Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


"Rhetoric is the antistrophos* to dialectic." — Aristotle
* counterpart, correlative, coordinate, or converse

"Rhetoric is the ability to discover in each particular
case all the available means of persuasion." — Aristotle

"Whoever does not study rhetoric will be a victim of it"
— Ancient Greek wall inscription

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the history, theory, practice, and implications of rhetoric, the art and craft of persuasion through

  • Analyzing persuasive texts and speeches
  • Creating persuasive texts and speeches

Through class discussions, presentations, and written assignments, you will get to practice your own rhetorical prowess. Through the readings, you'll also learn some ways to make yourself a more efficient reader, as you turn your analytical skills on the texts themselves. This combination of reading, speaking, and writing will help you succeed in:

  • learning
  • to read and think critically
  • techniques of rhetorical analysis
  • techniques of argument
  • to enhance your written and oral discourse with appropriate figures of speech
  • some techniques of oral presentation and the use of visual aids and visual rhetoric.

Course Requirements

Class Format

The course work is primarily "front-loaded." One of the major projects is collaborative and you will develop the final large paper in a series of steps. These are further meant to help you enjoy and accomplish the course assignments. Most importantly, you should have fun in this course!


This semester, there will be two sets of rhetorical texts and speeches that will serve as the primary readings for the class. The first will consist of various articles taking specific positions on the current debate on health care reform. The second set of readings of will consist of three speeches by Abraham Lincoln.


There are several guidelines for using sources in your academic writing:

  • Cite information that is not considered common knowledge, a direct quotation, or a summary of another's words/ideas.
  • When you quote, quote exactly, use quotation marks, and cite the source.
  • When you summarize, you keep the meaning of the source but put it in your own words and cite the original source.

In sum, your essays should always be your own work. Your essays should always be your new work created specifically for this course.


This course requires your attendance, participation, and on-time submission of assignments:

  • There are 3 penalty-free absence; save these for illness, religious reasons, job interviews, etc.
  • The 4th absence lowers your final course grade by half a letter grade; the 5th absence lowers it by an entire letter grade.
  • The 6th absence means automatic failure for the course; you should drop the course immediately to avoid its showing up on your transcript.
  • Please be on time for class. Chronic lateness or early departure will count as a cut.
  • If you have not completed the assignment for the day, you may be counted absent.
  • The class on Ses #22 is optional, and will consist of screening and discussion of important political speeches.


Postings 10%
Major paper 1 and team oral presentation 15%
Major paper 2 15%
Individual persuasive paper and revision 20%
Individual persuasive presentation 10%
Lincoln-Douglas debate 10%
Portfolio and portfolio review 5%
Class discussions along with peer and group work; in-class workshops; regular attendance; 2 conferences (1 for persuasive paper and one at the end of semester) 15%

MIT Literature Statement on Plagiarism

Plagiarism — use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement — is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available at the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.


1 Classical rhetoric and modern political issues  
2 What is rhetoric? Assignment 1 due
3 Overview of classical rhetoric & Aristotle's rhetorical system  

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Action & Figures of Style I

In-class Oral arguments


Eulogies and figures of speech II

In-class oral arguments


Plato's Gorgias & figures of style II

In-class oral arguments

Assignment 2 due one day after Ses #6

Points at issue

In-class oral arguments


Figures of style and thought III

In-class oral arguments

Major paper 1 due one week after Ses #8

Major paper 2 due two weeks after Ses #8

Major paper 3 proposal due three weeks after Ses #8

Word proposal due 3 weeks two days after Ses #8

Major paper 3 draft due four weeks after Ses #8

9-12 In-class oral presentations Major paper 3 oral presentation slides due on Ses #12
13 Screening and discussion of important political speeches  
14-17 In-class Lincoln-Douglas debates Major paper 3 final draft due on Ses #16
17-21 Discussions  
22 Final conferences Portfolio due one day after Ses #22