Department of Rhetoric & Writing
Department of Rhetoric & Writing

Graduate Courses

Rhetoric and Writing faculty offer courses on varied topics each semester through the English department. Below is a sample of courses that have previously been offered. You can also visit the English department's website to view course descriptions.

Fall 2017

E 384K • Disciplinary Inquiries

35790 • Charney, Davida
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM FAC 7
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DISCIPLINARY INQUIRIES FOR RHE AND DLL STUDENTS

This course is designed to give students greater familiarity with a variety of observational research methods available to scholars in rhetoric and writing studies, digital literacies and literatures, as well as literary studies. The course will aid students in their reading of studies that use these methods. But it is also intended to impart the necessary confidence to take up an appropriate method when a research question leads in that direction. The starting and never-ending point will be to explore the nature of research questions per se. What makes a question original? Why are some questions compelling to the field while other projects never pan out? How can big woolly entanglements be combed out and braided? The conversation engendered by such questions will better position students to identify issues that they may study further in Master’s Report and dissertation research.

Much of the semester will be spent trying out the methodological moves that researchers make on a small scale by reusing materials from concluded studies. The data collection methods will include both naturalistic observation and systematic designs. Depending on the interests of those enrolled, the analytic methods will be chosen from interviews/surveys, discourse analysis, read-aloud/write-aloud protocols, and pre- and post-tests.

STUDENTS WILL WRITE THREE 5-PAGE PAPERS THAT REPORT OUTCOMES FROM SMALL-SCALE APPLICATION OF DIFFERENT METHODS; THEY WILL ALSO WRITE AN 8-10 PAGE RESEARCH PROPOSAL (SUITABLE FOR SUBMITTING TO AN IRB) THAT JUSTIFIES A RESEARCH QUESTION AND LAYS OUT A METHOD.


E 388M • North American Genre Theory

35810 • Spinuzzi, Clay
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAR 6
(also listed as INF 385T)
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Sociocultural Approaches to Technology: North American Genre Theory

In 1984, Carolyn Miller wrote the pivotal article "Genre as Social Action," applying Bakhtin's genre theory to rhetoric and thus theorizing genre, not as a collection of structural components, but as recurrent responses to rhetorical situations. This article became one of the origin points of North American Genre Theory (NAGT), an approach that draws from Bakhtin and other sociocultural theorists to account for how texts regularize and stabilize in regular use. With its materialist, situated approach to genre, NAGT has been mobilized for a variety of uses, including (especially) understanding digital texts in complex activities.

In this course, we will develop a strong theoretical understanding of NAGT, starting with the texts of the Bakhtin Circle and examining how the notion of genre developed as it was taken up by North American scholars such as Miller, Bazerman, Berkenkotter, Russell, Freedman, Schryer, Schuster, and others. Special emphasis will be given to how NAGT allows us to make sense of assemblages of digital texts. Students will use NAGT as a starting point for their own seminar papers as well as gaining experience in producing digital texts.

·       Annotated bibliography
·       Literature review
·       Digital storytelling, centered on a case, phenomenon, or set of articles related to NAGT
·       Seminar paper


Spring 2017

E 387M • Rhetoric And Writing Study

Roberts-Miller, Patricia

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This class has three main goals: first, to give students an overview of where the field(s?) of writing studies stand at this point; second, to teach students methods of inferring where a "conversation" is in a given discipline; third, to enable students to improve their writing processes.

Students will write several short assignments, such as: close imitations of introductions from various journals; close analysis of metadiscourse in articles; literacy narratives; reviews of journals; research questions; research calendars. Students will also write a long (5000 word) review article, critical literature review, prospectus, research proposal, or research paper.


E 387M • Rhetorical Theory And Ethics

Davis, Diane

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Though he was a masterful rhetorician himself, Plato famously ranted against sophistic rhetoric because it, unlike the “true dialectic,” was not an ethical use of language: it aimed at (evil) seduction rather than (good) truth. Centuries later in the Ethics of Rhetoric, Richard M. Weaver argues, in Plato’s footsteps, that rhetoric is ethical only when it urges commitment to dialectically secured principles, e.g. truths. The notion that rhetoric is ethical (or good) only when it operates in the service of previously established truths continues to dominate our ethico-political scene. However, once such metaphysical prejudices dissolve, once both “the good” and “the true” are understood—even to the tiniest degree—as effects of language (or what Levinas calls “discourse”), this clean, supplemental relation between rhetoric and ethics gets complicated. How are we to understand an ethics that is dependent upon language? How are we to understand this relation between rhetoric and ethics once the iffiness of doxa comes to replace the certitudes of episteme? What is left of ethics once its traditional “grounds” become a function of the interplay of rhetorical principles (audience, exigence, context, tone, arrangement, delivery, timing, etc.) and the very structure of address? Does this leave the ethical imperative impotent? Purely relative? In Postmodern Ethics, Zygmunt Bauman attempts to counter this putative relativity by proposing that ethics today, after the “fall,” takes place when I choose to be responsible, in the instant that “I assign the right to make me responsible” (86). But this position presumes to answer all the questions we will hold open in this course: it presumes a knowable other and a self who has both the freedom to choose and the knowledge of what it means to be responsible.

In this course, we will begin with the presumption that ethics and language are indissociably linked in the question of responsibility, which, etymologically speaking, comes from the Latin respondere (to respond, to answer to) and suggests the obligation to respond to the call of the other. However, we will not presume to understand ahead of time either the origin or the effects of this “call,” nor will we presume that it operates only within the realm of the human. In Altérités, Jacques Derrida admits that what leaves him "reticent" about all current discourses on ethics is that they operate on the presumption that the "other" is necessarily another "myself"—a(nother) rational subject, a(nother) speaking consciousness, even another (human) Dasein, just like me—that they fail to attend to the question of the "other," to the otherness of the other, proceeding instead on the basis of an unquestioned appropriation. Emmanuel Levinas proposes, further, that responding to the other is not a choice I get to make but an imperative that gives me to be: the priority of the other, according to him, is not a function of my generosity; it is my (nearly) existential predicament. And yet, responding to the other’s call, as Avital Ronell has repeatedly shown, consists simultaneously in a deracinating experience of being-called that interrupts the presumption of spontaneity and in an experience of undecidability, as you can never be sure the call is a call or that it's meant for you: "How, precisely, can we know?" (Stupidity). The question that remains for the infinitely obligated addressee, as Lyotard puts it in The Differend, is whether what is coming through as a call really is a call--rather than, for example, a "fantasy."

In this seminar, we will hold ourselves within the complex intersections of rhetoric and ethics, where decisions are necessary but the “grounds” for making them cannot be secured, where the trial of decision involves an encounter with the undecidable.

Probable Texts

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics
Badiou, Alain. Ethics
Ballif, Michelle. “Historiography as Hauntology.”
Butler, Judith. Giving Account of Oneself
Derrida, Jacques. Of Hospitality and “Eating Well”
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
Levinas, Emmanuel. Ethics and Infinity and "Substitution"
Lispector, Clarice. The Passion According to GH
Lyotard, Jean-François. Just Gaming
Marder, Michael. Selections from Plant Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil
Plato. The Phaedrus
Rivers, Nathaniel. “Deep Ambivalence and Wild Objects: Toward a Strange Environmentalism.”
Ronell, Avital. Stupidity

Probable Assignments

§  Weekly Reading Posts: Informal notes analyzing/exploring key issues in the readings on the class discussion board. One or two people will be responsible for writing the opening post for each reading, to which others will respond. Whether you’re responding to a classmate’s post or offering your own read, these "substantial responses" should offer a real engagement with the material that takes us into the text, using quotes and page numbers, and posing questions and/or offering reflections on passages or ideas.

