2 | Session D | CCN: 15091

Public Speaking

Confronting Arguments: Speech in Public

Instructor: Michael Dalebout

4 Units

This course insists that we should argue. Moreover, it contends that every interaction between people is a confrontation, from the small talk at the drugstore to televised political debates. We will, first, seek to understand how arguments are traditionally understood and why it behooves us to learn to speak and listen in such a fashion. Thereafter, we will question a tradition of cooperation and ask if, indeed, a peaceful silence befits everyone. Our third concern—which voices are silenced and which bodies are subdued—will lead us to our fourth: how our simple, everyday decisions and preferences constitute a confrontation. In fact, as we may ultimately see, to be alive is to argue.

In class, we will consider a variety of critical readings, live and online speech performances, and in-class performances and discussions of argumentation. As a class, we will dwell for 6 weeks on questions such as:

Why should we argue and how ought we do it?
What is rhetoric? And what does it matter who sees and hears us?
Will we have peace and quiet in the end?
Can’t we all just get along?
How is confrontation necessary for harmony in discord?

This course not only serves to introduce students to theories of modern argumentation and political reason; it functions as an introductory public speaking course. The first half of the course (i.e., weeks 1-3) exposes students to classical rhetorical theory and its 21st-century translation into public speaking books and manuals. The second half (i.e., weeks 4-6) leverages critical and cultural theory to complicate traditional understandings of concepts like persuasion, identification, argumentation, and charisma. Throughout the six weeks, students will negotiate and experiment within the practical and theoretical dimensions of public speaking.