The Department of Rhetoric at Berkeley trains its majors in the history of rhetorical theory and practice, grounded in argumentation and in the analysis of the symbolic and institutional dimensions of discourse. The department offers both a pragmatic understanding of the elements of rhetorical analysis--with special attention to logic, style, tropes, figures, images--and a thorough grounding in the historical development of these elements in rhetorical theory, making possible a disciplined grasp of the contemporary character of rhetoric and language. Through its emphasis on the history and theory of rhetoric, the department provides an understanding of the format of contemporary theories of argument and interpretation as well as an opportunity, within this framework, to explore the role of persuasion in pragmatic and aesthetic contexts.
Rhetoric's inherent multi-disciplinary subject matter makes it an ideal major for students seeking to obtain the sort of liberal arts education that will prepare them for the diversity of careers requiring advanced critical thinking and communications skills, such as law, business, civil service, education, medicine, science, and so on. Consideration of and preparation for the major should be undertaken with a view that includes potential study beyond the BA level, in a professional or graduate degree program. A tool to help students enrich their undergraduate education and develop and pursue this long range perspective is STEP by Step: A Guide to Preparing for Graduate School.