§  Three Summary/Response Papers: Formal, one-page, single spaced, beautifully polished, and terribly insightful papers that are interested less in opinions than in relationships and that are to be read aloud in class and then handed in to me. Margins are optional, but no smaller than 11 point font and no more than one letter-sized page. The first half of each paper should be a concise yet thorough summary of one of the assigned text. The second half should be your reading of that work "across" another text we have read in class. The goal is not to come to some hasty conclusion and prove it to us, nor to use one text to discredit or take jabs at the other (your task is much more difficult than simply taking sides), but to expose relationships, questions, and/or insights that take place at the intersection of these two works. Exposition, in this specific sense, is your aim--rather than formal argument.

§  One conference paper proposal: A formal, tight, and irresistible 500-ish word paper proposal for a (real) conference in rhetorical studies, composition studies, or literary studies (or, make me an offer) in which you will address some aspect of the theme of this course: rhetoric and ethics. The word limit should match the CFP for the conference. Proposals will be uploaded to the class discussion board, peer reviewed, and turned in to me.


E 388M • Accessible Rhetorics

Boyle, Casey

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This course, first and foremost, examines relationships between bodies and technologies. To pursue this examination, we focus on accessibility as an opportunity for rhetorical invention. That is, instead of understanding technology as either enhancement (for a "normal" body) or reparative (for a "disabled" body) we shall consider all technology--with a focus on communication technology--as (rhetorically) inventive of new and different kinds of embodiment. After an introduction to theories of embodiment alongside a survey of historical approaches to disability accommodations through key sources in rhetorical and disability studies scholarship, the course closely attends to communication media and accessibility, honing in on the many theoretical and practical accessibility concerns that arise through ongoing innovation of new and emerging media.

Course projects include: regular and routine reading responses; an access-oriented revision plan for an existing online text; a physical computing device for accessibility;  a final project (composed, in part, by the course's prior assignments) into a multimodal text that engages a problem/possibility for accessibility and rhetoric.

NOTE: No prior experience with accessibility, media tools, or physical computing is required. 


Fall 2016

E 387R • Feminism, Historiog, Rhetrc

Diab, Rasha
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Graduate Seminar: Feminism, Historiography, and Rhetoric

Overview

As we undertake this study of the history of rhetoric, we will consider a variety of rhetorical practices from antiquity until modern times, recovering rhetorical practices of women from the West, Near East, and Far East including women like, Enheduanna, Aspasia, Christine de Pizan, Mary Astell, Sojourner Truth, Rigoberta Menchú, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, and many others. We will also explore how rhetoric theorists revisit the economy and ideologies that support/impede the perspectives and practices of women rhetors.

In addition to exploring the rhetorical practices of women speakers/writers, this seminar focuses on the intersection of feminist scholarship, historiography, and the study of rhetoric across cultures. The three lines of inquiry converge to underline a commitment to re-visit and re-tell the history of rhetoric, an investment that we see slowly emerging in the late 1970s and gaining momentum since the late 1990s. To explore the rationale and telos of this convergence, we will recover women’s contributions to and perspectives on rhetoric (theory and practice) and re-examine our conception of the rhetor, definition of and expectations for rhetorical practices, and stances that women adopt/adapt to realize their goals and aspirations.

The ultimate goal of our exploration is to

  • build on your knowledge of feminisms and the critique of the canon;
  • deepen your appreciation of how rhetors respond to, critique, and challenge the affordances and constrains of their communities; and
  • address on-going controversies that energize rhetorical studies, reflecting on the possibilities and limits of historiographic methods and assumptions.

Readings

- A Reader:

  • Selected articles/book chapters written by Deborah Atwater, Reem Bassiouney, Lindal Buchanan, Sue Carter, Rebecca Dingo, Wendy Hesford, Gwen Pough, Malea Powell, Elaine Richardson, and Eileen E. Schell
  • Selected primary texts from Gloria Anzaldua, Mary Cavendish, Christine de Pizan, Audre Lord, Sojourner Truth, and Alice Walker

- Books

  • Ballif, Michelle, ed. Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2013.
  • Glenn, Cheryl. Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity through the Renaissance. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997.
  • Jarratt, Susan. Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.
  • Pough, Gwendolyn. Check it while I Wreck it: Black Womanhood, Hip Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.
  • Rami?rez, Cristina Devereaux. Occupying our Space: The Mestiza Rhetorics of Mexican Women Journalists and Activists, 1875-1942. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2015.
  • Rawson, K., and Eileen E. Schell. Rhetorica in Motion: Feminist Rhetorical Methods & Methodologies. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010.
  • Royster, Jacqueline Jones, and Gesa Kirsch. Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.

- Journal Special Issues

  • Hesford, Wendy S., and Eileen E. Schell. "Configurations of Transnationality: Locating Feminist Rhetorics." College English 70.5 (2008

Requirements

Besides regular attendance and reflective engagement, you will be expected to

  • Lead class discussion (10%),
  • Present a book report (10%) (Reading list will be provided),
  • Conference Proposal (10%) (You will choose a conference relevant to your area of study),
  • Seminar Paper (70%): Develops your conference proposal into a researched, seminar-length paper to be handed in by the end of the semester. During the semester, research reports, exchange of early drafts and conference with me will provide opportunities to share ideas and to get feedback.

E 388M • Networked Writing

Spinuzzi, Clay
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Writing is perhaps our most flexible tool. Since its invention in 3200 BCE, this tool has been used for a remarkable range of activities—and has been combined with other technologies to shape what is possible in different societies and contexts. And current information and communication technologies—such as social media, instant messaging, and collaborative writing spaces—are also making their mark, changing how we read, write, compose, and argue.

In this class, we’ll examine writing as a tool that interacts with various information and communication technologies, and we’ll try out various information and communication technologies to better understand how they interact. We’ll draw on insights and theoretical perspectives from rhetorical theory and digital writing studies, but also from adjacent fields such as anthropology, sociology, communications, information science, and organization studies. By the end of the semester, students will have produced a seminar paper that can serve as a base for developing a publication in an appropriate journal.


Spring 2016

E 387M • Extrahuman Rhetrcl Relation

Davis, D
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This seminar will attend to the scene of responsive engagement with or among nonhuman others. Traditionally, rhetoric names a specifically human art or science, requiring at least one discrete human subject at the center of its operations. Even what the discipline of communication studies calls “extrapersonal communication,” which involves communication with a nonhuman other (an animal, a plant, a deity, a ghost, an object, a machine, etc.), presumes first of all a preexisting human subject who uses rhetoric to establish the connection. However, we will honor this weighty inheritance in the tradition of what Avital Ronell calls the noble traitor, taking it up in order to expose its limits and presumptions.

