RHE 330E Pathos Course Description

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In the Rhetoric, Aristotle defines emotion (pathos) as a bodily change, brought about by external causes, that modifies judgment and motivation. When an encounter makes you feel angry or fearful, for example, you may be motivated to do and to believe something that you wouldn’t otherwise do or believe—savvy rhetors understand this. However, there are no neutral or feeling-free states; your sensory apparatus, which receives and interprets sensory stimuli, constantly exposes your apparent inside to the outside, relating internal feelings to external encounters. So you’re always “in a mood,” even if that mood is very chill. Anything you encounter can operate as a pathetic appeal, inciting feelings that frame judgment and motivate behavior: a heartbreaking image, a peaceful morning, an outraged tweet, a tense atmosphere, a warm smile. Every encounter stirs feelings, and those feelings in turn shape experience and belief, regulate judgment, and inspire action. Feeling states fundamentally orient one’s existence in the world, conditioning rational thought and deliberation.

But feelings are not simply bodily or private: they respond to encounters with others, they are informed by previous experience, and they are somewhat cultivated and disciplined by social practices and normative structures that dictate appropriate affective relations and emotional expression. Affective life is social, through and through, and when it takes a pathological turn, everyone is on the line. That will be the focus of this course.

We’ll engage injurious texts—hate speech, fake news, conspiracy theories—designed to outrage and enrage, to entrench division and tribalize affiliations. We will examine how these texts operate rhetorically and contemplate why, when it comes to such damaging blitzes of pathos, counterarguments that double-down on “the facts” alone prove spectacularly ineffective. We’ll also attempt to invent other, potentially more effective (healing, restorative) ways to respond to pathological texts that do not oppose logos and pathos or pretend to exit the sensorium to make their case.

Prerequisite: Completion of at least thirty semester hours of coursework, including E 316k or the equivalent.

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RHE 330E Rhetorical Theory and Analysis critically explores contemporary rhetorical theories and their analytical applications. In this course, we will:

  • explore rhetoric as a tool for critical inquiry;
  • apply rhetorical theories to particular contexts and purposes;
  • engage in advanced rhetorical analysis.


Deadlines. Don’t miss ’em. Even if you must miss class, your work will need to find its way there on time if it doesn’t want its grade to suffer–major assignments will lose one letter grade for each day they’re late. **I will allow rewrites on certain projects; however, to qualify, you must have submitted a full and complete version of your assignment at the time it was due. I will not allow rewrites on any paper/project that is turned in late, without peer review, and/or turned in on time but incomplete.**

Peer Reviews. Peer reviews are required for this class. You will not receive a grade on a major assignment that has not been peer reviewed, and you must give one to get one. If you come in late on a peer review day, you may not get a peer review partner.

Computation of Grades. Grades will be computed on a 4-point scale: A=4.0, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. Final grades will not include plusses and minuses.

Chosen Names and Personal Pronoun Use (She / He / They / Ze / Etc). Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender, gender variance, and nationalities. Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student’s legal name, unless they have added a “preferred name” with the Gender and Sexuality Center (http://diversity.utexas.edu/genderandsexuality/publications-and-resources/). I will gladly honor your request to address you by a name that is different from what appears on the official roster, and by the gender pronouns you use. Please advise me of any changes early in the semester so that I may make appropriate updates to my records.


Writing Flag. This course carries the Writing Flag. Writing Flag courses are designed to give students experience with writing in an academic discipline. In this class, you can expect to write regularly during the semester, complete substantial writing projects, and receive feedback from your instructor to help you improve your writing. You will also have the opportunity to revise one or more assignments, and you may be asked to read and discuss your peers’ work. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from your written work. Writing Flag classes meet the Core Communications objectives of Critical Thinking, Communication, Teamwork, and Personal Responsibility, established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Attendance Policy. Rhetoric & Writing has established this attendance policy for all RHE courses. Any questions or appeals concerning this policy must be made directly to the department Associate Chair. You are expected to attend class, to arrive on time, to have prepared assigned reading and writing, and to participate in all in-class editing, revising, and discussion sessions. Should you miss the equivalent of 5 TTH or MW class sessions or 7 MWF sessions this semester, excused or not, you will fail the course. (ddd addition: Each three tardies will count as one absence.) If you find that an unavoidable problem prevents you from attending class, you should contact your instructor as soon as possible, preferably ahead of time, to let him or her know–and then one of your classmates about what you missed before the next class.

