Whether approached as “the study of misunderstanding and its remedies,” “the art of speaking well,” “the art of speaking and listening,” or the “faculty of discovering, in any given case, the available means of persuasion,” rhetoric is an area of study that helps students prepare for a life of meaning and purpose, an active engagement of the rights and responsibilities of civic leaders. As James Boyd White put it, “As the object of art is beauty and of philosophy truth, the object of rhetoric is justice – the constitution of a social world.”

Advent 2024 Course descriptions

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Why study rhetoric at Sewanee?

In Sewanee’s Rhetoric program, students learn to research, compose, and critique public discourse and to do so from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives and preceptual traditions. Students take courses in public speaking, argumentation and debate, ancient and modern rhetoric, the history of oratory and public discourse, women’s voices, protest, the rhetoric of mass and social media, propaganda, and the rights and responsibilities of speakers. Accordingly, the study of rhetoric is excellent preparation not only for civic life but also for vocational callings in law, teaching, ministry, activism, advocacy, conflict resolution, diplomacy, and politics, as well as careers in communication, commerce, and the arts. Students have the opportunity to study with award-winning teachers and scholars, conduct, present, and publish undergraduate research, and work in and with our state-of-the-art Center for Speaking & Listening.

A Sampling of Courses


Sean Patrick O'Rourke, Ph.D., J.D.
Professor and Chair of Rhetoric and American Studies
Co-Director of the Center for Speaking & Listening


Gailor Hall 122, Ext. 1252

Melody Lehn, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Chair of Women’s & Gender Studies
Co-Director of the Center for Speaking & Listening


Gailor Hall 214, Ext. 1291