We will, for example, examine the ways in which “the human” is produced through ahuman or inhuman communications very broadly conceived; attend to a generalized notion of rhetoricity—a fundamental affectability, persuadability, or responsivity—that remains irreducible to “speech” and symbolic exchange more generally; interrogate the predicament of addressivity or responsivity in the face of (or among) animals, objects, deities, and the dead—but also deconstruct the clean distinctions implied in such designations as “the animal,” the object,” “the dead,” and “the divine,” exposing the ways in which these dangerous supplements are mobilized in the name of the collective noun “the human.”

Probable Requirements:

  • Semi-Weekly Talking Points: Informal notes analyzing/exploring key issues in the readings. 
  • One short paper, to be read aloud and then handed in, which will explicate the "cultural artifact" (a text, a theory, a philosophy, an architectural style, etc.) you have chosen for the semester, across which you will read the texts of the course
  • Summary/Response Papers: Formal, one-page, single spaced, beautifully polished, and terribly insightful papers that summarize the assigned reading and then respond to it by "reading" it across your cultural artifact--to be read aloud in class and handed in
  • A 4-6 page review of a work associated with the theme of the course written for a journal of your choice in rhetorical studies.

A Few of the Potential Readings

  • Philosophy and Rhetoric, Special Issue, 2014. “Extrahuman Rhetorical Relations: Addressing the Animal, the Object, the Dead, and the Divine.” Ed. Diane Davis and Michelle Ballif. Contributors: Avital Ronell, Cary Wolfe, Laurence Rickels, Joshua Gunn, Elissa Marder, Thomas Rickert, James Brown, Michelle Ballif, Diane Davis, Steven Mailloux, Michael Bernard-Donals.
  • Rickert, Thomas. Ambient Rhetorics.
  • Jane Bennett. Vibrant Matter.
  • Martin Heidegger. Basic Philosophical Writings.
  • Emmanuel Levinas. Existence and Existents.
  • Michael Marder. Plant Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life.
  • Jacques Derrida. The Animal That Therefore I Am, selections from Specters of Marx and The Gift of Death. Cary Wolfe. Zoontologies.
  • Michelle Ballif. “Historiography as Hauntology: Paranormal Investigations into the History of Rhetoric.” Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric. Ed. Michelle Ballif. SIUP, 2013.
  • Avital Ronell. Selection from “The Kant Satellite” in Stupidity on Abraham’s relation to God.

E 388M • Sociocultl Approach To Tech

Spinuzzi, Clay
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In this class, we will examine sociocultural approaches to technology, especially activity theory (AT), a theoretical framework that is used widely in studies of digital writing, professional writing, and workplace writing as well as education, human-computer interaction, and affiliated fields. We will use this framework for critically understanding how people interact with technology. Although AT is a popular framework, it is often deployed loosely—sometimes too loosely.

To ensure that we deploy it properly, we will read works by activity theorists and affiliated scholars such as Lev Vygotsky, Yrjo Engestrom, Bonnie Nardi, and Victor Kaptelinin, as well as applications to digital writing research (Russell, Bazerman, Schryer, etc.). We will also discuss sociocultural critiques of AT. Based on those readings, students will develop an annotated bibliography around a particular AT concept, define that concept in a literature review, and develop a seminar paper that applies AT in depth to one or more digital texts.

Students are welcome to this course regardless of their level of familiarization with technologies.


Fall 2015

E 387R • Beginnings Of Rhetoric

Walker, Jeffrey
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This course will examine the beginnings of Rhetoric as a discipline in 5th-4th century Greece, i.e., from the early sophists to the death of Aristotle — but with attention, too, to later developments, depending on class personnel and interests. Among the topics to consider are: pre-classical precursors; rhetoric across cultures; rhetorical historiography and the “long history” of rhetoric; epideictic and “practical” rhetoric; rhetoric and civil community; rhetoric and poetics; techne and creativity; the rivalry between Plato and Isocrates (and their sucessors); rhetoric as an educational system; and the “ends” of rhetoric. Primary texts will include Sprague (ed.), THE OLDER SOPHISTS; Isocrates (complete); Plato (selected dialogues); Aristotle, RHETORIC and POETICS; the anonymous RHETORIC TO ALEXANDER; and some representative examples of rhetorical lore and practice in particular (historical, material) contexts.

Requirements: short, oral in-class presentations; a 15 to 20-minute  “conference paper”; and a 15 to 20-page paper.


E 388M • Rhetoric & Digital Humanities

Boyle, Casey
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This course will survey the development of Digital Humanities alongside a careful examination of Rhetoric and Composition’s sub-fields of Computers & Composition and Digital Rhetoric. Set as a conversation between two separate but related scholarly traditions, the course will explore productive overlaps and future potentials for how the two fields may mutually inform one another’s future possibilities.  Readings and assignments will involve an array of media production, providing students an introduction to the many genres that comprise Digital Humanities projects: proposals, data sets, markup practices, promotional websites, project presentations, white papers, grant proposals.  Potential texts may include: Debates in the Digital Humanities, Ed. Matthew Gold; How We Think, Hayles, Rhetoric and Digital Humanities, Eds. Ridolfo & Hart-Davidson; Macroanalysis, Jockers; Understanding Digital Humanities, Ed. Berry; Reading Machines, Ramsay


Spring 2015

E 387M • Marxism In Rhet/Cul & Lit Thry

Longaker, Mark
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Marxian theory and politics have been repeatedly derided as a dead letter, continually consigned to the "dustbin of history." (This is Leon Trotsky's phrase, later repeated by capitalist apologists like Francis Fukuyama and Tom Brokaw, apparently with neither cognizance of nor ironic reference to its author.) Yet Marxism keeps appearing as a ground for various theoretical and political projects, particularly among humanities scholars in rhetorical, cultural, and literary studies. This seminar will explore the persistent themes of Marxian politics and theory as well as the various efforts to build on, utilize, alter, and mobilize the Marxian tradition. We will assume that there is no one Marxism, but rather a lengthy conversation whose beginning happens to coincide with and rely heavily on the writings of one thinker—Karl Marx.  Working from that assumption, we will traipse through several intellectual threads and the writings of many people including but not limited to: Public-Sphere Theory (Jurgen Habermas, Michael Warner, Jodi Dean), Humanism (Herbert Marcuse, Terry Eagleton), Cultural Studies (Antonio Gramsci, Lawrence Grossberg, Michael Berube, Ann Cvetkovich, Simon During), Postcolonial Theory (Edward Said, Etiene Balibar), Posthumanism (Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri, Franco Berardi, Alain Badiou, Slovoj Zizek), and Critical Pedagogy (Paolo Freire, Ira Shor, Henry Giroux).  While engaging the Marxian tradition, we will assume, as Marx did, that the purpose of intellectual labor is political action—not to interpret the world but to change it.  Specifically, we will examine the applicability and effects of Marxism in three disciplinary realms: rhetoric, culture, and literature. We will also examine what Marx would call “praxis,” the pragmatic-political work that one engages by simply being part of a social formation. In rhetorical, cultural, and literary studies, the question of praxis brings us to the methods of analysis—how does Marxism encourage us to look at a variety of texts, and what political work does that (do these) mode(s) of analysis perform in a specific moment of history?

