Seminar in Rhetoric: Postmodern Rhetorics

This course is designed to introduce students to different concepts, questions, and currents that have been circulating through the world of contemporary rhetorical theory. The course is structured like a survey; it’s intended to provide students with a quick introduction to a variety of different modes of engagement in works of theory, as well as different kinds of theoretical questions. The goals of the course are to make students familiar with the theoretical tradition of the last half of the 20th century and, thus, to offer them an introduction to the works that continue to inform currents in scholarship in the Humanities today.

Students will not need to be specifically interested in the field of Rhetoric and Composition to engage with the readings, as many of the readings are valued by scholars working in literary theory and critical theory.

The overarching questions in this course are as follows: How did scholars in the last half of the 20th century revise and complicate conceptions of language, subjectivity, culture, and power? How did they “revise and complicate” not only conceptually but in practice in their writings? What are the implications of particular efforts to revise and complicate in a theory-practice relation? How do those efforts disrupt the binary of theory and practice?

Student Learning Outcomes

Analyze required texts according to the contexts within which they recur

Identify and evaluate scholarship relevant to a chosen topic

Enter the scholarly conversation about that topic through the processes of inventing (e.g., brainstorming, researching), drafting and revising research-based writings

Major Assignments

Weekly response papers. Students will maintain blogs in which they summarize the larger stakes of each piece that is due each week, by responding to any of the following questions: 1. What issue is the text responding to? 2. How does the text configure the issue or practice to which it’s responding? 3. What are the text’s major points of intervention? 4. How might the text relate to other interventions that we’ve read in the course?

Scholarship survey. Students will provide a survey of the literature in their respective fields that has taken up the work we are grappling with on a particular week. The paper is both an annotated bibliography and a general overview of how the theory is working (i.e., how it is has been inherited and how it is being used) in the field.

Research paper. Students will produce a seminar paper at the end of the semester. It should be research based. Since this is a survey course, I don’t expect students to construct a publishable argument, though they certainly again, if they choose. They may choose, instead, to pursue further some of the work they took up in their scholarly surveys in order to learn more about a particular theorist/theory, or they may seek to apply that theory to a particular question or problem. Students should work closely with me to narrow down and develop the paper.

Possible Readings

Nietzsche. “Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.”

Burke. A Rhetoric of Motives. “Definition of Man.” “Terministic Screens.”

deSaussure. selections from Course in General Linguistics.

Barthes “The Death of the Author.”

Foucault. “What is an Author?”

Derrida. “Signature, Event, Context.”

Deleuze and Guattari. “Introduction: Rhizome.”

Lyotard. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.

Baudrillard. “The Precession of Simulacra.”

Adorno and Horkheimer. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.”

Irigaray. “The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine.”

Cixous. “Laugh of the Medusa.”

Haraway. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs.”

Butler. “Introduction to Bodies that Matter.”

Butler. “Critically Queer.”

Warner. “Introduction to Fear of a Queer Planet.”

Gates. “Writing Race and the Difference it Makes.”

Nealon. “Becoming Black.”

Spivak. “Subaltern Studies.”

Foucault. The History of Sexuality. Vol I-III.

Castricano. Animal Subjects: An Ethical Reader in a Posthuman World.

Haraway. Staying with the Trouble.