Topics for Unit Three

“The truth of the Oak lies in the Acorn from which it sprouted”—that’s the premise of historical analysis, that we can understand the world by figuring out how and why it came to be this way. This upcoming unit asks you to choose some phenomenon of the present day—a cultural institution like professional football, a movement like gun rights, or a consumer product like skateboards—and seek a deeper understanding of that phenomenon by studying its past. Continue reading

Chicago Style Footnotes

The upcoming Campus Map and Philosophical Dialogue both present opportunities to practice Chicago Style footnote citations. After all, in-text parenthetical citations leave a relatively light footprint on the page, like so.1 Note the placement of the footnote: after the period ending the sentence, not before. This minor contrast with a parenthetic citation is especially striking when you end a sentence with a quotation:

  • MLA: “the sentence ends” (Appleby 3).
  • Chicago: “the sentence ends.”2

There are two distinct steps to creating good footnote references:

  1. Figure out how to create a footnote or endnote in your word processing app.
    • Pages, Word and GoogleDocs all have an “insert footnote” command in the Insert menu. Use it.
  2. Master the intricacies of Chicago Style footnote citations. The basic format is:
    • Book:
      • 1. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. (New York: Harper, 2015), p 23.
    • News article:
      • 2. John Lancaster, “The Case Against Civilization,” The New Yorker, 18 Sep 2017, [page, if any].
    • Academic journal article:
      • 3. Mark Gius, “The effects of state and Federal gun control laws on school shootings,” Applied Economics Letters 25 no.5 (2018): 318.
    • A source cited earlier (the short form):
      • 4. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens p 38.
    • A source cited in the previous note: (note that you need to give the page number, even if it’s the same as in the previous note)
      • 5. Ibid., p 38.
    • Further details and examples here.

For practice, try this Quiz: this quiz on Blackboard (scored for completion as HW).

Then, demonstrate mastery on this scored Quiz: this quiz on Blackboard.

Dialogic Transitions

Analytic Transitions

  • Object: interrupt the flow of argument
    • Exception
    • Logical Flaw
    • Unexpected Consequence
  • Question or Co-Opt: redirect the flow of argument.
    • “What about … ”
    • “What do you mean by … ”
    • “But that’s just what I’m trying to argue … ”

Narrative Transitions

  • Event: something happens that (explicitly or implicitly) shifts the terms of the debate
  • New Character: a new point of view introduced to the debate
  • Destination: characters reach a location that (explicitly or implicitly) prompts them to sum up or rethink their position
  • Time passes: “Two weeks later, …”

¶ Transitions

I’m re-posting the Paragraph Transitions page so it’s easily available to you as you craft your final essay:

Analytic Transitions

  • Explain: make sense of something described just above.
  • Build on: introduce the next step in a logical argument.
  • Question: raise a doubt or even wholly undercut the prior argument.
  • Note an unexpected consequence: this combines elements of the prior two: it builds on, but in a way that causes a tonal shift somewhat like calling into question.
  • New angle: for example, you might consider sound after focusing on visuals.
  • Zoom in: look at an instance of a trend or pattern noted just above.
  • Zoom out: name the pattern which the prior ¶'s topic is an example of.
  • Intensify: double down on a claim made just above, with (for example) more telling evidence.
  • Give another example: keep this to a minimum. It means that the ¶ fails to take us somewhere new. See if you can't present this new example as intensifying your argument, or offering a new angle on the topic.

Narrative Transitions

  • Result: what happened next.
  • Cause: what led to the events of the prior ¶
  • Lateral shift in space: Meanwhile. back at the ranch..."
  • Temporal shift: "Two weeks later, ..."

To Quote or Not to Quote?

In drawing ideas or information from a source, you have three choices:

  • Summary: boil down the idea or information, transforming a page into a sentence or an article into a paragraph.
  • Paraphrase: flesh out an idea or present information in your own words, perhaps using new examples, with only minor changes in the length.
  • Quotation: use the precise wording from the source (in quotation marks).

Let’s think about how you might use these different approaches to presenting a source, depending on the role of that source in your project. Imagine that you’re writing an essay that critiques the current system of higher education in the United States:

  1. Which method is best suited to presenting Harari’s notion of shared fictions as a Theory source?
  2. Which method is best suited to presenting a course syllabus as an Exhibit source?
  3. Which method is best suited to presenting an essay on higher education as an Argument source?
  4. Which method is best suited to presenting college enrollment statistics collated by the US government as a Background source?

Post your answers to these questions in this Google Form.

