American Political Rhetoric
Sunday, June 27, 2010 to Friday, July 2, 2010
Professors Ken Masugi and Colleen Sheehan
This course examines American political rhetoric in its broadest sense as the art of political persuasion and civic education. Surveying the field from the Founders through Barack Obama, we will engage in a careful reading of the speeches and writings of leading statesmen and literati, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, FDR, JFK, Robert Frost, and Ronald Reagan. The final examination will be writing a speech for a particular occasion before a particular audience, which will be determined in the week of the course.
Note: Grading in this course is based on a combination of your contribution to class discussions and the final examination. The weighting will be 30% participation, and 70% final. Students are expected to attend all classes.
Students auditing the course as a part of a Teaching American History Grant program must complete the readings and attend all of the seminars and fully participate during the week.
Office Hourse/Contact Information:
Please feel free to join your faculty for lunch and dinner at the cafeteria. Ken Masugi's cell phone number: 202 669-7007. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Colleen Sheehan's email is email@example.com.
While we have made efforts to even out the amount of reading per session, the bulk of the required reading for the course will fall into Tuesday and Wednesday of the week, when we discuss Uncle Tom's Cabin. Most of the speeches from Franklin Roosevelt on are available on video. They should be not only read but listened to and viewed. Professor Masugi's sessions will average about 40-50 pp. of reading, but that does not count the time one needs to spend listening to speeches. The Miller Center at the University of Virginia has good holdings of presidential speeches: http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches
In addition to the readings listed in the syllabus we may well assign a few outstanding speeches delivered between the time this syllabus is completed and the early summer. These will be kept to a minimum, of course, fewer than 20 pp.
Please note that for some of the sessions some readings are underlined. These are the ones the class discussion will focus on, but the others are helpful for appreciating the primary ones. While this is not a course in speechgiving, students will read out loud key passages from the major speeches to underscore the importance of syntax, vocabulary, and literary style in rhetoric.
Sunday, June 27
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm: Session 1 (Professor Sheehan)
Topic: The Art of Rhetoric
Focus: What are the different modes of argumentation? Is the use of rhetoric and the art of persuasion necessary in political life? What, if any, are the potential dangers associated with political speech and argumentation?
- Richard Weaver, The Ethics of Rhetoric, chapters 3 and 4.
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm: Session 2
Institute Lecture (attendance required)
Monday, June 28
9:00 am - 10:30 am: Session 3 (Professor Masugi)
Topic: "The Declaration of Independence: An Expression of the American Mind"
Focus: The rhetoric of equality, liberty, and the consent of the governed in American politics. How does the Declaration through its various interpreters provide the language of American politics?
- Declaration of Independence (CP pg 8)
- Abraham Lincoln on the Declaration: June 26, 1857; July 10, 1858; Gettysburg Address. (CP pg 13)
- Harry Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided, chapter XIV, "The Universal Meaning of the Declaration of Independence"
- Alexander Stephens on the Declaration (CP pg 36)
- Barack Obama on the Declaration, from Dreams from My Father, pp. 437-439 (CP pg 44)
- Clarence Thomas on the Declaration (CP pg 47)
10:50 am -12:20 pm: Session 4 (Professor Sheehan)
Topic: The Role of the Statesman and the Role of the People in Republican Government": The Rhetoric of Responsibility and Self-Government
Focus: According to Publius, what are the responsibilities of the representative/statesman in republican government? What are the responsibilities of the people? What is, or ought to be, the relationship between the statesman and the people in a republic?
- Federalist 39 (first three paragraphs), 49, 57, 63, 73 (CP pg 50)
- Madison, "Public Opinion" (Dec. 19, 1791) (CP pg 67)
- Madison, "Who are the Best Keepers of the People's Liberties?" (Dec. 22, 1792) (CP pg 68)
1:45 pm - 3:15 pm: Session 5 (Professor Masugi)
Topic: The Rhetoric of Moderation: Getting Drunk on Power and Sobering Up
Focus: How rhetoric grounded in the Declaration of Independence can sober up a people drunk with power or in a drunken stupor. Read the Temperance Address as an example of political satire at its sharpest.
- Slave Petition for Freedom, 1774 (CP pg 71)
- Lincoln, Temperance Address, The Perpetuation Address (CP pg 73)
- Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided,
- Chapter IX, "The Teaching Concerning Political Salvation"
- Chapter X, "The Teaching Concerning Political Moderation,"
- Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation (CP pg 80)
- Frederick Douglass, Eulogy of Abraham Lincoln (April 14, 1876) , An Address to the Colored People of the United States (Sept. 29, 1848) (CP pg 82)
- Martin Luther King, "I Have a Dream" (CP pg 93)
Tuesday, June 29
9:00 am - 10:30 am: Session 6 (Professor Sheehan)
Topic: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" : The Rhetoric of Slavery and Freedom
Focus: Why does Harriet Beecher Stowe employ a melodramatic style in this novel? Was it deliberate? Is it effective? While some novels are "all story and no reflection," others are meant to persuade and/or educate the reader. Clearly, UTC is a novel with a message. What is this message? What informs the speech and actions of "Persistent Sam"? Who is the hero of this novel? How does George Harris disguise himself, and what lesson are we to draw from this? How does Tom understand freedom? (Consider the various kinds of freedom, e.g., physical, political, economic, spiritual, etc.)
