Writing & Rhetoric Seminars
In each Seminar in Writing and Rhetoric, students encounter the two central aspects of the humanistic tradition of rhetorical education: argumentation and effective oral and written expression. Students in these seminars develop the intellectual habits and language capabilities to construct persuasive arguments and to write and speak effectively for academic and civic purposes.
AFAM 110: Imaging Blackness: Black Film and Black Identity
The study of film is a key aspect of visual rhetoric, a growing area of academic interest linking film studies and rhetorical theory. This seminar focuses in on the study of popular, visual images as public argument. As such, the course examines the political economy (ownership, production, dissemination), engages in a textual/visual analysis (what does it say, what meanings are embedded), and examines audience reception of black film (how do audiences understand and use these media images). Such examination is to explore how these films function as public argument advocating particular views of black identity while contesting counter arguments as part of a larger agenda of promoting blacks and shaping US public life. Satisfies the Seminar in Writing core requirement.
ART 150: Constructions of Identity in the Visual Arts
How does an individual “show” power, status, or place in society? How are societal norms confirmed or denied in artistic works? In this course visual representations of authority, gender, and identity provide a broad basis for the study and practice of the rhetorical arts. Students become familiar with the elements of persuasive writing and oratory, and learn to refine these skills through exercises based on the analysis of primary texts (by authors such as Quintilian and Leonardo Bruni) and secondary literature. By analyzing both the rhetorical expression of visual arts and a variety of arguments about visual culture, students develop the ability to clearly articulate their own views, and to logically appraise the arguments of others. Extensive written assignments and oral debates emphasize the thoughtful development and nuanced expression of students’ own perspectives and opinions. Although Italian Renaissance works comprises much of the course material, the course also covers artistic constructions of civic and personal identity from ancient Rome to the present. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
BIOL 150: Science in the News
This course examines how the media presents science to the public, and it offers extensive practice in communication, both written and oral. Students critically analyze the rhetorical devices used in formal scientific communications and mass media science “stories.” The class pays particular attention to how and why the “message” changes as it makes its way from scientific publications to the mass media. Students have the opportunity to apply their analytical and rhetorical skills to a “science in the media” topic of their choosing. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
COMM 102: Social Scientific Argumentation
This course considers the nature of social scientific arguments and the standards used to judge “good” social science. Students learn how to read and interpret the literature in social scientific journals, discuss issues related to the philosophy of the social sciences, study basic experimental design, and consider standards of peer review and ethical treatment of human subjects. These issues can be used to explore how social scientific evidence is used to formulate and document public policy arguments. The goal is to encounter two central aspects of the humanistic tradition of rhetorical education: argumentation and effective oral and written expression. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
COMM 103: Rhetoric of Adventure
Adventure stories provide thematic backbone to contemporary nation building enterprises as they foreground the acts of heroes in the exploration of new territories; justify the taken-for-granted assumptions of the colonial subject; establish relationships based upon race, gender, and class; and privilege adventurers' epistemologies into the spaces and placed entered. Specifically, this course focuses on the processes of representation and narrative within contemporary mountaineering discourse pertaining to Mount Everest and the Himalayas. The course is broken into two interrelated components. In the first section the class reads and analyzes works about mountaineering from climbers such as Jamling Norgay, Jon Krakauer, and Lene Gammelgaard. In this section, students pose and make arguments for questions such as ‘what makes a hero” and “what are the ethics of mountaineering?” In the second section, students read those texts as constitutive representations pertaining to nation and empire, race and gender, and colonialism. Over the course of the term, students research a geographical location and time period in process toward a final project. For this project students present written and oral arguments regarding the interrelationship between an “ethic of mountaineering” and their selected location, analyze the narratives of that location, and provide context to the roles of adventure narratives within contemporary culture. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
