The Rhetoric, Language and Political Communication area focuses on how human symbols affect social and political change. Although rhetoric has been a popular area of study since antiquity, the Department focuses on such contemporary matters as political campaigning, culture and communication, social movement rhetoric, ethics and persuasion, the nature of public argument, discourse and knowledge, the formation of language communities, cognitive linguistics, etc. These matters are treated in three distinct sub-areas: (1) Rhetorical Theory and Criticism, focusing on how public discourse is conceived and executed, with special attention to the analysis of persuasive and cultural texts; (2) Political Communication, examination of how political leaders and the mass media change public opinion and fashion legislative policy; and (3) Semiotic Studies offers training in the naturalistic study of human symbol systems and consideration of how linguistic and gestural behaviors affect everyday social interaction.
Rhetoric, Language and Political Communication embraces a variety of research methodologies, including historiography, archival studies, textual criticism, conversation analysis, content analysis, etc. Interdisciplinary opportunities to study Rhetoric and Language also abound at U.T., including work with internationally famous scholars in the Departments of English, Linguistics, Anthropology, etc.