Sunday, January 10, 2010

Course Syllabus

Map of the United States with the Pan-African ...Image via Wikipedia





This course will utilize the practical tools of rhetorical criticism to examine, attempt to understand and analyze the advocacy and discourse of African Americans throughout USA history. The methods utilized will include classical and contemporary African rhetorical theories as well as classical and contemporary theories of rhetorical analysis better known to European and North American scholars. Students will choose specific speakers and engage in a rhetorical criticism of some element of the discourse of that speaker.


A list of readings will be supplied. They will be disseminated to students based on procedures that are harmonious with current copyright regulations.

Most readings can be found on a password protected website.

Videos and other materials will be at the class blog, which is


This class will utilize three primary educational methods.

1. A series of lectures given by the instructor. These will be reasonably brief and will highlight both material in the readings as well as new material.

2. The class will attempt to stage on-going discussions about class material. The lectures will often be punctuated with spots for class discussion to follow up on relevant ideas. Students are held responsible for contributing to these discussions.

3. Students will also be directly exposed to videotaped segments of discourse for discussion and study.

4, Students will engage in the act of rhetorical criticism of a specific piece of discourse of their choosing.

Education is incorrectly seen as a process where the "teacher" imparts unquestioned "knowledge" to the docile and merely recipient "students." To be meaningful in an educational sense students and teachers must together pursue answers to questions which neither may have a full advanced understanding of. In our discussions it is essential that students engage in a process of critical analysis, questioning points made by he instructor as well as presenting alternative viewpoints. There are few, if any, absolute truths in this field, and student input is necessary for all of us to understand the "probable truths" which we may take away from this experience as useful knowledge. It is the duty of each person in this class to take part as a critical, active participant, and to learn about rhetoric through direct experience and concerted inquiry.


CLASS PARTICIPATION: Students are required and expected to take part in the mutual education function of the class. This implies that students attend class, are familiar with the material assigned for that day, and volunteer opinions and perceptions about the content and process of class discussions. 10% of grade.

TESTS: Students are required to take three tests given during the semester. The tests will utilize a variety of formats and will cover the information in the readings, lectures and videos. 20% of grade for each test.

CRITICISM PAPER: Students will pick one of the main speakers in African American rhetoric and one specific piece of discourse by that speaker to make the focus of their paper. They will engage in a rhetorical criticism of that discourse using methods covered in the course. Students should be aware that the correct use of language in written work is assumed, expected, and required. Written work not meeting college-level writing standards will be returned without a grade. 30% of grade.

Students should be aware that the academic honesty policy of UVM is in force.


Students will be evaluated on the basis of earned points only. No extra credit work is available. Each assignment has a given point value (adding up to 100) of which students will be awarded portions. Final grades will be awarded on the basis of natural breaks in the distribution of scores.


Please feel free to meet with me outside of class, either during my office hours or by appointment. I am often on campus, mostly in my office. This is a tentative class syllabus.

My calendar is at

Alfred C. Snider "Tuna"


Office: 475 Main Street 656-0097

Home: 18 Clark #3 238-8345

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