361 Rhetoric, Persuasion, and Argument (3 cr). Traditional
and contemporary approaches to rhetoric, persuasion, and argument
both in written and visual texts. Includes feminist, digital,
political, and postmodern approaches. (Prerequisite: Completion
of Tier I writing requirement.)
FOCUS AND GOALS
361 focuses on how to produce effective argumentative and persuasive
discourse, with the main emphasis on written discourse about issues
of consequence in the public realm. WRA 361 is an advanced writing
course (junior level): The assumption starting out is, minimally,
that you have successfully completed your Tier I writing requirement
but, additionally, that you are a skilled writer with a high degree
of stylistic fluency, organizational capibility, technological competence,
and overall rhetorical skill who wishes to improve her/his ability
to produce effective argumentative and persuasive discourse.
course goals are as follows:
You will understand the relationship and difference between the
terms "rhetoric," "persuasion," and "argument."
You will understand, and know how to apply, other related rhetorical
- You will learn how to critique others' argumentative and persuasive
discourse in terms of its logical structure and suasory effectiveness.
- You will learn how to construct effective argumentative and persuasive
discourse (oral, written, visual) and will gain practice in writing,
developing, and delivering effective argumentative and persuasive
discourse of different types (oral, written, visual; in both print
and online environments).
- You will learn how argumentation and persuasion are changed in
online environments (versus print-based venues).
- You will be smarter, shrewder, more discerning, and more knowledgeable
about public and political discourse. You will be a more capable
citizen as a consequence.
- You will learn the processes underlying effective argumentative
and persuasive discourse, the strategies that one can use, for instance,
to analyze/engage an audience and thereby develop your position
APPROACH TO ARGUMENT AND PERSUASION
and persuasion are forms of rhetoric in which you engage your audience
intellectually, emotionally, and/or ethically in order to secure
their cooperation, to influence their thinking, or to induce them
to action. Argument is not only expressing your position (though
it certainly does include that). Good argument is not polemical,
grossly disputatious, eristic,
or antagonistic; it is not shouting, ranting, raising your voice,
overpowering the opposition. or bullying your readers/listeners.
Good argument relies on "good reasons." It works to engage
an audience in collaborative and cooperative dialectic, not simply
to bludgeon an audience into compliance. It aims to achieve a common
primary approach to argument that I teach is based on a social,
interactive rhetorical strategy that has its roots in Aristotelian
approaches to cooperation, feminist modes of thinking, and,
in the digital realm, social
networking, all of which favor open and democratic processes
of deliberation and respectful treatment of audience (i.e., working
with them cooperatively in order to effect a positive outcome for
all). In other words, we will favor eloquentia over logica.
This approach requires dialectic engagement with your audience through
the process of writing/developing your position. One implication
of this approach is that YOU might be changed through the process.
Engaging an audience openly and honestly means allowing yourself
to be vulnerable to change and admitting that you don't know everything
and can learn from other points of view. A key feature of this approach
to argument/persuasion is audience analysis and engagement -- that
is, explicit procedures that you use during the writing process
to collect information about your audience but also to engage them
interactively in ways that will be useful to your thinking.
• Faigley, Lester, and Jack Selzer. Good Reasons with
Contemporary Arguments: Reading, Designing, and Writing Effective
Arguments, 3rd edition (Pearson/Longman). —>
Be sure to purchase the THIRD edition, a paperback edition, ISBN
#0-321-36496-1. It may not yet be in the bookstore.
You can expect to read about 5-12 short articles, essays, chapters,
and/or classmates' papers per week, in addition to assigned reading
from the textbook. Most of the additional readings will be online
— either articles available on the web (the URLs will be posted
on the WRA 361 schedule) or they
will be documents posted to the ANGEL
course site as PDFs. You are expected to complete all assigned
readings before class on the day they are listed in the schedule.
