Rhetorical Studies (ENGL 700)


The systematic study of effective communication—the art of rhetoric—dates back at least to the epics of Homer and flourishes today in countless academic disciplines and fields of business. English 700 sets out to compress two and a half millennia of rhetorical theory and criticism into a single semester. More specifically, this introductory seminar aims to provide students with the grounding in rhetorical theory necessary for advanced study in rhetoric, communication design, digital media, and literary studies. To accomplish this goal, the seminar will introduce essential concepts, frameworks, and debates in rhetorical theory by analyzing key selections from foundational texts, both ancient and contemporary. The seminar will also demonstrate the relevance of rhetorical theory and criticism to a variety of social, intellectual, and cultural fields: law, politics, science, philosophy, etc. Finally, the seminar will investigate, with the help of guest lecturers, emerging forms of rhetorical theory and practice made possible by new media technologies: digital design, information warfare, computational gaming, and others. Students will leave the seminar with a firm grasp of basic concepts, an ability to analyze rhetorical artifacts, and a deeper sense of rhetoric as an inventive, critical, multimodal, and richly interdisciplinary enterprise—what Quintilian calls an “encompassing art” (ars circumcurrens).