And a couple of my research articles look at the technique that composers use to create beautiful pieces of classical music, and the techniques that leaders use to create memorable moments,” he said.
“So my central argument is that we ought not just consider the words that speakers use, but the music they use to coat those words.” In some contexts, such as spoken word poetry, rhetoric is essential to the art form itself. Boyland ’17 is a member of Speak Out Loud, a spoken word poetry group on campus, and also performs on his own.
“I feel like with my stuff, not necessarily with everyone, a lot of the message is found in the way that things are said.
Just with the emotions, the pauses, or the lack thereof, all of that together.” Boyland emphasizes that music and rhetoric not only sound similar, but also share a broader communicative purpose.
Since Expos 40 is the only rhetoric class at the college, however, and she was not chosen for the lottery until after this internship, Dias-Jayasinghe had had little opportunity to practice her spoken rhetoric in a classroom setting before she had to give her presentation.
Dias-Jayasinghe is not alone in her experience with Expos 40’s lottery process.“Music is all about the words, but there’s something about the rhythm, the instruments, that conveys the sense that it’s happiness, or it’s hope. You can tell a story, just as you can with a novel, with a painting.It’s not just you that’s experiencing it, it’s your whole audience.In 1995, Jay Heinrichs published a piece in Harvard Magazine titled “How Harvard Destroyed Rhetoric.” The article criticized Harvard’s undergraduate curriculum, which “doesn’t offer a single course in which oratorical theory and practice are taught together.” Today, such a course exists—Expository Writing 40: “Public Speaking Practicum,” though it’s the only spoken rhetoric class in the undergraduate curriculum. Granderson ’18, who designed his own concentration, Rhetoric, had to commute to MIT last year to take his introductory rhetoric class because Harvard didn’t offer one.Even at a liberal arts college with a broad range of course offerings, the place of studying rhetoric in the undergraduate education remains uncertain.In addition to delivering three speeches throughout the semester, students practice impromptu speaking, analyze famous speeches, and write their own.“I think because our class is a practicum, we practice the craft.“I think that being an effective speaker is sort of essential for most careers that people take, certainly many of the careers that people in Harvard are interested in in particular.If you’re going into finance, or science, or government, any of these professions will require public speaking,” he said.Some students and professors view speaking as a skill crucial to any sort of career, while others see it as a creative outlet and type of performance.Still others value rhetoric as a way of enhancing and enriching human communication.