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).
Courseware reader will be available through the UWaterloo Bookstore. Ideally by late July.
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 will examine the formal and imaginative innovations the “Oriental tale” afforded Romantic writers and readers, from William Beckford’s scandalous novel Vathek to the rise of the “metrical romance,” which quickly became the one of the era’s most popular poetic genres. Romantic writers took Orientalist caricatures as an occasion to proffer their readers indulgent fantasies, but also used the genre to think through the problems attendant upon the British empire’s increasingly global colonial efforts. Often the collaboration between literary and political aspects of Orientalism was more overt. Byron’s “Turkish” tales, for example, can be read as the wildly popular poems that made him famous, but Byron’s death in the Greek wars of independence, while preparing an attack on an Ottoman stronghold, is a different kind of text altogether. We will conclude with Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, a novel that, in addition to setting Byron and the Shelleys in the context of global politics, imagines humanity’s extinction as a direct outcome of European interventionist wars in Turkey.
One thing we will do, then, is to see what happens to our picture of Romanticism (and the Romantic canon) when our point of entry is the literature of global empire. As a result, the course will also serve as an introduction to issues and problems in postcolonial studies, the history of religion, and the theory of the secular.
R. W. Emerson writes that “language is fossil poetry,” continuing a tradition of thought that would have the origins of language rooted in poetic expression. Mirroring this idea, poetry has long been interested in the historical dimension of the language it employs, even as knowledge about the nature, origins, and development of language (and our language) have undergone periods of radical revision. Though the “truth” of etymology (which means, etymologically, “a discourse about true meanings”) may hold little sway over contemporary thinking about language, poetry since Saussure has continued to find value in truths, myths, and fables that make up the life stories of words. In this course we will read a selection of poems and essays that have been animated by a historical sense of the language, along with recent theory and criticism addressing this topic.
This course examines the intersections of the “material turn” in rhetorical theory: what Kristin Arola dubbed “OOO/PH/NM/AS”—inclusive of object-oriented ontology/post-humanism/new materialism/affect studies. While drawing on landmark works in these areas, this course also seeks to disrupt a linear narrative of ontological theories that primarily draw on Eurowestern theory to make their cases, focusing on decolonial, Indigenous, and material feminist works to imagine new possibilities for rhetorical intra-actions.
This course examines the game studies field through the lens of games designed for awareness and understanding of complex issues and topics. We will examine games that simulate historical, social, political topics and more, with the goal of determining the degree to which the participatory nature of games can provide rich insight into these issues and concerns. RCD students will have the opportunity to apply rhetorical theories within the context of game studies through these games, while XDM students will be expected to design one or more game elements – narrative, mechanics, aesthetics, interactions – that enhance the points of the game concepts.
No textbook purchase necessary.
“Literature and Medicine” explores how and why authors from the 19th through the 21st centuries use a variety of literary forms, genres, styles, and media to represent medical experiences. We will consider what motivates authors to write about these topics, how literary representation of medical issues compares to writing in other disciplines (e.g. science, medicine, law), and how these authors’ rhetorical decisions set up broader social, cultural, and political arguments as they represent embodied medical experiences. We will address concepts such as “narrative medicine,” “autopathography,” and medical ethics; and we will engage with texts that address a range of diagnoses.
770: Black Lives Matter, Black Writing, and the Production of Public Space (LIT/RCD/XDM) - W. Siemerling
In this course we will explore the production of public space in light of some of the issues raised by Black Lives Matter. We will look at two related questions. First, how do monuments, street names, and other markers segment time and produce public space, and what is at stake in the debates that ask for the removal of statues and the changing of names, or alternatively for the public contextualization of their racist legacies? And second, how do black literary texts and works of art seek to produce different kinds of public geographies, and counter the dominant parceling out of time and space that results from imperial and colonial histories?
We will begin by examining focal points in a number of cities, including North American examples and cities crucial for the European slave trade such as Bristol and Liverpool in England and Bordeaux and Nantes in France. We will then concentrate on spaces closer to home and look at related issues in cities including Toronto (Dundas Street, Baby Point, Russell Street), Montreal (Old Montreal, Saint Henri), Halifax (Africville), and Vancouver (Hogan’s Alley). In the second part of the course, we will explore a number of black Canadian writings that can help us to reflect on the production of (black) Canadian space and the city. The course lends itself to LIT, RCD, and XDM perspectives, and students are invited to propose additional works and spaces for examination in their final project.
This course focuses on exemplar texts and events within the theme of social change, advocacy, and activism in a number of public spheres. We will examine the roles literature and writers can play in contemporary social justice movements; survey a range of rhetorical and representational tools used by social actors in petition, protest, and actions of dissent; and explore rhetorics of advocacy and activism.
