Courses and Major-Minor Requirements

We offer a variety of courses-in public speaking, forensics, social justice rhetoric, political-legal rhetoric, and context based rhetoric and discourse theory.

Rhetoric Courses

Public Speaking Courses

Rhetoric 110, Fundamentals of Public Address

Rhetoric 111, Fundamentals of Public Speaking

Forensic Courses

Rhetoric 121, Fundamentals of Debate

Rhetoric 221, Intercollegiate Parliamentary Debate and Speaking Events

Rhetoric 222, Intercollegiate Policy Debate

Department Introduction Course

Rhetoric 230, Introduction to Rhetoric and Public Culture

Social Justice & Activism Rhetoric Courses

Rhetoric 240, Rhetorical Explorations: Race, Class, and Gender

Rhetoric 245, Persuasion, Agitation, and Social Movements

Rhetoric 247-249, Special Topics in Rhetoric and Social Justice

Rhetoric 341, Rhetoric of Hip Hop

Rhetoric 342, The Rhetoric of the 47%: Social, Political and Rhetorical Class Materialism

Rhetoric 343, Rhetoric of Weapons of the State

Rhetoric 347-349, Special Advanced Topics in Rhetoric and Social Justice

Political-Legal Rhetoric Courses

Rhetoric 247-249, Special Topics in Political and Legal Rhetoric

Rhetoric 350, Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment

Rhetoric 351, Argument in the Law and Politics

Rhetoric 352, Political Campaign Rhetoric

Rhetoric 357-359, Special Advanced Topics in Political and Legal Rhetoric

Rhetoric and Discourse Theory Courses

Rhetoric 277-279, Special Topics in Rhetoric and Discourse Theory

Rhetoric 277, Visual Rhetoric

Rhetoric 278, Rhetoric of National Identity

Rhetoric 371, Rhetoric in Early Western Culture

Rhetoric 377-379, Special Advanced Topics in Rhetoric and Discourse Theory

Rhetoric 377 Language, Rhetoric, and Human Rights

  

Junior Seminar, Thesis, Independent Study

Rhetoric 387, Rhetorical Criticism (Junior Seminar)

Rhetoric 491, Thesis in Rhetoric Studies

Rhetoric 498, Honors Thesis in Rhetoric Studies

Rhetoric 401, 402, Independent Study


Distribution: Rhetoric courses count toward humanities except in these areas:

  • Fine arts: Rhetoric 110, 111, 245
  • Do not count toward distribution: Rhetoric 121, 221, 222


Counting as cultural pluralism or as humanities: Rhetoric 240, 245, 278, 340, 377, 379

Rhetoric Studies Department Description

Chair: James Hanson

Heather Hayes

Matthew deTar

Kevin Kuswa

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, of communicating effectively and with consequence. As such, rhetoric studies examines public advocacy and social expression by exploring influential speeches, Internet posts, court opinions, media representations, written documents, and the many ways society engages in persuasive arguments. Courses focus on political, legal, environmental, social, activist, identity politics, and cultural argument while providing a solid grounding in the theory, practice, and criticism of contemporary communication. Students ultimately utilize this rhetorical understanding on the kinds of communication in which they have interest. In the process, they learn what makes rhetoric effective as well as how it affects their and others' lives.

Distribution: Rhetoric courses count toward Humanities except as noted below. For Special Topics, see the individual course descriptions.

  • Fine Arts: 110, 111, and 245
  • Cultural Pluralism: 240


Activity Credit/No Distribution Area: 121, 221, and 222
 

Rhetoric Majors and Minor Descriptions

Rhetoric Studies Track: This track is for students with interest in rhetoric broadly or whose interest does not fit the other tracks. A student who enters Whitman without any prior college-level coursework in rhetoric studies will complete 34 credits to fulfill the requirements for this track, including 387, and 491 or 498, with up to 8 credits of 200 level or higher courses outside the department fitting to the students rhetorical studies that are pre-approved by the student's major adviser.

Political and Legal Rhetoric Track: This track is for students specifically interested in political argument, legal rhetoric, public policy advocacy, argument in international relations, and political campaign strategies. A student who enters Whitman without any prior college-level coursework in rhetoric studies will complete 34 credits to fulfill the requirements for this track including at least three political and legal rhetoric courses numbered 250-259 or 350-359, 387, and 491 or 498. Students may take up to 8 credits of 200 level or higher courses outside the department, typically in politics, fitting to the student's political and legal rhetoric interests that are pre-approved by the student's major adviser.

