Since no one can engage in discourse without discovery, so the system of discourse is the system of discovery

--Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 11:30-12:20
Roy Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall, 206
Course conductor: Allen of Harris, cleped "Randy"
Office hours: 8:00-9:20, Mondays, Wednesdays; 10:00-11:00, Tuesdays

Quoth the calendar:

"A study of rhetorical theories and practices from late Antiquity, Medieval, Renaissance, and the Enlightenment periods, with an emphasis on how those theories and practices reflect changing attitudes towards language, society, and the self."

Well, yes, there's that. More specifically, though, we will see rhetoric in middle age, mature, reflective, strong and hitting its stride. But also a little grey at the temples, a bit soft around the middle, undergoing a crisis of identity and looking for a hot little red sports car to maintain its vigour: theology, poetics, psychology, whatever.

Rhetoric in the Middle Ages, Jerry Murphy. Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 2001 (University of California Press, 1974).

Course reader; other readings will be required, as listed on the schedule below; follow the links (on the online version of this syllabus.

Also, it will be very useful get your hands on a decent introtohistoryandtheoryofrhetoric textbook and read the suitable passages (roughly, Greek, Roman, Medieval, Rennaisance, and Enlightenment, as we cover those periods). Alternatively, web searches can uncover bits and pieces of this material, in partially reliable ways.

For the DieHards: Three Medieval Rhetorical Arts, Jerry Murphy. Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 2001 (University of California Press, 1971).

Style guide: The Little, Brown Compact Handbook. First Canadian edition. Aaron and McArthur. Toronto: Addison Wesley Longman, 1997.






29 October



when and where we are told



6 December

Being Rhetorical


all the livelong day

Midterm. You will have to know both "facts" and "ideas" for this course. The midterm will test mostly the former, with multiplechoice, truefalse, shortanswer questions. It will cover material up to and including the 27 October class.

Final. More of the same, but with some essay questions thrown in to chart the "ideas" quotient of the course. It will cover the entire course.

Come to class, contribute to discussions, participate in the development of the course. Your clearest opportunities for contributions will be on our Disputin' Fridays, but you need to be engaged in the course every time you're in class (and you need to be in class).

Ways to get a good grade: ask relevant questions, make salient observations, look for and point out connections in the material, complain about the unbelievable pressure of having to be rhetorical on demand, ...

Ways to get a mediocre grade: sit in your seat; avoid eye contact with the professor.

Ways to get a poor grade: stay away from class, make long irrelevant commentaries, treat your fellow students with extravagant disrespect, ...

Start thinking about your essay immediately. I'm not kidding. It will not have to be very long (1,500 2, 000 words), but it will have to be very good. This is a thirdyear RPW course; you should be writing and thinking about rhetorical issues at an advanced level, and you should know how to write and research an academic essay.

You can do a critical analysis of some text (very broadly construeda pamphlet or a movie can be a text in this sense), or you can write a more strictly theoretical paper.

Critical analysis. Start with a concept (ethos, figuration, faith, ...) and watch it develop through the course (indeed, help it develop through the course; see "Being rhetorical" above). Do some outside reading on it (a.k.a. library research). Collect original data illustrating it (a.k.a. empirical research): find an appropriate text to analyze, and find appropriate secondary research, on both the concept and the text. Write a paper which shows (1) awareness of how that concept is rhetorical, especially in the terms of the period we are studying; and (2) original thought on how that notion operates in the text of your choice.

Theoretical. Alternately, you might do a more purely theoretical paper,say, comparing Cicero and Augustine on the notions of value in discourse, or discussing the role of sermons on the development of rhetoric. Again, you would need to demonstrate (1) awareness of the rhetorical dimensions of the concepts under discussion, and (2) original thought on its function in the context you examine. But your focus should be on rhetorical theory or general practices, not on a specific text.


My evaluation will depend on the cogency, conceptual sophistication, research depth, and rhetorical appropriateness of the paperstandard issue academic criteria.

Do the readings before the assigned class.

If you have any questions, please make sure you ask them.

Familiarize yourself with Policy #71, especially as to plagiarism and other forms of cheating.

Rhetorica ad digitum

Augustine of Hippo







 13 September

Hello; how art thou?

 15 September

Rhetoric—in general

Plato's Phaedrus

  17 September


Murphy I

20 September


Augie (De doctrina Book 4)

22 September

Murphy II

24 September

Faith and rhetoric


27 September

Boethius Labeo

Murphy III

Three rhetorical arts

29 September



1 October

Philosophy and rhetoric

4 October

Three rhetorical arts

Murphy IV

6 October

Murphy V, VI

8 October

Figures of speech

Reader—Peacham; Murphy Appendix

11 October

Give ye thanks

13 October

Three rhetorical arts


15 October

18 October


Intro text—Renaissance

20 October

22 October

The rhetorical life

25 October

Ramus and the dialectical backlash


27 October

29 October


1 November

Bacon and the rise of empiricism


3 November

5 November

Dialectic, logic, rhetoric

8 November

The Enlightenment

Intro text—Enlightenment; Sprat, History, Sect. XX

10 November

Classes cancelled: read, write, think; get your essays in gear

12 November

15 November


Intro text—Vico

17 November


Intro text—Blair

19 November

Ideology and rhetoric

22 November


Campbell, Philosophy of Rhetoric Chpt 1

24 November

Intro text—Whately

26 November

Psychology and rhetoric

29 November


1 December



3 November

Truth and rhetoric

Epistemology & Rhetoric

6 December

Course review, exam preparation, thanks for all the fish

Download this syllabus