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Foundations of Rhetorical Studies

English 270: Foundations of Rhetorical Studies

Chapman University, Fall 2019

Instructor: Morgan Read-Davidson

Meeting Time: T/Th 8:30a-9:45a

Meeting Place: Doti Hall 003

Instructor’s Email:

Office: DeMille Hall 133

Phone: 714-532-7706 (email is better)

Office Hours: MW 11:00a-12:00n; T/Th 2:00p-3:00p

*I highly recommend making an appointment ahead of time, even if it’s only 10 minutes ahead. That ensures that I’m not getting coffee, visiting the library, sitting out on the plaza, etc.*

Catalog Description

ENG 270: Prerequisite, written inquiry. Designed as a gateway to all upper-division rhetoric offerings, this course will familiarize students with major themes and epistemologies in the history of Rhetoric. Beginning with the pre-Socratics and ending with post-modernism, students will explore the theoretical shifts and major figures that define a modern study of Rhetoric. Some sections of this course may be offered as hybrid courses or online only. (Offered every semester.) 3 credits


Supported BA in English learning outcomes

  • ability to explain and apply significant theoretical and critical approaches in the field of English studies
  • skill in critical reading, or the practice of identifying and interpreting the formal, rhetorical, and stylistic features of a text
  • skill in writing grammatically, coherently, and persuasively


Supported Social Inquiry (GE SI) Outcomes

  • Students identify, frame and analyze social and/or historical structures and institutions in the world today.


Course Objectives

  • Demonstrate understanding of the contested histories and theories of rhetoric
  • Demonstrate understanding of the role rhetoric plays in contemporary political and social life
  • Demonstrate understanding of the various ways cultures construct knowledge
  • Articulate the relationships among language and power and social values and explain how these relationships change through time, cultures, and technologies
  • Discuss the “ways of knowing” inherent in arguments from religion, science, history, etc.

Course Format and Instructional Strategies

This class will focus on studying theories of rhetoric as frameworks to examine the world around us. Because the material can be difficult to grasp without intertextual contexts (and years of studying those texts), we will need to pool our collective knowledge and studying skills. For this reason, students will be placed in research groups, rotating group membership every four weeks. Research groups will share notes and sources, participate in online discussion forums to examine and understand the theoretical concepts in the contexts of the research focus, and constructively critique group member’s individual projects.

The assigned texts are dense, and carry long histories of discourse and traditions. While I’ve attempted to make the reading load manageable, you will likely need to give the texts multiple passes, and do additional contextual research to understand the scope of the discourse they are a part of. To ensure an enjoyable and successful course, everyone needs to complete (and annotate) all of the assigned reading prior to each class session. The course format will be based on discussion: small group discussion to get the conversation started, discussion leaders to help guide and focus, large group discussion to bring our various ideas and perspectives together, and a smattering of lectures to provide context to some of the more difficult theory. You will demonstrate your grasp of the material and ability to critically apply it in written and oral forms through in-class and online discussions and in multimodal compositions.

In our digital age, we cannot ignore the ways in which discourse is mediated by various forms and writing environments, particularly the online public sphere. To this end, writing will be “public”—meaning your classmates will be able to read and gain insight from your work—through individual websites accessed from my course site,

Technology Requirements

  • Regular access to a computer and the internet
  • A Chapman email account. I will conduct all class e-mail communication on your official Chapman account.
  • A free or website. All composed work will be posted here, and your site will be linked to the course page so that your classmates may read your content.
  • Access to Blackboard, where I will post the syllabus, our daily schedule, and other important documents. Please check Blackboard regularly.
  • Access to, using your Chapman University credentials to log in.

The following categories spell out how the course will work:

Required Texts

Grade Breakdown

Areas of Evaluation

Classroom Environment

University Policies

Course Calendar