Assignments:

Students will be responsible for writing: A summary of a book, placing the text in conversation with the reading that the rest of the class must complete, and relating the text to the Marxian tradition as a whole.  A summary of an article also placing the text in conversation with the reading that the rest of the class must complete, and relating the text to the Marxian tradition as a whole.  An independent project (such as a conference or seminar paper) that engages or applies Marxism in some fashion.


E 387M • Rhe/Wrt: Comp In 20th-21st Cen

Roberts-Miller, Patricia
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This class has three main goals: first, to give students an overview of where the field(s?) of writing studies stand at this point; second, to teach students methods of inferring where a "conversation" is in a given discipline; third, to give students the skills that will enable them to explore methods of inferring academic genres, and consider strategies for explicit instruction in academic writing.

Students will write several short assignments, such as: close imitations of introductions from various journals; close analysis of metadiscourse in articles; literacy narratives; reviews of journals; research questions; research calendars. Students will also write a long (5000 word) review article, critical literature review, prospectus, research proposal, or research paper.

Texts:

Hyland, Ken. Disciplinary Discourses.

            Disciplinary Identities.

Swales, John. Academic Writing for Graduate Students.

            Genre Analysis.

Various authors on procrastination, time management, gender and academia, writing program administration.


E 388M • Actor-Network Theory

Spinuzzi, Clay
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Sociocultural approaches to technology: actor-network theory

In this class, we will examine sociocultural approaches to technology, especially actor-network theory (ANT), a theoretical framework most famously associated with French theorist Bruno Latour. We will examine ANT's possibilities for critically understanding how people interact with technology. ANT is a popular framework in some quarters, but it is also hotly contested by those who understand it and frequently derided by those who don't.

To ensure that we do understand it, we will read works by actor-network theorists and affiliated scholars such as Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, John Law, and Annemarie Mol, as well as various sociocultural critiques of ANT, including those by Nardi and Engestrom. Based on those readings, students will develop an annotated bibliography around a particular ANT concept, define that concept in a literature review, and develop a seminar paper that applies ANT in depth to one or more digital texts.

Students are welcome to this course regardless of their level of familiarization with technologies.


Fall 2014

E 387M • Performative Rhetorics

Davis, D
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In the beginning was the deed.

  –Goethe Faust

Speech is in fact a gift of language, and language is not immaterial. It is a subtle body, but body it is.

  –Jacques Lacan, "The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis"

Valerie Solanas, who took no prisoners, took pleasure in the injurious effects of language and, with Lacanian precision, understood that words are bodies that can be hurled at the other, they can land in the psyche or explode in the soma. A hurtful utterance can give you hives, make you want to throw up, put a dent in your appetite, or summon up any number of somatic responses and physical collapses.

   –Avital Ronell, "Deviant Payback: The Aims of Valerie Solanas"

In his 1955 Harvard lectures, published posthumously in 1962 as How to do Things With Words, J. L. Austin outlined the basic tenets of speech-act theory in its contemporary form, offering a tentative but perhaps necessary distinction between the "constative" and "performative" functions of language. While the constative utterance offers a statement that describes or articulates "what is," the performative utterance produces, transforms, institutes. Austin for the most part located performative language within the realm of intentional consciousness and limited his analyses to instances of "relative purity," excluding citations of performative speech (e.g., those by "an actor in a play")—a position Derrida famously deconstructs. Nonetheless, Austin's lectures demonstrated that performative utterances collapse the distinction between saying and doing, severely problematizing the conception of language as a transcendental structure of meaning (what Saussure calls langue). Again. What currently goes by the name speech-act theory, in other words, can be understood as the latest articulation in a centuries old debate between philosophy and rhetoric. What's in question, to paraphrase Nietzsche, is whether there is any (transcendental) being behind concrete acts of saying (what Saussure calls parole). Whereas John Searle attempts in Speech Acts to systematize Austin's subversive insights within a logical framework, arguing that "an adequate study of speech acts is a study of langue," many of the most influential contemporary thinkers have resisted this effort, situating Austin's lectures on the side of (sophistic) rhetoric, as a re-affirmation of the awesome and undeniable positing power of language (as parole).

In this course, we will zero in on rhetoric's substantializing effects, on its capacity for concrete manifestation via, for example, hate speech, (psycho)analytic speech, poetic speech, and political speech. We won't attempt any sort of comprehensive approach but will instead begin with Gorgias and Plato, leap ahead to Austin and his contemporary interlocutors, and then spread out into linguistic avenues not explicitly associated with speech-act theory. Freud, for example, had his own theory of performative language (language that institutes as much as refers), as did Levinas, Athusser, and Heidegger. 

Probable Requirements:

  • Semi-Weekly Talking Points: Informal notes analyzing/exploring key issues in the readings. 
  • One short paper, to be read aloud and then handed in, which will explicate the "cultural artifact" (a text, a theory, a philosophy, an architectural style, etc.) you have chosen for the semester, across which you will read the texts of the course
  • Summary/Response Papers: Formal, one-page, single spaced, beautifully polished, and terribly insightful papers that summarize the assigned reading and then respond to it by "reading" it across your cultural artifact--to be read aloud in class and handed in

Probable Readings:

J. L. Austin. How to do things with Words.

John Searle. Selections from Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language, and “The World Turned Upside Down.”

Jacques Derrida. Limited Inc., “Declarations of Independence,” and “Performative Powerlessness”

Judith Butler. Excitable Speech

Shoshana Felman. The Scandal of the Speaking Body.

Avital Ronell. “The Rhetoric of Testing,” from Stupidity

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. "Postulates of Linguistics" from A Thousand Plateaus.

Paul de Man, “Autobiography as Defacement”

Sigmund Freud. Selections from Three Case Histories and Studies in Hysteria

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen. “Analytic Speech: From a Restricted to a General Rhetoric.”

J. Hillis Miller. “Performativity as Performance /Performativity as Speech Act: Derrida’s Special Theory of Performativity.” 


E 387M • Rhetoric Of Acad Disciplines

Charney, Davida
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This seminar will analyze the shape of scholarship in a variety of academic disciplines, from the humanities to the sciences. We will begin by tracing the development of specialized journals and the emergence of the genre of academic articles. We will read analyses of the formal and rhetorical features of articles in these fields. We will also examine how scholars acquire their disciplines’ priorities, methods, and conventions—as graduate students or active researchers. Finally, we will consider the political and philosophical implications of academic discourse.

How does academic writing in English differ from writing in other fields, such as psychology or physics? The differences often turn on concepts like audience, purpose, "authority," and evidence. These concepts shape the very nature of reading and writing processes, as well as the style, structure, arguments, and goals of academic texts.

Students have found this seminar of great value for learning to read and write at the graduate level. Several projects started in this semester have grown into journal articles, dissertations, and books.


E 388M • Information Architecture

Syverson, Margaret
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Information Architecture

This course investigates the cultural, cognitive, and rhetorical dimensions of information architecture as it applies to academic professions. Most professional knowledge workers are awash in a tsunami of information and struggling to stay afloat. Edward Tufte maintains that there is no such thing as information overload, only poor information design.

Information architecture is an emerging field that includes aspects of composition, rhetoric, design, cognitive science, information sciences, computer science, mathematics, and social sciences. As computer technologies have expanded the possibilities for creating, organizing, storing, representing, and communicating information, the sheer quantity of information exchanged has exploded. The new field of information architecture (or “informatics” in a current program proposal at UC Irvine) studies this dynamic process, develops systems to help people better manage it, and plans for changes projected in how information is developed and organized.

