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CSPO 2895A - Great Themes and Thinkers of Political Modernity

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

“Rhetoric may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion. This is not a function of any other art. Every other art can instruct or persuade about its own particular subject-matter; for instance, medicine about what is healthy and unhealthy, geometry about the properties of magnitudes, arithmetic about numbers, and the same is true of the other arts and sciences. But rhetoric we look upon as the power of observing the means of persuasion on almost any subject presented to us; and that is why we say that, in its technical character, it is not concerned with any special or definite class of subjects” ( Aristotle, Rhetoric, Book I chapter 2.) The secret of this art have long been studied and despite the change in names and fashions, are known since the times of ancient Greece and Rome. The simultaneous birth of politics and rhetoric is no surprise. “The Political Workshop” will have three goals and means: 1/ Providing the students with an appropriate “toolbox” in order to understand and use the various effects of political rhetoric, ranging from the structure of the speech to the stylistic devices and the most adequate strategy of argumentation and counter-argumentation. 2/ Illustrating the various issues at stakes in the political process with classical examples, videos of actual speeches as well as famous political fictions (Yes Minister, House of Cards…). How does one put an issue on the political agenda? How does one “push” it? How to react to an emergency situation? Etc. 3/ Organizing debates and show-cases with the students on major issues to improve their art of argumentation. The political workshop will, thus, make use of all the resources acquired by the students in their curriculum (Political thinkers, Methodology, Economics, International relations …).


DE VOOGD, Christophe (Enseignant-chercheur, Sciences Po)

Pedagogical format

Session 1 : Introduction, tasks, grading The 5 golden rules of the political speech Session 2: Building the « we-group » How to reach one's goal: Obama in Cairo How to miss one's goal: Margaret Thatcher in Bruges Session 3: Making a key statement, Delivering the message Session 4: Arguing and refuting: the rhetorical duel Session 5: Arguing and refuting (follow-up) Session 6: How to say it? Storytelling and images, from Winston Churchill to Obama Session 7: Should we go to war? Nicias versus Alcibiades 415 BC Session 8: Should we go to war? Anthony, 44 BC (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar) Session 9: Should we go to war? W. Churchill, 1940 Session 10: Should we go to war? J.F.Kennedy, 1962 Session11: Should we go to war? George W. Bush, 2003 Session 12 : final exam

Course validation

Oral Presentation : 25% Paper supporting the presentation : 25% In-class assignment – text commentary : 50%