English and drama

Transatlantic Rhetoric: Public Speech and Anglo-American Writing 1750-1900

Module code: Q3187
Level 5
15 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

What is 'rhetoric' and why was it so important for literary life in nineteenth-century Britain and America? How can we begin to analyse public speaking as writing, and what is its relationship to literature in general?

You address these questions by exploring the cultural history of persuasive public speech between the American Revolution and the turn of the twentieth century, and the role it played in the development of literary expression.

Each week you look at a pair of one or more speeches from either side of the Atlantic, from across a range of genres including parliamentary oratory, radical political speechmaking, sermons, courtroom statements and comic lectures.

By training in the methods of rhetorical analysis you develop an understanding of how to comprehend the meanings and craft of public speech.

By placing speechmaking back into broader literary history, you begin to see rhetoric and voice as central themes in the history of Anglo-American writing.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the relationship between ideas of rhetoric and literary change.
  • Engage with theoretical conceptions of rhetoric that inform readings of literary texts.
  • Show a command of rhetorical terminology and be able to perform close analysis of literary texts.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the differing historical roles of rhetoric in British and American contexts.