What is rhetoric?
Wabash defines rhetoric as the study of effective and ethical communication. Rhetoric includes not only the persuasive speech used by public speakers but also the symbols we all draw upon to make meaning of our world. At Wabash, the study of rhetoric involves both the production and analysis of communication.
Wabash rhetoric classes investigate visual, verbal, and aural elements of persuasive communication, drawing from classical and contemporary theories and principles. Consequently, students wrestle with multiple definitions of rhetoric, ranging from Aristotle’s definition as “an ability, in each case, to see the available means of persuasion” to Thomas Farrell’s definition as “the art of making things matter” to Molefi Asante’s “the generating and sustaining powers of the spoken word.”
Why study rhetoric?
Studying rhetoric helps students become effective speakers, listeners, and writers; understand their roles as ethical actors and citizens; and analyze how a variety of texts function persuasively. Rhetoric majors learn how to address public issues and controversies through a range of communication strategies, including facilitation and advocacy. Additionally, students apply theories of communication to diverse texts, exploring how discourse creates meaning for audiences and impacts our world.
The Wabash rhetoric department teaches the history, principles, theories, and examples of rhetoric to students with intellectual curiosity and a desire to pry deeply into the workings of our symbolic universe. Published and active faculty focus class time on rhetoric in relation to politics, sports, religion, gender, pop culture, and media, in historical and contemporary time periods.
The department also sponsors co-curricular opportunities, where students put the theoretical principles behind argumentation and deliberation into the art of public speaking on- and off-campus. Such activities include Wabash Democracy & Public Discourse, the Moot Court competition, the Brigance Forum lecture, and the Baldwin Oratorical Contest. Each year, qualified students are invited to join Lambda Pi Eta, honor society of the National Communication Association, in celebration of their academic accomplishments.
For a full offering of rhetoric courses, check out our curriculum.
What can you do with a rhetoric major?
Rhetoric majors pursue productive careers in professional, academic, and legal contexts. Recent Wabash graduates have found a wide application for their major, advancing such careers as: Communication Director, Attorney, Insurance Agent, Manager, Cost Accountant, Business Sales Representative, Teacher, Management Fellow, Senior Analyst, District Sales Manager, Founder/President/Business Owner, Development & Alumni Relations Director, Business Development Marketing, President/CEO, Senior Vice President & Chief of Staff, CEO.
To keep up to date with the department, see our annual department newsletter.
Here are some additional resources for rhetoric students.