In this course, we’ll examine the rhetorical precedents for cultural, structural, and genocidal violence. Taking up the question of by what means citizens are called to participate (by omission or commission) in the construction and subsequent repression, oppression, or annihilation of a collective Other, we will examine primary historical artifacts including texts, images, and films designed to incite violence. We will look also at works composed or made in service of resistance, protest, and, finally, of witness and remembrance. Alongside these primary texts, we will examine the variety of ways in which violence and, in particular, the language of violence has been theorized by scholars within and beyond the field of rhetorical studies.
Cole, Desmond (2020). The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power. Doubleday Canada.
Maynard, Robyn (2017). Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present. Fernwood Publishing.
Martinez, Aja Y. (2020). Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory. Studies in Writing and Rhetoric (SWR/CCCC/NCTE).
Mills, Charles W. (1997). The Racial Contract. Cornell University Press.
Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake (2017). As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. University of Minnesota Press.
Additional Readings will Include:
Ahmed, Sara. “The Phenomenology of Whiteness”
Benjamin, Walter. “Critique of Violence”
Bourdieu, Pierre and Loic Wacquant. “Symbolic Violence”
Fanon, Franz. “Concerning Violence”
This course will provide students with a graduate-level introduction to the theories, methods, and materials of critical discourse analysis. CDA takes the view that most discourses reproduce and recirculate dominant social and political formations, that, in essence, everyday language practices and hegemonic ideology are deeply interwoven. Drawing on tools from grammar, linguistics, semiotics, Marxism, and social theory, CDA pries open otherwise opaque texts and practices to reveal that they are profoundly shaped by dynamic social forces and structures that are themselves realized in discourse. Power relations, in particular, come in for special examination: power becomes observable as the subject ventriloquizes the discourses that have in fact ventriloquized the subject. Social and discursive resistance is not impossible but submission is much more attractive. The aim of CDA is unapologetically old-fashioned: to contest oppressive social relations and practices by exposing them to the light of critical scrutiny. Case studies in this course will be derived from contemporary business and environmental discourses. Among the primary readings are texts by Marx, Bahktin, Jakobson, Austin, Bourdieu, Foucault, Althusser, Norman Fairclough, Deborah Schiffrin, Deborah Tannen, Teun Van Dijk, Gunther Kress, Stuart Hall, and Ruth Wodak.
The Discourse Reader (3rd. edition) edited by Adam Jaworski and Nikolas Coupland
Language and Power, Norman Fairclough
How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis, David Machin and Andrea Mayr
This course offers a novel approach to the rhetorical canon of delivery and its significance for literary studies (and to the significance of literature for rhetorical studies) by examining the reception of cutting-edge ideas about effective communication among the poets and novelists working in the late eighteenth century and romantic period. The period c. 1760 to 1820 saw the flourishing of the so-called elocutionary movement, a set of rhetorical thinkers in Britain such as Thomas Sheridan, Joshua Steele, and Gilbert Austin, who sought to make the classical canon of delivery central to the communication of the era. Elocutionary theories and practices of tone, gesture, and demeanour, meant for orators in politics, law, and religion, and related to ideas of effective theatrical communication, also and surprisingly triggered a variety of responses among the creative writers of the period, such as Sterne, Wordsworth, and Austen. We’ll explore the implications of this cultural ferment not only for period authors, but for the study of rhetoric and literature more generally, both together and individually. Topics such as voice, memory, style, and agency (human and animal) will be considered.
The course will move through material for discussion in seminar as follows:
1. First, we will familiarize ourselves with the elocutionary movement itself, the leading theory of communication of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The movement is exciting for the light it sheds on issues of communication in an age of rapidly changing media; relations between language and performance; and between delivery (elocution) and the other aspects of rhetoric such as style and memory. If anyone is interested in language and music, there is much to enjoy here as well!
Key elocutionary texts, all of which will be read through the digital facsimiles freely available through the UW library:
Thomas Sheridan, A Course of Lectures on Elocution
Joshua Steele, An Essay Towards Establishing the Melody and Measure of Speech to be Expressed and Perpetuated by Peculiar Symbols
John Walker, Elements of Elocution
Gilbert Austin, Chironomia; or, A Treatise on Rhetorical Delivery
2. Second, once we have familiarized ourselves with the elocutionary movement, we will turn to an examination of some literary responses to the resources and limitations of elocutionary ideas. Key literary works, all of which are available through the bookstore:
Smart, Jubilate Agno (excerpts)
Wordsworth, Poems in Two Volumes (selections)
Sterne, A Sentimental Journey
3. Separately, some optional material that may be of interest to seminar participants and which helps to capture some of the media-related aspects of elocution:
Paula McDowell, The Invention of the Oral: Print Commerce and Fugitive Voices in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Alexis Tadié, Sterne’s Whimsical Theatres of Language: Orality, Gesture, Literacy
Julia Carlson, Romantic Marks and Measures: Wordsworth's Poetry in Fields of Print
Debra Hawhee, Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw: Animals, Language, Sensation
In January, 1983, Time magazine named the “personal computer” as its ‘Machine of the Year’ in lieu of selecting a human agent as its more usual ‘Man [sic] of the Year.’ Time claims to single out for its annual honour “the single person (man, woman, or even idea) who, for better or worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year” (Friedrich). The article represents the attainment of a cultural high-water mark: the moment of the emergence of the microcomputer as a mainstream technology of North American society. Since, actually, not very many people used, let alone owned these machines, the accelerating ‘computerization’ of society was a discourse brought to the fore of public debate in the 1980s largely through the popular figuration of a new, ‘personal,’ computer: the personal computer revolution was heralded as much by industrial design, by narrative representation in fiction, and by advertising as much as it was by breakthroughs in microprocessor engineering. This course, then, traces this more complex biography of the Personal Computer from the later 1960s to the dawn of the WWW era.
