Classical Public Speaking

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Classical Public Speaking


What constitutes the Fundamentals of Speech is, of course, open to interpretation. This course is approached from a classical liberal arts perspective that takes thinking as fundamental to speech. The art of speech-making is examined by, first, introducing the student to the role of rhetoric in the liberal arts tradition. Rhetoric, long considered the cornerstone of the liberal arts, is the art of persuasive speaking. The study of rhetoric provides a foundation in speech composition upon which the course builds. The course builds on that foundation by studying, in a very systematic, and highly integrated fashion, tools for critical thinking. Again, those tools are examined from the liberal arts point of view, in which students are taught how to be at home in the realm of ideas (i.e., how to analyze, critique, refute and persuade about, ideas).

Students deliver a variety of speeches. The core of the course involves a series of linked speeches in which students first overview, then analyze, then persuade about a contemporary controversial topic of their choosing. Video-taped speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and others, are studied and discussed throughout the semester. This attempt at learning by watching “masters in action” culminates in an assignment in which students choose their favorite Great Speech and explain what makes it great.

Office Hours: See current semester syllabus.

Specific assignment helps: