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MRes, PGDip and PGCert in Rhetoric

Please note: we are accepting applications for 2019-2020 entry to the MRes in Rhetoric, as we anticipate that Professor Lene Rubinstein and Dr. Chris Kremmydas will be on research leave for 2018-19.

This one-year, research-based postgraduate course in oratory and rhetoric combines both ancient and modern fields of research. It is designed equally for students with a background in Classics, in other Humanities disciplines, and in other subjects including Law and Social Sciences. The programme offers preparation not only for advanced research at PhD level but for a wide range of other careers in which oral and written communication are important, such as the media, the legal profession, politics and public relations. It is also intended as continuing professional development for those already in careers of this kind.

“The MRes in Rhetoric is the perfect qualification for my chosen career path, as it opens varied fields of employment all of which focus around communication.”
Guy Doza, BA Ancient History, MRes in Rhetoric 2013

t is taught by members of the Centre for Oratory and Rhetoric (COR) in the Classics department at Royal Holloway, University of London, where there is a strong concentration of expertise in classical rhetoric and oratory.

It offers opportunities for collaborative work with other Royal Holloway departments and other London institutions, access to unrivalled research resources available in Central London, and involvement in COR events such as the 2013 conference on speechwriting, ‘From Antiphon to Autocue’ and the 2016 conference on the history of the sound bite ‘From Thucydides to Twitter’.

Graduates from the Classics department at Royal Holloway are highly employable and, in recent years, have entered many different fields, including law, media, politics, advertising, business and teaching. We also attract mature students from a wide variety of previous careers. The department is located in the International Building, on Royal Holloway’s spectacular campus.

This course can be taken full time (one year) or part time (two years). Part-time students usually complete the core course and the independent projects in the first year, then take their optional course and work on their dissertation in the second year.

Programme structure

  • Core course ‘Problems and Methods in Oratory and Rhetoric’
  • Optional course from the Master’s level courses available in Classics or other departments
  • Two independent projects, including opportunity for creative work or oral presentation
  • Dissertation on chosen topic of research, ancient or modern.

Students working towards an MRes qualification complete all the above elements.

Students working towards a PGCert qualification complete all elements except the dissertation.

Students working towards a PGDip complete the core course and one optional course or independent project.

Outline of the core course

This is an indicative outline of the topics covered in the rhetoric core course and is subject to change each year, depending on staff availability.


  1. Welcome Meeting
  2. Introduction: Rhetoric in Action. Example of a speech and how to analyse it.
  3. Key themes in the study of rhetoric. Texts and performance; theory and practice; ancient and modern rhetorical theory; Aristotle’s Rhetoric and how (not) to use it.
  4. Writing at MRes level. Style and presentation; structure for tasks of different lengths (essays, projects, dissertations). Discussion of writing samples. 
  5. Rhetorical training ancient and modern. The rationale for ancient rhetorical exercises: progymnasmata and declamations.
  6. Sources and genres 1: speeches in literature and drama. Performance of Chreia.
  7. Sources and Genres 2: speeches in history and the nature of the written record.
  8. Plato on rhetoric.
  9. Analyzing arguments.
  10. Analyzing structures.
  11. Analyzing Style.


  1. Emotions and oratory.
  2. Epideictic/display.
  3. Political oratory ancient and modern.
  4. Forensic I prosecution speeches (historical case-studies).
  5. Forensic II: defence speeches.
  6. The art of speechwriting: lessons  from the second oldest profession.
  7. Spaces for performance.
  8. Delivery.
  9. Bad oratory.
  10. Controversiae and oral performances.
  11. Oral Presentations of projects/dissertations.

Previous independent projects 

Our students select a wide range of topics to work on for their independent projects, depending on their own interests. Previous topics have included:

Deliberative Rhetoric: success and failures of patient’s compliance or adherence to treatment regimes

A Rhetorical Analysis of the Marketing of Financial Products: Current Accounts

Rhetoric in the lyrics of popular music

Rhetoric in The Merchant of Venice

Analysis of speech from The Great Dictator

George Osborne: the Rhetoric of Austerity

Character assassination in Cicero: Catilinarians and Verrines

The importance of ethos & pathos in the success of crisis communication, with specific reference to the BP Deepwater Horizon Crisis

Previous dissertations 

This dissertation allows our students to explore an aspect of rhetoric in real depth, leading to some rich and exciting research. Previous dissertation titles have included:

How do stories persuade us?  An analysis of stories in speeches for political change.

The Dominions’ Rhetoric on Migration from 1945

Vae Victis or the Rule of Law: Analysis of Sir H. Shawcross’s opening statement at the Nuremberg Tribunal

Rhetoric in the Teaching of Classics in Secondary School Education

The Role of Rhetoric in Modern Advertising

Rhetoric of the death penalty in the age of Demosthenes and mid-20th Century Britain


For further information about the MRes in Rhetoric please contact either of the Programme Directors, Professor Lene Rubinstein and Dr. Christos Kremmydas.







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