Social Justice Rhetoric Track: This track is for students specifically interested in the history and current practices of argument, advocacy, and change for a more just world concerning issues such as race, class, gender, sexuality, the environment, and culture. A student who enters Whitman without any prior college-level coursework in rhetoric studies will complete 34 credits to fulfill the requirements for this track including at least three social justice and activism rhetoric courses numbered 240-249 or 340-349, 387, and 491 or 498. Students may take up to 8 credits of 200 level or higher courses outside the department in an area fitting to the student's social justice and activism rhetoric interests that are pre-approved by the student's major adviser.

For the Major Tracks:

I. Junior Seminar: All majors will complete the 387 course in the fall semester of their junior year. With major adviser consent, this course may be completed as a senior (typically because of off-campus studies).

II. Senior Thesis: All majors will complete and orally defend a thesis for the 491 or 498 course during the fall semester of their senior year.

III. Students may not count more than 4 credits of Rhetoric Studies 121, 221, or 222 toward the major tracks.

IV. Department policy does not allow a P-D-F grade option for courses within the major tracks.

V. Rhetoric and Film Studies (RFS) and Rhetoric and Media Studies (RMS) courses taken prior to Fall 2012 shall count for either track. The RFS/RMS 387 course shall count for Rhetoric Studies 387, RFS/RMS 250 shall count for Rhetoric Studies 245, RFS/RMS 388 shall count for Rhetoric Studies 356. RFS/RMS 379 shall count for 349 if it counted for cultural pluralism or environmental studies, and for Rhetoric Studies 359 if it was cross-listed with politics but not environmental studies.

VI. Students may not receive credit for taking both the Rhetoric Studies and RFS/RMS versions of the same class, except for 221, 222, 401, and 402.

Minor: A minimum of 20 credits in rhetoric with up to 4 credits of 200 level or higher courses outside of the department fitting to the student's rhetorical studies that are pre-approved by the student's minor adviser. Students may not count more than 4 credits of Rhetoric 121, 221, or 222 toward the minor. Department policy does not allow a P-D-F grade option for courses within the minor.

 

Rhetoric Course Descriptions

110 Fundamentals of Public Address 4, 4 Fall : deTar and Hanson; Spring: Hayes

Speech is one of our primary means of communication. This course provides training in the fundamentals of effective speaking including the preparation, presentation and evaluation of a variety of types of communication. Preparation emphasizes the use of clear organization, cogent arguments, and strong and interesting supporting material. Presentation focuses on the use of vocal variety, distinct articulation, presence, gestures, and effective use of oral language. Evaluation encourages students to critique public address, learning to think and express what could make a presentation more effective. Oral presentations and several papers required. Students may not receive credit for both Rhetoric Studies 110 and 111.

111 Fundamentals of Public Speaking Second-half of Spring semester; x, 3 Hanson

This course trains and engages students in effective public speaking including the preparation, presentation and evaluation of a variety of types of communication. Students prepare by learning to use clear organization, cogent arguments, and strong and interesting supporting material. Students improve their presentation skills in the use of vocal variety, distinct articulation, presence, gestures, and effective use of oral language. Students evaluate by critiquing public rhetoric, learning to think and express what could make a presentation more effective. Oral presentations, individually scheduled practice and presentation outside of class time sessions, and two short papers required. Students may not receive credit for both Rhetoric Studies 110 and 111.

121 Fundamentals of Debating 1, x Kuswa

Introduction to and participation in debate without a heavy commitment throughout the semester. Students are expected to attend classes covering and engaging key debate skills for the first six to eight weeks of the semester, and then participate in one intercollegiate or on-campus tournament. Students may not jointly register for Rhetoric Studies 121, 221, 222. May not be taken P-D-F.

221 Intercollegiate Parliamentary Debate and Speaking Events 2, 2 Kuswa

Participation in parliamentary debate and a speaking event throughout the semester. Students are expected to attend a preparation session the week before school begins (exceptions on a case-by-case basis only). Students are expected to attend meetings, prepare for parliamentary debate and a speaking event, practice each week with staff, and assist in the management of tournaments that Whitman hosts. Students must compete at two tournaments during the semester in parliamentary debate and in one speaking event when offered. Students may not jointly register for Rhetoric Studies 121, 221, 222. Rhetoric Studies 121 is not a prerequisite. May not be taken P-D-F.

