Historical Rhetorics

ENC 6336 | Fall 2015 | Dr. Marc C. Santos

Course Description

I would call attention to the title of this course. When I inherited this class, it was called “Studies in Classical Rhetoric.” It ran from Plato to present. I immediately did two things: I divided the course into two parts (the companion class is ENC 6370 Contemporary Rhetorics), and I changed the name. Why the name change? First, because I wanted to stress that there is not one homogenous entity called “classical rhetoric.” As I believe the next few months will demonstrate, there are a number of competing rhetorical theories mutating, combining, and combating each other throughout the history of rhetoric. There’s rhetorics, plural. Second, I wanted to highlight a different focus for this course. The traditional classical rhetoric survey course operates as a kind of initiation into a specialized field. However, I do not believe any of you will be focusing a dissertation on classical rhetoric. This does not mean that the study of ancient rhetorics cannot be useful to you. To make it useful is, in fact, my primary goal.

Hence, another meaning of “Historical Rhetorics”–since in addition to examining the competing definitions, metaphysics, and applications of rhetoric throughout Western Antiquity (with a sharp focus on Greece), we will be examining various historiographic methods for exploring the history (or, as Victor Vitanza puts it, the hystery) of rhetoric itself. Channeling theorist Gregory Ulmer, I’ll ask you to unravel the my-stery (mystory) of this hyster(y/ical) his/tory for your/selves. Put less playfully, we’ll be working on understanding how the different ontological and epistemological theories animating ancient Greece impact contemporary notions of historiography and the ways in which we access, perceive, or animate the ontological and epistemological theories of ancient Greece. If we follow Michelle Ballif, and consider history an act of hauntology, then what ghosts inhabit rhetoric’s future/past? We will explore how these texts influence contemporary discussions of Rhetoric and Composition theory and pedagogy, paying particular attention to the revival of sophistry in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s. Why, according to Nietzsche, does every great philosophical movement begin by “rediscovering” sophistry?

This question brings us closer to my personal goals for the course. These goals do not include teaching rhetorical techniques; this isn’t necessarily a course concerned with rhetorical production or applicability. Rather, it is a course on ontology and epistemology. To be more precise, I hope to show that approaching rhetoric in terms of a list of teachable tropes and techniques requires one already accept a [logocentric] Platonic/Aristotelian ontology and epistemology. The term “rhetoric” and particularly the term “sophist” mark the boundaries of a historic opposition to Platonic and Aristotelian epistemology and ontology. For centuries these terms were marginalized and/or erased. We will witness their erasure, and the efforts (some successful, some futile) to bring them to the fore.

The workload in this course is not for the squeamish. The reading list is extensive. And I will ask you to write quite a bit of reflection on the readings–contributing to a weekly forum, a developing Wiki Book, and a Google Document for Ph.D exam preparation (aka, the Grid). Additionally there are the required in class “Thomas papers” (which are also called Luanne papers, more on this below) delivered on Paper Days. The trade off for all of this work is that there is no additional work piled on at the end of the semester. Unlike most courses, that call for the final conference paper, or 25 page article draft, this course simply asks you to read, write, and learn. There is no direct call to advance the knowledge of the field/discipline. Just because the course isn’t grounded in application doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable. I do believe that the learning you do in this class will benefit not only your future research, but also your professionalization and your pedagogy, making this an important class indeed.

Teaching Philosophy

Good teachers don’t tell students what to do. Good teachers open a space for students to invent things, and then get the hell out of their way.


  • Email: marcsantos at usf dot edu
  • Office: Cooper 301c
  • Office Hours: M, 2:00-3:00. T, 3:30-4:30

I am also available at other times-email if you want to make an appointment (or shoot me a question). Note that I generally do not respond to emails sent after 5:00 and tend to avoid my email on the weekends.

To be perfectly blunt, the best way to contact me is via direct message on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Oisin16). While I check email once a day, I check twitter pretty regularly. And, as I detail below, I will be requiring you to use twitter in class.

