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Practical Rhetoric: public speaking according to historical sources


Admission requirements

English fluency required: the course will be taught in English, and students will read, write and declaim English texts.


This course of 10 interactive workshops will introduce students to practical didactic English texts on public speaking (oratory and acting) from the long 18th-century. Standing, walking, the use of hands and arms in speaking, vocal inflexion and facial expression will all be studied and put into practice, allowing students to gain confidence and control over their bodies when speaking in public.

Course objectives

The objectives are twofold. Firstly, students will become acquainted with 18th-century rules of decorum and concepts of good taste in public speaking. Such knowledge is of great use to students of literature, history, art history and classical languages. By having physically experienced for themselves the ideals of performative rhetoric from the long 18th century, students will better understand their historical sources, be these in the fields of the visual arts, music or literature. Secondly, students will gain confidence in speaking in public today by using historical methods to train voice, gesture and countenance.


Semester 2, 2019-2020

The seminars and exam will take place on Wednesdays from 11.15-13.00 hrs.

Seminar dates:

5 February 2020
12 February 2020
19 February 2020
26 February 2020
4 March 2020
11 March 2020
18 March 2020
1 April 2020
8 April 2020

Exam date:

Wednesday 15 April 2020


Seminar location: Lipsius building, Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD Leiden, room 208.

Exam location:
Lipsius building, Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD Leiden, room 228.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar
    Students will read historical texts. They will memorize and perform texts by heart. They will also complete weekly short writing assignments in order to familiarize themselves with historical techniques for learning performative rhetoric.

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours =140 hours

  • Lectures: 20

  • Practical work, study of compulsory literature, assignment(s), (preparation of) exam: 120

Assessment method


Written work
Final performance


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Announcements

  • Reading materials

  • T.B.A.

Reading list

Gilbert Austin, Chironomia (1806)
John Henley, An essay upon pronunciation and gesture (1750)
Aaron Hill, The art of acting (1754)
John Walker, The melody of speech delineated (1787)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Dr. Jed Wentz Dhr. ir. R.T.W.L. Schneemann


For other courses in the domains of music and fine arts, please visit:

Elective courses music and fine arts