222 Intercollegiate Policy Debate* 2, 2 Kuswa

Participation in policy debate throughout the semester. Students are expected to attend a preparation session the week before school begins (exceptions on a case-by-case basis only). Students are expected to attend meetings, prepare research assignments, engage in practice drills and debates, and assist in the management of tournaments that Whitman hosts. Students must compete in debate at a minimum of two tournaments during the semester. Students may not jointly register for Rhetoric Studies 121, 221, 222. *Topics change yearly. Rhetoric Studies 121 is not a prerequisite. May not be taken P-D-F.

230 Introduction to Rhetoric and Public Culture 4, x Hayes

An introduction to the Rhetoric Department, this course examines the role of communication in our contemporary society. We address three core areas: political and legal rhetoric, rhetorics of social justice, and contemporary rhetorical theory. Students evaluate public discourse such as political speeches (from across world regions), print and digital media (e.g., news, documentaries, web campaigns), and institutional advocacy (e.g., propaganda, legal arguments, and policy deliberations). Course requirements include class discussion, an oral presentation, and two short writing assignments. Throughout, students develop two key proficiencies: how to better interpret the diverse communication that surrounds them, and how to become effective and reflective advocates for change in the world.

240 Rhetorical Explorations: Race, Class and Gender x, 4 Hanson

This course seeks to examine the ways in which race-, class-, and gender-based rhetorical practices can and do create, reinforce, adjust and sometimes overcome inequality in society. The nature of this inequality is addressed as a rhetorical construct that continues to serve as a basis for often heated discussion in society. Those in the class critique communication in the media, daily discourse, the law, politics, and in their own experiences. The goal of this examination is to increase awareness of inequity in communication, to challenge theoretical assumptions about what constitutes inequity, and to offer new perspectives from which to view race-, class-, and gender-based rhetorical practices. This course may count toward the requirements for the gender studies minor and major.

245 Persuasion, Agitation, and Social Movements 4; not offered 2013-14

This class explores the rhetorical grounds of social interaction with an emphasis on the role of communication in both social continuity and change. The course introduces students to theories and the practice of mass persuasion, propaganda, public advocacy, and social activism. Theories are illustrated through examination of a set of case studies (e.g., civil rights campaigns, environmental politics, grass-roots social movements, and digitally networked global communities). Students evaluate and construct persuasive arguments in both formal and informal settings. By studying the phenomenon of social movements (broadly defined), we examine how collective identification is created, and how groups are motivated to act in concert, particularly in contexts where communication alone may be insufficient to alleviate injustice. Credit not allowed if RMS 250 (formerly RFS 250) has been previously completed.

247-249 Special Topics in Social Justice Rhetoric 1-4

Courses in social justice rhetoric. Any current offerings follow.

257-259 Special Topics in Political and Legal Rhetoric 1-4

Courses in political and legal rhetoric. Any current offerings follow.

Rhetoric Studies /227

277-279 Special Topics in Rhetoric and Discourse Theory 1-4

Courses in rhetoric and discourse theory. Any current offerings follow.

277 ST: Visual Rhetoric 4, x deTar

Visual images saturate our world and have a profound impact on our experience of politics and public life. This course explores the rhetorical role of visual images in American public culture and politics, focusing on the ways in which images function persuasively, construct our understanding of political discourse, and help constitute particular fields of symbolic action. Students will develop tools for analyzing the rhetorical aspects of historical and contemporary images and artifacts, including photographs, prints, advertisements, public spaces, and memorials. Through extended analyses of specific visual practices, students will focus on the ways in which visual images participate in a number of rhetorical actions, from memorialization, to governance, to confrontation, to commodification. Distribution area: humanities or fine arts.