You will not be penalized for missing class on religious holy days. A student who misses classes or other required activities, including examinations, for the observance of a religious holy day should inform the instructor, in writing, well in advance of the absence, so that alternative arrangements can be made to complete work. If you know you will have to miss class(es) for this reason, provide your instructor with the date(s) as early as possible. Please note that the University specifies very few other excused absences (e.g., jury duty). When you must miss a class, you are responsible for getting notes and assignments from a classmate.

Scholastic Honesty. Turning in work that is not your own, or any other form of scholastic dishonesty, will result in a major course penalty, possibly failure of the course. This standard applies to all drafts and assignments, and a report of the incident will be submitted to the Office of the Dean of Students and filed in your permanent UT record. Under certain circumstances, the Dean of Students will initiate proceedings to expel you from the University. So, take care to read and understand the Statement on Scholastic Responsibility, which can be found online at https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/rhetoric/RHE%20306/plagiarismcollusion.php. If you have any doubts about your use of sources, ask your instructor for help before handing in the assignment.

Students with Disabilities. Any student with a documented disability who requires academic accommodations should contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 512-471-6259 (voice) or 512-410-6644 (video phone) as soon as possible to request an official letter outlining authorized accommodations. More information is available online at http://diversity.utexas.edu/disability/instructional-tips-for-working-with-students-with-disabilities/.

Email Accounts. Email is an official means of communication at UT-Austin, and your instructor will use this medium to communicate class information. You are therefore required to obtain a UT email account and to check it daily. All students may claim an email address at no cost by going to http://www.utexas.edu/its/utmail/.

Emergency Information. Occupants of buildings on The University of Texas at Austin campus are required to evacuate buildings when a fire alarm is activated.  Alarm activation or announcement requires exiting and assembling outside. Familiarize yourself with all exit doors of each classroom and building you may occupy.  Remember that the nearest exit door may not be the one you used when entering the building. Students requiring assistance in evacuation shall inform their instructor in writing during the first week of class. In the event of an evacuation, follow the instruction of faculty or class instructors. Do not re-enter a building unless given instructions by the following: The University of Texas at Austin Police Department, or Fire Prevention Services office. Information regarding emergency evacuation routes and emergency procedures can be found at http://www.utexas.edu/emergency. Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL): 512-232-5050.

University Writing Center.  I strongly encourage you to use the Undergraduate Writing Center, FAC 211, 471-6222: http://www.uwc.utexas.edu/). It offers free, individualized, expert help with writing for any UT student, by appointment or on a drop-in basis. Anyone enrolled in a course at UT can visit the UWC for assistance with any writing project. 

Senate Bill 212 and Title IX Reporting Requirements. Under Senate Bill 212 (SB 212), the professor for this course is required to report for further investigation any information concerning incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking committed by or against a UT student or employee. Federal law and university policy also requires reporting incidents of sex- and gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct (collectively known as Title IX incidents). This means we cannot keep confidential information about any such incidents that you share with us. If you need to talk with someone who can maintain confidentiality, please contact University Health Services (512-471-4955 or 512-475-6877) or the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center (512-471-3515 or 512-471-2255). We strongly urge you make use of these services for any needed support and that you report any Title IX incidents to the Title IX Office.

Statement on Climate. At the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, we are unambiguous in our commitment to fostering a diverse, inclusive, and respectful professional and educational climate. We recognize that this climate arises from the contributions of everyone who participates in the department as students, staff, faculty, administrators, speakers, and campus guests. We also recognize that departmental members can have multiple roles and we commit to cultivating a climate that respects all of our members across different sites, including the classrooms, labs, offices, and off-campus locations where we learn, teach, and socialize together.

Additionally, we uphold the university’s core values and nondiscrimination policy through accountable decision-making and governance, leadership with open lines of communication about climate, training on professional standards, and clear policies for addressing misconduct.

It is vital to maintain a climate for preventing and eliminating misconduct and to support anyone who experiences misconduct in this professional and educational environment. To that end, we continually seek and put in place best practices to build an inclusive departmental structure and community. Our goal in fostering a climate based on diversity, inclusion, and respect is to ensure that everyone who labors and learns here can thrive, regardless of their current role or status in the department.

This climate statement is a living document that expresses our values and practices. We invite anyone with questions or concerns about departmental climate to contact the Chair of the DRW Advisory Climate Committee, Professor Scott Graham at ssg@utexas.edu. Alternatively, individual faculty members of the committee, listed below, are available to discuss questions or concerns, and we welcome your thoughts and input.

Members of the 2019-20 DRW Advisory Climate Committee

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