- Uncle Tom's Cabin
10:50 am - 12:20 pm: Session 7 (Professor Sheehan)
Topic: "Uncle Tom's Cabin": The Rhetoric of Slavery and Freedom, continued
Focus: Is Uncle Tom a good Christian? Is he a good man? Is he a good citizen? Is he a good slave? What is the relationship between freedom and self-government, according to Harriet Beecher Stowe? Consider the following passage of UTC: "They that cannot govern themselves, cannot govern others" (UTC XXIII:270). What does this mean on the level of society? What does this mean on the level of the individual? What is Stowe's view of the significance of the character of the individuals who compose a free society? How does the overall teaching of the novel respond to (and prompt the reader to respond to) St. Clare's query and sense of hopelessness and futility when he asks, "What can one man do?"
- Uncle Tom's Cabin
1:45 pm - 3:15 pm: Session 8 (Professor Sheehan)
Topic: "Uncle Tom's Cabin": The Rhetoric of Freedom, concluded
Focus: Continuation of the questions and issues from previous sessions.
- Uncle Tom's Cabin
Wednesday, June 30
9:00 am - 10:30 am: Session 9 (Professor Masugi)
Topic: The Rhetoric of Unity
Focus: What are the high and the low means of uniting a diverse people? How are a people united through self-interest and something far higher? Readings, other than Obama, can be found at http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/
- Washington, Farewell Address (CP pg 98)
- Jefferson, First Inaugural (March 4, 1801) (CP pg 108)
- Re-read from Session 3: either Lincoln on the Declaration: June 26, 1857 or July 10, 1858 and the Gettysburg Address (Nov. 22, 1863). (CP pg 13)
- Lincoln, Second Inaugural (March 4, 1865) (CP pg 111)
- Obama 2004 Democratic Convention Speech (CP pg 113)
10:50 am - 12:20 pm: Session 10 (Professor Masugi)
Topic: The Rhetoric of War
Focus: Nothing unites a country like a warunless it's unpopular.
- FDR D-Day Prayer (CP pg 118)
- Winston Churchill, "Their Finest Hour" (CP pg 120)
- Winston Churchill, "The Scaffolding of Rhetoric" (How to deliver a speech) (CP pg 3)
- Douglas McArthur, "Duty, Honor, Country" (CP pg 127)
- Woodrow Wilson, War Message to Congress, (CP pg 131)
- Barack Obama, Nobel Prize speech (CP pg 136)
1:30 pm - 3:15 pm: Session 11 (Professor Masugi)
Topic: The Rhetoric of Domestic Crisis
Focus: How have Presidents confronted the major crises of this nation: Civil War, the Great Depression, and the economic and foreign policy troubles of the 1970s? What are the fundamental principles of the nation that they have appealed to, in their struggles? We will also examine the rhetoric of current policy debates.
Thursday, July 1
9:00 am - 10:30 am: Session 12 (Professor Sheehan)
Topic: Robert Frost and John F. Kennedy: The Rhetoric of Civic Responsibility and Self-Government
Focus: What is JFK's rhetorical style and what impact did it have - and perhaps still does have - on the American public? Why was JFK so taken by the poetry of Robert Frost? What is Frost conveying, perhaps teaching, in his 1956 Commencement Address? What is the meaning of "Birches"? How is "Birches" related to "The Gift Outright"? to "Dedication"? What is Frost's poetic and rhetorical style? What is he conveying, perhaps teaching, in "The Gift Outright"?
- Frost's Commencement Address at Sarah Lawrence College, 1956 (CP pg 170)
- "Birches" and "Dedication" (CP pg 173)
- "The Gift Outright" (CP pg 173)
- Frost at JFK's Inaugural: (beginning at about 36 minutes in) (CP pg 175)
- Recommended: JFK, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961 (CP pg 177)
10:50 am - 12:20 pm: Session 13 (Professor Masugi)
Topic: The Rhetoric of Partisanship
Focus: How have Presidents and other political figures used the American political tradition for their self-interested political purposes? When have they altered the principles?
- FDR, Democratic Nomination Acceptance Address, 1932 (CP pg 181)
- FDR, 1944 State of the Union (CP pg 188)
- (What does he mean by the fifth paragraph from the end?)
- Reagan, "A Time for Choosing" (CP pg 195)
- Sarah Palin, Republican Nomination Acceptance Speech (CP pg 203)
- Rush Limbaugh and the Rhetoric of Talk Radio, 2009 Speech to CPAC (CP pg 210)
- Obama, Address to Joint Session of Congress (CP pg 226)
1:30 - 3:15 pm: Session 14 (Professor Masugi)
Topic: The Rhetoric of America in the World
Focus: How have Americans understood themselves in relationship to other nations? How do we scold, inspire, command, and explain ourselves?
Friday, July 2
9:00 am - 10:30 am: Session 15 (Professor Masugi)
Topic: The Rhetoric of Civil Society
Focus: How should Americans speak to each on their hopes for their future, their families, neighborhoods, fears, hopes, tragedies, and pleasures.
- Lincoln, Speech to the Ohio 166th Regiment (CP pg 268)
- Frederick Douglass, "Our Composite Nationality" (CP pg 269)
- William Jennings Bryan, "Cross of Gold" (CP pg 280)
- Reagan, Challenger Speech (CP pg 286)
- Obama, Philadelphia Speech On Race, 2008 (CP pg 288)
- Diana Schaub, "America At the Bat" (essay) (CP pg 297)
10:50 am - 12:20 pm: Session 16 (Professors Masugi & Sheehan)
Review the material, respond to questions, and consider other speeches students recommend. Reflections on recent rhetorical exchanges over current political issues. Student presentations to be assigned.
1:30 pm - 3:00 pm: Session 17
In-class speechwriting exercises to assist in preparing for the final.
- Winston Churchill, "The Scaffolding of Rhetoric" (CP pg 3)
- Shakespeare as speechwriter, excerpts from various plays