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English 390, Rhetorical Theory is a fantastic class to take. I would recommend anyone to take the course, regardless of his or her major. In this course, students are taught and encouraged to rhetorically analyze the rhetorical, or shall we say coercive, strategies implemented in any given artifact. When you hear the word artifact, you may have an Indiana Jones reference pass through your mind. Well, you wouldn't be too far off the mark. An artifact is any human construct crafted through human volition and ingenuity with a specific purpose in gaining social awareness. For instance, the collected works of Mark Twain and a McDonald's dimly light wall menu are both artifacts. Both engage an audience and endeavor to convey a special meaning to said audience. While you may not be interested in rhetorically analyzing the effects of a McDonald's menu, and how each menu is strategically placed above one's natural level of sight in order to cause one to look up, which allows more food sent particles to stimulate nerve endings that are responsible for triggering salivation and hunger, one can find a rhetorical strategy in any artifact. In short, Rhetorical Theory focuses on how people use artifacts to convey a certain symbolic messages through a wide range of mediums. Once again, I would highly encourage anyone to take this course. If anything, it helps one understand the subtle forces of coercive influence thronging against us, some good, some bad, but all of needing to be understood.
The course itself provides several ways of rhetorically analyzing texts. The course begins uses ancient Greek rhetorical practice, beginning with Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. For example, the course uses Aristotle's ethos (credibility), pathos (emotional appeal), and logos (logical appeal) to breakdown early artifacts. Afterwards, the course explores rhetorical theory through the lens of feminism, scientific paradigms, racism, and Burke's Pentadic Criticism.
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I would suggest reading assigned material in increments over the course of a few days. At times, the course requires large amounts of reading that will be impossible to remember, let alone analyze, should one read them at the last minute. Furthermore, when you write a paper, I highly recommend asking your professor to to a brief proof read for logical errors. While grammar can be an easy fix, logical errors are not. At the very least, it helps to understand the professors expectations.