Theorists currently in the field, including Richard Saul Wurman, Jakob Nielsen, Kevin Mullet, Darrell Sano, and Edward Tufte argue that design, including typography and page design, use of graphics, and organizational structure are crucial to the delivery of information in ways that potential audiences find useful. These elements are often left to editors or publishers in formal publishing situations, or executed poorly in popular media and online communications. Yet they can determine whether information can be easily accessed, apprehended, and interpreted. Similarly, information archives are left in the hands of librarians whose experience and expertise may vary widely from expert to little or no training or preparation. Even well-trained librarians, however, may be ill-equipped to manage the proliferation and dynamic transformation of new media, modes, and genres of work, including web sites, multimedia compositions, collaborative constructions that cross continents and disciplinary boundaries, and online virtual worlds. There are many systems, from library catalogues to Web search engines, to research databases now in use to gather, store, and manipulate information, yet we still often feel overwhelmed, ill-informed, and lost in dealing with them. Wurman has termed our general apprehension “information anxiety.”

While a great deal of work has been done in areas of information science, library science, interface design, and so on, we believe that little attention has been paid to the deeply rhetorical nature of information architecture, particularly in online environments. This course will look at the cultural and cognitive production, organization, representation, and distribution of knowledge as activity.

The objectives for students include the following:

  • Students will be introduced to a new field of study and its concepts, methods, and practices.
  • Students will explore cultural, cognitive, and rhetorical implications of diverse information structures, including hypertext, text-based virtual reality, the Web, and databases.
  • Students will experiment with design for gathering, organizing, and presenting information.
  • Students will develop their own projects based on existing theoretical and methodological challenges in this field. 

Required texts:

Course Reader

There will be a list of recommended texts from which students will make selections for presentations and project work.

Evaluation will be via the Online Learning Record, portfolio-based assessment.

Assignments and class format:

Ground-up information architecture for survival in professional and academic ecosystems:

The project for the semester: Design your own infosphere: a way to manage the flow, storage, communication, and transformation of information in your own lived ecosystem. Conduct and write up a case study detailing this process. This process will require a great deal of observation, reflection, and research. Much of this research will be difficult because our own accommodations are sometimes invisible to us. Alternatively: do this with someone else as your research subject/client.

Part 1: An inventory of information types, media, and sources that participate in your ecosystem right now. Don’t forget the human resources! A second inventory of what should be part of your information ecosystem. This work should be done collaboratively, to help stimulate your thinking about it.

Part 2: The current state of the ecosystem: including what gets left out, what gets ignored or dismissed, what takes greater or lesser priority. Also included, the preferences of the user (you): greater or lesser order and systematicity, willingness to maintain a system, competing or conflicting life commitments, greater or lesser dependence on/enthusiasm for using technology

Part 3: Categories of purpose. What classes of information are needed? What roles are they associated with? Be sure the classes are distinct enough to be useful. “News” is a generic term that probably should be broken down into categories like: news about the world, news about my discipline, personal news, news about my department, and so on. What is the quality of life you aspire to?

Part 4: Audience: Who else is involved as an audience or provider for the information flows? What is their preferred medium for getting and/or receiving information? What structures do they need or prefer to help them interpret and apply the information?

Part 5: Pace and timing: what are the dynamics of information flows in different classes? You may discover that you are a person that prefers to check email as it arrives, once or twice a day, or, as in my Dad’s case, once or twice a year. You may read a newspaper daily, visit the library twice a week, write a paper once a semester. The pace may change during times of crisis or high activity: for example, before an exam. What are the dependencies among different kinds of information, different situations?

Part 6: A review of models: libraries, museums, air traffic control, city planning, ecology, music orchestration, choreography, architecture, etc.

Part 7: What structures, technological or physical, can help gather, organize, maintain, and manage the information flows? Of course, this is no guarantee of stress-free information management, but rather, how can you establish a system that fits your own ecosystem and supports your larger goals? What can be done to support the transformation of information into wisdom?

We will also look at your work during class time in in-class workshops.

Process: Each phase of this work will cover two weeks of classes, organized as follows:

Week 1: Small group discussion around projects (M)

                Focus on technology (W)

Week 2: Readings and disciplinary considerations (M)

               Presentation workshops/check in: group inquiry process  (W)

Technological component:

1. The Learning Record as a model of information architecture development and evolution

2. Brainstorming tools: Novamind, Tinderbox, Omnigraffle

3. Archiving tools: EndNote, FileMaker Pro, MacJournal, file structures (File Don’t Pile)

4. Presentation tools: screen formatting, the web, accessibility

5. Social tools: blogs, wikis, myspace, Google groups

6. Workflow tools: GTD process, Fasttrack schedule, Now Up to Date, Actiontastic, Quicksilver, news aggregators, etc.

7. Integration of systems: putting the pieces together technologically

8. Project presentations (t and th)

E388M Information Architecture Texts

Case Study Research: Design & Methods,

Robert K. Yin

ISBN:0761925538

Information Architecture For The World Wide Web,

Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville

ISBN:0596527349

Notes On The Synthesis Of Form,

Christopher Alexander

ISBN:0674627512

Visual Display Of Quantitative Information,

Edward Tufte

ISBN:0961392142

Thinking in Systems,

Donella Meadows

ISBN: 978-1-60358-055-7

Plus online sources as listed on the class wiki


E 388M • Spatial Rhetrcs/Locative Media

Boyle, Casey
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Spatial Rhetorics & Locative Media

In the last few decades, rhetorical scholarship--alongside a host of other disciplines--has held a sustained an interest in spatiality. Of particular interest is how spaces affect our shared practices and sense of identity. Further, rhetoric and related scholars seek to explore how we enact boundaries to help create spatial conditions of possibility for personal, pedagogical, and political ends. For instance, any city is in part defined by the many ways its people, roadways, and buildings relate to one another, providing sights, sounds, and speeds of interaction that then fold back and help further characterize that space. To further complicate matters, recent innovations of digital media and tracking technologies--including digital sensors, surveillance cameras, and global positioning systems--have contributed additional possibilities and problems to our sense of space. Now, the spaces we experience are just as much characterized by loose and porous boundaries as any stable or static condition. Spaces, it seems, are on the move. Towards understanding today’s shifting spatial conditions, the class will examine spatial rhetorics in three ways. First the class will focus on rhetoric’s long and rich tradition of inventive spatial practices; second, we will survey what might now be considered canonical critical spatial theory (Bakhtin, Lefebvre, Soja, etc.); finally, we will spend extensive course time exploring spatial rhetorics through mobile and locative media. Ultimately, the course aims to provide students with a foundation of spatial rhetorical theory while also offering an opportunity to consider the methodological demands of composing with mapping applications and locative media.

Course projects will include regular reading responses (20%), a mapping assignment (15%), a book review/response (15%), a working bibliography (10%), and a final project (40%) with which a student can develop for a conference presentation, a dissertation chapter, or an early draft of an article for publication consideration.

Course Texts (Tentative and Partial)

Cooley, Heidi Rae. Finding Augusta.

Farman, Jason. Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space.

Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space.

Mackenzie, Adrian. Wirelessness: Radical Empiricism in Network Cultures.

