Charles Henebry, College of General Studies, Boston University

Welcome to Rhetoric 103, the first semester of a two-course sequence designed to hone the skills you’ll need for writing in college and beyond.

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 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.

Schedule of Assignments

Other assignments and due dates are provided on the course website,


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

Required Text

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind, as an eBook or in printed form. At the BU bookstore.

RH 103 HUB Capacities

This course fulfills the following capacities, per the BU HUB:


Writing, Research, and Inquiry (1 unit)

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to craft responsible, considered, and well-structured written arguments, using media and modes of expression appropriate to the situation.
  2. Students will be able to read with understanding, engagement, appreciation, and critical judgment.
  3. Students will be able to write clearly and coherently in a range of genres and styles, integrating graphic and multimedia elements as appropriate.

Oral and/or Signed Communication (1 unit)

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to craft and deliver responsible, considered, and well-structured oral and/or signed arguments using media and modes of expression appropriate to the situation.
  2. Students will demonstrate an understanding that oral/signed communication is generally interactive, and they should be able to attend and respond thoughtfully to others.
  3. Students will be able to speak/sign effectively in situations ranging from the formal to the extemporaneous and interact comfortably with diverse audiences.

Intellectual Toolkit

Research and Information Literacy (1 unit)

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to search for, select, and use a range of publicly available and discipline-specific information sources ethically and strategically to address research questions.
  2. Students will demonstrate understanding of the overall research process and its component parts, and be able to formulate good research questions or hypotheses, gather and analyze information, and critique, interpret, and communicate findings.