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RCL Materials


This honors course offers comprehensive training in oral, written, visual, and digital communication for the twenty-first century. It unites these various modes under the flexible art of rhetoric and uses rhetoric both to strengthen communication skills and to sharpen awareness of the challenges and advantages presented by oral, written, visual, and digital modes. In this course, the first of a two-part sequence, students will read about and discuss rhetorical concepts and situations and put their knowledge immediately to use by 1) analyzing civic rhetoric and contextualizing controversies on campus and in their communities (including their networked communities), 2) researching current issues, and 3) developing and presenting arguments in oral, written, visual, and digital form.

Required Texts

Rhetoric and Civic Life, 2013

[The custom course text available at university bookstores. It will be used across both semesters of the RCL sequence.]

Major Assignments

Unit One: Rhetoric and Civic Life: Overview and Introduction

Weeks 1-4. During this unit, RCL students will read about the central terms of the course (rhetoric and the civic) and begin putting them to work. Students will also set up blogs using the Penn State wordpress program.

Unit One Materials

Rhetoric and Civic Life, chapters 1-3


Unit Two: Rhetorical Analysis

Weeks 5-6. This unit features several more rhetorical concepts and approaches, e.g., ethos, pathos, logos,  ideology, and commonplaces. Students will develop strategies for putting those concepts to work in analyzing rhetoric in the context of civic life.

Unit Two Materials

Rhetoric and Civic Life, chapter 4

Additional Reading: Hazlitt:

Unit Three: Researching Rhetorical Issues Across Time

Weeks 7-12. This unit focuses on conducting sound research using a variety of sources, especially those found through the library (including digital databases) and online. The assignments in this unit ask students to gather research on a particular topic and use it as a basis for  both a traditional essay and a nontraditional (TED-style) talk.

Unit Three Materials

Rhetoric and Civic Life, chapter 5

Additional Resources:

About TED:

Joshua Foer's TED talk:

Unit Four: Multimedia

Weeks 11-16. This capstone unit draws on the concepts and approaches discussed throughout the semester. Students will work in groups to develop a multimedia project.

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