History of Rhetorical Theory II (Post-1800)

R608 — Fall 2020

John Arthos
Days and Times
11:15a - 12:30p TR (4 CR)
Course Description

When thinkers clash with each other over the great cruces of theory and criticism, sparks fly, and these sparks illuminate issues that are often hard to excavate in the dense expository works of the masters. The focus of R608 is modern and contemporary rhetorical theory, and we will approach this content through the explosive battles that have erupted in rhetoric and the humanities over this period. We will listen in on these moments of pique “to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real” (MTV’s The Real World, 1992-2017).


The discipline-shaking questions exciting this invective include: Where does poetics break off and rhetoric begin? Is the metaphor of the text alive or dead? Is narrative a paradigm? Can we separate text and context anymore? Is rhetoric a tropology or the art of political discourse? Are we all new materialists, or do we just pretend? Where has rhetorical agency gone? What is (not) a (rhetorical) subject? Don’t feminists always get there first? (Answer: yes.) Is rhetoric (a) epistemic (b) ontological (c) ecological? Isn’t rhetoric just an incorrigibly Western discipline? Aren’t counter-publics just part of the public sphere? Are we post-prefixing ourselves to death?


If any of these questions pique your interest, you’ll enjoy this course. The reading list will intersperse primary theory texts, and flagship essays from rhetorical studies. The seminar will be student-centered rather than lecture-based, and discussions will be lively. Participants will tailor their term writing project around their own research interests, and there will be lots of support for developing writing towards publication. 

Recommended Texts* 

Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader, 2nd Edition, eds. Mark J. Porrovecchio and Celeste M. Condit (Guilford, 2016).

The Routledge Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, Neil Badmington, ed. (Routledge, 2008).

*Scan table of contents to get a flavor of readings only.

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

See complete course details