The systematic study of effective communication—the art of rhetoric—dates back at least to the epics of Homer and flourishes today in countless academic disciplines and fields of business. In fact, the “empire” of rhetoric is so vast and enduring that it “digests regimes, religions, and civilizations” (Roland Barthes). Nevertheless, English 700 sets out to compress two and a half millennia of rhetorical theory and criticism into a single semester. More specifically, this introductory seminar aims to provide students with the grounding in rhetorical theory necessary for advanced study in rhetoric, communication design, digital media, and literary studies. To accomplish this goal, the seminar will introduce essential concepts, frameworks, and debates in rhetorical theory by analyzing key selections from foundational texts, both ancient and contemporary. The seminar will also demonstrate the relevance of rhetorical theory and criticism to a variety of social, intellectual, and cultural fields: law, politics, science, philosophy, etc. Finally, the seminar will investigate, with the help of guest lecturers, emerging forms of rhetorical theory and practice made possible by new media technologies: digital design, information warfare, computational gaming, and others. Students will leave the seminar with a firm grasp of basic concepts, an ability to analyze rhetorical artifacts, and a deeper sense of rhetoric as an inventive, critical, multimodal, and richly interdisciplinary enterprise—what Quintilian calls an “encompassing art” (ars circumcurrens).
This course introduces students to both the theory and practice of “Critical Design,” broadly construed. Critical Design is not a field of its own, but a mode of design thinking that is informed by critical theories and research methods from the arts and humanities. Critical Design can intersect with and draw on established fields of design from graphic and UX design to industrial and urban design. The course begins with an overview of the history of design as critique, before examining the recent emergence of research-creation practices such as speculative design, critical making, discursive design, and applied media theory. The positionality of designers and audiences will be considered in readings and assignments that focus on gender, disability, race, and class. Special attention will be paid to the design of media technologies and the infrastructures that support them, which involves methods in UX design, sustainable hardware design, and digital urban design. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of course materials through writing, design, and light fabrication.
This course is an introduction to research methods used in rhetoric and writing studies. Students will become familiar with a range of methods, including methods in technical and professional communication, mixed methods, and rhetorical field methods, among others. This course allows students to map a variety of methods while understanding the relationship between practices (methods) and theoretical frameworks (methodologies), allowing students to pair appropriate methods to their own research questions. Outcomes of this course are an understanding of how to design a research project and how to support it with methods that are appropriate, feasible, flexible, and ethical.
The experience of the stranger is recorded with peculiar intensity in the novels of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. From the "dirty, ragged, black-haired child" Heathcliff pulled from beneath Mr. Earnshaw's great-coat, to the "uncongenial alien" Jane Eyre "permanently intruded" on Mrs. Reed's "family group," to the strange "tenant" that inhabits Wildfell Hall, the novels of the three Brontë sisters are powerfully attentive to the experiences of the stranger within—and separate from—family and community.
This course reads five major novels of the mid-nineteenth century written by the three Brontë focussing on strangers and estrangement. It employs diverse reading methodologies including feminism, historicism, ecocriticism, animal studies, reparative reading, formalism, critique and post critique.
This course looks at writing by medical personnel in war zones to examine how individuals translate such an extreme experience, often considered beyond language, into a narrative form. It focuses on the letters, diaries and memoirs and blogs of those whose work involves caring for the sick and wounded.
This course explores traditionally “feminine” forms of labour and crafts—such as cooking, clothes-making, and the crafty use and reuse of everyday resources—through technological design and production. If we reimagine gendered forms of labour in terms of critical design and research-creation, these usually invisible forms of making can be described with language that is more commonly applied to innovative tech initiatives and industries: performing critical and creative thinking in design and production, and applying material skills to beget objects. What is unique about feminist maker cultures, however, is an emphasis on community-based contribution (for whom do we make? With whom do we make? Can we teach others to make to empower them?) as well as an emphasis on remaking (instead of using more resources to make new objects, can we creatively remake, reuse, and upcycle existing and unwanted materials? Can we remake with garbage? Why should we remake?). In addition to putting feminist maker cultures into practice through class assignments, students will explore critical readings that emphasize an interspecies, ecological understanding of how subjects, objects, resources, and creative industries impact one another—or, what Donna Haraway calls “significant otherness.” Such readings draw upon the fields of new materialism, environmental and technological sustainability, and globalized infrastructure studies. No prior knowledge of sewing, cooking, arts/crafts, or technological design is needed. In community form, we will learn together!
Blake is known for his exaltation of the “Human Form Divine”. However, his works abound with other living things – plants, insects, animals, angels, devils, various mythological beings – all endowed with kinds and degrees of agency in creation and destruction, connection to and alienation from the divine. This course will explore the diversity of beings in Blake’s visual and verbal productions, focusing on selected Illuminated Books. We will consider in tandem Blake’s radical reimaginings of the relations of human and non-human and of image and text where (for example) vines become letters, and a Dragon-Man, a Viper, an Eagle, fiery Lions, and Unnam’d forms are all workers in the Printing house in Hell.
The concept of the frontier has been a powerful signifier of American identity since the colonial period. This course will survey representations of the frontier in American literature and culture, including text, film and television, and videogames. We will pay close attention to the textual representation of race and its intersections with sex and gender, the representation of nation and national identity, the ways in which literary texts construct and deconstruct notions of territorial entitlement, and key terms in American frontier discourse including the concepts of “civilization” and “savagery.”
