ENGL 355 Rhetoric of Style
ENGL 355 Rhetoric of Style

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Turn-in Procedures

All assignments will be turned in on eCampus to the appropriate drop box under the “Assignments” sidebar link. Do not bring a printed copy or email me your assignment.

Assignment Values

Assignment Due Date Value
Attendance Daily 10%
Commonplace Book Daily 20%
Field Reports 6 Times 10%
Progymnasmata (6) 6 Times 60%

Assignment Descriptions


Show up to class for full credit. You may miss up to two unexcused absences or be late to class four times before your grade will begin to lower.

Commonplace Book

Here is the description of a commonplace book from Performing Prose:

Start keeping a commonplace book, a regular practice among many writers who have come to be known for their style. Henry David Thoreau, for example, kept one that grew to enormous proportions during his relatively short lifetime. A commonplace book is an informal record of your reading in which you copy out sentences and slightly longer passages that you find striking or well written, along with your own comments about the quotations. You can also practice your own prose performance by varying, parodying, or imitating the passages you copy.

To keep a commonplace book that focuses on style—one that records passages you like as much for the way they are written as for what they say—is a good way to advance your study of style, for at least two reasons. First, just the act of writing down the passage forces you to slow down and look at it more closely; the words and the patterns are more likely to impress themselves upon your mind. Second, as your commonplace book grows, you are building what the linguists call a corpus (literally a body) of samples you can use in stylistic study. You can begin your analysis by informally commenting on the passage. (13-14)

Commonplace books are historically kept on paper, which I strongly recommend for this course. Purchase a notebook or composition book and begin recording quotes that you find interesting or suggestive. Leave space for commentary (either as you transcribe or as you read through later). Make sure to include author, title, and page number so you remember where the quote is from. Also for the purposes of this class, please indicate on what date you documented the quote.

I will be checking your commonplace book once in Week 5 and grading it at the conclusion of the course. In both cases, you will receive a grade of a ✓,✓+, or a ✓-. To get a ✓, you will need to document two to three quotes per week from your reading (for my class and beyond) and have provided some commentary. Commonplace books that exceed this standard will get a ✓+; those that do not will get a ✓-. If you receive a grade you do not like at the check-in at Week 5, doing more will result in a better final grade.

Field Reports

Field reports are assignments designed to get you looking for material related to the class discussion for a given unit. For each of the six prompts below, you may bring in something you have written or a piece of writing by someone else (it is up to you). You may source your field reports from your commonplace book and you may also fill your commonplace book with objects for the field reports.

On the six days designated as field reports, you will bring in your response to the prompt and be prepared to share it and defend your reasoning for selecting it to the class. We will discuss and evaluate all the field reports with an eye toward better understanding what makes the solutions work together as solutions.

  1. Bring in a few sentences of “good” writing by someone else.
  2. Write a short description of space you know well in the high style. Write it again in the low.
  3. Bring in a sentence (either your own or someone else’s) that is blue. Bring one that is red.
  4. Write a slogan for this class.
  5. Tell a story using emoji.
  6. What does summer feel like?

To submit your field report, there will be a drop box on eCampus for each. You can also bring in your object in print or copied in your common place book.

Progymnasmata (6 Papers)

The Progymnasmata are a series of classical rhetorical “pre-exercises” that were given to aspiring rhetoricians to teach them the necessary skills to eventually become an effective public speaker. Sequenced in such a way that they build upon one another, the exercises—usually numbering between 12 and 14—ask students to move from mythos to logos, beginning in narrative and ending in logical argumentation. Along the way, students would learn a variety of writing techniques.

Though the progymnasmata would often be completed over the course of ten years, we will be completing a smaller selection over the semester. For each of the assignments, you will be asked to write a two (2) page, double-spaced paper completing the exercise’s task. Additionally, in class on the day we go over the assignment, I will give a division, which is the order in which the argument will progress. I will grade you on how well you conform to the division, how strongly you argue your position, and the creativity shown in your solution.


A simple, short story that often featured talking animals in which a moral is offerred at the beginning or end.

Click here to see the assignment sheet for the fable


A commentary on a famous quote or action from history.

Click here to see the assignment sheet for the anecdote


An imagined speech from the perspective of a famous figure from history at a moment of crisis.

Encomium OR Invective

An encomium elucidates a person, place, or thing with the goal of praising it and, by extension, explaining why it is worthy of praise. An invective does the opposite, explaining a person, place, or thing with the goal of attacking it as unworthy of praise.


A logical reasoning against some piece of wisdom or conclusion drawn from history or folklore.


A detailed and complete description of a person, place, or thing.