RESOURCES FOR RHETORIC TERMINOLOGY
Gideon Burton, "Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric"
• A glossary of rhetorical terms
USES AND REQUIREMENTS
class is meeting in the Erickson 132 computer classroom NOT
so you can use class time to check your email, chat with friends,
or play video games ;), but rather so that we can use electronic
media during class time (a) to do online research, (b) to
look at electronic readings, and (c) to engage in virtual
class discussion via discussion boards, blogs, and synchronous
chat (aka, IM). The electronic classroom can be a very rich
environment for engagement and discussion, if you know how
to use it. My ideal use is something along these lines: There
is a face-to-face (F2F) oral discussion going on in class
(the traditional sort of class discussion) while at the same
time people are using the ANGEL chat space and discussion
boards for "back chat" and email for private chat
with individuals or in selected small groups. Sometimes, though,
our primary mode of class discussion will be virtual -- i.e.,
we will be holding our primary discussions online. Sometimes
we will hold entirely "virtual classes," where we
are not meeting F2F at all, but only interacting online. The
advantage of the electronic classroom is that it gives you
more options for participation, and a wider variety of types
you need to know beginning WRA 361
You are expected to know how to use the following
basic applications/utilities -- and also to have access to
these applications. If you don't know how to use these tools,
then you should let the instructor know immediately (Week
#1). The instructor will advise you on how to learn what you
need in order to begin the class.
the World Wide Web —> for accessing online readings
and doing Internet-based research
• standard search engines, like Google
• MSU ANGEL —> for course communication (email,
document distribution, class discussion)
• synchronous chat via MSU ANGEL —> for class
discussion (if you've done AOL IM, then you have experience
in this mode of discussion)
• MSU-based email —> for 1-1 correspondence
• Word and PDF —> for print documents
• PowerPoint —> as a tool for basic slide presentations
you will learn in WRA 361
The instructor will provide basic tutorials helping you learn
the following applications:
Photoshop —> for design work, image manipulation,
• PowerPoint —> as a tool for animation effects
Approximately 6-9 of the scheduled class meetings for WRA
361 will be "virtual classes" — that is, on
those days we will not meet face-to-face in Erickson 132 but
rather you will "show up" in an online environment.
The most likely venue for these online classes will be the
chat space in the ANGEL course site, in coordination with
email and discussion boards in the ANGEL space. Attendance
expectations for virtual classes are the same as for conventional
classes: You are expected to be there, in attendance and participating.
PROJECTS, REQUIREMENTS, AND GRADING PERCENTAGES
— Short Rhetorical Analysis
of Argumentative Essay — 10%
- a short paper (maximum 2 pages singlespaced) doing a
rhetorical analysis of an argument pertaining to the topic of sexual
difference/identity (see Chapter 19 in Good Reasons for
Short Persuasive Essay/Editorial
- a short paper (maximum 2 pages singlespaced) presenting
a position on a topic of public significance, intended as an editorial
column for some public/news venue (extra credit assigned if you
get this editorial published in a newspaper or reputable online
— Visual Argument (Billboard
Project) — 10%
- a roadside billboard (reduced, web-based facsimile thereof) offering
a political or social critique and using the hetorical device of
irony. Your billboard
should include some kind of visual/graphic plus some text
— Visual Argument (Animation
Argument) — 15%
—> PERCENTAGE CHANGED 10.31.06
- a short Powerpoint slide slow (4-6 slides) using animated alphabetic
text to make a visual argument
Essay Exam — 10% —>
PROJECT CANCELLED 10.31.06
- an in-class essay exam testing your knowledge and understanding
of rhetorical principles of argumentation and persuasion (e.g.,
knowledge of basic terminology and how to apply it
Longer, Researched Argumentative
Paper — 20%
- an argumentative essay (5-6
pages singlespaced) based on evidence, facts, and appeals to reason
concerning an issue of public significance; can be presented as
a research paper or as a webtext (automatic A for publication in
Atlantic Monthly or other reputable publication)
Oral Presentation —
15% —> PERCENTAGE CHANGED
- an in-class oral presentation (10-12 minutes), using
Powerpoint slides, based on Assignment #5
Participation — 20%
POLICIES AND CRITERIA
Course projects will be graded on a 4.0 grading scale, according
to the following general scale:
what about your work?
— meets minimum standards for assignment
— does not meet minimum standards for assignment in one
or more important areas
unacceptable, or plagiarized work
You must complete ALL the major projects to receive a grade of 2.0
or higher in the course.
A late major project will be downgraded one half of a grade marker
(0.5). If an assignment is late by more than one week, it will be
downgraded an additional 0.5 per week late.
