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Rhetoric is intended to provide an appreciation of the role of rhetoric in the creation and maintenance of human understanding; to promote exploration of the role of the symbol in the human condition; to foster an understanding of the role of communication media in contemporary society; and to enhance the ability to critique all forms of human communication. The Rhetoric Department works toward these ends in the context of a liberal arts environment.

Students who entered the University in Fall 2013 or earlier may complete the Rhetoric and Media Studies (RHET) major as described in the 2013-14 catalog, or may choose to complete the new Civic Communication and Media (CCM) major. Those choosing to complete the new major must first consult the CCM department chair.

Students who entered the University in Fall 2014 or later will complete the new Civic Communication and Media (CCM) major.

Willamette University Debate Union

The department hosts a speech and debate program for any College of Liberal Arts students interested in intercollegiate debate and speaking competition. Work and competition is under the guidance of the Director and Assistant Director of Debate. For additional information see Willamette University Debate Union in this catalog.

Indicators of Achievement

Student Learning Outcomes for Rhetoric Courses

  1. Students demonstrate the ability to read, process and employ theory appropriately (as measured by rhetorical analysis rubric)
  2. Students can identify and critique the role of symbols in communication (as measured by rhetorical analysis rubric)
  3. Students demonstrate the ability to analyze the influence of mediation on rhetoric (as measured by final paper analysis rubric in CCM 220W: Analysis of Public Discourse)
  4. Students demonstrate the ability to consider ethical issues within disciplinary concerns (as measured by comprehensive exams in ethics)
  5. Students demonstrate the ability to make appropriate critical analysis choices based on the form of communication (as measured by rhetorical analysis rubric)
  6. Students present clear arguments in writing and speaking, including the ability to use sound mechanics in writing


Course Listings

RHET 125 (CA) Creating Visual Rhetoric (1)

This is a project-based course in creating visual rhetoric. Looking at case studies of protest art, news images of 9/11, and advertising (political and product), students will explore how words and images interact in persuasive messages. As they create varied visual messages, students will consider what makes an image iconic, how visual and verbal elements contribute to meaning, and what role images play in news stories. Lab required.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Creating in the Arts
  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Collins

RHET 231 (EV) Classical Rhetoric (1)

History and survey of principal theories of rhetoric including Plato, Aristotle and Cicero.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Examining Values
  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Collins

RHET 242 (EV) Rhetoric and Leadership (1)

This course explores the ways rhetoric can foster effective leadership. Topics include: an examination of the leader's symbolic action through credibility, identifications, persona, values and agency; an exploration of group culture and roles; and a consideration of the leader-group interaction in decision-making and ethics. The course includes a required practical component.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Examining Values
  • Offering: Alternating years
  • Instructor: Clark

RHET 271 (EV) Telling the Internment Story (1)

The decision to exclude, evacuate and intern Japanese Americans living on the West Coast during WWII is an historical controversy directly engaging citizens in the Pacific Northwest; it remains a controversy through the museum exhibits, memorial sites, and artistic representations of the internment that continue to be generated to tell the story of this dark part of American history. Students identify and analyze ways of telling this story through films, photographs, paintings, memoirs, memorials and museums. There are three units: Fear & Racism Fanned by the Media, Life in the Camps and Reintegration, and Commemoration Through Museums, Memorials, and Films. Readings for this course include primary documents legislating the exclusion and internment of Japanese Americans, testimonials by internees, print media coverage, and visual and verbal commemorative texts. This is a project based course and includes a film screening lab.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Examining Values
  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: Collins

RHET 319W (EV) Filming Conflict and Identity (1)

This course examines how national identity is structured and conflict is portrayed in film depictions of the disputed homeland of Israel/Palestine. Most films are by Israelis or Palestinians. This course will consider problems of documentary films, stereotyping, nontraditional narrative structure, and docu-animation within the contest of the religious, social and political tensions in the region. Subject films will range from archival footage and independent documentaries to major feature films.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing-centered; Examining Values
  • Offering: Alternating years
  • Instructor: Clark

RHET 335W (IT) Burke and Film: Equipment for Living (1)

Kenneth Burke thought the examination of the patterns used to order human discourse and experience provided people with "equipment for living." His critical theories have influenced writers in the humanities and the social sciences. This course draws on varied film genres--science fiction, the haunted house, the western, documentary, war, drama, and comedy--as it examines concepts of form, identification, motive, piety, agency, visual and verbal symbol manipulation, terministic screens and perspective by incongruity. This writing centered course has an associated required film screening time.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment:  Writing-centered; Interpreting Text
  • Offering: Alternate Years
  • Instructor: Clark

RHET 341W Narrative Theory (1)

This course surveys significant developments in narrative theory. Narrative in this context is defined broadly, not only as a style or technique of writing, but as a paradigm for understanding human thought and communication at large. Attention is directed to particular case studies that illustrate characteristic functions of narration.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing-centered
  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Collins, Douglass

RHET 360 Rhetoric of War and Peace (1)

This course examines conceptual and critical approaches to the study of war rhetoric. The first half of the course focuses on international participation in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. The second half of the course is a case analysis of US-Middle East war rhetoric. Students will explore media images opposing nations employ to characterize the other; strategic choices in public rhetoric that create and sustain the Cold War or acceptance of military intervention in the Middle East; and the literalized metaphors and ideological frames that characterize war rhetoric.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Collins

RHET 361 Visual Rhetoric: Memory and Memorials (1)

This project-based course explores the emerging and interdisciplinary investigation of visual culture and rhetoric. It begins with an overview of the relationship between words and images followed by case studies focused on memory and memorials. The course explores the visual rhetoric of witnessing by examining representation, war, the cultural trauma through the images of tragedy, photographs of war, and war memorials. The course will examine exhibitionary rhetoric through case studies of the role of memorials and reconciliation in Chile and controversial exhibitions in the U.S. Laboratory required.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Collins

RHET 362W (IT) Telling News: Framing Reality (1)

This course examines news accounts as they construct the meaning of the events they report. Students explore how reality is shaped when the media privileges a particular frame for the events; sketches familiar plotlines, characters, or ideologies; or gives authority to some voices and silences others. Finally, the course addresses the effect of media conventionalizing, in the symbolic complexes addressed and the formulaic stories they spawn, on both the range of interpretations and the range of topics that are publicly addressed.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing-centered; Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Clark