Course Objectives: The course adopts a historical-critical approach to examining the rhetoric and public discourse of legendary civil rights leader James Leonard Farmer, Jr., with a special emphasis on his impact on the rhetoric of the civil rights movement as well as the roots and evolution of the forthcoming major motion picture, “The Great Debaters.” The course begins with a primer on how to perform historically situated rhetorical criticism and a historical overview of intercollegiate debate in the 1930s. Students will then work together to examine a wide variety of primary texts (speeches, debates, and writings) of Farmer. Our goal is to map and interpret the crucial rhetorical moments of Farmer’s life, especially as they relate to the ancient art of debate. Our primary goal during the semester is to create this space as an online research site at the University of Mary Washington for the dissemination of primary source material from Farmer’s life and career as well as student authored commentary on those texts. Seminar participants will plan, design, and create content for this site. Our primary objective of the course is to listen to, understand, interpret, and amplify the rhetorical legacy of the “forgotten man of the civil rights movement.”
The final grade will be computed from the course requirements. Those requirements will be assigned the following values:
Oral Presentation 1: 10%
Oral Presentation 2: 15%
Oral Presentation 3: 20%
Final Project: 30%
Class Participation/Discussion: 25%
The grading scale is a 100-point scale. 100-93 is an A, 90-92 is an A-, 89-87 is a B+, 86-83 is a B, 82-80 is a B-, and so on. An “A” is considered “Excellent.” A “B” is considered “Commendable.” A “C” is considered “Acceptable.” A “D” is considered “Marginal.” An “F” is considered “Failure.”
Attendance is essential for your success in the class and is necessary to provide the audience which is critical on speech days. Absolutely no unexcused absences will be permitted on speech days. If you are required to miss class for a College related matter on those days, the instructor should receive a written excuse from the appropriate official. In the case of illness, or other personal or family emergencies, it is the student’s responsibility to notify the instructor immediately. Consistent tardiness is distracting and rude. If you are late on a speech day and someone is in the middle of a speech, please wait outside until they are finished.
Oral presentations must be delivered according to the guidelines discussed in class. You are encouraged to make use of the services of the University’s Speaking Center as you prepare for these presentations. The Center is located in Combs Hall and you should make an appointment sooner rather than later to ensure success in scheduling a meeting with a consultant. Over the course of the semester you will present three graded speeches to the class. (Further details for each of these assignments will be provided by the instructor at the appropriate time).
Oral Presentation #1: The first oral presentation is an oral interpretation of one of Dr. Farmer’s Speeches.
Oral Presentation #2: The second oral presentation is a presentation of your plans for developing your section of the class built website.
Oral Presentation #3: The second oral presentation is an oral interpretation of one of Dr. Farmer’s Debates.
Since this course is both a seminar and a speaking intensive (SI) class, you are expected to be an active participant in this course. This means: attending class regularly, being an active listener, being prepared for class by doing the reading, and participating in and contributing to class discussions. Your class participation grade will be based on (1) the frequency and quality of your contribution to the class, (2) the degree to which you make use of the readings in sharing your insights with the rest of us (3), the energy, enthusiasm and involvement you bring to our meetings and the material of the course, (4) the degree to which you function as a “civilized” member of our social learning community and (5) your active and thoughtful participation in discussions and agenda setting at the class web space. Further aspects of how to be an effective discussant will be offered in class. Your participation will regularly be evaluated.
Our goal in this course is to create the premier research site on Dr. Farmer’s life and work. The class will conceive of, design, research and build the site over the course of the semester. Early in the term, students will map out the project and design an implementation plan. The site will include transcripts of speeches, debates and letters collected from the Center for American History, audio, video, bibliographies, and student authored introductions, analyses, and bibliographies. Students will have access to previously unpublished archival material from Farmer’s speeches and debates (written, audio, and video) which they will transcribe, research, and author appropriate analyses and introductions in both written and multimedia formats.
Please write and sign the University of Mary Washington honor pledge on every written assignment. I assume that you are observing the honor code for each of your spoken and written assignments. Appropriate actions in accordance with the College Honor Code will be taken as warranted. In this course, honor system violations include the willful claiming, as one’s own, another’s ideas, words, phrases and the like without appropriate acknowledgement in a public debate.