The course offers an interdisciplinary method of engaging the history of computing, one which braids strands of history, technology and design, popular culture, literary studies to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of the mechanisms and impacts of “technological change.” Students will read period fiction, do primary research on pop culture materials in print and online, as consider questions of design and code, as well as train in materialism, postmodern theory, software studies, and science and technology studies.
The graded work in the course offers structured training and assessment in oral presentation, primary research, different genres of public writing, literary analysis, and affordance theory.
This course views the act of eating as a biological necessity that requires the confrontation of one’s relationship with others and with the environment. Eating and the process of digestion establishes that the boundaries between inside and outside, between self and other are porous. As such, as much as to be the eater is to be empowered, to be the eater is also to encounter one’s vulnerabilities and dependencies. Furthermore, it is to acknowledge how edible matter acts upon and in fact forms the body. Focussing largely on texts that render monstrous our appetites and our bodies abject/grotesque, this course asks what do we fear when we fear eating and/or being eaten. To explore these ideas, our course will combine a study of critical scholarship regarding such fields as Food Studies, the Body, and Race/Culture with a study of literary and other object texts (including television shows, advertisements, and awareness campaigns). Possible themes of study include capitalist consumption of bodies (transatlantic slave trade), the abject body, survival cannibalism, hunger strikes, eating disorders, and famine.
In the Age of Shakespeare, rhetorical training formed the core of the educational curriculum, and rhetorical practice lay at the heart of law, politics, and literature. For the aspiring poet and dramatist, “rhetoric” meant not just a nice turn of phrase, or even “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” In addition, rhetoric provided writers like Shakespeare with a multi-faceted toolkit that included a mode of intellectual inquiry, a technique of emotional identification, a means of character creation, a source of stylistic variety and richness, a thematics of political control or, alternatively, of political engagement, and above all a method for inventing and structuring exploratory fictions. In this class we will investigate Shakespeare’s relationship to the traditions and culture of rhetoric, and consider a number of prominent critical approaches to that relationship. Works to be studied include Othello, Coriolanus, Troilus and Cressida, The Rape of Lucrece, Cymbeline, Antony and Cleopatra, Richard III, and Henry V. Critics will include Joel Altman, Patricia Parker, David Norbrook, Lynne Magnusson, and David Schalkwyk.
A novel makes no noise as it sits in your hands. But the figuration of sound in fiction is crucial to the construction of phenomenal worlds, social realities, ethical subjects. Sight is our dominant sense. Held at a distance, the world is stabilized for the gaze. We might expect that sound, which surrounds and penetrates, will constitute worlds and subjects differently. Ethos, a term of rhetoric that takes in both “world-view” and “character,” notions central to the study of the novel, will guide our inquiry into this difference as it is explored in fictional representations and in narrative style – where the ethos of both author and character is bodied forth in prosody and pacing, modality and diction.
Language comes to us patterned; it leaves us patterned. The most productive patterns are realized as rhetorical figures, first explored in ancient Greece and studied in various ways ever since by rhetoricians, literary scholars, philosophers, psychologists, and linguists. But figures have been misunderstood, miscategorized, and mired in terminological swamps over the millennia. We will shake off the muck and approach them in a new, atomized, combinatoric, and pattern-defining way, using cognitive and computational approaches.
This course challenges students to think about the mediation of urban spaces since the turn of the Industrial Revolution, when condensed populations and the dawn of a new city-based lifestyle began to be recorded in new technologies such as photography and film. By discussing how the imagined and imaginary “city” thus came to be shaped discursively through media, this course considers various media forms and related cultural texts that have narrativized public spaces and their experience. Combining theory and practice, we will explore short stories, novels, films, artwork, digital tools, and interactive digital media (including popular platforms such as Instagram).
This course studies J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings from the standpoint of adaptation theory and literary/film semiotics, exploring in detail the three-part film adaptation by Peter Jackson (2001-3), the BBC radio adaptation (1981), and at least two game adaptations, one of which will be The Lord of the Rings Online (2007-current).