Classes in  Detail: Persuasion and Rhetoric
Persuasion and Rhetoric    
Class Description:
The class seeks to give students a basic introduction to the most important modern theories of rhetoric and persuasion. By reading, questioning and applying a selection of the key texts and theories in modern rhetoric, students will receive a strong foundation in the modern history of rhetoric and learn how to approach and study modern rhetorical theories. The class is divided into eleven sections that focus on one significant writer or rhetorical model each. Theorists covered include Campbell (18th century), Whately (19th century), Richards, Burke, Weaver, Perelman/Olbrechts-Tyteca, Grice, Austin, Searle, Toulmin, and van Eemeren (all 20th century). 

Each section will include reading a) primary writings by the authors, b) secondary materials about the authors and theories and c) analyzing a number of texts (literature, video, commercials, pictures etc.) employing the respective theory or model discussed. This last step is particularly important because it enables us to critically assess the value of each model for the three central tasks of a rhetorician: 1) to produce persuasive texts (orator), 2) to educate others to become better persuaders (trainer) and 3) to critically test and understand acts of persuasion in society (analyst). 

I use Foss, Foss & Trapp: Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric as background textbook. The main readings in class are excerpts from the original sources of Campbell (The Philosophy of Rhetoric), Whately (Elements of Rhetoric), Burke (A Grammar of Motives and A Rhetoric of Motives), Richards (Philosophy of Rhetoric), Weaver (The Ethics of Rhetoric) Perelman/Olbrechts-Tyteca (The New Rhetoric), Grice (Logic and Conversation), Austin (How to do Things with Words), Searle (Expression and Meaning), Toulmin (The Uses of Argument), and Van Eemeren/Grootendorst (A Systematic Theory of Argumentation), as well as selected texts on empirical persuasion effects research.

Sample Syllabus:  Download (pdf)

Student evaluations of this class: 
(all scores out of 5.0 maximum)

3.9 (Fall 2011)
4.6 (Fall 2010)

Selected student comments:
  • Fall 2011: "Professor Hoppmann was more efficient with the material than any teacher I've ever had. The layout of his course was so clearly well thought-out and articulated that working through the material was simple due to the lack of outside distractions. He kept us focused and on-task throughout the semester, and his enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. Every assignment greatly enhanced my knowledge and understanding of the topic--when exams came around, I found that the topics I did outside assignments on were the ones I knew best. He was friendly, always helpful, and created a fantastic learning atmosphere. I'd recommend him to any student."
  • Fall 2011: "One of the best professors I've had - extremely intelligent. He is very enthusiastic, down to earth. the material is pretty difficult to understand on its own but he really brings forth a lot of energy and real life examples to help you better understand. Don't expect to get by with no effort."
  • Fall 2010: "Dr. Hoppmann was a great teacher. He was extremely well versed, and could explain clearly any confusion or hang up I had. He was also very driven, and never would plan a lax day, which made me feel my tuition money was well spent."
  • Fall 2010: "I can honestly say that Prof Hoppmann is the best teacher I have had in my three semesters here at Northeastern. I loved every single thing about this class. While Persuasion and Rhetoric was not as hands on as the course description lead me to believe, I am still happy with my experience. Prof Hoppmann provides an interesting class that always keeps you engaged and wanting to participate, even at 9:50 on a friday. This class will give you ten times what you put into it, providing that you are willing to read the required material. Do not think you can "skim" by in this class. Hoppmann will notice, and will call you out on it."
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