This course will introduce you to the field of writing studies, pedagogies for which the field has historically and currently advocates, as well as current debates in the field
‘Language is a social art’: this relatively uncontroversial statement, uttered by the philosopher W.V.O. Quine, undergirds our commonsense understanding of what language is. We use language not only to describe things, but to make friends, coordinate the making of objects, give and receive instructions, console or attack others, and so on. In the scientific study of language, however (in linguistics and analytic philosophy of language), language is a formal system, a code that we learn and deploy: we use the system in social life, but social life isn’t in the system, which consists of words and their formal relations. In this course we explore diverse attempts to make social life part of language, rather than just the arena in which it’s used; we study arguments from rhetoric, philosophy, anthropology, sociolinguistics and writing studies that search for an idea of language as something other than a formal code or system, as in some respects the very substance of social life, where social relationships are established, maintained and reshaped.
Internet technologies have promoted a veritable explosion of life writing online in new media genres such as the personal homepage, blogs, and social networking platforms. As much as new media scholars interest themselves in understanding the writing genres and social selves created through these technologies, scholars in autobiography studies seek to bring their expertise to bear on theorizing these new modes of self-narration. These two fields—new media and autobiography—increasingly intersect, asking questions best answered with both an eye to the history and theory of life writing and to the practices and technologies of new media. Our theoretical readings will focus on poststructural understandings of the self, and we will examine these in light of how they have been taken up by both new media and autobiography theorists and practitioners.
In this course we will explore recent writings about the Anthropocene— the era in which “humans act as a main determinant of the environment of the planet” (Dipesh Chakrabarty)—in conjunction with texts and concepts drawn from critical race theory and the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer, Th. W. Adorno, and Walter Benjamin). Theorists of the Anthropocene and eco-critical thinkers have especially taken note of the Frankfurt School’s critique of “instrumental reason” and modernity, with its notions of development and techniques of domination over both nature and parts of humanity. These and other features of Frankfurt School Critical Theory have also become increasingly relevant in recent critical black studies, where scholars reflect on the relation between modernity and the slave trade, and the concomitant development of notions of blackness that continue to mark our present. We will look at this critical juncture between three important theory formations in the wider context of theories of postcoloniality and non-domination. Some literary texts will serve as test cases, while students are invited to propose additional works for examination in these theoretical contexts for their final project.
Mervyn Peake is the other Tolkien. His Gormenghast trilogy (Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone) is the equal and opposite of The Lord of the Rings. It is a shockingly original fantasy deply engaged with British modernism. Peake’s vision of the feudal past – and of urban modernity, as the two coexist jarringly in his fiction as they do not in Tolkien’s – is, however, bleak, not bucoic. His books are longer, harder, and weirder than LOTR. They begin from art history (Peake was a celebrated modernist illustrator) instead of philology; they are the opposite of Christian apology; their perspective on imperialism is dark instead of nostalgic. Peake’s prose style is baroque where Tolkien’s is simple. Gormenghast reads like Dickens as written by Kafka. There is nothing else like his imaginative world in any genre either before or si
This seminar will take the unique intertextual approach of pairing a “contemporary” novel (see Bernard Bell's The Contemporary African American Novel ) with a classical/canonical one, e.g., Andrea Lee's Lost Hearts in Italy (2006) with Larsen's Quicksand (1928); or Randall Kenan's postmodernly queer Visitation of Spirits (1989) with James Baldwin's modernist Go Tell It on the Mountain. The aim of such pairings is to allow the pursuit of intertextual rhetorical criticism, a criticism defined by examining, comparing, and troping contemporaneous discourses that form a text's “architexture.” In addition to pairing primary texts, seminarians will also engage two recent theoretical works the analyze and debate contemporary African American novel as a rhetorical phenomenon, that is, in relation to African American culture, society, politics, and public discourses, e.g, Bell (mentioned above), Kenneth Warren's provocative What Was African American Literature (2011) and Young's and Tsemo's From Bourgeois to Boojie (2011). The assignments for the course are designed to immerse students in the scholarly and cultural (that is popular) tradition of African American literature (i.e., range of writings or seminar paper, class presentation, rigorous participation, and group work).
Ethos can refer to an individual style or stance; it can refer to norms and values that govern collective life. In an esoteric sense, ethos means lair or haunt, or dwelling place. It is often conflated with a distinct but related concept, ethics. All these senses together mark out a the vital territory of the novel. We’ll test them and use them to read some 21st-century literary fiction, putting newfangled notions like autofiction and protagonicity in dialogue with the more familiar genre, character, and realism, considering its manner and style, the way it constructs worlds, its placefulness and persuasiveness.
Literature—that is, texts ranging from proverbs and jokes to games and TikToks—is what gives us the attitudes, procedures, and roles with which we live our lives. We will examine what literature is doing to us, how it can console and nurture and grow us, as well as embitter and twist and stunt us; how and why we should embrace some literature, how and why we should resist other literature.
While digital games (console, mobile, computer) represent by far the largest component of the games industry from the standpoints of revenue generation, audience size, and scholarship produced, the boardgame has not only persevered, it has shown significant recent growth. Part of this growth can be attributed to the rise of the tablet as a medium for playing boardgames, with the tablet becoming the game board, but a greater part is the growth of what's called the German-style boardgame, or “Euro-game”, of which Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Agricola, Ticket to Ride, Tigris & Euphrates, and Carcassonne are among the best-known examples. The designers of these games (Reiner Knizia, Wolfgang Kramer, Alan R. Moon, etc.) strive to create games for adults (the most populous audiences range from 12-40 years of age), in which strategy combines with theme - historical, political, economic, for example - to create a light simulation of a particular process or event that occurs, or has occurred, in the world. But light simulations are not the only type of simulation boardgames out there: games that attempt more detailed simulations continue to be made, drawn from domains such as economics, politics, and warfare. This course studies the design elements that underlie simulation boardgames, framing those elements in the context of readings in rhetoric and games. The goal of the course is for students to generate critical analyses of existing simulation boardgames and to engage in the process of designing a simulation boardgame.