Course Syllabus

In Rhetoric 2: Confronting Arguments, students explore how everyday interactions — from small talk at the grocery store to televised political debate — are opportunities to persuade (or be persuaded). You'll practice techniques for speaking up when it really matters. This unique, interactive class is a fun way for students to prepare for personal, political, and professional success with others in public and online!

Class runs July 8 through August 16 and is held every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 1:00–3:30pm, in 234 Dwinelle Hall.

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In this course, you'll hone your public speaking muscles through a number of fun, low-stakes, low-pressure activities designed to introduce you to the public speech in the 21st century. As a class, you'll practice self-expression in the following ways:

    • Writing short statements of identity that you'll share with your peers.
    • Watching public speaking performances online and around Berkeley, and reviewing what you experience in a short, online video.
    • Holding forth in the class, developing and delivering your points of view on things that really matter in your life.
    • Discussing your understandings of texts we read, videos we watch, and presentations we facilitate in class.

And over the course of the summer workshop, each student develops their own voice in a series of speeches that culminate in their final performance. At the end of six weeks, you will know what do with all of that nervousness you felt when you first walked in the door: use it to read your audience, find your footing, and stand-up for yourself. If you're already a pretty confident speaker, you'll find yourself more in touch with your audience, and therefore more persuasive.


Unless you are living alone on a private island and have your groceries mailed to you, you have an audience every time you open your mouth. If you can talk to your mom on the phone for an hour or have an all-night fight with your boyfriend, you know most of what you need to communicate. And you already know how to perform. You know how to express anger, fear, passion, joy, and confusion. You know how to be dramatic, how to attract attention, and most importantly, how to convert what you're thinking into words that you say and actions you do. It's just a question of doing it at the right level for the environment you're in.

Scott Berkun, Confessions of a Public Speaker


As inspiration, we will explore the views of others who have considered the question of public speech, and who have engaged in public performance in a variety of contexts, including: political oratory, storytelling, stand-up comedy, business presentation, and poetry.

Keep in mind that Rhetoric 2 is an intensive course, as summer classes tend to be at UC Berkeley. While there is a good amount of reading and many hours to spend in the classroom, the course is designed to help students succeed. In the end, all of the assignments help you. For example,

Reading Assignments: Your class readings are available online in a collaborative software suite, which allows you and your classmates to work your way through rhetorical texts together — asking questions, and answering them. 

Midterm Exam: Each student will complete a short in-class written exam, practice an interview with the instructor in front of their peers, and present a group project on material we've covered. Having a group of students to collaborate helps everyone study!

Final Exam: Students will prepare a 4- to 5-minute oral presentation to perform in class. This can take many forms, including exposé, interview, sales pitch, poem or recital, encomium, critique, polemic. It's up to you! And along the way, your class and instructor will help you make adjustments — everyone wants to see everyone at their very best.

Class Exercises: All in-class activities are designed to improve improvisational, conversational, and performance readiness. Just show up, no rehearsal necessary: you'll receive credit for participation and will not be evaluated on these performances. 

All of the time and energy you spend in Rhetoric 2 will help you grow into a confident speaker. You will become aware of your strengths and learn techniques to keep maturing as a present, conversationalist, and individual. You'll leave class with the ability to get others to see where you're coming from, and to truly consider what you have to say.


It’s not merely that I want to tell you how it is with me, how I feel, in order to find sympathy … I want to tell you something I’ve seen, or heard, or realized, or come to understand, for the reason for which such things are communicated (because it’s news, about a world we share, or could). Only I find that I can’t tell you; and that makes it all the more urgent to tell you. … It matters that others know what I see, in a way it does not matter whether they know my tastes. It matters, there is a burden, because unless I can tell what I know, there is a suggestion (and to myself as well) that I do not know.

Gerald Bruns, “The Hermeneutical Anarchist”


If you have concerns about your readiness for the course (e.g., the difficulty of the content, your proficiency in English), please contact Instructor Dalebout for advice to prepare. His email:

Office Hours will be held after class on MWF, from 4:00–4:45 pm (or by appointment) in 7404 Dwinelle Hall.


Required books are available at the Cal Student Store.

Course Summary:

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