Communication and Culture | Persuasion
C324 | 6234 | Hollis, D.


MW, 2:30 PM-3:45 PM, TE F256

Fulfills College A&H Requirement

Instructor: Dixon Hollis
E-Mail: dchollis@indiana.edu
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 210
Phone: 361-2725

Rhetoric and persuasion share an intellectual history with one
another. Indeed, Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric is often
translated as “the faculty of observing, in any given case, the
available means of persuasion.” Unfortunately and for too many
reasons to recount here, these conceptual cousins have been treated
throughout Western history with suspicion and denigrated as
discursive practices. This historical baggage continues to haunt our
current understandings of rhetoric and persuasion as trickery,
manipulation, or the selling of goods. In opposition to this
tradition, we will work to untangle rhetoric and persuasion from
these mischaracterizations and recuperate rhetoric and persuasion as
productive and ethical modes of communicating with our family,
friends, strangers, and enemies.

So what do I mean by a “rhetorical examination of persuasion in a
mass-mediated world”? Let me first explain this by way of what it is
not. If you were to look at the syllabi for other persuasion classes
you would probably start to see some similarities. For example, most
classes spend a lot of time studying advertising, marketing, and
propaganda. Other classes focus primarily on political processes
such as elections and political advertising. And still other classes
treat persuasion as a technical, practical art wherein the goal of
the class is to teach you how to win friends and influence people.
After looking over our syllabus, you might notice that our class is
not structured around these concepts. In short, I think that classes
designed around those concepts either treat rhetoric as the problem
instead of the solution or they embrace an ethically dubious theory
of rhetoric and persuasion as simply a means to an end. Either way,
these understandings of rhetoric and persuasion ignore a rich
tradition of rhetoric as a source of judgment and invention.

To provide a more affirmative answer to the question, for our
purposes we will be guided to greater and lesser degrees by Kenneth
Burke’s conceptualization of rhetoric as a process of identification
rather than influence. Therefore, we are interested less in how to
instrumentally use rhetoric to sell something and instead how to
employ rhetoric as a way to identify with others.

It is not required, but very helpful if C205 Introduction to
Communication and Culture is taken first.