Fall 2015 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Gooch, John
Discipline and Number
LIT 4348 Section 001
MW Time 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM
Course Title
Presidential Rhetoric

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, “it 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.” Rhetoric has always been integral to the American presidency in that no one person’s speeches and writings receive more attention and criticism than those of the individual holding this office. From George Washington’s writings to Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Barack Obama’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 2015, 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 for their final papers and culminating projects 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.

Required Texts:

*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.

Widmaier, Wesley. _Presidential Rhetoric from Wilson to Obama: Constructing Crises, Fast and Slow_. Routledge, 2014.

Zarefsky, David. _President Johnson’s War on Poverty: Rhetoric and History_. University of Alabama Press, 1986.

Zarefsky, David. “Presidential Rhetoric and the Power of Definition.” _Presidential Studies Quarterly_, September 2004, pp. 607-619.

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

At this stage, most requirements are yet to be determined, but most likely, students will complete two to three short response papers and maybe two examinations (i.e., midterm and final) in addition to their final papers of 10 to 15 pages in length.

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