Rhetoric

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Rhetoric majors are trained in the history of rhetorical theory and practice, grounded in argumentation and in the analysis of the symbolic and institutional dimensions of discourse. The department offers both a pragmatic understanding of the elements of rhetorical analysis, with special attention to logic, style, tropes, figures, and images, and a thorough grounding in the historical development of these elements in rhetorical theory. The combination allows students to make a disciplined grasp of the contemporary character of rhetoric and language. Through its emphasis on the history and theory of rhetoric, the department provides an understanding of the format of contemporary theories of interpretation as well as an opportunity, within this framework, to explore the role of persuasion in pragmatic and aesthetic contexts.

The major is not intended to provide skills-based training in oral argument or communication.

Major Concentrations

Students in the Rhetoric major choose one area of concentration: history and theory of rhetoric, public discourse, or narrative and image.

History and Theory of Rhetoric

This area of concentration focuses on understanding the development of rhetorical theory and practice from its genesis in the classical period to its situation in the present. Students will consider how the discipline of rhetoric has both shaped and itself been shaped by social, political, technological, and intellectual developments over the course of two millennia. Individual courses will enable close study of the process of rhetoric's influence and adaptation, both in theory and in practice, in specific contexts throughout its history.

Public Discourse

This area of concentration focuses on understanding rhetoric in its symbolic and institutional dimensions, with special emphasis on legal and political forums. Students consider the discourse of law, politics, and society both in theory and in practice, in an attempt to understand the rhetorical nature of political judgment, action, justice, and legitimacy. Individual courses will enable close study of specific problems, concerns, vocabularies, modes of interpretation, and strategies of argumentation arising in public forums of the past and present.

Narrative and Image

This area of concentration focuses on understanding the function of rhetoric in literary, cinematic, and visual texts, with emphasis on the role of figure and image in the representation of reality. Students consider the production and reception of narrative literature—oral, epic, folktale, lyric poem, novel, and film—in an attempt to understand the boundaries of the aesthetic text as a rhetorical analysis of particular literary and visual genres arising in a variety of cultures and historical epochs. 

Declaring the Major

The major may be declared after completion of RHETOR 10 or RHETOR 20 with a letter grade of C or better. Obtain a Petition to Declare the Major and the Rhetoric Major Application from the undergraduate assistant in 7406 Dwinelle Hall. The petition is also available from the College of Letters & Science in 206 Evans Hall. Students must present a copy of their transcript along with their petition and application to the undergraduate assistant for approval signature and a brief orientation.

Honors Program

Seniors must complete RHETOR 10, RHETOR 20, RHETOR 103A, and RHETOR 103B and maintain a minimum 3.7 grade-point average (GPA) in rhetoric and a 3.5 overall Berkeley GPA to undertake the two-semester honors thesis series, RHETOR H190A-RHETOR H190B. Students work under the supervision of a selected rhetoric faculty member. Four units of credit (2 units each semester) for the RHETOR H190A to RHETOR H190B sequence may be applied toward graduation as upper division units and fulfillment of one major upper division course. Honors candidates who complete the 4-unit course with a letter grade of A- or better and maintain the required GPAs will receive a BA with honors in the major.

Seniors eligible to enroll in the honors program must begin arrangements with the faculty member who is willing to direct their honors thesis in the semester before they enroll in RHETOR H190A. See the undergraduate assistant for honors information and an application. Warning: Graduating honors candidates who complete the major requirements but take an incomplete in the RHETOR H190A-RHETOR H190B series must drop themselves from the degree list or honors will not appear on their official transcripts or diplomas.

Minor Program

The goal of the minor program in rhetoric is to introduce students to the methodological procedures and interdisciplinary approach of a field that examines all disciplines from the outside and poses questions such as the following: how is philosophy (or law, politics, etc.) constituted as a field? What kinds of discourses are considered legitimate within this field? And what kinds of knowledge are produced and institutionalized as a result?

Students declare the minor by the end of the eighth week of the semester they add themselves to the degree list. The Minor Completion petition should be presented to the undergraduate adviser with a recent Bear Facts (available through summer 2016) or CalCentral (starting fall 2016) printout of the student's grades (unofficial transcript).

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Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs, with the exception of minors offered outside of the College of Letters & Science.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.

