English 5350.001: Classical Rhetoric
Dr. Timothy Richardson
Since the rhetorician offers to speak and to write about everything, and the philosopher tries to think about everything, they have always been rivals in their claim to provide a universal training of the mind.
—P. O. Kristeller, “The Humanist Movement”
When Kristeller suggests that “the rhetorician offers to speak and write about everything, and the philosopher tries to think about everything…,” our attention should be drawn not to the apparent object of both inquiries—the “everything”—but to the modes, the methods, the processes assumed for such investigations. That is, philosophers think. Rhetoricians speak and write.
Often, the result of this assumption is that philosophy is given priority over rhetoric, since one must have knowledge in order to disseminate/demonstrate and rhetoric proper is mostly the ability to organize knowledge and make it presentable. Rhetoric dresses knowledge up for an audience, makes truth attractive for polite circles. At least, that’s one assumption.
This course is an introduction to the earliest traditions of rhetoric. But as we follow the grand recit of rhetoric from the Sophists to Augustine – in some sense, a journey from display to interpretation – we will consider what these texts allege regarding the definition and limits of rhetoric and its relationship to/with other (ancient and contemporary) critical systems. What are the differences (if any) between rhetoric and other systems that claim a body of knowledge (philosophy, religion, politics)? Can the differences (if any) be expressed in terms of suppositions about what words (should, can) do? In particular, we will be looking at some examples of late antique Rabbinic exegesis with an eye (or ear) toward discovering how the tradition may fit with the study of classical rhetorics.
Explicit here is the belief that the old folks are still useful, and the enduring significance of Classical rhetorical theory in and for contemporary thought will be a constant platform for discussion.
Toward these goals:
* Each student will produce a substantial blog-post response to the reading each week.
* Each week, select students will present a three-page, double-spaced position statement on the readings and will lead our discussions via questions s/he has prepared.
* By roughly the middle of the session, each student will have produced a short (5+) exploratory paper on whatever topic s/he has chosen. Topics are relatively open, but must be approved in advance. This is in some ways a prospectus that will need to state precisely what you are intending, how you are going to do it, and should include a preliminary bibliography. A presentation version of this will be presented to the class later.
* Finally, at the end of the semester, each of you will submit a (15-25 page) paper on some aspect of Classical rhetoric discussed during the semester.
Grades (200 pts):
20 pts blog posts
20 pts position statements and questions
50 pts exploratory paper
10 pts presentation
100 pts final paper
Required texts are:
Aristotle, Aristotle on Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse, trans. George A. Kennedy
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, trans. D.W. Robertson
Daniel Boyarin, Borderlines
Handelman, Susan. The Slayers of Moses: The Emergence of Rabbinic Interpretation in Modern Literary Theory
Isocrates, Against the Sophists, trans. George Norlin (Perseus; online)
Longinus, On the Sublime, tr. W. Rhys Roberts (Peitho’s Web; online)
Plato, Plato on Rhetoric and Language: Four Key Dialogues, ed. Jean Nienkamp
Quintilian, Quintilian on the Teaching of Speaking and Writing: Translations from Books One, Two, and Ten of the Institutio Oratoria, ed. James J. Murphy
And shorter selections available online, on reserve, etc.
Sharon Crowley, Toward a Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism
|Jan 14||Course Introduction; sign up for responses|
|Jan 21||MLK – NO CLASS|
|Jan 28||Dissoi Logoi, Encomium of Helen, Against the Sophists, Ion|
|Feb 4||Protagoras, begin Gorgias|
|Feb 11||finish Gorgias , Phaedrus|
|Feb 18||Discuss final projects; Intro to On Rhetoric; Rhetoric: Book 1|
|Feb 25||Rhetoric: Book 2|
Short Essay Due
Rhetoric: Book 3
|March 11||SPRING BREAK|
|March 18||The Slayers of Moses chapters 1-4|
|March 25||Institutio Oratoria: Book 1, 2 &10|
|April 1||Borderlines chapters 1-6|
|April 8||On Christian Doctrine: Intro, Prologue, Books 1-3|
|April 15||On Christian Doctrine, Book 4|
|April 22||Presentations of final projects|
|April 29||Presentations of final projects|
|May 6||Final Essay Due|