University of Vermont

UVM Course Directory

SPCH 195 – Ancient Oratory and Rhetoric

Credits: 3.00

Course Description: See Schedule of Courses for specific titles.

Section Description: Persuasion was one of the most powerful tools and most studied skills in antiquity. It is still alive and well in manifold forms! Public debate, domestic as well as international, and the private pursuit of justice traditionally demanded - indeed still demand - a practical facility with this communicative ‘technology.’ Elite citizens and aspiring politicians in Greece and Rome paid substantial ‘tuition’ to, and embarked upon in depth ‘study abroad’ courses with, expert private teachers of rhetoric in an effort to advance their public careers back home, while modern students and professionals take communications and theater courses or, later on, expensive weekend seminars in order to become effective communicators and presenters who can gain a competitive edge in the business world. Versatility in one’s skill set, the essential priority on any modern student’s résumé, goes all the way back to the poet Homer’s ideal leader as both “a doer or deeds and a speaker of words.” The fiercely competitive milieu of the ancient cities and empires urges all of us as 21st century college graduates and professionals to complement and counterbalance our increasingly specialized education - as ‘knowers of a specialized knowledge’ – with broad and engaging communicative skills and tools. Adapting ancient techniques to modern exigencies and media, let us strive to become not only more effective ‘speakers of words’ but more compelling ‘presenters of ideas’ and fully participant global citizens! Knowing well and connecting deeply with one’s audience, marshalling strategically one’s acute knowledge of a subject, and responding concisely and compellingly to challenges and complexity are life skills that the Greek sophists and philosophers Gorgias and Aristotle studied analytically, systematized and passed on to the the eminently pragmatic Romans and, ultimately, to us. Utility and relevance mattered as much to the ancients as they do to our world; accordingly we shall pay due attention to both the timeless continuities from antiquity and to modern innovations in the art and science of communication (ancient theories and practices, political, ethical and legal debate, historiography and journalism, ideologies and policy think tanks, advertising and marketing, public relations and branding, memes and tweets, blogs,...).

CRN: 95164

Section: A

Enrolled/Seats: 1/40

Days Time Location
TR 11:40 - 12:55 LAFAYETTE HALL L210

Instructor(s): Brian Thomas Walsh

Meeting Dates: 28 Aug 2017 - 08 Dec 2017