• Rhetorical Theory and Oral Argument

    30 001 | CCN: 32944

    Speaking Up in 21st Century America

    Instructor: Michael Dalebout

    Location: Internet/Online

    Date / Time: Tu/Th 2:00pm - 3:29pm

    4 Units

    Rhet 30 image

    Rhetoric has long been concerned with what a speaker must know in order to persuade others to think,
    feel, or act. Some elements of concern have remained fairly constant across time, such as knowledge of
    one’s audience, occasion, and purpose. Others have come into view more recently, such as one’s medium
    of communication. Regardless, the idea that the effectiveness of language relates to a wider
    context—commonly referred to as the rhetorical situation—has been a useful tool.

    This course considers the problematic of the standard rhetorical situation, including its many
    implications: that speakers are predictable, stable entities; that audiences are demographically
    predictable; that purposes are fixed and unchanging; that each medium, properly managed, is a neutral
    amplifier for communication content. 21st-century technological changes have made apparent that the
    one-directional, sender/receiver model embedded within the rhetorical situation cannot be easily
    adapted for predictive use in the dynamic, multi-directional exchanges of today. They have also exposed
    long-standing sociocultural and institutional exclusions within American culture (and more widely), and
    transformed the capacity of marginalized individuals to lay claim to their own images and voices for
    personal and political ends. Today, speaking up, being seen and heard, is possible anywhere, anytime.

    As such, we will reconsider how people go about the practice of engaging each other. We will practice the
    rhetorical situation, and we will also rethink it, exploring further factors that more subtly inform our
    occasions to speak (and listen). Public discourse is dynamic activity; its elements change while we speak,
    including who we address, how we do so, our goals and exigencies, and even who we are. Facing the
    rhetorical situation’s unpredictability, we will practice being responsive within rhetorical ecologies,
    acknowledging historical, cultural, technical, and biological influences upon successful human
    speech—and life—together.

    The two-fold goal of this course is that students will a) become conversant in theoretical questions
    relating to the practice of contemporary public self-expression, and b) cultivate their own speaking style
    while developing strengths in skillful communication. Course activities include in-class discussions and
    oral presentations, collaborative reading, peer/group workshops, multimedia communication, and
    training in basic performance skills. Together, students will augment their ability to recognize and adapt
    to differences across social and media contexts, and to acknowledge and enter into diverse cultural
    circumstances aware of how their self-presentation affects the lives around them.