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Seminar leaders:

David Zarefsky, Northwestern University
Robert C. Rowland, University of Kansas
Jean Goodwin, Iowa State University
Jeanne Fahnestock, University of Maryland
Frans H. van Eemeren, University of Amsterdam

Argumentation is the study of how people justify their acts, beliefs, attitudes, and values, and influence the thought and actions of others, by providing good reasons for the claims they make. This subfield includes both descriptive study (what do people consider to be good reasons and what are they doing when they offer what they take to be justifications?) and normative investigation (under what circumstances should claims be considered justified?). It addressesboth argumentation in general and argumentation in specific contexts such as law, business,science, religion, and public affairs.

On the intellectual map, argumentation is on the border where logic, dialectic, and rhetoric all meet. Within rhetoric, it has a substantial presence in both English and Communication. Moreover, available jobs in rhetoric often include teaching one or more sections of an argumentation course. Yet argumentation often is missing from the graduate curriculum, even in some of the most prominent programs in rhetorical studies. This seminar is intended, at least in some measure, to redress this deficiency.

Topics to be covered include, but are not limited to:

  • Logical, dialectical, and rhetorical approaches to argumentation
  • The emergence of pragma-dialectics
  • Informal logic and the fallacies
  • Argumentation and public reason
  • Fields and spheres of argument
  • Speech-act analysis and the design of arguments
  • The New Rhetoric and argumentation studies
  • Argumentation and rhetorical pedagogy

Time will be spent in overview presentation and discussion, critical examination of readings, and applications. We will balance theoretical considerations and analysis of actual arguments. If necessary to limit enrollment, preference will be given to graduate students and junior faculty who have not previously participated in an RSA Institute seminar.

Questions should be directed to David Zarefsky to

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