Rice, Jeff. Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and Space in the Age of Networks

Rickert, Thomas. Ambient Rhetoric: Attunements of Rhetorical Being.

Soja, Edward W. Postmodern geographies: The reassertion of space in critical social theory.

Thrift, Nigel. Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect.

Additional Readings will be available on course site/course packet


Spring 2014

E 387R • Writ Outside Acad, 18th-19th C

Ferreira-Buckley, Linda
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Rhetoric Outside the Academy in the 18th, 19th, & 20th Centuries

This seminar focuses on the ways that the rhetorical practices of reading, writing, and speaking have been studied outside of traditional classrooms.

The aim is not to map out a chronological or comprehensive history but rather to investigate practices and sites of significance that represent the diversity and complexity of rhetorical education: debating societies, literary circles and salons, speaking societies, libraries, writing groups, and letter writing manuals, etc.

In reading histories of what David Gold terms “competing and complementary rhetorical traditions,” we will examine not only what was studied and practiced and for what end but how each developed to meet the real or imagined needs of particular people. Equally important, we will examine and evaluate the basis for the conclusions each scholar draws.  We will also work through readings in research methodologies, with special attention to working with archival materials.

Although most course readings focus on the nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries, participants are encouraged to design projects that investigate practices in a period and place related to their own research program in rhetoric or literary studies.   Whether their primary interest is in rhetoric and writing, in “literary” studies, in communication studies, in classics, or in education more generally, participants should find our investigations relevant.

For the major project, each seminar member will work with the instructor  to design and complete a scholarly project.  Sequenced exercises and assignments are designed both to familiarize participants with scholarly genres and to develop his or her particular project. Members will complete a book review (10%), a conference proposal (10%), a literature review (20%), and, finally, a paper suitable for submission to a journal or for presentation at a conference (60%).  During the semester, we will look carefully at each of these genres to identify disciplinary conventions.

Readings (not finalized)

McHenry, Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies (2002)

Miller et al,  Rhetorical Women: Roles and Representations (2006), excerpts

Ramsey, Sharer, L’Eplattenier, and Mastrangelo, Working in the Archives (2009)

Ronald and  Ritchie, Teaching Rhetorica: Theory, Pedagogy, Practice (2006), excerpts

Royster and Kirsch, “Re-visioning History, Theory, and Practice” & “Conclusion,” Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies (2012)

Royster, Traces Of A Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women (2002), excerpts

Ulman, Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society  (1990), excerpts


Fall 2013

E 387R • Clascl Rhet Through Centuries

Walker, Jeffrey
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This course will examine the classical rhetorical tradition, with an eye to its contemporary uses. The first half of the course will focus on classical (ancient) rhetoric per se, while the second half will rapidly overview (some of) its post-classical iterations and modifications — e.g., in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Modernist eras — depending in part on student interests and projects. Within the general overview, possible foci will include: relations between rhetoric and poetics; rhetoric and technology (orality/literacy, etc.); the rhetorical paideia (rhetorical pedagogy and the liberal arts); rhetoric, politics, and practical wisdom (phronêsis); rhetoric, philosophy, and the “regime of Truth”; rhetoric and/as critical hermeneutics.

Primary readings in classical rhetoric are likely to include: the fragments of the early sophists; Isocrates; Plato (Gorgias, Phaedrus, Protagoras, Ion); Aristotle (Rhetoric, Poetics); Cicero (De Oratore); Quintilian; Dionysius of Halicarnassus; Hermogenes; Longinus On the Sublime; Augustine (De Doctrina Christiana); and rhetorical “handbooks” (technai; artes). Readings from later periods may include selections and extracts from Medieval and Renaisssance artes, Erasmus (De Copia), Sidney (Apology for Poetry); Neoclassical and Romantic “lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres”; Nietszche; and such modernist figures as I.A. Richards, Kenneth Burke,  and Chaim Perelman. Recommended secondary readings will include general histories of rhetoric and rhetorical education (e.g., Kennedy, Conley, Bizzell/Herzberg), as well as studies of particular periods and/or figures (e.g., Schiappa, Pernot, Marrou, Cribiore, Murphy, Lanham, Sloane); an extended bibliography will be provided.

Requirements probably will include: several brief oral presentations (discussion openers, reports); a conference-paper-length oral presentation on the student’s chosen research/writing project; and an expanded (up to article-length) seminar paper on that project.


Spring 2013

E 387M • Intercultural Rhetoric

Diab, Rasha
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Intercultural Rhetoric: From Incommensurability to Rhetorical Possibilities

What does culture have to do with rhetoric and writing? A careful examination of this question taps into the complex concept culture and uncovers a crucial force, informing and impacting rhetoric and writing practices and scholarship. That is why, the intersection of rhetoric/writing and culture has attracted the attention of scholars especially since the late 1960s, resulting in the development of contrastive rhetoric and comparative rhetoric. These two bodies of knowledge have two varied disciplinary orientations, yet they seem to converge in numerous ways.

Both seek to explore the role of culture in the practices and pedagogies of rhetoric and writing. To a great extent culture continued to be defined as “received culture.” However, current scholarship has more expansive definitions of culture and its influence on how we conceive, theorize and practice rhetoric and writing. This shift to a more nuanced and a fuller understanding of culture coincided with (a) increasing interest in other rhetorics, (b) reflections on the canonization of rhetoric and increasing interest in revisionist historiography, (3) re-visiting the role of continuity and discontinuity in shaping rhetorical agendas.

Course Objectives and Goals

This course has three focuses:

(1) studying the rise and convergence of comparative rhetoric, contrastive rhetoric, intercultural rhetoric, and transnational rhetoric,

(2) exploring rhetoric as manifest in different traditions and

(3) understanding the role of comparative/contrastive/intercultural/transnational rhetoric in current scholarship in rhetoric and writing theory, history of rhetoric, and their teaching.

In this seminar, we will

  • trace the development, growth and transformation of contrastive, comparative, and intercultural rhetoric, drawing on different bodies of literature
  • reflect on how interest in transnational rhetoric
  • converges with comparative and contrastive rhetoric and
  • affirms yet poses some challenges to the study of the intersection of culture, nation, and rhetoric.
    • Finally, we will engage the two main dimensions of intercultural rhetoric as we explore the disciplinary and instructional possibilities and challenges of (inter)cultural rhetorics.

Potential Books & Journal Special Issues

Ulla Connor, Contrastive Rhetoric: Cross-Cultural Aspects of Second Language Writing (Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Ronald L. Jackson II Elaine B. Richardson (eds.), Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations (Routledge, 2003)

 Carol Lipson and Roberta Binkley (eds.),  

  • Rhetoric before and beyond the Greeks (SUNY, 2004) and
  • Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics (Parlor Press, 2008)

Lu Ming Mao, Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie: The Making of Chinese American Rhetoric (Utah State University Press, 2006)

Ernest Stromberg (editor), American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance, Word Medicine, Word Magic (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006)

Victor Villanueva, Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color (National Council of Teachers of English, 1993)

Writing, Rhetoric, and Latinidad. College English (Vol. 71, No.6, July 2009)

Feminist Rhetorics and Transnationalism . College English (Vol.70, No.5, May 2008).

