During the 2010-2011 academic year, I taught Rhetoric and Writing (RHE 306), a required introductory course on writing and argumentation in UT’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing . This course was grounded in the rhetorical analysis of “controversies,” broadly defined.
The course was divided into three units, each one requiring some sort of outside research, several short writing assignments, a long essay, and a revised version of that long essay. Units one and two focused on rhetorical analysis. Unit One required students to research a specific controversy: they needed to identify the various stakeholders and positions within a given debate. In Unit Two, students explored the ways stakeholders appealed to audiences in attempts to persuade, and analyzed a specific text and argument within their controversy. Unit three focused on advocacy. Now that students were familiar with their chosen controversy, they were required to position themselves within it and produce an informed argument for that position. In this unit, students wrote a long essay advocating their position and presented their argument in a public forum. Some chose to orally present their arguments to their peers in class, but many chose to post shortened forms of their arguments to a blog, Controversy Now, specifically designed for this assignment. You can find their work here.
Each year the Department of Rhetoric and Writing focuses on a specific controversial topic. When I taught this course we explored environmental issues, and used Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process (2009) as a springboard for discussion and as a case study for analysis. Sharon Crowley and Michael Stancliff’s Critical Situations: A Rhetoric for Writing in Communities (2008) served as our “rhetoric handbook.”