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WRT 400: Rhetorical Listening and Composition

Fall 2013, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:50 p.m., Tolley 304 Patrick W. Berry,, office: HBC 235 office phone: 315-443-1912


office hours: Tuesdays, 9:00-11:00 a.m. and by appointment

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Course Overview and Goals Have shallow public debates become the norm? Even if everything is an argument, how can we deepen our engagement, question our assumptions, and develop writing that is ethically and culturally responsible? In Rhetorical Listening and Composition, we will explore how “listening” was erased from the study of rhetoric and writing, how it became something that we do rather than something that we learn to do, and how it might be reconceived as a much-needed type of twenty-first-century literacy. The course is designed to help you develop a historical and theoretical understanding of rhetorical listening. You will partake in inquires that urge cross-cultural dialogue and attend to how issues of class, race, and gender can affect what we see, hear, and write. A central focus of the course is a space that too often remains invisible in public debates, both nationally and globally: the prison-industrial complex. We will begin by exploring how we lost “listening” in rhetoric and composition and how disciplinary boundaries made it easy to stop paying attention. We will then delve into issues of “felt sense” and theories of embodiment in writing studies research before turning to a series of case studies that explore rhetorical listening in practice. The course will include guest visits from three prominent scholars in writing and rhetoric: Sondra Perl, Professor of English, Lehman College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (Tuesday, October 1); Gesa E. Kirsch, Professor of English and Director of the Valente Center for Arts and Sciences, Bentley University (Thursday, October 31); and Krista Ratcliffe, Professor of English, Marquette University (Thursday, November 14). It will also include the sharing and reading of writing with incarcerated students affiliated with the Education Justice Project.! This Syracuse Symposium™ course is presented with support from the Syracuse University Humanities Center for the College of Arts and Sciences. It is offered in conjunction with the Rhetorical Listening and Composition Colloquium and Workshop Series. Co-sponsors: The Writing Program; Departments of Women’s and Gender Studies, Communication and Rhetorical Studies, and Religion; Hendricks Chapel; Hendricks Chapel Wellness Fund; and the School of Education.



Participation and Attendance Regular attendance and participation in class are critical to your success. You will often be asked to write and share writing during class sessions. Please bring a copy (print or digital) of the assigned reading(s) to class as well as a paper copy of any assigned writing. If you miss a class, you are expected to stay current by contacting me and/or speaking with a classmate. Coming to class more than 20 minutes late will be considered an absence. If you miss more than four classes, you will receive a reduced or failing grade. Grades Final grades for the course will be based on the following percentages. Weekly at-home and in-class writings (30%) You will receive short essays and in-class writing assignments on a weekly basis. These essays will serve as a key component of your final portfolio. Project #1: Listening and Freedom (20%; 7- to 10-page paper) Project #2: Listening Across Difference: Collaboration with EJP students (20%; 7- to 10-page paper) Final Project Portfolio (30%) Your final portfolio will include an assemblage of your best work over the semester as well as revisions of earlier work. It will also include a reflective analysis paper. As a general rule, late work will not be accepted. Readings Course readings are available on Blackboard. Student Writing Texts written in this course are generally public. You may be asked to share them with a peer, the class, or me during classroom activities or for homework. You will also be asked to sign a consent form allowing the use of your writing for professional development, teacher training, and classroom instruction within the Syracuse University Writing Program. The Writing Center If you need any help with your writing, the Writing Center ( is an excellent resource. Workshop consultants can help you learn how to improve your writing by offering assistance with planning, drafting, and revising. This resource is free, and I highly recommend it. You are also always welcome to utilize my office hours for help with assignments. Special Needs and Situations If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS),, located in Room 309 of 804 University Avenue, or call (315) 443-4498 for an appointment to discuss your needs and the



process for requesting accommodations. ODS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will issue students with documented disabilities Accommodation Authorization Letters as appropriate. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact ODS as soon as possible.


