Department of Rhetoric & Writing
Department of Rhetoric & Writing

Andy Heermans


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Courses


RHE 309K • Rhe Of Conspiracy Theories

42855 • Spring 2022
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM PAR 6
Wr

What is a conspiracy theory, and why do people believe in them? It is easier to name an example of a conspiracy theory, such as the “moon landing hoax” or the JFK assassination, than to define the essential qualities that all conspiracy theories share. Studies suggest that nearly half the American population believes in at least one conspiracy theory, yet the accusation of being a “conspiracy theorist” can put one on the fringe of normalcy, and is often shorthand for a lack of credibility, corrupted reasoning and/or paranoia.

 

This course takes a closer look at a number of conspiracy theories and “conspiracist thinking” more broadly to develop a typology of conspiratorial rhetoric that helps answer two primary questions: what makes conspiracy theories persuasive to those who believe them, and how is giving the title of conspiracy theory or theorist itself a rhetorical act? Approaching conspiracy theories from the standpoint of rhetorical theory can help students develop the skills needed to write persuasively across intellectual boundaries and engage in ethical argumentation at a historical moment when conspiratorial thinking has particularly high visibility and rhetorical efficacy in broad political and cultural conversations in America, despite the premises they can present. Further, understanding the basic rhetorical features of conspiracy theories and considering the title itself will help students navigate the argumentative landscapes they face in the new world where terms and concepts like “alternative truth”, “post-fact”, and “fake-news” abound and claim to define the philosophical and intellectual climate of our current time.

 

Required Texts

 Nicotra, Becoming Rhetorical

 *We will be reading a number of selected chapters of this textbook along with many supplementary writings. Please note that all non-textbook readings will be made available as pdfs via Canvas, free to access on the internet, or accessible via the UT library database. If you have financial or accessibility concerns regarding the required text, please contact me via Canvas or email.

RHE 309K • Rhe Of Conspiracy Theories

43870 • Fall 2021
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM FAC 9
Wr

What exactly are conspiracy theories, and why are they so popular? At this point, it is easier to name an example, be it the “moon landing hoax”, the JFK assassination, 9/11 as an “inside job”, or “Q-anon”, than it is to define the essential qualities that all conspiracy theories share. Studies suggest that nearly half the American population believes at least one conspiracy theory, yet the accusation of being a “conspiracy theorist” can put one on the fringe of normalcy, and is often shorthand for lack of credibility, corrupted reasoning and/or paranoia. The question of conspiracy theories presents two paradoxical facts: that humans do conspire, and that people believe things patently false through rhetorics of conspiracy.

 

This course takes a closer look at a number of conspiracy theories and “conspiratorial thinking” more broadly to have students think critically about the conspiratorial rhetoric they encounter and/or participate in. The course focuses broadly on two questions: what makes conspiracy theories persuasive to those who believe them, and how is giving the title of conspiracy theory or theorist itself a rhetorical act? Approaching conspiracy theories from the standpoint of rhetorical theory allows students to develop the skills needed to write persuasively across intellectual boundaries and engage in ethical argumentation at a historical moment when conspiratorial thinking has particularly high visibility and rhetorical efficacy in ongoing American socio-political conversations.

 

Assignments and Grading

  • Annotated Bibliography (15%)
  • Figures of Conspiracy Theories Dictionary (10%)
  • Rhetorical Analysis (single source) (15%)
  • Revision (15%)
  • Final Argument (10%)
  • Revision (15%)
  • In-Class / Short Writing Activities, & Participation (20%)

 

Texts

  • Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing, Losh and Alexander, 2nd edition.
  • Everything’s an Argument, Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, 7th edition

RHE 309K • Rhet Of Conspiracy Theories

42770 • Spring 2020
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM FAC 7
Wr

What is a conspiracy theory, and why do people believe in them? At this point, it is easier to name an example, be it the “moon landing hoax”, the JFK assassination, 9/11 as an “inside job”, or “pizzagate”, than it is to define the essential qualities that all conspiracy theories share. Studies suggest that nearly half the American population believes at least one conspiracy theory, yet the accusation of being a “conspiracy theorist” can put one on the fringe of normalcy, and is often shorthand for lack of credibility, corrupted reasoning and/or paranoia. The question of conspiracy theories presents two paradoxical facts: that humans do conspire, and that people believe things patently false through rhetorics of conspiracy.

