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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2010

E 387R • Rhetoric & Poetics, Ancient to Modern

Unique Days Time Location Instructor


Course Description

Meeting time, location: (Official course schedule)

This course will be a broad survey of the evolution of and fluctuating relationships between rhetorical theory and poetics from antiquity to modernity — with the emphasis on antiquity as foundation or background for modern developments. Among our concerns will be the ways a "rhetoric" can function as a "poetics" (a literary theory), and vice versa, and what it may mean to talk about “rhetorical poetics” or to do “rhetorical” criticism. We will also be concerned with matters of historical perspective, in particular the emergence of rhetoric in antiquity and its connection to Sophistic, Platonic, and Aristotelian epistemologies; the evolution of “grammatical” approaches to literature in later antiquity; the fate of rhetoric (and poetics) under a post-classical “regime of Truth”; the rediscovery of “the Sublime”; and the re-emergence of “new” rhetorics and rhetorically inflected literary theories from Nietzsche into the 20th century.


All required readings for this course will be in English translation (if not originally in English), and most will be available from anthologies: e.g., Bizzell and Herzberg, The Rhetorical Tradition (second edition), and Kaplan and Anderson, Criticism: Major Statements (fourth edition). Though we will take into consideration some secondary (scholarly/interpretive) literature, the main focus will be on primary "exemplar" texts in rhetoric and poetics, such as the fragments of the early sophists; excerpts and selections from Plato's dialogues; Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics; Horace’s Ars Poetica; Plutarch’s How the Young Man Should Study Poetry, Longinus’s On the Sublime; Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana; late-medieval handbooks on poetry-writing, letter-writing, and sermon-writing; Sidney’s Apology for Poetry; samples of Renaissance and Enlightenment rhetoric (particularly Erasmus, Peter Ramus, and Hugh Blair) and poetics (particularly Pope and Shelley); and samples of modern/postmodern rhetoric/poetics, including Nietzsche, Richards, Burke, Booth, and others (depending in part on student interests). Where possible, readings in theory will be supplemented by rhetorical-critical examination of poetic and prose texts in the relevant period(s).


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