Syracuse University and I are committed to your success and to supporting Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This means that in general no individual who is otherwise qualified shall be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity solely by reason of having a disability. Academic Honesty The academic community requires ethical behavior from all of its participants. For writers, this means that the work we claim as ours must truly be ours. At the same time, we are not always expected to come up with new ideas; we often build our thinking on the ideas of others. We are expected, however, to credit others with their contributions and to clearly indicate the boundaries of our own thinking. In cases where academic dishonesty is detected (the fraudulent submission of another’s work, in whole or part, as your own), you may be subject to a failing grade for the project or the course, and in the worst case to academic probation or expulsion. For a more detailed description of the guidelines for adhering to academic honesty in the College of Arts and Sciences, go to: Religious Observance SU’s religious observances policy, found at, recognizes the diversity of faiths represented among the campus community and protects the rights of students, faculty, and staff to observe religious holy days according to their tradition. Under the policy, students are provided an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to a religious observance provided they notify their instructors before the end of the second week of classes. For fall and spring semesters, an online notification process is available through MySlice/Student Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances from the first day of class until the end of the second week of class.



Course Schedule (subject to change)
Date WEEK 1 Tuesday, Aug. 27 In class Listening and Rhetoric Read Terry Tempest Williams’ “Why I Write” and participate in writing activity. Thurs., Aug. 29 How Many “Rhetorics”? Participate in a CCCCs “Listening Tour.” WEEK 2 Tuesday, Sept. 3 What are the characteristics of ListeningRhetoric? Defining Rhetorical Listening At home (due the following class) Read Wayne C. Booth’s “How Many ‘Rhetorics’?” The Rhetoric of Rhetoric: The Quest for Effective Communication. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 3-22. Read June Jordan’s “On Listening: A Good Way to Hear,” Civil Wars. Boston: Beacon P, 1981. 39-44.

Read Wayne C. Booth’s “Judging Rhetoric.” The Rhetoric of Rhetoric: The Quest for Effective Communication. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 39-54. Assignment: Write a 600-word essay that summarizes and responds to Booth’s articulation of the three kinds of rhetorics. Post your essay to Blackboard and bring a hard copy to class. Read Krista Ratcliffe’s “Defining Rhetorical Listening.” Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2005. 17-46.

Thurs., Sept. 5

Assignment: Write a 900-word essay that illuminates the ideas raised by Ratcliffe. Consider these questions: What does rhetorical listening look like or sound like? How do you distinguish Ratcliffe’s rhetorical listening from Booth’s listening-rhetoric? Post your essay to Blackboard and bring a hard copy to class. Read and practice Sondra Perl’s “The Guidelines for Composing” (the 50-minute version) using either the audio files or the text. Felt Sense: Writing with the Body. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 2004. 25-32. Come to class ready to discuss your experiences. Read Sondra Perl’s “What is Felt Sense?” Felt Sense: Writing with the Body. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 2004. 1-14. Assignment: Practice “The Guidelines for Composing” with this prompt: Some might say that listening is about learning. We cannot learn unless we listen both to ourselves and to the world around us. Think about a specific moment in your life when you heard something that you had not heard before and learned something from it. This could be a memory from childhood, family life, or school. Post your essay to Blackboard and

WEEK 3 Tuesday, Sept. 10

What does rhetorical listening look like or sound like? Listening to Ourselves

Thurs., Sept. 12



bring a hard copy to class. There is no assigned word count for this essay, although it will likely be at least 900 words. WEEK 4 Tuesday, Sept. 17 Listening to Each Other Read Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz’s “Workshopping a Draft.” Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction. Boston, Wadsworth, 2014. 7592. Assignment: Post your revision to Blackboard and bring a hard copy to class. Thurs., Sept. 19 Listening and Representation Read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow.” The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: New Press, 2010. 178220. Assignment: Write a draft for project 1: “Listening and Freedom.” Post draft to Blackboard and bring hard copy to class.

