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History of Rhetoric II: 1701 until the present

English 403/504 l Summer Session 2 2013 Nathaniel A. Rivers l
“Rhetoric, in the most general sense, is the energy inherent in emotion and thought, transmitted through a system of signs, including language, to others to influence their decisions or actions.” -George Kennedy, A Rhetoric of Motives.

Course Introduction
Rhetoric, simply defined, is the use of symbols to produce an effect (e.g., a verbal command to “Stop,” a red traffic light, or a Journey song imploring us “Don’t’ Stop Believing”). Right off the bat, though, it’s pretty helpful to think of rhetorics rather than rhetoric. As any cursory history of rhetoric reveals, rhetorics evolve in response to both time and place. The rhetoric of Ancient Greece differed from that of Republican Rome just as Republican Roman rhetoric differed from the rhetoric of Imperial Roman. And this is just the rhetoric of a few locales. Rhetoric continued and continues to evolve over time and in other places. Indeed, we could go as far as to say that each time and place has its own unique rhetoric(s). The period from the dawn of the Enlightenment up to the present, which is the focus of this course, has been no different. Taking the plurality and evolution of rhetorics as a given, then, this course focuses particular attention on how technology’s own evolution has played a part in the evolution of rhetoric. How have communication technologies such as the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, and the internet all shaped symbolic action? How have transportation technologies like air travel and the automobile and technologies of the body such as medicine and cosmetic surgery all done the same? While we start in 1701 (exactly), our investigation of rhetoric will attend to how Kenneth Burke, the great 20th century thinker, saw rhetoric: as the work of identification. This work is important, Burke argues, because people are inherently divided. For any group (a class, a community, a congregation, a corporation) to cohere, rhetoric must be at work. Combining this understanding of rhetoric and the above epigram, which argues for rhetoric as a kind of energy, with the course’s focus on technology, we will explore how various technological developments have shaped both the identification and division of peoples for the last 300+ years.

We will also take a closer look at both Kennedy’s and Burke’s definitions of rhetoric; they are certainly not the only ones nor without their critics. Additionally, we will see how the brief definition of rhetoric with which we begin the semester might not be definitive. In what ways might rhetoric exceed the traditional boundaries of symbolic action within which it is often contained? And how has this excess, this evolutionary mutation, been shaped by the technologies in, on, and around us? Perhaps unsurprisingly, this history of rhetoric course will proceed in a chronological fashion. That said, the present often appears in the past, and the past stays with us as we move toward the present. There is a fair amount of time travel in this course. For each period of time, we will take a look at the technologies, in particular the communication technologies, in and around which rhetoric takes place:     1700s: the paper machine, the steam engine, and the distillery 1800s: the telegraph, the railroad, and industrial fermentation 1900s: the telephone, the airplane, and steroids 2000s: the smartphone, a manned mission to mars, and nanotechnology

Course Texts
  The Rhetorical Tradition. Eds. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society, 6/E. Eds. David Crowley and Paul Heyer.

Course Assignments
There is a range of projects and assignments throughout the semester, which each attempt to create a unique engagement with rhetorics and their technologies. We begin the semester with the Rhetoric Q&A essay, which has students draft a working definition of rhetoric by asking some specific question of it (e.g., How do
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technologies such as letter writing and text messaging shape interpersonal rhetoric? How has diplomatic rhetoric responded to the telegraph and to Wikileaks?). A follow-up assignment of sorts, the Rhetorical Object Analysis, has students investigate and describe the active, rhetorical role played by a particular technology in the history of rhetoric. In addition to course projects, students complete a variety of in-class exercises and participate in online discussions, which will take place via Twitter (#rhet2). We might also very well use Twitter to foster backchat during presentations and the occasional film screening. To help guide online discussion, each student will be responsible for leading a week’s discussion. This discussion can take any number of forms (posing questions, sharing links) but it should address and integrate all of the assigned readings for that week.
Assignment Rhetoric Q&A Essay Rhetorical Object Analysis Participation and Attendance Total Points 30 30 40 100

Course Goals
Writing in Context Analyze cultures, social contexts, and audiences to determine how they shape the various purposes and forms of writing, such as persuasion, organizational communication, and public discourse, with an emphasis on: Project Management  understanding, developing, and deploying various strategies for planning, researching, drafting, revising, and editing documents both individually and collaboratively  selecting and using appropriate styles and technologies that effectively and ethically address contexts and audiences  building ethos through voice, evidence, documentation and accountability Document Design Make rhetorical design decisions about documents (and other compositions), including:     understanding and adapting to genre conventions and audience expectations understanding and implementing design principles of format and layout interpreting and arguing with design drafting, researching, testing, and revising visual designs and information architecture

Course Grading Scale
Final grades are calculated according to the following:
A AB+ B BC+ 93-100 points 90-92 points 87-89 points 83-86 points 80-82 points 77-79 points C CD+ D DF 73-76 points 70-72 points 67-69 points 63-66 points 60-62 points 59 points and below

Teamwork Learn and apply strategies for successful teamwork and collaboration, such as:    working online with colleagues responding constructively to peers' work soliciting and using peer feedback effectively

Here is the general course rubric:
A B C D F Achievement outstanding relative to the level necessary to meet course requirements. Achievement significantly above the level necessary to meet course requirements. Achievement meeting the basic course requirements in every respect. Achievement worthy of credit even though it does not fully meet the basic course requirements every respect. Performance failing to meet the basic course requirements.

Research Understand and use various research methods and sources to produce quality documents, including:   analyzing historical and contemporary contexts locating, evaluating, and using print and online information selectively for particular audiences and purposes triangulating sources of evidence

Arts & Sciences Grading Scale
A AB+ 4.0 3.7 3.3 B BC+ 3.0 2.7 2.3 C CD 2.0 1.7 1 F 1

Technology Use and evaluate rhetorical technologies such as emailing, instant messaging, image editing, audio editing, video editing, presentation design and delivery, HTML editing, Web browsing, content management, and desktop publishing technologies.
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Core Course Policies
Technology Expectations     ability to interact with the course website and other websites access to word processing, visual design, podcasting, and web design software a suitable email account checked regularly for course-related business a Flash drive or other means to backup coursework

As a summer seminar driven by student discussion, attendance and participation in all facets of the course is essential. Given the vital importance of student participation, I expect every student to attend every class. If an absence is unavoidable, students are asked to discuss it with me beforehand so that alternative arrangements can be made.

SLU Statement of Academic Integrity
The University is a community of learning, whose effectiveness requires an environment of mutual trust and integrity, such as would be expected at a Jesuit, Catholic institution. As members of this community, students, faculty, and staff members share the responsibility to maintain this environment. Academic dishonesty violates it. Although not all forms of academic dishonesty can be listed here, it can be said in general that soliciting, receiving, or providing any unauthorized assistance in the completion of any work submitted toward academic credit is dishonest. It not only violates the mutual trust necessary between faculty and students but also undermines the validity of the University’s evaluation of students and takes unfair advantage of fellow students. Further, it is the responsibility of any student who observes such dishonest conduct to call it to the attention of a faculty member or administrator.

Routine work with technology is a component of this course. Students need not be technological experts to succeed in this course, but digital technology interaction is integral and computer problems are not valid excuses for incomplete work. Practice the core principle of digital data work: redundant backup. Digital technology will fail; be prepared for that eventuality. Personal Technology Devices Students may use laptops, cell phones, and other digital devices during class, provided that they do not disrupt other students’ learning. This is not a trick. This course is situated in an increasingly connected multimedia environment. Each student is responsible for his or her own engagement with class meetings, and thus his or her resultant success or failure. Availability of Online Material Because of the nature of the course, some material posted to the course website may be publicly accessible through the Web. (A student’s grades and personal information will not be shared publicly.) Additionally, any material posted to the course website may be used anonymously for teaching or published research purposes. For these reasons, students are encouraged to select usernames that are different from their real names. Collaborative Work Because one of the most salient features of digital technology is its social aspect, teamwork and group projects are required elements of the course. Student teammates are responsible for updating each other and the instructor about project development and progress. Additionally, student teams are responsible for negotiating all aspects of their work, including planning, drafting, revising, file managing, scheduling, and leading tutorials and presentations. When a group project is assigned, students will complete activities that foster successful collaboration. After the conclusion of group projects, individuals complete forms to assess the contributions of group members and the global performance of the team.

Student Conduct
This course’s code of student conduct is informed by Saint Louis University’s own code of student conduct, best encapsulated by the following statement: “All members of the University community are expected to contribute to the development and sustainability of community through word and action. Our community is characterized by respect for the dignity of others, honesty, and the pursuit of truth.” Insults, slurs, or attacks of any kind are not allowed in this class (this includes f2f meetings and on the course site). Any student who engages in this type of behavior in the classroom will be permanently removed from the class. This code of conduct is equally important to maintain during group meetings outside of class. In order to have an effective teaching and learning environment we must practice both respect and tolerance, without question. The remainder of the university’s code of student conduct can be found at
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English as Second Language
Help is available at the ESL Resource Center, where tutors are specialized to work with second-language concerns. They work with any international student, undergraduate or graduate, who wishes to seek assistance. In one-on-one consultations and workshops, our ESL writing coaches provide feedback and offer strategies to improve your writing at every stage, from brainstorming for ideas to polishing final drafts. We also offer workshops and individual assistance in other language-related areas, including TOEFL test-taking strategies, multi-media projects, grammar, research, and conversation skills. For more information, to make or cancel an appointment contact Christian Rayner at 314977-3052 or visit

Students with Special Needs
In recognition that people learn in a variety of ways and that learning is influenced by multiple factors (e.g., prior experience, study skills, learning disability), resources to support student success are available on campus. Students who think they might benefit from these resources can find out more about:  Course-level support (e.g., faculty member, departmental resources, etc.) by asking the course instructor. University-level support (e.g., tutoring/writing services, Disability Services) by visiting the Student Success Center (BSC 331) or by going to

Students who believe that, due to a disability, they could benefit from academic accommodations are encouraged to contact Disability Services at 314-977-8885 or visit the Student Success Center. Confidentiality will be observed in all inquiries. Course instructors support student accommodation requests when an approved letter from Disability Services has been received and when students discuss these accommodations with the instructor after receipt of the approved letter.

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