For major projects, you will submit your work in stages (e.g., preliminary
topic ideas, planning, research notes, drafts, projects assessment
memo, etc.). You should save all stages of each project. For some
assignments, the instructor will ask you to submit a portfolio of
your work for the entire project (not just the final document).
Since one of the principle grading criteria is production (or process),
your instructor needs to see evidence of your writing process and
not just its final outcome.
A major act of plagiarism (or other form of serious academic dishonesty)
will result in a grade of 0.0 for the course. Minor forms of plagiarism
will typically result in a grade of 0.0 for the assignment (depending
on the extent of the plagiarism).
Specific criteria for each major project will be explained by the
instructor. Generally, however, there are three main criteria for
major projects: Purpose, Product, and Production (or Process).
How effectively does the document accomplish its intended task for
its intended purpose and audience? Is the document persuasive? informative?
interesting? Does the assignment/document ...
- have a clear and definite point?
- provide relevant, useful, accurate and timely information?
- show careful and considerate thought about the subject?
- show adequate understanding of the subject?
- provide ample demonstration of its points? provide a sound argument
in support of its claims? (is there enough "evidence"?)
- treat alternative points of view and adequately address complexities
about the topic?
- meet the requirements of its context? (does it meet the parameters
of the assignment? "parameters" include such things as
due date, length, content requirements, and format requirements)
- meet the needs of its intended audience(s)?
- solve a problem or address a significant need?
- help people? improve people's lives? improve relations between
How well constructed and stylistically crafted is the document?
- orderly and coherent presentation of material?
- readable? accessible? comprehensible?
- effective design and formatting? correctness?
- effective use of visuals and graphics?
- clear, concise, and syntactically sound style?
- professional tone and style?
- grammatically correct, carefully proofread, no obvious lapses
or mechanical errors?
- overall document neatness and correctness: You are expected to
produce high-quality professional documents, whether they are print
pages, online resumes, web pages, electronic reports, PowerPoint
slides, etc. A part of that quality is the appearance of your work.
Neatness, visual appeal, and mechanical and grammatical correctness
do matter — especially for professional writers — though
of course neatness and correctness by themselves do not guarantee
that a document is well written. Your documents should have appropriate
margins, spacing, pagination, alignment, and formatting. (Exact
document specifications will vary from assignment to assignment.)
Assignments with spelling, grammatical, or mechanical errors will
How effectively was the document produced?
- quality of planning, collaboration, research & invention,
drafting, editing, proofreading?
PROGRESS REPORT. At midterm the instructor will send out
short progress reports informing each student of her/his
grade in the course to date.
REGARDING ATTENDANCE AND PUNCTUALITY
at every class is expected. You are expected to show up for class
on time. You are expected to pay attention and participate. However,
because life is complex, some misses may be inevitable. For that
reason, you are allowed a maximum of 4 absences over the semester.
(An absence is an absence, whether you have a legitimate reason
than four absences is excessive. If you miss five or more classes,
then your final grade in WRA 361 will be lowered 0.5 per each absence
over the four allowed. Being excessively or regularly late for class
counts as an absence.
REGARDING CELL PHONES AND OTHER SIGNIFICANT INTERRUPTIONS
not allow your cell phone to ring audibly in class. The instructor
will overlook one lapse (with a pained expression of deep disgust),
because, he must admit, sometimes mistakes do happen. A second lapse
will be viewed as significant disrespect for the instructor and
your classmates — and thus will affect your participation
grade as an unwillingness to support the communal atmosphere of
the class. When you are in class, we need your full attention, concentration,
and commitment to class activities.
REGARDING PARTICIPATION AND COLLABORATIVE ENGAGEMENT
there are no collaborative, co-authored projects per se in WRA 361,
intellectual engagement and collaboration with your classmates and
the instructor are an extremely important component of the course.
Regular participation and engagement are expected.
are four ways that you can participate and collaborate in class:
face-to-face, oral in-class participation
- asynchronous participation (email, discussion board postings)
- synchronous participation (chat)
- peer review and feedback (online and F2F)
are expected to participate in all four areas through the entire
substance, helpfulness, and relevance of participation are more
important than frequency: Do you attend class; participate regularly;
provide interesting, helpful, and substantive comments; and ask
good questions? Are you responsive to your classmates and the instructor?
