Accueil > Political speechwriting


Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


Fluent in English (C2 at least) Interest for political debates Good historical culture

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… 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.)” This short passage of Aristotle's Rhetoric shows us that a speech, any speech is before all meant to produce an effect on the other(s). One tries to get the other(s) act in a certain way. This is called the performative dimension of the speech. Whatever the subject or the aim, whatever the medium, rhetoric is the art of minimizing the distance between me and the other one; to make it as small as possible, by creating bonds between “us”. Conversely it is also the art of maximizing this distance with the opponent(s) or rival(s), by creating boundaries between “us” and “them”. Creating a “we-group” by these two means is exactly what one does in love affairs, in a business agreement, or… in a political contest. It is this field of the political contest which this course focuses on, taking multiple examples of political speeches ranging from the Greek democracy to the latest speeches (with a special interest for the public debate in the USA and in Europe). The secret of this art has 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 democracy and rhetoric is by no means a coincidence.


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

Pedagogical format

Lecturing 30%; case studies: 30%; oral presentations by the students 40%.

Course validation

Oral presentation/debate: 25% Written mid-term: speech commentary :25% Final exam (writing of a speech): 40% Bonus Participation in class: 10%of the final grade (including attendance and punctuality)


Average load : The students will have to read speeches and a short list of articles and books. They will have to participate in class intensely in interaction with the teacher. The full impact of the course requires a constant and vivid interest for international issues and news.

Required reading

Please refer to the syllabus