Course Texts

  • Aristotle. On Rhetoric. Trans. George A. Kennedy. 2nd Edition.
  • Cicero. On Oratory and Orators. Trans. May and Wisse.
  • Grassi, Ernesto. Rhetoric and Philosophy / The Humanist Tradition. Trans. Krois and Azodi.
  • Isocrates. Volume II (Loeb Classical Library Edition). Trans George Norlin.
  • Jarrat, Susan. Rereading the Sophists.
  • McComiskey, Bruce. Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric.
  • Ong, Walter. Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue.
  • Plato. Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper.
  • Quintilian. Quintilian on the Teaching of Speaking and Writing: Translations from Books One, Two and Ten of the Institutio Oratoria. James J. Murphy.
  • Sprague, Edward, ed. The Older Sophists.
  • St. Augustine. On Christian Teaching (Oxford World Classic). Trans. R. P. H. Green.
  • Vitanza, Victor. Negation, Subjectivity, and the History of Rhetoric.


  • Ballif, Michelle. Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric.
  • Latour, Bruno. Pandora’s Hope.

Please note that, in addition to the books above, you will be required to have legal sized paper. You will need about 50 sheets of paper over the course of the class. Often students share a ream.


Responsibility One: Forums
Every week there is reading I will ask you to post to our class forum. Posts should focus in on a specific passage of the reading. There is no set length for posts, rather I am looking for everyone to be active members in a developing discussion. You have the choice of either starting a thread or replying to someone else’s post. In exploring passages, posts can either make connections to other readings from our class, other readings from other classes, experiences in the classroom, or what you are watching on television. We will often open class by reviewing what has been posted/discussed in the forum each week.
Responsibility Two: Thomas Papers
These papers are named after a former professor of mine from whom I inherited them (he, in turn, inherited them from a former professor, Luane Frank). Thomas papers must be printed on legal-sized (8 1/2 x 14 inches) paper. These papers should do two things: first, about 3/5 of the paper should be summative, sweeping over the major points in the week’s readings; second, the other 2/5 of the paper should focus in on a particular part of the reading(s) and do something with it. No, I will not be anymore specific.
Additionally, on Paper Days, you must bring enough copies of your paper for everyone in the class. You will take turns on paper night reading your papers one at a time. There is a long, complex pedagogical justification for these papers and presentations. I will say nothing more (those interested can turn to the discussion of Paul Kameen offered by Byron Hawk in A Counter-History or Composition and/or Rickert’s Ambient Rhetoric).
Responsibility 3: Wiki Book / Secondary Source Presentations
This is my third time teaching Historical Rhetorics at USF. The first time, I took on an ambitious project, starting a Wikibook centered around the class. I contributed lecture notes for the first few weeks, and students contributed secondary source presentations. If you are an MA student, then I will ask you to make one secondary source contribution to the Wikibook. If you are a PhD student, then I will ask you to make two contributions over the course of the semester.
What constitutes a contribution? I am looking for a very brief annotation of an article that focuses on the article’s thesis and evidence. Last time, people wrote 5 short paragraphs. But even that almost seems like too much text. I think we are looking for five very strong sentences for the wiki.
Additionally, I’ll ask you to briefly present your source to the class as a way of fostering class discussion. Again–I’ll ask for you to summarize your article in approximately five sentences. I will also ask you to generate two questions for discussion based on your article. These questions can be built around a specific passage from the article.
It is perfectly ok to select an article that has already been annotated, in fact, I encourage it. But if you do, then I will ask you to edit the wiki entry for your piece. It is my hope that, over the course of this semester, the wiki will be re-organized such that each secondary source gets its own page.
Responsibility Four: The Grid
Many of you are undoubtedly aware that ENC 6336 is a required course for R/C Ph.D students and comprises 1/4 of the Ph.D comprehensive exam. Thus, the fourth requirement for this class will be to aid in the construction of a Google Doc, lovingly titled “the Grid.” The Grid aims to supply a comprehensive comparative condensation of the course–a study guide for future exam takers. We will build the grid via Google Docs.
Responsibility Five: Twitter
Given the importance of social media in the discipline, I will be asking you to integrate twitter into your weekly routine for our course. We will do this in two ways. First, I will ask you to compose at least one tweet during class that uses the course hashtag (#enc6336). Second, I will ask you to post at least twice during the week to the course hashtag.
Responsibility Six: Final Exam
There will be a timed final exam distributed via Canvas during finals week. You will have 3 hours to compose a 1500 word (absolute maximum) essay on a question of my choice.


Twitter Participation 5%
Paper Days 60%
Secondary Source Work 10%
Grid Work 10%
Final Exam 10%
Instructor Evaluation 5%

Instructor evaluation is based on non-quantifiable factors, such as initiative, attitude, class participation, office hours visits, and accountability.