Do you provide helpful feedback? In general, do you contribute to
the intellectual community of the WRA 361 class? Do you engage your
classmates and the instructor in ways (a) that help everybody learn,
and (b) that help individual writers produce more effective argumentative
and persuasive discourse?
REGARDING PLAGIARISM AND ACADEMIC HONESTY
WRA 361, my assumption is that the writing you submit is your own
original writing. An additional expectation is that you will appropriately
identify that portion of your work which is collaborative with others,
or which is borrowed from others, or which is your own work from
other contexts. In other words, you must follow this basic ethical
obligation: You should credit others’ contributions to your
work. You should not claim, as your own, work (or writing) that
is not your own.
is perfectly appropriate for you to borrow graphics, to quote passages,
and to use ideas from others. However, whenever you do that, you
are legally and ethically obliged to acknowledge that use, following
appropriate conventions for documenting sources. To borrow someone
else's writing without acknowledging that use is an act of academic
as well as professional dishonesty, whether you borrow an entire
report or a single sentence. The most serious forms of academic
dishonesty are to "buy" a research paper; or to have someone
else write your papers for you; or to turn in someone else's entire
report or paper (or significant portions of an existing piece of
writing) and call it your own. Those forms of academic dishonesty
will be dealt with harshly: for such actions, I am likely to assign
an F for the course.
you wish to recycle writing that YOU have done in a previous (or
even current) class, you may do that as long as you check with me
about that. If you recycle writing from another context, then I
expect that you will do significant revision for purposes of the
WRA 361 course (and not simply turn in the exact same paper).
you have doubts about whether or not you are using your own or others'
writing ethically and legally, ask me. Follow this primary principle:
Be up front and honest about what you are doing and about what you
have contributed to a project.
addition to following the basic principles of fair use of others'
work and honesty and forthrightness in crediting the contribution
of others to your work, you are expected to adhere to another basic
professional principle: treat others with the respect that you would
wish them to grant you. "Others" includes the people you
work for and with (classmates, instructors, corporation, clients);
the people you write to (audiences); and the people you write about.
REGARDING EXPRESSING YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS
point of view, whatever it is, is welcome in this class. You are
invited to express your position. In fact, for purposes of learning,
you absolutely need to express your position/s. However, please
keep this in mind: the purpose of WRA 361 is not primarily to provide
an opportunity for you (or anyone, including the instructor) to
express their point of view or to try to persuade others to adopt
it. The primary purpose of the class is to learn about argument
and persuasion and to become better at it. Thus, your contributions
to class discussion should serve that primary purpose, and in ways
that will help everybody in the class learn.
has the right to speak in class, in both face-to-face and online
forums. However, no one will be allowed to rant, to dominate a conversation,
to humiliate, denigrate, or bully others, or to silence or prevent
others from speaking. Tolerance of others' viewpoints is expected.
You have to be willing to listen. You don't have to agree, but you
do have to listen and you do have to allow other viewpoints (even,
sometimes, repugnant and inane viewpoints) the right to speak. Knowing
when to be silent and how to listen patiently are also important
rhetorical skills. You are expected to give others their opportunity
to speak. You are expected to treat others in the class, including
the instructor, with respect and dignity. (Blatantly racist and
sexist statements and ad
hominem attacks are not allowed in class, at any time.)
grade in WRA 361 will be based entirely on your ability to write/present
effective argumentative and persuasive discourse, given the parameters
of and criteria for each assignment. You will not be graded on WHAT
you think or on the particular positions you espouse. You can espouse
a position on the right or on the left, liberal or conservative,
religous or atheistic, Democratic or Republican, or somewhere else,
it matters not to the instructor. However, you will be graded on
HOW effectively you present what you think, given
the requirements and criteria for each assignment. And you will
be graded on your willingness to engage, listen to, and respect
other viewpoints. The goal of this course is not to change your
political position but rather to help you write/produce more effective
argumentative and persuasive discourse -- and, yes, also to make
you more critically self conscious, reflective, knowledgeable, and
smarter about the positions you hold.