COM690/400 Special Topic: Rhetoric of Style

COM690-001/COM400-001 Spring '13-14; Thursdays, 6:30 pm--9:20 pm
Lawrence Souder, Ph.D. Voice: 215-895-2730
Classroom: Curtis 352A Office Hours: Thursday, 5:00--6:00 pm, PISB Glass Tower
Office: #47, Room 323 E-mail: LS39 @


Both rhetoric and style are often contrasted with substance, especially in the contexts of politics, public relations, and advertising. Such was not always the case, however. The venerable tradition of rhetoric, which goes back to the ancient Greeks, includes not only the use of style as embellishment but also the acknowledgment of important parallels between style and substance. According to many ancient and contemporary rhetoricians, styles of speech can both reflect and inform styles of thought. This course will try to rehabilitate our commonly misunderstood notions of style by examining the relationship between figures of speech and figures of thought.

In this community-based learning course, students will consult with area non-profits for assessing and possibly improving the writing style of their documents. This course articulates with the content and goals of other courses in the Department of Culture and Communication, including COM270 (Business Communication), COM570 (Technical Editing), and COM680 (PR Writing & Strategies).


Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

*Relevance to Drexel Student Learning Priorities

Textbook and Readings:


We will use the text to explore the conventions of public discourse in civic life, which is the primary goal of this course. Our secondary goal is to explore the recent attempts to challenge those conventions. For this goal we will read and discuss supplemental readings. Students taking this course for graduate credit are required to present two of these readings and conduct the relevant class discussions. These readings are listed at the end of the relevant study guides. See presentation guidelines for details.


You are expected to attend all classes. Attendance is important to your progress and your classmates'. Much of what you learn will come from discussions and interactions with your fellow students. A formal presentation for which you are absent will be graded as an F. If an emergency prevents you from attending class (such as a personal illness or family emergency), please contact me in advance of your absence. You may miss one class without penalty; any additional absences will reduce your final grade.


You are expected to be on time for all classes. Late arrivals are disruptive to the instructor and your fellow students.

Academic Honesty

It is assumed that the work you submit for this course, whether written or spoken, is your own. Any attempt to represent someone else's work as your own will be considered plagiarism. See the University's policy on plagiarism--a form of academic misconduct. Plagiarism includes copying another student's work on papers or tests, copying without attribution the ideas or words from published sources, and submitting papers written in previous semesters. Such academic misconduct will result in a failing grade for the assignment, a probable failing grade for the course, and a report to the Dean for possible disciplinary action.


Each class meeting will require you to prepare a reading and a writing assignment. Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade increment for each class day late. See the Assignment Schedule for details. Click on the chapter designators for study guide questions to help you focus on the key concepts. Expect a short quiz on each chapter as a check of your understanding of the concepts. Click on the project designators for specific details on the writing assignments.

Special Needs

Students with disabilities requesting accommodations and services at Drexel University need to present a current accommodation verification letter (AVL) to faculty before accommodations can be made. AVLs are issued by the Office of Disability Services (ODS). For additional information, contact the ODS at, 3201 Arch St., Ste. 210, Philadelphia, PA 19104, V 215.895.1401, or TTY 215.895.2299. Other resources for students with special needs are available from the following:

Assignment Schedule

Week Due Date Topic Reading* Writing Speaker
1 4-3   W&B 1, 2; F Preface    
2 -10   W&B 3; F 1-1, 1-6    
3 -17   W&B 4; F 1-2, 1-3    
4 -24   W&B 5; F 2-7, 2-8, 2-9    
5 5-1   W&B 6; F 1-4, 1-5   Client Project Phase 1  
6 -8   W&B 7; F 3-17, 3-18    
7 -15   W&B 8   Client Project Phase 2  
8 -22   W&B 9; F 2-10, 2-11, 2-12, 3-16    
9 -29   W&B 10; F 3-13, 3-14, 3-15   Client Project Phase 3  
10 6-5   W&B 11, 12    
         Client Project Phase 4  

*W&B = Willams & Bizup; F = Farnsworth