Program in Comparative Literature

Monica Mohseni Sisiruca



RHE 309K • Rhetoric Of Human Rights

42465 • Fall 2019
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM FAC 9

The purpose of this course will be to analyze how human rights and their abuses are presented to us by a variety of different sources, from the media to NGOs. The popularization of human rights into mass media in the late 20th century has raised awareness about the abuses and discriminations that occur both at home and abroad. But how does the presentation of human rights abuses affect our understanding of global and domestic issues? Can we distinguish arguments genuinely advocating for disenfranchised peoples from those advancing institutional agendas? 

What comes to mind when we think about human rights and their abuses? Internationally, we may think of the crises of mass-migration in South and Central America, or perhaps LGBT discrimination and abuse in North Africa and South-East Asia. At home, we might think about the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or even the horrifying cases of police violence happening throughout the country. Human rights abuses are shown everywhere: on IG ads and tweeted by politicians, advocates, and celebrities alike. They seem unavoidable in mediated sources of information. How can we build an accurate understanding of these tragedies given the sheer amount of voices? This course equips students with the rhetorical tools to analyze reports of abuses and injustices around the world. We will explore how a biased framing of human rights abuses can slant our understanding of global and domestic issues. Throughout the semester students will be encouraged to research a human rights issue of their choice, with the goal of developing and polishing a final project advocating for their topic.   

  • Major Assignment 1: Annotated Bibliography (5%)
  • Major Assignment 1.2: Revised Annotated Bibliography (15%) 
  • Major Assignment 2.1: Proposal (5%)
  • Major Assignment 2.2: Revised Proposal (15%)
  • Major Assignment 3.1: Final Project (10%)
  • Major Assignment 3.2: Revised Final Project (30%)
  • Short Writing Assignments (10%)

Participation grade will be divided into:

  • Peer-reviews (mandatory)  (5%)
  • Weekly Canvas posts (required) (5%)


Required Course Readings

  • Jodie Nicotra, Becoming Rhetorical: Analyzing and Composing in a Multimedia World (required)
  • Little Longhorn Handbook (required)
  • William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style (required)


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