Communication and Culture | Premodern Rhetorical Theory
C511 | 27178 | Terrill, R.

R, 1:00 PM-3:30 PM, 800 E. 3rd St. – room 272

Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Robert Terrill
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 223
Phone: 855-0118

This course provides a survey of key texts in the Greek and Latin
rhetorical traditions, exploring in particular their close
historical association with democratic theory and practice.  Toward
that end, we will concentrate upon ancient texts and contemporary
commentaries with potential to assist our efforts to describe some
of the premodern underpinnings of a continually developing
intellectual history of rhetorical study, and with an eye to their
potential to contribute to our understanding and critique of
contemporary American public culture.

A central assumption guiding this course is that a scholar cannot
claim identity as a “rhetorician” without a thorough knowledge of
these ancient texts, because they form the foundation of a millennia-
long tradition of theory and critique that continues into the
present.  A secondary assumption is that knowledge of these texts
contributes fundamentally to any scholar’s understanding of the
genealogy of much contemporary critical theory, so naturally the
course also would benefit students who do not intend to consider
themselves rhetoricians.

Prior to each class meeting, you will be expected to write a brief
reaction to the readings, post these to Oncourse, and read carefully
the postings of our peers.  You will also, of course, need to come
to each class prepared to discuss the texts in close detail.  Two
papers will be expected:  one in which you analyze and critique a
primary text included on the syllabus, and another in which you
deploy premodern rhetorical theory to critique some artifact or
performance in contemporary public culture.

Assigned readings will include: Aristotle, Rhetoric* and Poetics;
Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana; Isocrates, Against the Sophists*
and Antidosis*; Jarratt, Rereading the Sophists*; Lanham, “The ‘Q’
Question”*; Ober, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens*;
Peters, “Dialogue and Dissemination”; Plato, Gorgias* and Phaedrus*;
Poulakos, Sophistical Rhetoric in Classical Greece*; and Sprague,
The Older Sophists.  (Items included on the M.A. Reading List in
Rhetoric are indicated with an asterisk.)