village” made possible by the medium of television to the networked engagement we have experienced with the internet as a world wide web. Primarily, we will be working with critical texts from a humanist media studies tradition. Nonetheless, our analysis of media systems will extend past the exclusively theoretical, taking into account technical affordances, cultural standards, and disruptive interventions that affect the formation of a media system. The work produced for the course will be primarily analytical research papers. We will also, though, include creative, speculative, and applied projects.

Introduction to Semiotics

Circle of abstract symbols.
Semiotics is the discipline that studies the capacity of humans (and, in some respects, non-humans) to make, disseminate, and comprehend signs. What is a sign? Basically, a sign is anything that can stand for something else. Obviously, then, the range of semiotic inquiry is very broad—from the language you use, the way you sit, the clothes you put on, the way you wear your hair, the car you drive or the bus you take, etc.

The first section of the course will concentrate strongly on theory, and the second section will focus on both theory and application in various semiotic sectors.

Medieval and Renaissance Rhetoric

Painting of renaissance oration.
The art of rhetoric dominated European culture – law, politics, literature, education, and so forth– all the way from the fifth century BCE to the end of the eighteenth century. In fact, the history of this “empire” of rhetoric, as Roland Barthes calls it, is so immense that it “grants us access to a super-civilization: that of the geographical and historical West.” This course offers students an introductory overview of rhetorical theory in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (400 AD to 1600). Through a close reading of brief selections from exemplary texts of medieval and Renaissance rhetoric alongside four plays of William Shakespeare, students will gain a sophisticated understanding of the history, theory, and practice of rhetoric – the “Queen of the Sciences” – in these two crucially important epochs in western intellectual history.

Theories and Practices of Documentation

Icon of book and wrench.
This course has two main components, closely related to each other: document design and graphic communication. And it has one main orientation: technical communication.

Although there will be considerable overlap, the first section of the course focuses on design issues such as information navigation, layout, and genre, and the last section focus more closely on graphic communication issues such as representation, the use of icons, and rhetorical effects.

Overlaying, and hopefully uniting, the two sections will be a recurrent emphasis on clear and effective communication. We’re going to pretend that we can unproblematically isolate messages “behind” document and graphic design, and discuss ways to increase the efficiency of expressing those messages.

Writing for the Media

Reporter writing on notepad.
This course examines the genres and strategies of both journalism and public relations. With a strong orientation towards rhetorical and linguistic theories, this course will cover audience concerns from both within and outside organizations. By the end of the course you will be able to produce a wide variety of texts for a range of media. You will be able to follow the conventions associated with various types of stories, articles, and PR documents, and to accommodate the different audiences that read them either in print or online. You will also understand how social, technological, and organizational contexts affect the production and reception of media texts, and how the shifting landscape facing the media is leading to changes in how media texts are being made and consumed.

The Rhetoric of Digital Design

Image of digital windows.
This course will address some of the basic tools and techniques for digital media projects—composition, text, colour, graphics, site design, multimedia, usability, interactivity—as well as some of the technical and structural issues faced by many developers of academic and commercial digital media publications. One of our key concerns will be the fundamentals of design—how best to present complex information (the kind that scholarly as well as commercial digital work tends to produce) in accessible, appropriate, and possibly even beautiful ways. Along the way, we will reference the critical literature on digital design and practice, humanities computing, and information design and delivery.