Course Description

Rhetoric 103 and 104 explore the evolution of rhetoric from the advent of writing to the digital age. The first four units, covered in Boston, center on changes connected to the Neolithic Revolution, the birth of Democracy, the Age of Exploration, and the Industrial Revolution. The final two units, covered in London, focus on discursive shifts prompted by Modernity and the Digital Revolution.

Together, we will analyze how persuasive language has shaped and been shaped by historical moments, influencing our engagement with politics, social relations, and the world around us. Each unit is focused on a specific “keyword”— literacy, citizenship, education, labor—that is both linked to the historical tipping point under discussion and being debated in our own historical moment. By reading, writing, and responding to one another critically in this class, we will learn what it means to be rigorous and ethical evaluators and producers of knowledge.

The course’s four credit hours will consist of the following: one joint lecture per week, two discussions per week, one-on-one meetings for instruction and feedback, and excursions in the Boston area linking your reading and writing to the world around you. This experiential component is meant to give you a broader perspective and to encourage more attentive interpretations of the various places you call “home.”

Course Dogma

  • Good writing is based on evidence, not merely opinion.
    • Interesting evidence does more than just confirm prior understanding — it complicates, teaches something new.
    • Vivid description makes readers experience evidence for themselves.
  • Passionate argument makes readers care about the issue being argued.
  • Stepwise structure helps readers follow your logic.
  • A topic is not a thesis. But you need both a topic and a thesis.
  • Almost all writing aims either to inform or to persuade — or both.
  • So, besides knowing what you want to argue about your topic (your thesis), you need to know what the reader already understands or believes about your topic — what your essay takes as its starting point, its preliminary understanding.
    • Journalism tends to take as its starting point the understanding of a typical reader.
    • Academic writing tends to take as its starting point the understanding of experts in the field.

Course Rules

  • Plagiarism is a very serious offense in this course, at CGS, and in the wider BU community.
  • Be respectful of me and of your fellow students in lecture and section. Focus on what other people are saying, and join in the discussion with insights or questions of your own.
  • Bring your laptop to class so you can access your writing and other course materials as needed.
  • Keep your laptop closed at all other times. Keep your phone in your bag, not your lap. Stand up to the power of your devices; don’t let them take charge of your attention.


Since this course is a seminar, synchronous attendance and active participation are essential both to your own learning and to your classmates’ learning. Under ordinary circumstances, missing more than three class sessions or excursions will lower your final grade. Attendance in person and synchronously via Zoom will be counted equally. All class sessions and excursions will be recorded and made available for asynchronous viewing, but utilizing this resource will generally NOT count for attendance, unless a specific accommodation is made by the professor. Please communicate with the professor concerning specific circumstances that may impact your ability to maintain synchronous attendance. If you have a special hardship or obligation (e.g., religious observance, family event), please contact the professor ahead of time. If unforeseen circumstances arise, contact the professor as soon as possible afterward. If you become seriously ill and need to take a break from your studies, make arrangements with the professor to make up the missing work.

Camera and microphone policy

If you are attending remotely, please keep your video camera on to the extent possible. I understand that circumstances at your location may require you to briefly turn your camera off at times, but if you need to turn your camera off for an entire class or a number of classes, or if you find yourself without a working microphone or in a location where you cannot speak aloud freely, please let me know in advance so we can talk about strategies to ensure your full participation.

Class Session Recordings

All class sessions will be recorded for the benefit of registered students who are unable to attend live sessions (either in person or remotely) due to time zone differences, illness or other special circumstances. Recorded sessions will be made available to registered students ONLY via their password-protected Blackboard account. Students may not share these recordings with anyone not registered in the course and may not repost them in a public platform.

Students have the right to opt out of being part of the class recording. Please contact your instructor or teaching assistant to discuss options for participating in the course while opting out of the class recording.

No student may record any classroom or other academic activity (including advising sessions or office hours) without my express written consent. Unauthorized use of classroom recordings – including distributing or posting them – is also prohibited. If you have (or think you may have) a disability such that you need to record classroom activities, or need other assistive services, you should contact Disability & Access Services to request an appropriate accommodation.


Grade Weighting as follows, out of 40 total:

  • Written 1, Synthesis: 6
  • Speech 1, Speak on a Political Issue: 3
  • Written 2, Philosophical Dialogue: 6
  • Written 3, Annotated Bibliography: 2
  • Speech 2, Present Research Findings: 3
  • Written 4, Research Essay: 10
  • Interdisciplinary Group Project: 2
  • Interdisciplinary Photo Essay: 2
  • Homework: 2
  • Participation: 2
  • Final e-Portfolio: 2