COMM 105: The Rhetoric of Race Relations: From Abolition to Civil Rights and Beyond
This seminar is designed to investigate and analyze American political and social discussions of race. Specifically, the seminar focuses on the process of rhetorical advocacy devoted to the topic of Anglo/African-American relationships. Students engage in the critical analysis of message design and construction; this includes attention to issues of argument strategy, message structure, style and language, and the process of locating a message in its historically specific context. Students learn how to analyze, construct, and present messages of advocacy for particular public policies. The seminar is designed to enhance students’ understanding of the range of strategic options and resources available to public advocates, to nurture students’ ability to analyze and evaluate public discourse, and to give students experience in advocating for or against public policies governing race relations in American culture. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
COMM 106: Science and Equality
Although Thomas Jefferson claimed in 1776 that “all men are created equal,” subsequent events in U.S. history demonstrate that achieving equality for all people remains an elusive goal. In particular, public debates regarding the rights and privileges of African-Americans and immigrant groups have been influenced by scientific controversies regarding group differences in intellectual and moral capacity. In this course, the class uses the lens of argumentative analysis to critically examine claims regarding “natural” group differences in ability. In particular, students examine critically the use of statistical reasoning by scientists to both support and challenge claims regarding group differences and explore the implications of this debate for contemporary public policy issues, such as affirmative action, the use of standardized tests in schools, and educational policies. Students prepare and debate presentations on contemporary and historic policy issues as well as research essays on key issues and figures in this historical debate. Students also gain experience in rational deliberation over topics that can elicit strong emotions. Through course assignments each class member examines critically his or her own beliefs about social equality and social justice. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
COMM 107: Rhetoric, Film and National identity: Seminar in Writing and Rhetoric
This course approaches the study of argumentation using popular film as primary source material. Film texts provide the basis for critical examination of public disputation about the politics of public memory and collective identity. The course is concerned with both argument through film and argument about film in other public venues. This course links film and national identity to gender, race and social class. Some films included in this course have an “R” rating, such as “JFK” and “Born on the 4th of July.” Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
COMM 108: The Rhetoric of Contradiction in Work-Life
This seminar is designed to investigate and analyze rhetoric of contradictions in work-life. In particular it focuses on the paradoxes of the American work life in public discourse, individual narratives, and social science research. Readings and discussions focus on a number of stock issues facing contemporary workers including, but not limited to: race, gender, class, equal opportunity, family and medical leave, work-life balance, and changing structures in work life (ex: surveillance and privacy). Students are required to reflect critically upon taken-for-granted assumptions about workers, the workplace, the nature of organizations, and the place of organizations in society. Students read primary texts, allowing them to learn how to critically analyze message design and construction, including attention to issues of argument strategy, message structure, style and language, and the process of locating a message in its historically specific context. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
COMM 110: Contemporary Controversies
This course examines the rhetorical dynamics of three distinct forms of public controversy: controversies over factual claims (e.g. does the phenomenon "global warming" exist?), controversies over value claims (e.g. aesthetic or moral evaluations as in "that is a good film" or "that type of behavior is evil"), and controversies over policy claims (e.g. "the United States should invade Iraq"). In the process of examining these controversies, students encounter the two central aspects of the humanistic tradition of rhetorical education: argumentation and effective oral and written expression. Students engage in a variety of activities and exercises and prepare a number of projects designed to develop their fluency in written composition and oral expression and refine their ability to argue in a variety of contexts (e.g. academic, civic). Satisfies the Seminar in Writing and Rhetoric core requirement.