This course takes a closer look at a number of conspiracy theories and “conspiratorial thinking” more broadly to have students think critically about the conspiratorial rhetoric they encounter and/or participate in. The course focuses broadly on two questions: what makes conspiracy theories persuasive to those who believe them, and how is giving the title of conspiracy theory or theorist itself a rhetorical act? Approaching conspiracy theories from the standpoint of rhetorical theory allows students to develop the skills needed to write persuasively across intellectual boundaries and engage in ethical argumentation at a historical moment when conspiratorial thinking has particularly high visibility and rhetorical efficacy in American socio-political conversations. 

Assignments :

  • Annotated Bibliography (15%)
  • Figures of Conspiracy Theories Dictionary (10%)
  • Rhetorical Analysis (single source) (15%)
  • Revision (15%)
  • Final Argument (10%)
  • Revision (15%)
  • In-Class / Short Writing Activities, & Participation (20%)

Required Text(s) 

  • Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing, Losh and Alexander, 2nd edition.
  • Everything’s an Argument, Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, 7th edition

RHE 309K • Rhet Of Conspiracy Theories

42535 • Fall 2019
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM FAC 7
Wr

What is a conspiracy theory, and why do people believe in them? At this point, it is easier to name an example, be it the “moon landing hoax”, the JFK assassination, 9/11 as an “inside job”, or “pizzagate”, than it is to define the essential qualities that all conspiracy theories share. Studies suggest that nearly half the American population believes at least one conspiracy theory, yet the accusation of being a “conspiracy theorist” can put one on the fringe of normalcy, and is often shorthand for lack of credibility, corrupted reasoning and/or paranoia. The question of conspiracy theories presents two paradoxical facts: that humans do conspire, and that people believe things patently false through rhetorics of conspiracy.

 

This course takes a closer look at a number of conspiracy theories and “conspiratorial thinking” more broadly to have students think critically about the conspiratorial rhetoric they encounter and/or participate in. The course focuses broadly on two questions: what makes conspiracy theories persuasive to those who believe them, and how is giving the title of conspiracy theory or theorist itself a rhetorical act? Approaching conspiracy theories from the standpoint of rhetorical theory allows students to develop the skills needed to write persuasively across intellectual boundaries and engage in ethical argumentation at a historical moment when conspiratorial thinking has particularly high visibility and rhetorical efficacy in American socio-political conversations. 

Assignments :

  • Annotated Bibliography (15%)
  • Figures of Conspiracy Theories Dictionary (10%)
  • Rhetorical Analysis (single source) (15%)
  • Revision (15%)
  • Final Argument (10%)
  • Revision (15%)
  • In-Class / Short Writing Activities, & Participation (20%)

Required Text(s) 

  • Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing, Losh and Alexander, 2nd edition.
  • Everything’s an Argument, Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, 7th edition

RHE F309K • Rhet Of Conspiracy Theories

83395 • Summer 2019
Meets MTWTHF 11:30AM-1:00PM PAR 308
Wr

What is a conspiracy theory, and why do people believe in them? At this point, it is easier to name an example, be it the “moon landing hoax”, the JFK assassination, 9/11 as an “inside job”, or “pizzagate”, than it is to define the essential qualities that all conspiracy theories share. Studies suggest that nearly half the American population believes at least one conspiracy theory, yet the accusation of being a “conspiracy theorist” can put one on the fringe of normalcy, and is often shorthand for lack of credibility, corrupted reasoning and/or paranoia. The question of conspiracy theories presents two paradoxical facts: that humans do conspire, and that people believe things patently false through rhetorics of conspiracy. 

This course takes a closer look at a number of conspiracy theories and “conspiratorial thinking” more broadly to have students think critically about the conspiratorial rhetoric they encounter and/or participate in. The course focuses broadly on two questions: what makes conspiracy theories persuasive to those who believe them, and how is giving the title of conspiracy theory or theorist itself a rhetorical act? Approaching conspiracy theories from the standpoint of rhetorical theory allows students to develop the skills needed to write persuasively across intellectual boundaries and engage in ethical argumentation at a historical moment when conspiratorial thinking has particularly high visibility and rhetorical efficacy in American socio-political conversations.

Assignments : 

  • Annotated Bibliography (15%)
  • Figures of Conspiracy Theories Dictionary (10%)
  • Rhetorical Analysis (single source) (15%)
  • Revision (15%)
  • Final Argument (10%)
  • Revision (15%)
  • In-Class / Short Writing Activities, & Participation (20%)

Required Text(s) 

  • Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing, Losh and Alexander, 2nd edition.
  • Everything’s an Argument, Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz, 7th edition

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