Advanced Public Speaking

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Advanced Public Speaking


The approach to this course is classical, and students enjoy it very much. The core of the course is a series of three speeches, which constitute an exercise in “imitatio,” a pedagogical scheme developed in the Roman era and practiced widely in medieval times. The idea is to expose students to great oratory, have them study it, then imitate it. As they develop a feel for stylistic excellence, they are encouraged to compose original works. This graduated approach is very effective.

The course begins with an overview of rhetoric in the liberal arts, followed by focused study in elements of style. There are speaking assignments designed to break the ice, but real application of classical concepts begins with a memorized speech. Students select a speech of interest from days of yore. They select a portion of it that can be performed in 6 minutes. Nothing cultivates a strong grasp of both style and content like memorization.

Next comes an “essentializing exercise,” in which students identify the essential message of the speech. They then do an imitatio speech in which they apply that theme to a contemporary situation. In that speech they are to emulate the style of the person whose speech they chose to memorize.

Finally, they are invited to compose and perform an original oration that demonstrates mastery of course content. They learn a great deal about how to move an audience (pathos) and, specifically, how to deploy figures of speech masterfully.


There will be five graded speeches, and a final exam. Assignments are graded on a 100 point scale and weighted as follows:



To provide the student with advanced training and coaching in all aspects of the public speaking situation: listening, critical thinking, audience analysis, composition and delivery. The emphasis in this course is on cultivating style and imagination.


  • Prompt attendance is expected at all classes. If you cannot attend, notify me in advance. Mere notification does not constitute an excused absence.
  • Ten point deduction for each absence over two.
  • Any assignment missed without a valid excuse will be graded “0”.
  • Speeches not meeting assigned criteria are graded lower (see handouts and assingment links).
  • Students are responsible for all information given (verbally or in writing) in class, even when absent.