Cross-Language Relations in Composition College English (Vol. 68, No. 6, July 2006)


E 387R • Enlightenment Rhetoric

Longaker, Mark
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Enlightenment Rhetoric

This course will explore the Enlightenment on the Continent as well as in Great Britain with attention to three themes: epistemology, sovereignty, and toleration.  The primary reading in the course will include works by: Francis Bacon, Renee Descartes, David Hume, Giambattista Vico, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, James Madison, John Locke, and Anthony Ashley Third Earl of Shaftesbury.  In addition to this primary reading, we will read rhetorical and linguistic theories from the 17th and 18th centuries. Furthermore, we will read contemporary histories of the era and contemporary critical theory that takes up Enlightenment themes.  The philosophical, rhetorical, historical, and contemporary critical work will all be brought to bear on three questions: Was there really a transcontinental Enlightenment or just a series of related and/or concomitant historical events?  Was the Enlightenment hostile and/or friendly towards rhetoric?  (Why) Does the Enlightenment matter to present-day philosophy, rhetoric, and historiography?  Students will be responsible for weekly reading (roughly 100pp. of somewhat dense Enlightenment philosophy).  They will also each read and write summaries of: a "primary" work of philosophy; a work of Enlightenment rhetoric or linguistics; a contemporary history; a selection of contemporary critical theory.   In sum, each student's work will consist of: reading and in-class discussion; participating in a weekly online forum  (leading the online discussion at least once and participating for the remaining weeks); writing four summaries for in-class presentation and other students' use.  Students interested in writing a longer work (such as a seminar paper, conference presentation, or academic article) may do so with instructor guidance, but this will remain optional and largely out-of-class work.  Finally, as is the case in my previous graduate seminars, we will spend sometime each week talking about the workaday and often unmentioned labor of U.S. academia -- such as submitting articles, pacing scholarly output to meet tenure requirements, putting together conference panel proposals, researching and revising scholarly work, preparing for tenure, and any other topic of interest to the particular students in the seminar.


Fall 2012

E 387M • Rhetorical Theory And Ethics

Davis, D
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Though he was a masterful rhetorician himself, Plato famously ranted against sophistic rhetoric because it, unlike the “true dialectic,” was not an ethical use of language: it aimed at (evil) seduction rather than (good) truth. Centuries later in the Ethics of Rhetoric, Richard M. Weaver argues, in Plato’s footsteps, that rhetoric is ethical only when it urges commitment to dialectically secured principles, e.g. truths. The notion that rhetoric is ethical (or good) only when it operates in the service of previously established truths continues to dominate our ethico-political scene. However, once such metaphysical prejudices dissolve, once both “the good” and “the true” are understood—even to the tiniest degree—as effects of language, this clean, supplemental relation between rhetoric and ethics gets complicated. How are we to understand an ethics that is dependent upon language? How are we to understand this relation between rhetoric and ethics once the iffiness of doxa comes to replace the certitudes of episteme? What is left of ethics once its traditional “grounds” become a function of the interplay of rhetorical elements: audience, exigence, context, tone, arrangement, delivery, timing, etc.? Does this leave the ethical imperative impotent? Purely relative? In Postmodern Ethics, Sygmunt Bauman attempts to counter this putative relativity by proposing that ethics today, after the “fall,” takes place when I choose to be responsible, in the instant that “I assign the right to make me responsible” (86). But this position presumes to answer all the questions we will hold open in this course: it presumes a knowable other and a self who has both the freedom to choose and the knowledge of what it means to be responsible.

In this course, we will begin with the presumption that ethics and language are indissociably linked in the question of responsibility, which, etymologically speaking, comes from the Latin respondere (to respond, to answer to) and suggests the obligation to respond to the call of the other. However, we will not presume to understand ahead of time either the origin or the effects of this “call.” In Altérités, Jacques Derrida admits that what leaves him "reticent" about all current discourses on ethics is that they operate on the presumption that the "other" is necessarily another "myself"—a(nother) rational subject, a(nother) speaking consciousness, even another Dasein, just like me—that they fail to attend to the question of the "other," to the otherness of the other, proceeding instead on the basis of an unquestioned appropriation. Emmanuel Levinas proposes, further, that responding to the other is not a choice I get to make but an imperative that gives me to be: the priority of the other, according to him, is not a function of my generosity; it is my existential predicament. And yet, responding to the other’s call, as Avital Ronell has repeatedly shown, consists simultaneously in a deracinating experience of being-called that interrupts the presumption of spontaneity and in an experience of undecidability, as you can never be sure the call is a call or that it's meant for you: "How, precisely, can we know?" (Stupidity). The question that remains for the infinitely obligated addressee, as Lyotard puts it in The Differend, is whether what is coming through as a call really is a call--rather than, for example, a "fantasy."

In this seminar, we will hold ourselves within the complex intersections of rhetoric and ethics, where decisions are necessary but the “grounds” for making them cannot be secured, where the trial of decision involves an encounter with the undecidable. 

Probable Requirements:

  • Semi-Weekly Talking Points: Informal notes analyzing/exploring key issues in the readings. 
  • One short paper, to be read aloud and then handed in, which will explicate the "cultural artifact" (a text, a theory, a philosophy, an architectural style, etc.) you have chosen for the semester, across which you will read the texts of the course
  • Summary/Response Papers: Formal, one-page, single spaced, beautifully polished, and terribly insightful papers that summarize the assigned reading and then respond to it by "reading" it across your cultural artifact--to be read aloud in class and handed in
  • One conference panel and paper proposal utilizing the ideas you glean from the course

A Few Probable Readings:

Aristotle, Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, Immanuel Kant, Luce Irigaray, Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-François Lyotard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Avital Ronell, Clarice Lispector 


E 387R • Medieval Rhetoric And Poetics

Woods, Marjorie
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This course will explore the development of key medieval theoretical and practical ideas about writing, whether in verse or prose, through close readings of rhetorical treatises, arts of poetry, manuals of letter-writing and preaching, and a significant literary text. Medieval composition theory and practice were based on a pedagogy that focused on craft and effect (including affect), and that began with poetry, moving to prose later in the curriculum. While some of the most well-known medieval rhetorical treatises focus on religious issues, most of the work of the writing classroom drew heavily on classical models and treatises.

We will examine the rhetorical uses of poetry as well as the aesthetic considerations of rhetoric. The assigned readings will introduce you to various ways that rhetoric was interpreted and used during the Middle Ages, especially in its intersection with literature and overlap with poetics. (The most popular and influential medieval rhetorical treatise was written in verse and based in part on a classical art of poetry, while the medieval theory and practice of literary characterization was based on Ciceronian rhetorical doctrine.) We will experiment with several medieval composition exercises in class to help us determine the impact of the practice, as well as the theories, of medieval rhetoric and poetics.

As a means of deepening our consideration of how such issues were framed during the Middle Ages, we will also look at modern theoretical treatments of similar questions to establish a fruitful dialogue between the articulation of such concerns in medieval and modern discourses.

The direction of the course in the last weeks of the semester will be determined by the particular interests of the students in the class. Students in Creative Writing and those focusing on other historical periods are welcome, and I will work out a relevant research topic with each student individually.