For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Lower Division Prerequisites

RHETOR 10Introduction to Practical Reasoning and Critical Analysis of Argument4
RHETOR 20Rhetorical Interpretation4

Upper Division Requirements

RHETOR 103AApproaches and Paradigms in the History of Rhetorical Theory4
RHETOR 103BApproaches and Paradigms in the History of Rhetorical Theory II4
Select three upper division courses in the specified area of concentration (History and Theory of Rhetoric, Public Discourse, or Narrative and Image): see below for course lists
Select two upper division electives from outside the area of concentration, one course from each of the other areas
Select one upper division course (at least 4 units) related to the chosen area of concentration, from another department

History and Theory of Rhetoric Concentration

RHETOR 104Rhetorical Theory and Practice in Historical Eras4
RHETOR 105TRhetoric of Religious Discourse4
RHETOR 106Rhetoric of Historical Discourse4
RHETOR 107Rhetoric of Scientific Discourse4
RHETOR 108Rhetoric of Philosophical Discourse4
RHETOR 109Aesthetics and Rhetoric4
RHETOR 110Advanced Argumentative Writing4
RHETOR 112Rhetoric of Narrative Genres in Nonliterate Societies4
RHETOR 114Rhetoric of New Media4
RHETOR 116Rhetoric, Culture and Society4
RHETOR 117Language, Truth and Dialogue4
RHETOR 118Undergraduate Seminar on the Theory and Practice of Reading and Interpretation4

Public Discourse Concentration

RHETOR 150Rhetoric of Contemporary Politics4
RHETOR 151Rhetoric of Contact and Conquest4
RHETOR 152Rhetoric of Constitutional Discourse4
RHETOR 152ACRace and Order in the New Republic4
RHETOR 153American Political Rhetoric4
RHETOR 155Discourses of Colonialism and Postcoloniality4
RHETOR 156Rhetoric of the Political Novel4
RHETOR 157ARhetoric of Modern Political Theory4
RHETOR 157BRhetoric of Contemporary Political Theory4
RHETOR 158Advanced Problems in the Rhetoric of Political Theory4
RHETOR 159AGreat Theorists in the Rhetoric of Political and Legal Theory4
RHETOR 159BGreat Themes in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Political and Legal Theory4
RHETOR 160Introduction to the Rhetoric of Legal Discourse4
RHETOR 164Rhetoric of Legal Theory4
RHETOR 165Rhetoric of Legal Philosophy4
RHETOR 166Rhetoric in Law and Politics4
RHETOR 167Advanced Themes in Legal Theory, Philosophy, Argumentation4
RHETOR 168Advanced Topics in Contemporary Law and Legal Discourse4
RHETOR 170Rhetoric of Social Science4
RHETOR 171The Problem of Mass Culture and the Rhetoric of Social Theory4
RHETOR 172Rhetoric of Social Theory4
RHETOR 176Rhetoric of Material Culture4
RHETOR 182Rhetorics of Sexual Exchange and Sexual Difference4
RHETOR 189Special Topics (if course topic is appropriate)4

Narrative and Image Concentration

RHETOR 121Rhetoric of Fiction4
RHETOR 122Rhetoric of Drama4
RHETOR 123Rhetoric of Performance4
RHETOR 124Rhetoric of Poetry4
RHETOR 127Novel, Society, and Politics4
RHETOR 128TThe Rhetoric and Politics of Interviews4
RHETOR 129Rhetoric of Autobiography4
RHETOR 129ACAutobiography and American Individualism4
RHETOR 130Novel into Film4
RHETOR 131TGenre in Film and Literature4
RHETOR 132TAuteur in Film4
RHETOR 133TTheories of Film4
RHETOR 135TSelected Topics in Film4
RHETOR 189Special Topics (if course topic is appropriate)4

Minor Requirements

Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but they are not noted on diplomas.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  2. A minimum of three of the upper division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  4. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.
  5. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  6. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. Students who cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time should see a College of Letters & Science adviser.
  7. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)

