Language and Rhetoric

ENGL 2025
September 2009 - April 2010

Brief Description of Course

Language, broadly understood, is any form of communication, whether verbal (the spoken or written word), visual (the static or moving image), or a combination of verbal and visual (in print, on the stage, or in media). Rhetoric is the art of persuasion through the effective use of language. This course introduces students to the classical foundations, historical developments, and contemporary theory and practice of language and rhetoric (i.e., writing well), with attention to the ideological and cultural issues implicated in effective communication. Topics include the theory, history, practice, and ideology of language and rhetoric (i.e., modes of persuasion, instruction, notions of audience, grammar, etymology, the history of the language, register, tone, and voice).

The focus of this year’s course will be on the history of the English language, the technical and social components of the English language, a survey of some important statements on rhetoric, and an introduction to the advanced study of language and rhetoric. Students will have the opportunity to work on exercises that will enhance their understanding of the key concepts of the course and introduce them to the advanced study of language and rhetoric, especially as it pertains to the discipline of English literary studies.



5%  First short assignment
10%  Second short assignment
10%  Third short assignment
10%  Fourth short assignment
5%  First quarter-term testOctober 8
10%  Mid-term testDecember 8
10%  Third quarter-term testFebruary 11
30%  Final exam
10%  Participation


Assignments are due in class. For each assignment, you may hand in the assignment up to one week late without penalty; after that, there will be a 2%/day penalty for every day (including weekend days) it is late. Any assignment handed in more than three weeks after the due date (or not handed in at all) will receive a grade of 0.


Plagiarism will not be tolerated. All assignments are subject to an additional written or oral test, at the instructor’s discretion. All suspected plagiarism will be reported to the chair of the department, the dean of the faculty, and the registrar of the university.


Please feel free to email me. To assist me, please place ENGL 2025 at the start of the subject line. You may have to wait a day or two for an answer: please do not email me requests that need to be answered immediately. Note also that if I think an email response will take too much time or will not adequately address the complexity of the issue raised, I will respond by requesting you meet with me during office hours to discuss the issue.

Please feel free to come to my office during my posted office hours: no appointment is needed. If you cannot make it to my office hours, you can request meeting me at another time, and I will do my best to arrange something with you.


You are expected to participate in class in an informed manner. At the very least, you are expected to come to class regularly, having read all assigned reading and completed any assigned exercises. Ideally, you will participate in class discussions and in-class exercises. Keep in mind that participating in class is usually a highly rewarding experience, greatly enhancing your ability to understand the course material and helping ensure your success in the course. Everyone is expected to be courteous and professional at all times in class.

Class schedule (subject to change)

September 10Introduction
September 15The origins of English and Old English
September 17The origins of English and Old English
September 22Middle English
September 24Middle English
September 29Early Modern English
October 1Early Modern English
October 6Modern English
October 8Modern Englishquarter-term test
October 13Study week
October 15Study week
October 20Grammatical mythology and The structure of words
October 22Word classes
October 27The structure of sentences
October 29The structure of sentences
November 3The sound system
November 5The sound system
November 10Prosody, phonology, and poetic language
November 12Prosody, phonology, and poetic language
November 17The writing system
November 19The writing system
November 24Social variation
November 26Social variation
December 1Pygmalion
December 3Pygmalion and review
December 8mid-term test

January 5Review of mid-term test and Introduction to rhetoric
January 7Syllogisms
January 12Syllogisms / Enthymemes
January 14Enthymemes
January 19Aristotle, excerpts from The Art of Rhetoric
January 21Aristotle, excerpts from The Art of Rhetoric
January 26Structure: Gorgias, Lincoln, King
January 28Language: Gorgias, Lincoln, King
February 2Strategies: Gorgias, Lincoln, King
February 4Assumptions: Gorgias, Lincoln, King
February 9Rhetorical analysis: Obama
February 11quarter-term test
February 16Study week
Februrary 18Study week
February 23Freud, Dora
February 25Freud, Dora
March 2Freud, Dora
March 4Simile, metaphor, metonymy
March 9Irony, satire
March 11Medium
March 16Locke, excerpt from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
March 18Richards, excerpt from The Philosophy of Rhetoric
March 23Simpsons / South Park
March 25Frye, The Educated Imagination, chapters 1-3
March 30Frye, The Educated Imagination, chapters 4-6
April 1review