RHE 309S: Course Paradigms
In general, RHE 309S should consist of three main units, each culminating in a paper. These units can be handled in different ways. Here we present two sample paradigms.
General: This model allows students to research and write arguments about three different controversies which may either be selected by the student or the instructor.
Unit One: Critical Reading and Rhetorical Analysis
In this unit, students begin honing their reading skills in order to be able to understand and evaluate arguments about the same general topic or controversy. This is an excellent time to begin introducing rhetorical terms and analysis as one would in Unit Two of RHE 306. Students should move from faithful summarization to exploration of the context and analysis of rhetorical techniques in readings either provided by the instructor or located through research.
Research: Required and supplemental readings may be supplied entirely by the instructor through a course packet or anthology, if teaching research is deemed unfeasible while teaching rhetorical analysis.
Writing: Students should produce short assignments such as summaries and short analyses in preparation for an extended rhetorical analysis essay. For the extended essay, students might compare and contrast the argumentative techniques of two or more texts arguing the same position, much like Essay II in RHE 306.
Unit Two: Introduction to Argument
In this unit, students will explore a single controversy as a class either through assigned readings or individual research and begin locating their own positions. Students should begin considering the kinds of arguments that can be made about a particular question, perhaps through a theoretical framework like stasis theory. Class time might be devoted to discussion or debate of class readings and attendant issues.
Research: At this point, instructors might require that students supplement class readings with sources found on their own.
Writing: Students may continue to do research summaries. Alternatively, instructors teaching stasis theory might ask their students to explore the various stases of a controversy by writing short definition, evaluation, proposal arguments, etc. The unit should culminate in an extended argumentative paper supported by sources distributed in class or found through research.
Unit Three: Researching and Participating in a Debate
In this unit, students will branch out and begin researching controversies they have chosen themselves, voted on as a class, or selected from a list provided by the instructor.
Research: Following the department 309S guidelines, students should be learning how to locate a controversy and find its sources if they have not already. Library tutorials and internet research exercises for computer-assisted classrooms will most likely be helpful during this unit.
Writing: The ultimate goal of this unit is for students to produce a well-written, substantially supported argument on a public controversy as a result of their own investigation into that controversy.
General: In this format, the course is designed around the study of one particular public, with an in-depth study of its rhetorical situation and the kinds of texts that are produced in it.
Unit One: Locating a public
Reading: In this unit students will read several arguments that attempt to define a certain public sphere and perhaps compare the various understandings of this rhetorical situation with others they have encountered. The students should read a variety of arguments that offer different definitions of the community, highlighting various value structures or concerns at play in a particular public, such as the University of Texas, Austin, or an idea-centered public like popular music or cognitive science. These arguments may be approached through stasis questions or Toulmin models in order to help students understand the stakes of the arguments. The students will work toward the general goal of understanding rhetorical situation and how this understanding plays an important role in constructing effective public arguments. They should learn from the reading that, although they may share common concerns or issues, not all publics are the same and that all arguments, even public arguments, should reflect this difference. By reading different arguments about a certain place, students also learn that arguments can produce the publics in which they participate (rather than simply ‘take place’ in a public sphere).
Research: Students may do research on the community under investigation. If the focus is a local public sphere (like Austin or UT), they may be encouraged to explore other definition arguments they see in their daily lives. Instructors may also want to assign a comparative research assignment in which students would find arguments about other publics that would highlight the unique or shared values of their focus community.
Writing: Students can bring together their understanding of rhetorical situation by offering their own definition argument for the public under consideration. They could also produce an anthological argument (mapping out different definitions) about the texts either read in class or discovered on their own.
Unit Two: Studying its texts
Reading: Students will build on their understanding of this rhetorical situation by reading a range of arguments on various issues that are produced in this public sphere. For instance, if focusing on UT, students can read and discuss the student newspaper (Daily Texan). The goal of this reading is to understand how arguments about public issues are tailored to the rhetorical situation they investigated in the previous unit. They also refine their understanding of the situation itself by looking at what kind of issues are important to this particular public, and how that may differ from the issues discussed in other public texts. Perhaps a comparison of the local text with another public text would be helpful here, like comparing the Daily Texan with a national newspaper. Students thus develop their critical reading skills and practice these skills through rhetorical analysis exercises.
Research: Students can do both formal and informal research to uncover arguments in their particular public sphere. If students are comparing the way an issue is discussed in one public versus another, they may do library research to accomplish this.
Writing: There are several options here for both substantial writing assignments and smaller exercises like invention journals. For instance, students may keep a reading journal for their central text and then build on this in a longer rhetorical analysis paper. In this paper students can investigate one issue and how it is presented in this public sphere, compare this presentation to that of the same issue in a different community, or even look at several issues produced in a public and how they are shaped by the rhetorical situation.
Unit Three: Producing Public Texts
Reading: In this unit students will use what they have learned to produce an argument for this public. Reading can be individualized in this unit, allowing the student to focus on the issue of their choice, or it can be focused on a single issue that is important to this particular public.
Research: Students should do formal research on the issue and library research methods should be taught in this unit if not before.
Writing: In this unit, the goal is for students to take a position on one of the issues that they have studied in Unit Two or one of their own making that is appropriate for the focus of the course. The entire class may discuss and write on a single issue pertinent to this public or they may find one of their own that they find particularly compelling. Above all, students should be employing what they have learned this semester about this public and its texts in their argument.