undergraduate program / undergraduate student learning goals

undergraduate student learning goals



The Department of Rhetoric at Berkeley offers a major and a minor. It trains majors in the history of rhetorical practice and theory, grounded in argumentation and interpretation and in analysis of symbolic and institutional dimensions of discourse. The department offers a pragmatic understanding of the elements of rhetorical analysis - with attention to logic, style, tropes, figures, images - and a grounding in the historical development of these elements in rhetorical theory, making possible a disciplined grasp of the contemporary character of language and rhetoric. Through emphasis on the history and theory of rhetoric, the department provides an understanding of the format of contemporary theories of argument and interpretation and an opportunity to explore the role of persuasion in pragmatic and aesthetic contexts.

Students learn about different kinds of representation (and critiques thereof), how different genres shape and offer material for interpretation, and how different media forms produce a sense of reality. They learn to reflect on how various modes of presentation work (film, literary and philosophical texts, legal cases, political tracts, performances, archival materials), what kinds of meanings they have, and what kinds of effects they produce. They consider works of both “high” and “low” culture and bring various kinds of approaches to both. As they advance, students compare and bring genres together for analysis, working for instance with legal trials in film, philosophical uses of literary works, oral interpretation of texts, the textual and archival basis for the transition from orality to literacy, the political presuppositions of law, the aesthetic dimensions of political theory, and the influence of law on non-legal rhetorical practice.

Majors are trained in the theory and history of rhetorical practice (103A and 103B). They take courses from all areas of study, but focus in one of three different areas or “tracks”: (A) History and Theory of Rhetoric, roughly courses 104 - 119; (B) Public Discourse, 150s, 160s, 170s; and (C) Image and Narrative, 120s and 130s

Learning Goals

A student completing the rhetoric major should be able to:

A) Understand and make arguments

  • Acquire basic knowledge and vocabulary of formal argumentation and its relation to
  • informal spoken and written arguments
  • Analyze texts in terms of their arguments
  • Use arguments in the major’s own writing
  • Develop more sophisticated knowledge of argument and apply it

B) Interpret written and non-written texts

  • Recognize rhetorical figures and identify stylistic issues
  • Relate textual interpretations to media (oral, print, digital/visual)
  • Acquire an introduction to theories and methods of interpretation
  • Progress to more advanced exposure to interpretation

C) Display knowledge and articulate themes concerned with the history and theory of rhetoric

  • Read and understand ancient texts out of which rhetorical traditions come (to see how, for instance, the history of the notion of rhetoric and its opposition to philosophy from Plato on is implicated in our conversations about truth, sincerity, democracy, and ethics)
  • Read and understand texts about rhetoric between ancient and modern periods
  • Read and understand texts that show how rhetoric is used or conceived in particular periods or cultures
  • Read and understand texts important to contemporary theory
  • Engage in rhetorical issues involving media, writing, reading, speech, authorship

D) Grasp specific forms of knowledge and their modes of reasoning

  • Engage critically in analysis and interpretation of such public discourses as law,
  • politics, science, religion
  • Understand elements of narrative in novel and other “fictive” discourses
  • Read visual and other productions that are beyond (or other than) the written word
  • Recognize what is common and what is different in the self-conception of various discourses (e.g., literature, philosophy, law, history)

E) Integrate the reading, writing, analytical and critical skills and knowledges above

  • Carry out close readings with a consciousness of the relevance of context
  • Specialize in a particular area or theme through the “tracks”
  • Understand, reflect on, and evaluate the ways in which “persuasive” forces (broadly understood) are at work in the contemporary world

A new more systematic numbering system is now in use for upper-division Rhetoric courses (effective Fall 2010). The new numbering will not affect major or minor requirements or course availability.

For more information please check the Office of Planning and Analysis website at http://opa-dev.chance.berkeley.edu/academicprograms/USLIIndex.aspx

Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Facilities http://vpapf.chance.berkeley.edu/usli.htm