Training for Public Life – Michele Hammers
In the Spring 2013 issue of Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, Paul Lynch’s essay “The Best Training for Public Life” reminds us that rhetoric is “something our students experience all the time. Rhetoric is also something they do all the time.” Grounding a public speaking/oral communication course in the tradition of eloquentia perfecta provides us with the opportunity to elevate student’s understanding of, and participation in, everyday rhetorical practices. It also provides us with a framework for encouraging students to engage with complex issues of significant social, political, and moral consequence.
Traditional public speaking courses often emphasize a series of stand-alone speeches that, for various reasons, may end up feeling artificial in both content and delivery. Shifting emphasis to a research-intensive, topic-driven course model calls upon students to develop a depth of knowledge that allows for sustained engagement, detailed analysis, and robust argument. Moving away from standard speech assignments, we can create formats that highlight the topical-significance of student speeches and more aptly reflect “real world” speaking conditions.
In this session, participants will collectively explore the potential for creative speech formats that maximize students’ abilities to relate their in-class learning to the kinds of everyday rhetoric with which they are already familiar and that enhance with their own potential to effectively participate in meaningful, public deliberation and advocacy.
About the speaker:
Michele Hammers is a former lawyer whose graduate studies focused on rhetorical criticism, critical media studies, and social movement and public sphere studies. In addition to her training in rhetoric, Dr. Hammers is trained in qualitative research methods and utilizes field research and interviews in her ongoing study of the ways in which the female body is perceived and understood in various public and professional arenas. She has presented her scholarship at professional conventions and is active in the National Communication Association’s pre-conference seminar series as both a participant in and co-organizer of the public sphere studies seminar. Her article critiquing the ways in which Ally McBeal constructed images of female professionalism appeared in a 2005 issue of The Western Journal of Communication. She is also the author of a chapter in an edited volume on Ally McBeal. In addition, her rhetorical analysis of The Vagina Monologues and her qualitative study of online roleplaying games, have both appeared in scholarly journals.