Graduate Seminar in Rhetorical Theory
Course Syllabus

R&C460: Rhetorical Theory
Department of Rhetoric and Communication
Temple University
[Course Taught Spring 1994]

Instructor: Ben Attias

Course Description:

This course will survey issues and conversations in contemporary rhetorical theory in order to give students a grounding in the discipline. While the emphasis will be on understanding and interpreting current discussions in the field, these discussions will be situated in historical context. Thus students should expect to encounter readings from classical and modern sources which should better situate our understanding of contemporary rhetorical theory. "Rhetoric" itself will be read as a sign with a history, and we will approach that history both taxonomically and politically. Because of the robust nature of the discipline as a whole, students should expect to take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of rhetorical theory, confronting key issues in philosophy, anthropology, psychology, and linguistics which have marked the history of rhetorical theory. It will not be possible to adequately "survey" the entire history of rhetorical theory in a single semester; we will instead concentrate on exploring rigorously a few strands which are particularly important to the future of rhetorical theory.

The format of the course will be comment, presentation, response, and discussion. My comments will survey and situate the readings, interpreting key issues in the conversation and outlining theories of rhetoric that develop therein. Each student will be expected to deliver one formal presentation (5-7 pages) analyzing a set of readings and making an argument intervening creatively in the conversation. Additionally, students will be responsible for two short responses (3-5 pages) to two of the presentations. Depending on the number of students in the course, we will vary this schedule accordingly. Presentations and responses will begin the third week of class.

The course will culminate in a final paper at the end of the semester which will make a theoretical and critical intervention into the field of rhetorical theory. Papers should address some of the key issues that arise during the semester, but can involve critical readings of texts in the student's own areas of interest. In either case, the argument made must either arise out of or be significantly enriched by the course readings. Papers should ideally be suitable for conference presentations, which means you should construct a well-argued essay of about 12-18 pages.


Patricia P. Matsen, et al., eds. Readings from Classical Rhetoric. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990.

Kenneth Burke, Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. Berkeley, CA: U of California Press, 1966.

Jürgen Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979.

Jean Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign. St. Louis: Telos Press, 1981.

Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman Native Other. Bloomington: Indiana U Press, 1989.

Jacques Derrida, The Other Heading: Reflections on Today's Europe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red, 1983.

Syllabus: Readings should be read before the class day on which they will be discussed. Presenters will turn in their presentations the Monday before they are due, and will be responsible for distributing copies to respondents. A rough draft of the presentation will be due to me the week before the presentation. Respondents should distribute copies of their responses on the day they are to be delivered.

Recommended readings are not required, although they will inform some of my comments. They should be consulted for further research into particular areas of interest. Readings marked "background" offer broader surveys of the conversations involved and can be used for reference or for explanations of crucial terms and debates. If all goes well, all of the required readings will be available through the bookstore and the photocopy packet.

Jan 20: Introduction to the course.

Jan 27: The antistrophos of dialectic. The question of style. "Situating" Rhetoric.

Readings :

Matsen, et al., 30-74, 117-159, 225-36, and 289-348.
Bitzer, "The Rhetorical Situation"
Vatz, "The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation"


Isocrates, "To Nicocles"
Plato, Phaedrus
Guthrie, The Sophists (background)
Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Greece (background)
deRomilly, Magic and Rhetoric in Ancient Greece
Perleman, The Realm of Rhetoric
"What Is Rhetoric?" Philosophy and Rhetoric 3:2 (Spring 1970)
Larson, "Lloyd Bitzer's 'Rhetorical Situation' and the Classification of Discourse"

Feb 3: Rhetoric and Philosophy. Action and Motion in Burkean dialectics. The Universal and the Particular. The End of History.


Kant, "Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose"
Hegel, "Lordship and Bondage"
Grassi, "Why Rhetoric is Philosophy"
Burke, 3-62.


Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel
Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit
Desmond, ed., Beyond Hegel and Dialectic
Roth, Knowing and History
Burke, 344-358, 359-379
Burke, Rhetoric of Motives
Inwood, A Hegel Dictionary (selections) (background)

Feb 10: The Enlightenment and/as its critique: Eighteenth Century answers and Twentieth Century questions. Rhetoric as a theory of power.


Kant, "An Answer to the Question: 'What Is Enlightenment?'"
Foucault, "What is Enlightenment?"
Nietzsche, "On Truth and Falsity in an Extramoral Sense"
Heckman, "Nietzsche's Clever Animal: Metaphor in 'Truth and Falsity'"
Deleuze, "Nomad Thought"


Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity
Descombes, Modern French Philosophy (background)
Hollier, "The Word of God: 'I am Dead'"
Gilman, Blair, and Parent, eds., Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language

Feb 17: Rhetorical theory as genealogy. The problem of history. Towards a "critical rhetoric."


Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History"
Foucault, "Preface" to History of Sexualtiy vol. 2
McKerrow, "Critical Rhetoric: Theory and Praxis"


Western Journal of Speech Communication (Spring 1990)
Angus, ed., The Critical Turn
Foucault, "The Discourse on Language"
Foucault, "Two Lectures"
Foucault, History of Sexuality vol. 1
Foucault, Remarks on Marx
Blair, "The Statement: Foundation of Foucault's Historical Criticism"
Foss and Gill, "Michel Foucault's Theory of Rhetoric as Epistemic"
Frank, "On Foucault's Concept of Discourse"
Deleuze, "What is a dispositif?"
Deleuze, Foucault

Feb 24: The critique of political economy. Notions of value and ideology. "Interest" and "desire."


Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, (third manuscript)
Marx, Grundrisse (selection)
Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach"
Wilkie, "Karl Marx on Rhetoric"


Bottomore, A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (background)
Spivak, "Scattered Speculations on the Question of Value"
Spivak, "Limits and Openings of Marx in Derrida"
Negri, Marx Beyond Marx

Mar 3: The critique of ideology. Rhetorical criticism as ideologiekritik. Hegemony and social practice. "Postmarxism."


Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"
Gramsci, "The Study of Philosophy"
McGee, "The 'Ideograph': A Link Between Rhetoric and Ideology"
Wander, "The Ideological Turn in Modern Criticism"


Althusser, "Contradiction and Overdetermination"
Althusser, "Marxism and Humanism"
Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Chapter 3
Gramsci, "The Intellectuals"
Laclau, Revolution of Our Time, (essay 1)
Mouffe, "Hegemony and New Political Subjects: Toward a New Concept of Democracy"
Hall, "The Toad in the Garden: Thatcherism Among the Theorists"
Hall, "Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies"
Hall, "Gramsci's Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity"
Makus, "Stuart Hall's Theory of Ideology: A Frame for Rhetorical Criticism"

Mar 17: The structural transformation of the public sphere. "Universal pragmatics" as an ethics of discussion. Discourse as commodity.


Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society Chapter 1
Habermas, selections (on the public sphere)
Marx, "The Commodity," Capital i 125-77.
Marx, "The Transformation of Surplus-Value into Capital," 747-761.
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"


McLuhan, Mechanical Bride
McLuhan, Gutenberg Galaxy
Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere
Fraser, "What's So Critical About Critical Theory?"
Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (selection)

Mar 24: The political economy of the sign. The end of the public sphere? The terrain of everyday life. Communication as Contagion. Detournement as critique.


Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign
Debord, Society of the Spectacle


Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life vol. 1
Situationist International Anthology (selections)
Vaneigem, Revolution of Everyday Life
Blanchot, "Everyday Speech"
Bataille, "Materialism"
Bataille, "The Notion of Expenditure"
Bataille, The Accursed Share (selections)
Richman, "Communication," Reading Georges Bataille
Baudrillard, "When Bataille Attacked the Metaphysical Principle of Economy"
deCerteau, The Practice of Everyday Life
Morris, "Banality in Cultural Studies"
Baudrillard, In the Shadow of Silent Majorities
Gane, Baudrillard Live

Mar 31: Rhetoric and the unconscious I: Taking desire seriously in rhetorical theory. Rhetoric as a theory of pleasure.


Freud, selections
Lacan, "Hegel, Freud, and the Machine"
Borsch-Jakobson, "Analytic Speech: From Restricted to General Rhetoric"
Burke, 63-80.


Laplanche, The Language of Psychoanalysis (selections) (background)
Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan and Company (background)
Freud, Totem and Taboo
Burke, 308-343
Hyppolite, "A Spoken Commentary on Freud's Verneinung"

Apr 7: Rhetoric and the unconscious II: The critique of psychoanalysis. Towards a politics of style?


Guattari, Molecular Revolution (selections)
Lyotard, "For a Pseudo-Theory"


Guattari, "Ritornellos and Existential Affects"
Miller, "Michel Foucault and Psychoanalysis"
Lyotard, Libidinal Economy
Massumi, A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia (background)

Apr 14: The ends of the public sphere. Towards a reevaluation of the ethics of discourse.


Habermas, Chapter 5
Derrida, "The Ends of Man"
Derrida, The Other Heading
Sloop and Ono, "Committment to telos"


Derrida, "Differance"
Derrida, "Afterward" to Limited Inc.
Derrida, "From Restricted to General Economy: A Hegelianism Without Reserve"
Biesecker, "Rethinking the Rhetorical Situation From Within the Thematics of Differance"
Culler, On Deconstruction (background)
Taylor, Deconstruction in Context (background)
Desilet, "Heidegger and Derrida: The Conflict Between Hermeneutics and Deconstruction in the Context of Rhetorical and Communication Theory"

Apr 21: Rhetorical theory at the margins: rethinking speech and power (again).


Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?"
Busia, "Silencing Sycorax: On African Colonialist Discourse and the Unvoiced Female"


Mani, "Contentious Traditions: The Debate on SATI in Colonial India"
Spivak, The Post-Colonial Critic
Spivak, "Interview"
Spivak, "Scattered Speculations on the Question of Culture Studies"

Apr 28: Rhetorical theory as action I: Interrupting master discourses.


Freud, "Medusa's Head"
Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa"
Trinh, Woman Native Other


Freud, "Femininity"
Freud, "Some Psychological Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes"
Freud, "Three Lectures"
Rubin, "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the 'Political Economy' of Sex"
Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics (background)
Cixous, selected interviews
Cixous, "Castration or Decapitation"
Doane, "Dark Continents"
Biesecker, "Towards a Transactional View of Rhetorical and Feminist Theory: Rereading Hélène Cixous's The Laugh of the Medusa"
Trinh, When the Moon Waxes Red
Trinh, selected interviews
Spivak, "French Feminism in an International Frame"

May 5: Rhetorical theory as action II: Towards a future anterior.


Haraway, "Manifesto for Cyborgs"
Discussions of Haraway
Haraway, "Interview"


Haraway, "The Promise of Monsters"
Butler, Gender Trouble

Modified by: Ben Attias
Institution: California State University, Northridge
Modification Date: Sunday, May 21, 1995
Modification Time: 9:49 PM
Please Send Comments, Suggestions, etc. to hfspc002@huey.csun.edu