Requirements

Lower Division
RHETOR 10Introduction to Practical Reasoning and Critical Analysis of Argument4
RHETOR 20Rhetorical Interpretation4
Upper Division
RHETOR 103AApproaches and Paradigms in the History of Rhetorical Theory4
RHETOR 103BApproaches and Paradigms in the History of Rhetorical Theory II4
Select three electives from the following:
RHETOR 104Rhetorical Theory and Practice in Historical Eras4
RHETOR 105TRhetoric of Religious Discourse4
RHETOR 106Rhetoric of Historical Discourse4
RHETOR 107Rhetoric of Scientific Discourse4
RHETOR 108Rhetoric of Philosophical Discourse4
RHETOR 109Aesthetics and Rhetoric4
RHETOR 110Advanced Argumentative Writing4
RHETOR 112Rhetoric of Narrative Genres in Nonliterate Societies4
RHETOR 114Rhetoric of New Media4
RHETOR 116Rhetoric, Culture and Society4
RHETOR 117Language, Truth and Dialogue4
RHETOR 118Undergraduate Seminar on the Theory and Practice of Reading and Interpretation4
RHETOR 119Rhetorical Places4
RHETOR 121Rhetoric of Fiction4
RHETOR 122Rhetoric of Drama4
RHETOR 123Rhetoric of Performance4
RHETOR 124Rhetoric of Poetry4
RHETOR 125Poetics and Poetry4
RHETOR 127Novel, Society, and Politics4
RHETOR 128TThe Rhetoric and Politics of Interviews4
RHETOR 129Rhetoric of Autobiography4
RHETOR 129ACAutobiography and American Individualism4
RHETOR 130Novel into Film4
RHETOR 131TGenre in Film and Literature4
RHETOR 132TAuteur in Film4
RHETOR 133TTheories of Film4
RHETOR 135TSelected Topics in Film4
RHETOR 136Art and Authorship4
RHETOR 137Rhetoric of the Image4
RHETOR 138Television Criticism4
RHETOR 139Rhetoric of Visual Witnessing4
RHETOR 150Rhetoric of Contemporary Politics4
RHETOR 151Rhetoric of Contact and Conquest4
RHETOR 152Rhetoric of Constitutional Discourse4
RHETOR 152ACRace and Order in the New Republic4
RHETOR 153American Political Rhetoric4
RHETOR 155Discourses of Colonialism and Postcoloniality4
RHETOR 156Rhetoric of the Political Novel4
RHETOR 157ARhetoric of Modern Political Theory4
RHETOR 157BRhetoric of Contemporary Political Theory4
RHETOR 158Advanced Problems in the Rhetoric of Political Theory4
RHETOR 159AGreat Theorists in the Rhetoric of Political and Legal Theory4
RHETOR 159BGreat Themes in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Political and Legal Theory4
RHETOR 160Introduction to the Rhetoric of Legal Discourse4
RHETOR 164Rhetoric of Legal Theory4
RHETOR 165Rhetoric of Legal Philosophy4
RHETOR 166Rhetoric in Law and Politics4
RHETOR 167Advanced Themes in Legal Theory, Philosophy, Argumentation4
RHETOR 168Advanced Topics in Contemporary Law and Legal Discourse4
RHETOR 170Rhetoric of Social Science4
RHETOR 171The Problem of Mass Culture and the Rhetoric of Social Theory4
RHETOR 172Rhetoric of Social Theory4
RHETOR 176Rhetoric of Material Culture4
RHETOR 182Rhetorics of Sexual Exchange and Sexual Difference4
RHETOR 189Special Topics4

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals

Mission

Students learn about different kinds of representation (and critiques thereof), how different genres shape and offer material for interpretation, and how different media forms produce a sense of reality. They learn to reflect on how various modes of presentation work (film, literary and philosophical texts, legal cases, political tracts, performances, archival materials), what kinds of meanings they have, and what kinds of effects they produce. They consider works of both high and low culture and bring various kinds of approaches to both. As they advance, students compare and bring genres together for analysis, working for instance with legal trials in film, philosophical uses of literary works, oral interpretation of texts, the textual and archival basis for the transition from orality to literacy, the political presuppositions of law, the aesthetic dimensions of political theory, and the influence of law on non-legal rhetorical practice.

Learning Goals for the Major

  1. Understand and make arguments
    • Acquire basic knowledge and vocabulary of formal argumentation and its relation to informal spoken and written arguments.
    • Analyze texts in terms of their arguments.
    • Use arguments in the major’s own writing.
    • Develop more sophisticated knowledge of argument and apply it.
  2. Interpret written and non-written texts
    • Recognize rhetorical figures and identify stylistic issues.
    • Relate textual interpretations to media (oral, print, and digital/visual).
    • Acquire an introduction to theories and methods of interpretation.
    • Progress to more advanced exposure to interpretation.
  3. Display knowledge and articulate themes concerned with the history and theory of rhetoric
    • Read and understand ancient texts out of which rhetorical traditions come (to see how, for instance, the history of the notion of rhetoric and its opposition to philosophy from Plato on is implicated in our conversations about truth, sincerity, democracy, and ethics).
    • Read and understand texts about rhetoric between ancient and modern periods.
    • Read and understand texts that show how rhetoric is used or conceived in particular periods or cultures.
    • Read and understand texts important to contemporary theory.
    • Engage in rhetorical issues involving media, writing, reading, speech, and authorship.
  4. Grasp specific forms of knowledge and their modes of reasoning
    • Engage critically in analysis and interpretation of such public discourses as law, politics, science, and religion.
    • Understand elements of narrative in novel and other fictive discourses.
    • Read visual and other productions that are beyond (or other than) the written word.
    • Recognize what is common and what is different in the self-conception of various discourses (e.g., literature, philosophy, law, and history).
  5. Integrate the reading, writing, analytical, and critical skills and knowledges above
    • Carry out close readings with a consciousness of the relevance of context.
    • Specialize in a particular area or theme through the concentrations.
    • Understand, reflect on, and evaluate the ways in which persuasive forces (broadly understood) are at work in the contemporary world.

