Practicing the Rhetoric of Thomas More


After reading Thomas More’s Utopia, students debate topics related to the text in order to understand More’s use of rhetoric. 

Before class, students are asked to think about several statements, i.e. "Higher education does not advance the goals of the utopian government," in terms of the text read. The instructor, Sara Gorman, breaks the students into two groups, assigning each group to opposing positions to debate the statements. To start the debate, the instructor calls on a first speaker from each side. It is often useful to call on students individually throughout the activity to keep the debate going. Students should directly use the text of Thomas More's Utopia to make cogent arguments in response to each other, rather than speaking from their own principles. After the debate, the class discusses how this activity/way of thinking might help students write better papers. For example, a great paper should be argumentative but also take into account the opposition. The goal of the activity is both to get students to truly understand More's use of rhetoric by using rhetoric themselves for the sake of persuasion and to understand how to make a combative argument.

See below for a handout of this activity.

handout.doc29 KB