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

Spring 2005

E 387M • Rhetoric & Poetics, Ancient & Modern

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
32615 MW
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
CAL 419

Course Description

This course will examine the evolution of and fluctuating relationships between rhetorical theory and poetics from antiquity to modernity. 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 subsequent evolution of “grammatical” approaches to literature; 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 from Nietzsche into the 20th century.


All required readings for this course will be in English translation, and most will be available from anthologies: Bizzell and Herzberg, The Rhetorical Tradition, and Kaplan and Anderson, Criticism: Major Statements. The main focus will be on primary “exemplar” texts in rhetoric and poetics, such as the fragments of the early sophists (and texts of some later ones); excerpts and selections from Plato’s dialogues; Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics; Cicero’s De Oratore; Horace’s Ars Poetica; Plutarch’s How the Young Man Should Study Poetry, Longinus’s On the Sublime; Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana; samples of medieval handbooks in 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, including Nietzsche, I.A. Richards, Kenneth Burke, and Chaim Perelman. Where possible, this reading will be supplemented by rhetorical-critical examination of short poetic and oratorical texts in the relevant period(s), and by discussion of contemporary theoretical and/or rhetorical-historical texts


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