• Length:
    8 Weeks
  • Effort:
    2–3 hours per week
  • Price:

    FREE
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  • Institution
  • Subject:
  • Level:
    Introductory
  • Language:
    English
  • Video Transcript:
    English

About this course

Skip About this course

We are living in a contentious time in history. Fundamental disagreements on critical political issues make it essential to learn how to make an argument and analyze the arguments of others. This ability will help you engage in civil discourse and make effective changes in society. Even outside the political sphere, conveying a convincing message can benefit you throughout your personal, public, and professional lives.

This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of rhetoric, the art of persuasive writing and speech. In it, you will learn to construct and defend compelling arguments, an essential skill in many settings. We will be using selected speeches from prominent twentieth-century Americans — including Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Margaret Chase Smith, Ronald Reagan, and more — to explore and analyze rhetorical structure and style. Through this analysis, you will learn how speakers and writers persuade an audience to adopt their point of view.

Built around Harvard Professor James Engell’s on-campus course, “Elements of Rhetoric,” this course will help you analyze and apply rhetorical structure and style, appreciate the relevance of persuasive communication in your own life, and understand how to persuade and recognize when someone is trying to persuade you. You will be inspired to share your viewpoint and discover the most powerful ways to convince others to champion your cause. Join us to find your voice!

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • When and how to employ a variety of rhetorical devices in writing and speaking
  • How to differentiate between argument and rhetorical technique
  • How to write a persuasive opinion editorial and short speech
  • How to evaluate the strength of an argument
  • How to identify logical fallacies in arguments

Meet your instructors

James Engell
Gurney Professor of English and Professor of Comparative Literature
Harvard University

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