WEEK 5 Tuesday, Sept. 24

Listening Through Mass Incarceration Watch excerpt from President Obama’s 2008 Father’s Day Speech: /watch?v=Hj1hC DjwG6M

Thurs., Sept. 26


Read Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz’s “The Craft of Revision.” Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction. Boston, Wadsworth, 2014. 93113. Assignment: Post your revision to Blackboard and bring a hard copy to class.

WEEK 6 Tuesday, Oct. 1 Thurs., Oct. 3

Special guest: Sondra Perl

Assignment: Project 1 due.

Silence and Listening

Read Cheryl Glenn’s “Defining Silence.” Unspoken: A Rhetoric of Silence. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP. 1-19.

WEEK 7 Tuesday,

Graphic Listening

Read Andrea Lunsford and Adam Rosenblatt’s “‘Down a Road and into an Awful Silence’: Graphic Listening in Joe Sacco’s Comics Journalism.”



Oct. 8

Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts. Ed. Cheryl Glenn and Krista Ratcliffe. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP. 130-46.

Thurs., Oct. 10

Graphic Listening

Read Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer’s graphic retelling of Race to Incarcerate. New York: New P, 2013. 1-31. Assignment: Write a 600-word essay that considers the techniques used in the graphic retelling of this essay and the extent to which it enacts an approach to rhetorical listening. Consider these techniques along with those used by Lunsford and Rosenblatt. Post your essay to Blackboard and bring a hard or digital copy to class.

WEEK 8 Tuesday, Oct. 15

Graphic Listening

Read Michelle Alexander’s foreword, Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman’s introduction, and Olivia Hamilton’s narrative from Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. Ed. Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2011. 11-37. Read EJP student essays and begin to draft responses in preparation for Project 2. Assignment: Draft 3-page response to EJP student essays and post on Blackboard.

Thurs., Oct. 17

Listening, Place, and Identity

WEEK 9 Tuesday, Oct. 22 Thurs., Oct. 24 WEEK 10 Tuesday, Oct. 29 Thurs., Oct. 31 WEEK 11 Tuesday, Nov. 5


Read introduction to Marc Mauer’s Race to Incarcerate. New York: Viking, 1999. 1-15. Assignment: Draft 7-page paper for Assignment 2. Read Gesa E. Kirsch’s “Creating Spaces for Listening, Learning, and Sustaining the Inner Lives of Students.” JAEPL 14 (2008-2009): 1-12. Assignment: Project #2 due.

Workshop Workshop

Special guest: Gesa E. Kirsch Gesa Kirsch and Jacqueline Joyce Royster: Mindfulness and Feminist Rhetorical Practices

Read !Gesa E. Kirsch and Jacqueline J. Royster’s “!Feminist Rhetorical Practices: In Search of Excellence.” College Composition and Communication 61.4 (2004): 640-72. Assignment: Write a 600-word response that summarizes Kirsch and Royster’s ideas about feminist rhetorical practices.

Thurs., Nov. 7

Mindfulness and Creativity

Read Ratcliffe excerpts.



WEEK 12 Tuesday, Nov. 12 Thurs., Nov. 14


Assignment: Write a 600-word response to Ratcliffe’s chapter and come to class ready to discuss rhetorical listening with her. Assignment: Prepare shorter pieces for your portfolio.

Special guest: Krista Ratcliffe Lunch will be served

WEEK 13 Tuesday, Nov. 19

Movie Screening What I Want My Words to Do to You No class No class

Watch Eve Ensler’s What I Want My Words to Do to You. DVD. PBS Home Video, 2003. Assignment: Write a 900-word response that discusses issues of representation in the film. Assignment: Work on finalizing your portfolio. Thanksgiving break

Thurs., Nov. 21 WEEK 14 Tuesday, Nov. 26 Thurs., Nov. 28 WEEK 15 Tuesday, Dec. 3 Thurs., Dec. 5

No class Portfolio sharing

Thanksgiving break Post your portfolio to Blackboard and bring in a hard copy.

Portfolio sharing

Portfolio sharing