Fall 2016 -
Undergraduate Course Description
Discipline and Number
10:00 AM - 11:15 AM
|Rhetoric & American Presidency
Description of Course:
For a number of years, scholars have written extensively about presidential rhetoric, but according to Baylor University Professor Martin Medhurst, a noted authority on the subject, â€œit has only been within the last 30 years or so that presidential rhetoric has emerged as a distinct subdiscipline within the larger world of rhetorical studies.â€ Rhetoric has always been integral to the American presidency in that no one personâ€™s speeches and writings receive more attention and criticism than those of the individual holding this office. From George Washingtonâ€™s writings to Abraham Lincolnâ€™s speeches to Barack Obamaâ€™s use of social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), the rhetoric of American presidents continues to advance domestic and foreign policies, set political agendas, and embody the values of a nation.
In the fall of 2016, students enrolled in this course will study a number of examples of presidential rhetoric including writings and speeches as well as, in the more modern era, the presidential use of web sites and social media for conveying messages. In addition, students will rhetorically analyze an example of presidential rhetoric as their major assignments in the course. Students will also analyze presidential rhetoric in its historical and rhetorical contexts. In other words, they will not just analyze the words, verbal images, and arguments of presidents for different occasions; students will comprehend the significant events that give rise to exigencies necessitating that presidents engage in rhetorical practices.
Possible texts and readings include:
Beasley, Vanessa B. _You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric_. Texas A&M University Press, 2011.
Fehrenbacher, Don E. (Editor). _Abraham Lincoln Speeches and Writings, 1832-1858: Speeches, Letters, and Miscellaneious Writings/The Lincoln-Douglas Debates_. The Library of America, 1989.
Fehrenbacher, Don E. (Editor). _Abraham Lincoln Speeches and Writings, 1859-1865: Speeches, Letters, and Miscellaneous Writings, Presidential Messages and Proclamations_. The Library of America, 1989.
Kraig, Robert Alexander. _Woodrow Wilson and the Lost World of the Oratorical Statesman_. Texas A&M University Press, 2004.
Medhurst, Martin J. and James Arnt Aune (Editors). _The Prospect of Presidential Rhetoric_. Texas A&M University Press, 2008.
Mercieca, Jennifer R. _The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency_. Texas A&M University, 2014.
Rhodehamel, John H. (Editor). _George Washington: Writings_. Library of America, 1997.
Waldman, Michael, editor. _My Fellow Americans: The Most Important Speeches of Americaâ€™s Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama_. Second edition. Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2010.
Widmaier, Wesley. _Presidential Rhetoric from Wilson to Obama: Constructing Crises, Fast and Slow_. Routledge, 2014.
Zarefsky, David. _President Johnsonâ€™s War on Poverty: Rhetoric and History_. University of Alabama Press, 1986.
Zarefsky, David. â€œPresidential Rhetoric and the Power of Definition.â€ _Presidential Studies Quarterly_, September 2004, pp. 607-619.
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Rhetorical analysis essays (2)
Short reading responses
Other requirements (TBD)