The first aim of this class is to help you develop skills to recognize the extent to which rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, is influencing you every day in both obvious and subtle ways. No matter the type of media – television, art, internet videos, news articles, advertisements, other people – we are constantly being made susceptible to others’ messages whether we realize it or not.
Our rhetoric class is designed to help you face this barrage of persuasion. First, we will learn to identify, describe, and analyze the rhetoric we face each day on and around our own campus. We will hone our analytical skills by dismantling arguments to see how they work, asking what rhetorical methods they employ, what they leave out, what is successful, what is not, and why.
Once we have assembled the tools to analyze individual arguments, we will turn our attention to the ways differing arguments interact with one another. An important point to remember is that arguments have no reason to exist if there are no counter-arguments to oppose them. Being a successful college student and informed citizen requires us to see past one-sidedness and seek out conflicting viewpoints that we then analyze, evaluate, and use to triangulate our own stances. Such research skills are the key to future success both in college and beyond.
Finally, we will learn how to put all of these rhetorical skills to work in our own writing and speaking, understanding the need to tweak our methods and approaches to fit different situations and audiences and how best to do so. We will become, in short, effective rhetoricians.
As a member of our rhetoric community, you will be responsible for conducting yourself in a manner that optimizes your own and your peers’ learning and development. This means regular, engaged attendance, full preparation for each class meeting, respectful, active listening and discussion, responsibility in keeping yourself up to date when attendance is impossible, and an attitude of enthusiasm and curiosity. It is also my sincere hope that you enjoy our time together – and maybe even surprise yourself along the way.