The UW-ACE discussion page is here

Rhetoric is inescapably cognitive. But few people have pursued this line of research with any concerted focus, and no one has developed an approach to rhetorical theory systematically informed by the conceptual and empirical results of cognitive science. We will. More.

The schedule of topics and readings is here.

Randy Harris
Hagey Hall 247, x5362
Office hours: Tuesdays, 8:30-9:30, Thursdays, 12:30-2:00
Home phone (Milton): (905) 876-3972

There are a variety of weekly readings, some in a course reader available through the bookstore, most through the library's digital holdings (JSTOR and ProQuest; if you don't know how to access the library's ejournals, please find out; I would advise you to download all the articles at the beginning of the term and keep them on your own hard drive). The reading list is on the course schedule.

(due 4 August)

Articulation of the problem you are addressing: 15%
Research into the theory and the object text(s): 20%
Use of readings as evidence in the essay: 20%
Quality of argument: 30%
Style and grammar (sentence and paragraph structure, diction, spelling, punctuation, agreement, ...): 15%

Presentation to class, 40%
Commentary on another's presentation, 20%
Class discussion, including weekly papers, 40%
Presenter/Commenator schedule here


Start thinking about your essay right away. I'm not kidding. This is a graduate RCD 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. That sort of work cannot be done properly in the last week before it's due.

You should talk with me further about this, as your ideas develop, but there is a bit more of a recipe for the paper in this course than you'll find in most grad classes: pick a specific concept from the history of rhetoric, explore its cognitive dimensions, and build an argument for why that concept is, or is not, or is partially (in specified ways), shaped by cognitive principles. For instance, one might take manuals of delivery, such as those by John Bulwer and Gilbert Austin and map them against the sort of work David McNeill reports on in his Gesture and Thought; or, one might take cognitive theories of reputation and see what they tell us about ethos (or vice versa); maybe cognitive approaches to argumentation can tell us something about Toulmin's model, or Perelman and Olbrecht-Tyteca's work; does Aristotle's catalogue of emotions in The Rhetoric correspond meaningfully to current theories of affect?

Do not rely solely on the course readings and presentations. Do more research both on the rhetorical concept and the relevant cognitive principle(s), as well as on theorists, movements, claims, and so on, that might be significant for your argument.

Word counts are not an especially good measure of when you should stop writing your essay, or how far you should prune back your ramblings—let the matter determine the vestle—but if it's under 3000 words, you probably haven't developed enough matter for an appropriate graduate research essay, over 6000 and you've probably been either too ambitious or too undisciplined, or both.

You also need to target a publication with this essay: find a journal, write the paper with that journal in mind, and submit a memo with the essay outlining why your essay fits the journal. (Journals often have word count criteria, by the way, and you will be graded in part on how well your essay suits the journal you target.)


You are welcome to present on a topic that feeds into your essay, but it should be self-contained, and it should develop an argument. It should be primarily oral (broadly construed—visual aids and data projection are welcome), not an essay read aloud. It should be 10-20 minutes long.

Oratorical brilliance will help you, and drooling incoherence will hurt you, but it's the 'content' I will attend to most closely, not the 'style.' The features of content that will determine your grade are:

Articulation of your claim: 5%
Quality of argument: 30%
Use of evidence, 25%
Summary of relevant research: 25%
Rhetorical effectiveness (clarity, pace, volume, aids, zeal) 15 %


Your commentary will follow the presentation directly. You may raise challenges, develop lines of argument, question premises, suggest applications, and so on, so long as your commentary is framed constructively, in a way that benefits both the presenter and the audience.

It should be 5-10 minutes long.


Please keep in mind that this is a seminar: you are expected to take an active role in the development of the course. Come to class prepared, contribute to discussions, participate in our collective growth in understanding the overlaps between cognition and rhetoric. In particular, think reflectively about all the readings, and think publicly.

I will use a merit/demerit policy to evaluate your participation. Merit will be awarded primarily on the quality of participation: asking relevant questions; making relevant observations; complementing or advancing someone else's contribution; and generally being a constructive rhetor. Quantity of participation is a positive factor to the extent that more quality contributions are preferable to fewer quality contributions, but talking for the sake of talking is not a good idea. Demerit will be assessed reluctantly, and only on the basis of repeated instances. The grounds for the demerit system are: absenteeism (you can't participate if you're not there); whispering or chatting while other people are talking; and/or making lengthy, unfocused comments that draw away from the general thread of discussion (verbal wanking). You also get credit for your weekly discussion papers, according to the following scheme:

75% of your discussion mark will come from your active engagement with the issues in the class.

25% of your discussion mark (i.e., 10% of your overall course grade) will come from your discussion papers. They will not be graded: you will get the full 25% simply for doing them all and submitting them on time, 15% if you miss one deadline, 0% if you miss more than one--yep, you read that correctly: 0%. 

Weekly discussion papers

The discussion papers should be 300-to-500-word opinionated summaries: synopses of the week's readings, inter-larded with some evaluation of their cogency, relevance, and value. I want to see (1) that you have read them, (2) that you have thought about them, and I want to (3) start the discussion before we get into the classroom. They should be posted on Angel course page (link above) by 6:00 PM on the Friday before the class, beginning 9 May. Everyone is expected to read all the papers before coming to class.

Draconian principles

No late assignments will be accepted, no extensions will be granted, and no incompletes will be awarded, without very strong reasons.

Please submit suggestions to me.

Center for the Cognitive Science of Metaphor

Mark Turner page