Written assignments include a short analytical or creative assignment, an annotated bibliography covering the reading for class as well as research interests, and a research paper to be turned in both in rough draft and final form. There will be no extensions, and class attendance is required. Each student will present a short oral report based on the reading assignments in a particular class, as well as a longer oral presentation of his or her research project.


E 388M • Minds, Texts, And Technology

Syverson, Margaret
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What do readers, writers, and texts have in common with the human immune system, the economics of the stock market, the rise and fall of a pre Columbian city state, or a ship's navigation crew? Recent interdisciplinary research in complex systems and cognitive science has suggested some intriguing possibilities. This seminar will explore some of the foundational theories emerging from this research and their potential for informing English and composition studies. The course introduces concepts in situated and distributed cognition, activity theory, distributed cognition, and complexity theory to establish a theoretical framework for analyzing writing situations, as a way of testing the applicability of these theories for literature, rhetoric and composition. One goal of this seminar is to help students define and develop working bibliographies, which are somewhat different from annotated or "works cited" type bibliographies. For this purpose, students will write regular responses to the assigned readings on the class wiki. They will prepare a short presentation to the class on a text chosen from the recommended reading list. Students will also be responsible for developing an academic project suitable for publication in print or online.


Spring 2012

E 387M • Rhetoric Of Acad Disciplines

Charney, Davida
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READING, WRITING & ARGUING IN ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES

“Rhetoric is the discipline that lets all the other disciplines do their work” (James Golden)

How does scholarly academic writing in an English department differ from writing in other fields, such as psychology or physics? Recent studies of academic discourse suggests that the differences often turn on conceptions of audience, purpose, "authority," and representation. These conceptions shape the very nature of reading and writing processes, as well as the style, structure, arguments, and goals of academic texts.

This seminar will analyze the shape of written discourse in a variety of academic disciplines, from the humanities to the sciences. We will begin by tracing the development of specialized journals in several disciplines and the emergence of the genres of academic articles. We will read studies comparing the formal and rhetorical features of written discourse in these fields. We will also examine what practitioners in these fields understand about their disciplines’ rhetorical habits and formal constraints… and how they learn to apply and exploit them. We'll consider how undergraduates, graduate students and faculty gradually acculturate themselves. Finally, we will consider the political and philosophical implications of academic discourse.

This seminar will be of interest to anyone who expects to write scholarly publications (!) and particularly for those who want to find out more about the rhetoric of academic disciplines--those students who would like to conduct research, those who want to learn how to read the research, and those who want to teach students majoring in English or other disciplines to analyze and write texts.  It is especially recommended for students who may be eligible to apply for a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Writing in the Disciplines at Southwestern University over the next three years.

Requirements

  • 8-10 short responses (2 pages each) to reading assignments: 25%
  • a formal paper (10-15 pages) pursuing an issue raised by the research literature: 75%
  • brief oral reports presenting your project in proposal and near-final stages

Texts

  • MacDonald, Susan Peck. (1994). Professional Academic Writing in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Press.
  • Monroe, Jonathan (ed.). (2002). Writing and Revising the Disciplines. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Patton, Martha Davis. Writing in the Research University: A Darwinian Study of WID with Cases from Civil Engineering. Hampton, 2011.
  • Perelman, Chaim, & Olbrechts-Tyteca, Lucie. (1969). The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation (J. Wilkinson & P. Weaver, Trans.). Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Other articles on Blackboard

E 388M • Rhet Inventn In Multimedia Age

Hodgson, Justin
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Rhetorical Invention in the Age of Multimedia

Course Description:

Invention has, on multiple occasions, across multiple eras, found itself as central focus of rhetoric and composition studies.  But this focus has nearly always associated it, somewhat exclusively, with discovery, with an act of discovery—a legacy stemming from Aristotle.  And as rhetoric and composition scholars have attempted to discover and articulate further uses, applications, and pedagogical strategies for rhetorical invention practices, they have not only generated additional topoi and other inventive practices (heuristics), they have also opened critical questions into the nature of invention (see the Janice Lauer and Ann Berthoff debates, Richard Young's works, Karen Burke Lefevre's Invention as a Social Act, etc.).  What was missing, up until roughly the postmodernism/post-structuralism influence, was an attempt to understand rhetorical invention in terms of techne, poeisis, chora; to understand invention as an act of becoming.  The relationship of being and becoming, the explorations of how we bring forth or allow forth ideas, is of critical importance in the age of multimedia because the singularity and dominance of literacy-based ordering principles, methodologies, and inventional techniques no longer apply in all cases.  They are just some among the many.

In the multimedia age, rhetorical invention has been influence by or exposed to, explicitly so, the arts and practices of remix, juxtaposition, obstruction, catastrophe, absence, and so on.  Technology (and its very essence) has opened us to not only the possibilities for a more complex, perhaps even ecological, since of rhetorical invention, but it actually demands new rhetorical invention strategies and possibilities.  In the age of multimedia, to understand rhetorical invention, requires that we bring Art and Philosophy as well as Rhetoric to bear on the conversation.  And to do this, we need to understand rhetorical invention not only in practical terms, but in abstract terms, in theoretical terms, for this will help us grasp the profound implications of invention across cultural shifts.

Thus, this course will be a drifting into the interspaces of techne, poeises, methodology, epistemology, historiography, culture, and Being; and our very drifting will be an intricate part of the course's intention.  But it will also attempt to situate the implications of that drift across primary oral cultures, literate cultures, and electronic/digital cultures.  Understanding these shifts may help us grasp not only how rhetorical invention is changing/evolving in the age of multimedia, but it may also help us better understand our current cultural moment.

Potential Requirements:

Critical Response Poster(s) (10%) – Make a poster that critically responds to a selected reading, and then present that Poster Response in class.

Critical Response Aural Creation (10%) – Make an audio project (podcast, remix, etc.) that critically responds to a selected reading, and then present that Audio Response in class.

Critical Response Digital Video (20%) – Make a video project that critically responds to a selected reading, and then present that video in class.

Multimedia Project & Presentation (50%) – Multimedia Creation making scholarly "comment" on or engagement with a critical issue for rhetorical invention.

Conference Proposal (10%) – Proposal to present (paper/multimedia/poster) at conference. 

Potential Texts:

Aristotle, On Rhetoric (selections), Metaphysics (selections), Poetics (selections)

Artaud, The Theatre and its Double

Atwill & Lauer, Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention

Benjamin, Illuminations (selections)

Blanchot, Writing the Disaster (selections)

Bolter & Grusin, Remediation (selections)

Borges, Labyrinths (selections)

Calvino, Invisible Cities

Csikszentmihalyi, Flow (selections)

Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play" and "Invention of the Other"

Foucault, Language, Counter-memory, Practice or The Order of Things (selections)

Havelock, The Muse Learns to Write

Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology" and "Building, Dwelling, Thinking"

Jarrett, Drifting on a Read

Latour, We Have Never Been Modern

Lefevre, Invention as a Social Act (selections)

Lyotard, Differend

Muckelbauer, The Future of Invention

Ong, Orality and Literacy

Ovid, Metamorphoses

Plato Phaedrus (selections), Theatetus

Serres, Parasite

Ulmer, Applied Grammatology (selections), Heuretics: The Logic of Invention

Virilio, Open Sky

Vitanza, "Subversive Rhetorics"

Wagner, Invention of Culture (selections)

Handouts & Other Selected Essays