Things You Probably Know But That I Have to Write Anyway

Students with a disability and thus requiring accommodations are encouraged to consult with the instructor during the first week of class to discuss accommodations. See Student Responsibilities: http://www.sds.usf.edu/Students.htm. Each student making this request must bring a current Memorandum of Accommodations from the office of student Disabilities Services.

You are excused from class for major observances of your religion. Inform the instructor at the beginning of the term when you expect to be absent for these events.

Plagiarism: See http://www.usg.usf.edu/catalogs/0405/adap.htm for USF Undergraduate Catalog’s definitions and policy, and consult with the instructor if you are uncertain.

Attendance is mandatory. I will excuse three absences this semester. Any absences above three will result in a 10-point penalty per absence. If you have a family or medical emergency that will require you to miss class, then you need to contact me as early as possible.

Class starts at 6:20. I will close the door at 6:20. The door locks.
This is a computer lab. There is a computer in front of you. There is also a professor in front of the class. Know when to pay attention to the computer and when to pay attention to the professor.

George Carlin

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”

Course Calendar

Things change. Roll with it.

Note that you should check the Wiki Book each week for potential secondary source recommendations.

Week One (Aug 25)

In Class: Cover the syllabus. Discussion of Republic VII, Apology, Walter Ong.

At Home: Read Gorgias, Phaedrus, Enos “Theory, Validity, and Historiography” 8-15, 20-23. [PDF]

Recommended: Plato, Symposium and Protagoras. Havelock, “Preface to Plato”

Week Two (Aug 31)

In Class: Discussion of Gorgias and Phaedrus
At Home: Read Aristotle’s On Rhetoric I along with Kennedy’s introduction and Byron Hawk’s “Stitching Together Events.” [PDF]

Potential Secondary Sources:

Week Three (Sep 7, No Class)

Note that there will be no class due to the holiday. I will set up a discussion board on Canvas. Further instructions to come.

At Home: Read Aristotle’s On Rhetoric II & III; Ballif’s “Historiography as Hauntology”

Week Four (Sep 14)

In Class: Discuss Aristotle’s On Rhetoric I, II & III

Week Five (Sep 21)

Paper Day #1: Plato and Aristotle

At home: Read Isocrates’ Antidosis and his “Against the Sophists,” Papillion’s “Isocrates’ Techne and Rhetorical Pedagogy” [PDF], and Vitanza Negation Chapter 3, “Isocrates, The Padeia, and Imperialsim”

Recommended: Vitanza Negation Chapter 4

Week Six (Sep 28)

Discuss Isocrates, X, and Vitanza.

At Home: Read in Sprague’s Older Sophists, Gorgias and Protagoras. Jarratt introduction and chapter 1.

Recommended: Anon. Dissoi Logoi. Ulmer Heuretics 61-78, Schiappa Protagoras and Logos 64-85.

Week Seven (Oct 5)

In Class: Discuss Sprague’s Older Sophists, Gorgias, Protagoras, and Jarratt.

At Home: Jarratt Rereading the Sophists chapters 2 and 3. Vitanza, Negation Chapter 1, Excursus: “A Feminist Sophistic,” Chapter 6, and Chapter 7.

Recommended (potential secondary source): Poulakous, “Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric”

Week Eight (Oct 12)

In Class: Discuss Vitanza and Jarratt
At Home: McComiskey chapters 1 and 2 and Latour, Pandora’s Hope, chapters X and Y.

Week Nine (Oct 19)

In Class: Discuss McComiskey and Latour.
At Home: Craft Paper Day #2

Week Ten (Oct 26)

In Class: Paper Day #2

At Home: Read Cicero, De Oratore I & III.

Week Eleven (Nov 2)

In Class: Discuss Cicero

At Home: Quintilian (books 1, 2, and 10)

Week Twelve (Nov 9)

In Class: Discuss Quintilian

At Home: Read Augustine On Christian Teaching I, II, & IV

Week Thirteen (Nov 16)

In Class: Discuss Augustine

At Home: Read Ong’s Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue, chapters I, IV, VIII, XII, and XIII

Week Fourteen (Nov 23)

In Class: Discuss Ong

At Home: Read Grassi’s Rhetoric and Philosophy and Richard Lanham “The Q Question”

Week Fifteen (Nov 30)

In Class: Discuss Grassi and Proctor
At Home: Craft Paper Day #3

Week Sixteen (Dec 7)

Final session–Paper Day #3

Print Friendly