Rhetoric and Composition

English 645

Spring, 2007

M 4:30-7pm


Dr. Chidsey Dickson

Office: Carnegie 222

544-8110 dickson_c@lynchburg.edu

Office Hours: 11am-1 pm and by appt.


Required Materials


The Elements of Reasoning (2nd ed), Corbett and Eberly

Available Means: An Anthology of Women’s Rhetoric(s), Ritchie and Ronald, eds.

The Non-Designer's Design Book (2nd ed), Robin Williams

Moving Beyond Academic Discourse, Christian Weisser

Course Packet


Course Description


When “rhetoric” appears together with “composition” it is usually understood to refer to the great Aristotle, to the classifications and principles of strategic communication he laid out two thousand years ago. Ironically, the term “composition” generally refers to the required college writing course first institutionalized at Harvard at the turn of the century—a course notable for its lack of interest in rhetorical theory, even that of the great Aristotle!


This course asks you to help think through several questions about each of these terms, and their conjunction:


  • What would be lost and what would be gained by framing composition outside the Aristotlean approaches to persuasion, such as those available in the work Rogerian Theorists, Women Rhetors, Afrocentric Rhetors, and the theorists of  Popular Culture?


  • How can teachers find a balance in their presentation of “rhetoric” between classical approaches to persuasion and the strategies, aesthetics and ethics derived from contemporary literacy practices?


  • What kind of writing should writing teachers ask students to learn/practice? Should the genre of public writing count as much as academic discourse? If students are to write for a public, how should teachers help them theorize and contextualize that audience?


  • What’s fun about writing and how can “rhetoric” support it?




Attendance and Participation in Class Discussion


Response Papers


Teaching Plans

Teaching Plan1  (Assignment One)

Teaching Plan 2 (Assignment Two)



Final Reflection Essay




To achieve an A in the class you:

  • Prepare fully for every class—have all reading done, writing accomplished, and be generally prepared to help the class or your group engage with the material for the day.
  • Participate actively in class—listen attentively to what others are saying (not just the instructor), and add to, or question, the ideas presented
  •  Turn in all assignments at the appropriate time 
  • Turn in "A"-level writing.
  • Miss no more than 1 class (extreme exceptions can be dealt with on an individual basis).

To achieve a B, you will generally need to meet the criteria of an A, but with some inconsistencies. This inconsistency could happen in any area, but generally it shows up as not being prepared for every class (not having the reading done, not handing in assignments on time), writing projects that don't meet all the assignment criteria, sporadic participation in class, or attendance or tardiness problems. The key here is that you are generally meeting the criteria for an A, but occasionally or in a particular area you are not.

To achieve a C, those inconsistencies would need to become more of a norm rather than an exception. Any of the inconsistencies listed above that become the typical way that you interact in class—writing that continually misses assignment criteria, little to no participation in class discussions, routinely late writing assignments, etc.—would result in a C grade.

Missed Classes


Due to sickness, athletic events, family problems, etc., you will probably miss one class during the semester. There’s no need to notify me if that’s all you miss. It is your responsibility, though, to have contact information for another person in the class (email and phone number) so that if you do miss a class you can find out what you missed, possible changes to the syllabus, etc.. More than three unexcused absences results in a drop in your semester grade by ½ letter grade.


Class Preparedness and Late Assignments


Late assignments are penalized a half a letter grade for every day they are late. My feedback to your work will be prompt if it is turned in on time, but if you turn something in late, I cannot promise that I will have time to turn your work around as quickly. It may be 4-7 days before I have time to respond.


Writing Center (Hopwood 04)


All writers can benefit from discussing their work with another interested writer; hence, the individual attention provided by the Writing Center tutors is a helpful resource for all students in ENGL 111-112.  You should decide at what point in your writing process discussion with a tutor would be most helpful: 

-          invention and focusing the thesis in the early stages

-          developing and organizing ideas in the rough draft

-          integrating and documenting sources in a second draft

-          editing and proofreading before the final draft

You may like to visit the Writing Center more than once per assignment as your purpose changes at various points in the writing process, but a requirement of this course is that you make at least three visits to the Writing Center.  To avoid being blocked out of the Writing Center, make the appointments well in advance.  Afterwards, the tutor will send me an email form, which outlines the main points of your discussion.  



Schedule of Assignments Spring 2007




P=course packet

ER=The Elements of Reasoning

AM=Available Means

MBAD=Moving Beyond Academic Discourse


RP=Response Paper**

HW=some little exercise

*Please the text that you read from to class.

**1-2 page piece of informal writing. You get credit if in your response to the prompt you make specific references to 2 or 3 passages from the reading. I would prefer it if your work was basically free of typos and written in mostly complete sentences, but really I care more that you are thinking through the prompt at the keyboard and letting your mind turn over ideas and chase down possible connections. You will turn in your RP at the end of class. Every third week, I’ll return them with some comments. Please make sure these are DATED and have your NAME on them. Thanks-cd



Introduction to the course



P The Rhetorical Tradition (Introduction, Plato, Aristotle, Dissoi Loggi, Against the Sophists); ER Chapters 1, 2, 8

RP Why do Plato and Isocrates oppose the sophists?

HW in ER, do “reasoning practices” 1 and 2 on p.47


ER Chapters 3, 4. P In Case of Fire: Thrown In


àIf at all possible, please attend Dr. Paul Heilker’s talk on the essay, from 5-6 today in the Daura Gallery.

RP Find and copy two brief (or excerpted) texts that you, as a teacher, might use to engage students about “conjectures” and “definitions”.



P Origins of Composition (Introduction, Textbooks); Rogerian Argument

RP How is the Harvard Composition like or unlike the one you took in college? How is the textbook by Edwin Abbot like/unlike the one you used in English 111?

RP: How would you “teach” Rogerian argument? Would it be the same way you teach the classical approach (i.e., what we have in ER)?


P Schooling Fictions

RP What does Eldred and Mortensen add to historical piece you read last week (Brereton’s “Origins”)?


AM “Introduction”;  P: all selections from Reclaiming Rhetorica (Apasia, de Pizan, Wells, Fuller, Jordan)

RP Given your reading for today, define “women’s rhetoric” and offer a couple illustrations of the stratagems and contexts of women engaged in persuasion.



P Reexaming the Book of Kempe, Truth: A Practical Public Discourse, Is it Bad to Be Sentimental?

RP Given your reading for today, could you argue that “rhetorica” (women’s rhetoric) is a separate tradition than the classical (male) tradition often identified with Aristotle?



P Composition as a Middle-Class Enterprise, An Afrocentric Analysis of OJ Simpson Trail, excerpts from Writing About Cool (The Beats, Technology).

RP Use the readings today to help you explain how it might be possible to approach composition from an “alternative rhetorical tradition.” (There might be ample room to teach BOTH Aristotle and Jack Kerouac (or Johnny Cochran), but explain how you justify the inclusion of voices outside the somber, white male canon of print literacy).


Due (via email): Teaching Plan #1

NO CLASS tonight: I will be at the 4Cs conference this whole week.


MBAD Chapters 1 and 2




MBAD Chapters 3,4,5.




Due (hard copy): Teaching Plan # 2


P Seeing the Text, English 112 Workshop

HW Non-Designer’s Design Book Chapters 1,2,3 and 8,9,10. Do Exercises.



HW Non-Designer’s Design Book Chapters 4,5, 6 Do Exercises. Then Browse Chapter 7.