Courses

Rhetoric

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Faculty

David William Bates, Professor. Enlightenment, early Modern European intellectual history, 20th century European and American intellectual history, history and theory of media and technology, history of political thought.
Research Profile

Daniel Boyarin, Professor. Talmud, rhetoric, Christianity, genealogy of, invention of Judaism.
Research Profile

Anthony J. Cascardi, Professor. English, comparative literature, literature, Spanish, Portuguese, philosophy, aesthetics, early modern literature, French, Spanish Baroque.
Research Profile

Pheng Cheah, Professor. Nationalism, rhetoric, legal philosophy, feminism, 18th-20th century continental philosophy and contemporary critical theory, postcolonial theory and anglophone postcolonial literatures, cosmopolitanism and globalization, social and political thought.
Research Profile

Marianne Constable, Professor. Law and language, legal rhetoric and philosophy, social and political thought, Anglo-American legal history, Continental philosophy, law and society.
Research Profile

Samera Esmeir, Associate Professor. Critical theory, Middle Eastern Studies, Legal and political thought, law and society, legal histories, colonialism and post-colonialism.
Research Profile

Shannon Jackson, Professor. Rhetoric, performance studies, American studies, 20th century art movements and critical theory, local culture and intercultural citizenship in turn-of-the-century United States, history and theory of theatre and performance art.
Research Profile

Michael James Mascuch, Associate Professor. Rhetoric, photography, autobiography, narrative and culture, media and society, documentation, early modern Britain.
Research Profile

Ramona Naddaff, Associate Professor. Rhetoric, aesthetics, theory of the novel, ancient Greek philosophy and literature, history of philosophy, contemporary French thought.
Research Profile

James Porter, Professor. Classical Studies, philosophy, critical theory, aesthetics, Nietzsche, Auerbach.
Research Profile

Minh-Ha Trinh, Professor. Gender and sexuality, womens studies, rhetoric, feminist postcolonial theory, film theory and production, music composition, ethnomusicology, contemporary critical theory and the arts.
Research Profile

Mario Wimmer, Assistant Adjunct Professor.

Michael Wintroub, Associate Professor. Religion, ritual, social change, rhetoric, history of science, early modern cultural history, travel, identity formation, alterity, cross-cultural contact, popular and court culture, state-building, humanism, vernacular consciousness and literature, mater.
Research Profile

Winnie Won Yin Wong, Assistant Professor. Labor and creativity, modern and contemporary art, intellectual property, China studies, consumer cultures.
Research Profile

Nasser Zakariya, Assistant Professor.

Lecturers

Alex Dubilet, Lecturer.

Felipe Gutterriez, Lecturer.

Nancy A. Weston, Lecturer.

Rebecca Wiseman, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

David J. Cohen, Professor Emeritus. Human rights;war crimes and trials;Indonesia and East Timor; Guantanamo and Abu Grahib;Sierra Leone Special Court;International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Former Yugoslavia;Classics;ancient rhetoric and history, classical Greek law;political/legal theory.
Research Profile

Bridget Connelly, Professor Emeritus.

Frederick M. Dolan, Professor Emeritus. Ethics, modernity, aesthetics, political theory, literature and politics, theories of interpretation, Continental philosophy, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt, Foucault, American political discourse, aesthetics and politics.
Research Profile

Daniel Melia, Professor Emeritus. Rhetoric, oral literature, Celtic studies, Celtic languages (Welsh, Irish), folklore, medieval history and literature.
Research Profile

Barbara Shapiro, Professor Emeritus. Rhetoric, political and legal thought 1500-1700, intellectual and cultural history, 1500-1700, early modern legal and political discourse, science and society, Tudor and Stuart England.
Research Profile

+ Kaja Silverman, Professor Emeritus. Feminist theory, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, queer studies, race, rhetoric, film, cinema, photography, time-based visual art, painting, post-structuralist theory, masculinity.
Research Profile

Thomas O. Sloane, Professor Emeritus. Renaissance literature, history of rhetoric, teaching rhetoric.
Research Profile

+ Linda Williams, Professor Emeritus. New media, film theory, pornography, melodrama, sex in cinema, popular genres, surrealist cinema, serial television.
Research Profile

Todd G. Willy, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of Rhetoric

7408 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-1415

Fax: 510-642-8881

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Daniel Boyarin

248 Barrows Hall

boyarin@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Major Adviser

Blaine Jones

7406 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-3522

blainejones@berkeley.edu

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