Theories of Rhetoric: A Brief History of Persuasion

Professor: Daniel Adleman
Course code: WRR201H1
Format: Lecture/Discussion

About this course

When contemporary critics seek to discredit dishonest politicians, they tend to refer to their discourse as “mere rhetoric.” But there is so much more to rhetoric than deception. This course examines the history of rhetoric, the art of persuasion, from its birth in Greco-Roman antiquity to its rebirth in twentieth and twenty-first century thought. In addition to tracking the history of Western ideas about persuasion, we will bring rhetorical theories to bear on vital questions about philosophy, psychology, media, and advertising.

What you’ll learn

In this course, you will do the following: 
  • Study the fascinating history of rhetoric, including its entanglement with philosophy, politics, and literary studies.

  • Engage in critical conversations about the roles of truth, persuasion, opinion, reason, feeling, and authority in critical inquiry.

  • Write about the operation of persuasion in a context of importance to you.

Good to know

This is an introductory course open to all students. No specific background in Writing & Rhetoric is required. The midterm assignment is a short essay and the final assignment is a research essay.

A personal note from your instructor

Dan Adleman

Daniel Adleman

I developed WRR201 to provide Writing & Rhetoric students with a solid foundation in the fascinating history of rhetoric, its increasingly-relevant theories, and its thorny historical relationships with philosophy, psychology, and the sciences. As an undergraduate philosophy student, I was trained to have a lot of scorn for rhetoric (which gets a bad rap from philosophy). But when I went to graduate school, the most exciting classes (to me) all seemed to involve rhetoric. I hope to inspire a similar sense of fascination with the radical potentials of the discipline in WRR201.

Good to know

Recommended preparation:


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Have a question?

Need more info? Want to discuss if the Writing & Rhetoric Program is right for you? Looking for help in choosing courses? Jannie Chien, the Innis College academic program coordinator, can help!