278 ST: Rhetoric and the Politics of National Identity x, 4 deTar

Nationalism and national identity are some of the strongest organizing principles in modern politics, yet also some of the most mysterious. Among its many functions, nationalism homogenizes groups into nationalities, naturalizes specific places as national territories, legitimizes particular administrative formations, and operates as both a local rhetorical strategy and a global discursive phenomenon. This course will address the operation of nationalism by exploring the linguistic and rhetorical construction of national identity in political and popular speech. Students will explore the constitution of identity and nationhood by focusing on specific cases (such as the relationship between race, ethnicity, and nationhood in Turkey, the United States, Israel, India, and France) and on theoretical work on the constitution of nationality, race, and ethnicity (such as Craig Calhoun, Benedict Anderson, Judith Butler, and Jacques Derrida). Through classroom discussion, lecture, and written research projects, students will develop skills for recognizing and analyzing the rhetorical dimensions of identity, ethnicity, race, and nationhood in public and political discourse. May be elected Politics 200. Distribution area: humanities or social sciences.

341 The Rhetoric of Hip Hop x, 4 Hayes

This course critically explores the impact and influence of hip-hop music and culture on American popular culture, political and social activism, and the global marketplace. The course is designed to introduce students to the history, analysis, and criticism of the messages disseminated through hip-hop culture, its various genres, business models, lyrics, and videos. We will examine the political and artistic foundations of hip-hop as rhetorical modes of communication and the issues presented by the cultural phenomenon including its relationship to issues of race, violence, and gender. We will look at the musical, visual, lyrical, and aesthetic manifestations of hip-hop over the past thirty-five years and their impact on socio-political culture, gender, and race. We will also look at specific cultural aesthetics, discourses, and practices that have given rise to hip-hop's various rhetorical forms. In short, we will ask: what are the discursive boundaries, limits, and possibilities of something we can call "hip-hop"? In doing so, we hope to gain a better understanding of hip-hop as artistic expression and the discursive impact that this phenomenon has had on a generation. Course requirements will include class discussion, a final paper with an oral presentation, and weekly blog posts and/or discussion prompts. May be elected as Sociology 341.

342 The Rhetoric of the 47%: The Social, Political, and Rhetorical Materialism of Class 4, x Hayes

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Governor Mitt Romney was infamously captured on video arguing that 47 percent of the American people are dependent upon government, pay no income tax, and as a result, were not citizens he "should worry about." This course will examine Romney's assertion of the 47%, alongside an understanding of rhetorical materialism, or the ways that rhetoric functions "as a palpable and undeniable social and political force." We will discuss political rhetoric of class, poverty, income inequality, and the material forces that divide socio-economic populations in the United States. In doing so, we will strive to ask: How does an understanding of rhetoric as material illuminate questions of political and social change, particularly in cases of those who are least advantaged? In what ways does discourse work to shape understandings of class and economic value? Course requirements will include class discussion, a final paper, and weekly blog posts and/or discussion prompts. May be elected as Politics 342.

343 Rhetoric of Weapons of the State x, 4 Hayes

In the moments after September 11, 2001, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside the increasingly enduring "war on terror" have prompted new discourses of security, transnational alliances, and strategic weaponry. This course will trace the history and discourses of weapons of the state, beginning with discussion of the development of nuclear technology and a rhetorical strategy Edward Schiappa terms "nukespeak." The course will trace these histories through the current debates over technological innovations in weaponry, specifically pilotless aerial weapons known as drones. In tracing these histories and discourses, we will focus on the following questions: what political discourses and strategies animate new forms of state controlled weaponry? How do these new forms of state weaponry get circulated, discussed, and critiqued? Finally, how do state forms of violence become understood in contrast to forms of violence produced by individuals in the quest for social justice and change? Course requirements include class discussion, a final paper, and weekly blog posts and/or discussion prompts by students. May be elected as Politics 343.

347-349 Advanced Special Topics in Social Justice Rhetoric 1-4

Advanced courses in Social Justice Rhetoric. Any current offerings follow.

350 Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment 4, x Hanson

Arguments over the "appropriate boundaries" of freedom of speech are among the most interesting and hotly debated issues addressed by the legal system. In this course, the evolution of current legal standards on freedom of speech will be traced through a wide range of cases that made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Issues such as privacy, obscenity, "fighting words," and commercial speech will be discussed, along with considerable discussion dealing with special issues of free speech such as free speech and fair trials, prior restraint, and free speech in prisons, schools, the military, and the marketplace. May be elected as Politics 379.

351 Argument in the Law and Politics x, 4 Hanson

This course emphasizes the study and practice of argument in the law and politics and involves three critical aspects. First, students engage in and evaluate legal argument in important court cases. Second, students participate in and evaluate political campaign and public policymaking argument. Third, students are exposed to argumentation theory as a way of interpreting the arguments they construct and evaluate. The goal of the course is to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the use of argument. May be elected as Politics 380.

352 Political Campaign Rhetoric 4; not offered 2013-14

This course focuses on communication used in political campaigns, particularly the Presidential and to a lesser degree Senate and House races as well as ballot initiatives in the current election year. The course examines the recent history of campaigns, the importance of character and public policy, advertisements, speeches, media coverage, debates, new technologies, demographics, and after the election, implications of the results. May be elected as Politics 352.

357-359 Advanced Special Topics in Political and Legal Rhetoric 1-4

Advanced courses in political and legal rhetoric. Any current offerings follow.

371 Rhetoric in Early Western Culture 4, not offered 2013-14

Focuses on the principal rhetorical developments that occurred during several of the great periods of Western thought, beginning with the classical conflict between the Sophists and Platonists in Greece, to the emphasis on the liberally educated person in the Roman Empire, the rhetoric of the church in the Middle Ages, and concluding with the study of logic and argument during the Scottish Enlightenment. May be elected as Classics 371.

377-379 Advanced Special Topics in Rhetoric and Discourse Theory 1-4

Advanced courses in rhetoric and discourse theory. Any current offerings follow.

377 ST: Language, Rhetoric, and the Question of Human Rights x, 4 deTar

Since the end of WWII and the end of the Cold War, human rights has become the dominant moral vocabulary in a variety of arenas: domestic and international discourse; legal, political, and cultural contexts; liberal and illiberal governmental forms. Human rights are critical to political disputes about minority groups, international law, cultural values, and religious expression. This course introduces students to rhetorical analyses of the politics and theory of an international human rights regime and a universal culture of human rights. The course will explore questions surrounding definitions of the "human" and "rights" in human rights discourse, invocations of "culture" in specific political contexts involving rights struggles, and the challenge of ethical action in a postmodern world. Students will develop skills for analyzing and interpreting the rhetorical dimensions of human rights discourse through primary documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and through theoretical writing on human rights by authors such as Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler, and Wendy Brown. Course discussion, lectures, and writing projects will allow students to understand the operation of language and the rhetoric of human rights discourse in specific cases. May be elected Politics 400. Distribution area: humanities or social sciences.

378 ST: Gender, Sex, and Desire in Histories of Writing Rhetoric x, 4 McDermott

The central questions of this course are: How have gender, sex and desire influenced histories of writing-rhetoric, and, conversely, how have histories of rhetoric influenced conceptions of gender, sex, and desire at different points in Western history? We will examine classical rhetorical theorists alongside examples of writing from several time periods. This class is not the History of Rhetoric and Writing, and therefore does not offer a progressive narrative of gender and rhetoric from the Classical era to today. Rather, this class seeks to disrupt such narratives and create smaller narratives that examine the juxtaposition of these forces. May be elected as English 387B. Distribution area: humanities or cultural pluralism.

387 Rhetorical Criticism 4, x deTar

Using a variety of critical theories such as Neo-Aristotelian, Textual, Genre, Narrative, Ideology, Gender, Sexuality, Dramatism, Hyperrealism, Power Relations, and Deconstructionism, this course focuses on the analysis of rhetoric in speeches, court opinions, film, writing, television, political debates, and advertisements among many examples of communication. Students give presentations and write papers utilizing these various perspectives. The goal is to prepare students to integrate theory effectively in analyzing rhetoric, writing cogent and organized theses, and participating in the larger intellectual conversation about the significant influence communication has in our lives. Credit not allowed if RMS 387 (formerly RFS 387) has been previously completed. Primarily for students majoring in Rhetoric Studies, open to other students only by consent of instructor.

401, 402 Independent Study 1-3, 1-3 Staff

Individually directed studies in rhetoric culminating in a presentation, paper, or other creation as arranged between the student and professor. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

491 Thesis 4, x Hanson

Research and writing of the senior thesis. Open only to and required of senior majors.

498 Honors Thesis 4, x Hanson

Research and writing of the senior honors thesis. Open only to and required of senior majors. Prerequisite: admission to honors candidacy. Students wishing to be considered for honors must apply to the department within the first six weeks of spring semester of the junior year.