Department of Rhetoric
Faculty in the Department of Rhetoric: Jennifer Abbott (chair), Jeffrey Drury, Sara Drury, and Todd McDorman.
The Rhetoric Department is dedicated to teaching the history, principles, and theories of rhetoric to students with intellectual curiosity and a desire to pry deeply into the workings of our symbolic universe. We define rhetoric as the ethical study and use of symbols (verbal and nonverbal) to publicly address controversial issues. We offer coursework devoted to the rhetoric utilized in legal, political, sports, religious, and media contexts as well as in classical and contemporary time periods. We also sponsor co-curricular opportunities where students put the theoretical principles behind argumentation and deliberation into practice on- and off-campus. Studying rhetoric helps students become effective speakers, listeners, and writers; understand their roles as ethical actors and citizens; and analyze how a variety of texts function persuasively. Such preparation leads students into productive careers in legal, political, professional, and academic contexts.
Senior Comprehensive: Majors must pass two departmental examinations: (1) a three-hour written exam; and (2) a senior oral presentation.
Requirements for a Major: RHE 101 (or 143/145), 201, 320, 350, 497, and four additional credits. Of these four additional credits, one must be a 300-level course. Students considering a Rhetoric Major should take RHE 201 even if they are unable to enroll in RHE 101. Students do not need to wait to take RHE 320 or RHE 350 until after taking RHE 201. RHE 370 (Special Topics) is recommended for all senior majors and minors.
Requirements for a Minor: Five courses, including RHE 101 (or 143/145), 201, 320 or 350, and two additional credits.
Introductory Level Courses
Introductory courses in Rhetoric focus on the principles and practice of effective and responsible message creation and presentation in public contexts (RHE 101) and valid and ethical argumentation (RHE 143, 145). Students become competent in a variety of effective communication techniques, learn to cope with communication apprehension, and develop and exercise skills in critical thinking, argument formation, and argument analysis.
Intermediate Level Courses
Intermediate level courses focus on mastery of the basic concepts and significant theories of persuasion, reasoning, and communication. This study will include the history, theoretical development, and pragmatic uses of the theories and concepts in a variety of settings. Students will develop the ability to evaluate, compare, and critique these theories from a variety of perspectives. Students will also utilize these theories and concepts for the purposes of analysis and application to rhetorical and communicative interactions.
Advanced Level Courses
Advanced level courses are characterized by original research and theorizing. Students will learn to engage primary source material in both theory and criticism, and to produce new insights into the texts that they select as artifacts for examination as well as contribute to the broader scholarship in rhetorical studies. Papers produced in these contexts will be of high quality, possess substantial literature reviews, utilize original theoretical approaches to texts, and illustrate an awareness of the role of rhetoric within the intellectual history. These classes will prepare students to excel in their comprehensive exams as well as possible graduate training by providing them with the knowledge to speak critically and to view themselves as part of a larger scholarly community with which they are in dialogue.