Rhetoric 310: Advanced Public Speaking

Honor, Persuasion, and Civil Discourse: The Good Man and Good Citizen in the 21st Century

Course Description and Goals
This course, which builds on the foundations students acquire in Rhetoric 210, will develop the advanced student's ability to create and support sound propositions of fact, value, and policy.  Through a review of the five classical canons of oratory (invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery) and an examination of representative classical and contemporary speeches, students will learn to support and refute claims; to analyze the rhetorical situation and tailor their messages accordingly; to employ and evaluate scholarly evidence; to recognize and avoid fallacies in reasoning; to use appropriate, effective, coherent language; and to deliver arguments with conviction and eloquence. The presentation of an argument for a professional audience is an integral component of the course.

This course directly addresses an important objective of Hampden-Sydney College: to develop clear thinking and expression. In much the same way that Rhetoric 102 builds on the basic writing skills students learn in Rhetoric 101, this advanced speaking course builds on the basic public speaking skills students acquire in Rhetoric 210. The ability to craft a well-researched and well-reasoned argument, present it with conviction and an awareness of the rhetorical situation, and engage in lively debate are the hallmarks of a well-rounded liberal arts education. This course provides the opportunity for competent public speakers to become outstanding public speakers.

Students in this semester's advanced public speaking seminar will explore some big ideas: honor, persuasion, and civil discourse. Interwoven with these concepts will be another big idea, the idea of "the good man and the good citizen" (or, in the case of your professor and hundreds of other people in our HSC community, "The good woman and the good citizen"). There will be no hard and fast answers, no formulas to memorize, no checklists of rules. Instead, the ideas we discuss will likely flow back and forth, pushing and pulling, as we seek to discover the rhetorician within!

We'll begin at the beginning, with Aristotle and his thoughts on rhetoric, particularly his concept of ethos. Some questions to consider:

  • What is rhetoric?
  • And what behaviors/choices constitute the most effective means of persuasion for any given circumstance? 
  • How do contemporary rhetoricians, some famous, some not so famous, employ the ancient rhetorical concepts? 
  • What does it mean to be an ethical speaker? Is this the same as being an honorable speaker?
  • How does a speaker earn the respect of the audience?
  • How does a speaker demonstrate honorable character?

We'll move beyond ourselves:

  • What responsibility does a speaker have to others? To honor those in our community?
  • How do we explain dishonorable behavior by those whom we revere? Ex: sports heroes, politicians, religious figures, etc.
  • What is our responsibility when we see someone acting with dishonor?
  • What is our responsibility when we see a person or a group of people being treated with disrespect? To whom can we look for good models of speaking out to right injustice?
  • What must we do if we exist in multiple communities, each with its own code or system of honor, and we note contradictions within those communities' codes?
  • What issues, challenges, or concerns are of great importance to me, and what is my obligation to address them? 

We'll move into the realm of public discourse:

  • How can I most effectively structure my argument to influence others?
  • How, in my public discourse, do I honor those with whom I disagree?
  • What codes, if any, guide my discourse as a good person and good citizen?
  • Are there models of civil discourse in the media today?
  • What is my obligation when I hear words meant to incite hatred or violence?
  • What, if any, are the limits of free speech? As an ethical speaker,  do I have self-imposed boundaries for my own speech? How do I determine these boundaries, if so?