RHE 309K • Topics in Writing-W
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
"Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is Rhetoric. There are rules."
The focus of this class will be to understand how arguments are presented and constructed-the very things about which rhetoric concerns itself and our battlefield will be the Vietnam War Stateside, in Vietnam, and in the hearts and minds of everyone involved. We will read critically to understand how US political leaders tried to sell the war and why their arguments did or did not persuade successfully. How did protest songs protest? How do veterans describe their experience, and in what ways do their accounts differ from the rhetoric found in history books? Do fictional texts give us a more authentic understanding of what happened than do historical texts? And do Vietnam War documentaries like Hearts and Minds differ in their rhetoric from Best Picture Academy Award winners like Platoon and Apocalypse Now?
At the core of this course will be an emphasis on recognizing the rhetoric behind every text, regardless of the genre in which its arguments are found; consequently, students will be expected to move with equal facility among written texts, both fictional and historical; movies, including documentaries; and lyrics, songs, and articles. The main goal will be to look at myriad different texts and be able to ask smart questions about them: what is the maker of this document up to? What is his or her strategy in making the audience accept the argument? And just how large a role did rhetoric play in one of the most horrific tragedies in world history?
7 Short Analysis papers, each revised once: 50%
Final six page paper: 25%
Rhetorical recitation: 15%
The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien; Fire in the Lake, Frances Fitzgerald; Dispatches, Michael Herr; Patriots (Anthology); Meditations in Green, Stephen Wright; Rhetoric, Aristotle