Rhetorical Concepts

Ancient Concepts

Teaching History of Rhetoric–This post describes my “History of Rhetoric” seminar and gives an overview of classical rhetoric.

Argument Versus Persuasion: A False Dichotomy: This article disputes the tendency to see argument as truth-seeking and persuasion as manipulative.

Aristotle’s Three Appeals: An introduction to ethos, logos, and pathos.

A Problem with the Aristotelian Appeals: This was written in response to a reported tendency among students to combine the five-paragraph essay with the three appeals to argue that the writer “uses” all three appeals.

Three Ways to Persuade: Integrating the Three Appeals: This is an update of the “Three Ways to Persuade” article, in part to address the problem noted in the previous post.  Note: Also see the mini-module.

Sophistic Appeals: Mythos, Logos, Nomos: The sophistic triad of terms–mythos, logos, nomos–can be a productive alternative to the better known Aristotelian appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos. The advantage of the sophistic perspective created by these terms is that it directly addresses social values (nomoi), a factor that the Aristotelian terms tend to obscure.

New! Knowledge, Belief, and the Role of Rhetoric: This is a mini-module that is designed to build upon “Three Ways to Persuade.”  It explores the problem of knowledge versus belief that Plato raises in the Gorgias.  It also works with Aristotle’s concept of the enthymeme, the argument based on assumed premises, without actually emphasizing that term.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos: Heidegger on Aristotle: This post re-imagines the relationships between the three appeals based on James Crosswhite’s reading of Heidegger’s lectures on Aristotle’s Rhetoric.

Pathos as Inquiry and Strategy: This post discusses pathos as a concept useful for audience analysis, using the first emotion Aristotle discuss, anger.

More on Pathos as Inquiry: This post expands the method used in the previous post to a wider range of emotions.

Pathos as Inquiry: A Mini-Module: This post links to an ERWC-style mini-module with learning goals, an article to read, several activities, and a writing assignment.

Sophistic Appeals: Mythos, Logos, Nomos: The sophists invoked mythos, then deployed logos to change nomos, which are commonly held social values. This set of concepts might actually be more relevant to today’s politics than the Aristotelian appeals.

Stasis Theory–A Mini-Module: An introduction to an ancient invention strategy that is still quite useful and relevant today.  The mini-module includes an article, “Stasis Theory: Finding Common Ground and Asking Pertinent Questions,” plus scenarios, activities, and a brief writing assignment. Update: Modifying Stasis Theory for the Classroom.

The Classical Pattern of Persuasion–This introduces the Roman six-part speech as a flexible and more effective alternative to the essay organization formulas that students are often taught.  It presents the Classical pattern as a chart, a series of questions for the writer, and as a series of questions for a critical reader.  The Latin terms are included, but not emphasized.

What About the Five-Paragraph Essay?–In this post I offer strategies for moving beyond the five-paragraph essay.

Enthymemes!: This post explains Aristotle’s concept of logos in terms of its basic element, the enthymeme or “rhetorical syllogism.”

The Roman Six-Part Speech as an Essay: This post offers the Roman six-part speech as an alternative form to the five-paragraph essay. It contains questions that can be used to analyze articles and op-ed pieces as well as generative questions that students can use to plan essays.  See also the mini-module, The Classical Pattern of Persuasion.

Descriptive Outlining and Arrangement: This post is a follow-up on the previous one that applies Ken Bruffee’s practice of descriptive outlining to look at the organizational structure of three related op-ed pieces.

Aristotle’s Poetics in the Classroom–This post discusses what Aristotle sees as the six components of tragedy–plot, character, thought, diction, song, and spectacle.  It ventures into literary criticism, but when Aristotle discusses “thought” he always references the Rhetoric.  Questions are provided to help students apply Aristotle’s ideas to contemporary works, such as novels and films.

Dissoi Logoi–This Greek phrase means “two arguments.” Every position has advantages for some stakeholders and disadvantages for others. This post includes a classroom activity for exploring different issues and discovering who benefits and who doesn’t depending on what is done.

Modern Rhetoric

Kenneth Burke’s Pentad and Gatsby: An application of Burke’s pentad–act, agent, agency, scene, and purpose–to Fitzgerald’s novel.

Using Kenneth Burke’s Pentad: A handout designed to help students apply the pentad to real world situations and literary criticism.  Eventually this will become a mini-module.

Using Kenneth Burke’s Concept of Identification: An introduction to the concept and some questions that students could use to explore how identification functions in a particular piece.

Identification and Division in Our Current Crisis: A post that applies Burke to the problems with policing.

How Texts Construct Readers: A mini-module that applies concepts from Glen Stillar’s Analyzing Everyday Texts to an anti-smoking sign.

What We Talk about When We Talk about “Exigence”: A post about the decades long conversation in the journal Philosophy and Rhetoric about this term, with some questions for students at the end.

Teaching Toulmin Argumentation: Toulmin’s system is often taught as a sort of checklist for a good argument. It doesn’t really work that way.

Composition and the Irrational: Some Lacanian Concepts: Cultural studies pedagogy often leaves students increasingly cynical about society. What if we taught in a way that took into account strongly held beliefs and “libidinal attachments”? This post also features my attempt to create a “Doge” meme.

Persuading the Will to Action: Recent national events caused me to think about George Campbell again. I think this eighteenth-century rhetorician has something to say about how conspiracy theories take hold and move otherwise reasonable people to irrational action.

C. S. Peirce’s Pathways to Belief: This post offers a summary and analysis of Peirce’s four methods for resolving doubt. At the end I apply this system in some general activities for students.