CSOC 121: African Families and the Politics of Culture
The African people puzzle their observers, for they seem both traditional and modern at the same time. Although Africa is the most ancient continent and has the greatest degree of cultural and linguistic diversity found in the world, it is one of the least understood areas by many people, including Americans. Furthermore, much understanding of African peoples and cultures comes from popular sources such as newspapers, magazines (National Geographic), and Hollywood films. Using the tool of rhetoric, the study and practice of persuasive and effective communication in oral, written, and visual forms, this course challenges students to critically analyze and evaluate representations of Africa and Africans. Students engage in the art and pragmatics of careful listening, and the crafting of convincing verbal expressions properly informed by an understanding of audience, purpose, and context. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ECON 102: Controversies in Contemporary Economics
This seminar introduces argumentation through a wide variety of controversial public policy issues and social problems. The class explores how the US economy works and how economic incentives and institutions are related to social problems, For each issue or problem, the class develops a theoretical analysis and evaluation of alternative economic policies. A key aspect of the analysis is evaluating the value judgments inherent in many social policies. Depending (to some degree) on the interests of the students, issues and problems the course addresses include: economic growth, the federal deficit, trade policy, monopoly, poverty and welfare, the minimum wage, environmental degradation, health care provision, the economics of higher education, and the economics of crime. This introduction to augmentation is coupled with developing the student’s skills in oral and written expression. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 120: Ideas and Arguments on Stage
A seminar in written and oral argument, focusing on themes raised in and by classical and contemporary plays. The plays challenge us to consider questions of freedom, authority and responsibility in a civil society and about the competing claims of past and future, of art and politics, of the individual, the community, and different groups within the community. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 122: Seeing Texts and Writing Contexts
This course emphasizes argumentation and the development of oral and written communication skills. It explores the interaction of verbal, visual, oral, and electronic discourses in representative texts from the fields of literature, the visual arts, and popular culture. This class presents rhetorical techniques and analytical and evaluative methodologies appropriate to college-level work in the liberal arts, and it offers intensive practice in writing, revising, and orally presenting arguments. Students write and orally present a series of arguments about the construction and interpretation of visual and verbal iconography and analyze, evaluate, and discuss the narrative techniques and persuasive strategies employed by verbal and visual texts in established literary and artistic traditions. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 123: Individual Rights and Common Good
This course focuses on some of the controversies that surround and inform our notions of individual rights and the common good. What freedoms should an individual have? What are the individual’s responsibilities to the family or the community? How do we balance competing needs? The class examines texts that raise issues about these questions and explores these controversies orally and in writing. Students also receive practice in analysis and revision as they learn to employ extensive feedback and provide it for others. Argument lies at the heart of this course, but the class also considers how to listen carefully and work for cooperation and consensus rather than antagonistic relationships. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 124: “See What I Mean?”: The Rhetoric of Words and Images
This seminar studies two important, ubiquitous phenomena: argumentation and perception. It aims to develop a greater understanding of how we argue in civic settings and of how we see in literal and figurative ways. What are some different, productive ways to look – and look again – at a text? How can we improve the ways we communicate what we see in texts and arguments? To what extent are arguments based in perception, and to what extent is perception a kind of argument? How can we make convincing arguments – in writing and orally – about what we think about when we see? Such questions help to connect argumentation and seeing. The class studies and applies fundamental concepts of rhetoric (including argumentation), and serves to strengthen students' ability to write and speak effectively in academic and civic circles. The class studies ways of analyzing texts, speeches, and visual “texts” like films and architecture. These studies include taking positions, gathering evidence, thinking about what the people we communicate with expect from our writing and speaking, anticipating arguments that oppose our own, changing our minds about issues, arranging presentations and essays for best effect, and so on. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 125: Civic Argument and the Theatre of Democracy
Writing and Rhetoric provide students with valuable composition and speaking skills for academic and private life. This course explores the relationship between a vibrant civic theater and politically self-conscious peoples. Some of the artists whose work is read and experienced in the class wrote in climates of political censorship and persecution. Others argue that racism or sexism makes a national theater impossible, for playing to the oppressors is itself a moral capitulation. Each play read invites the class to explore the way that drama can challenge, subvert, support, or critique notions of order, whether of gender, race, class, religion or politics, being a powerful tool for public argument. Students write three process essays, building written arguments through discussion, prewriting, class presentation, formal and informal debate. At the end of the semester, students produce a written proposal for oral presentation. Students learn to recognize and employ the elements essential to effective argumentation: concise language and a clear style, logical signposts and transitions, appropriate use of evidence and attention to logical fallacies. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 126: Genre Studies in Literature
This course examines the history, cultural contexts, and distinctive stylistic features and thematic preoccupations of a specific literary genre. In the process, it presents rhetorical techniques and analytical and evaluative methodologies appropriate to college-level work in the liberal arts and offers extensive and intensive practice in writing, revising, and orally presenting arguments. Students write and orally present arguments advancing critical claims about texts written in a specific literary genre and examine the genre’s place in and effects upon contemporary culture. Possible areas of inquiry for this course include autobiography, nature writing, the Bildungsroman, lyric poetry, or the essay. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 127 An Opinion about Everything
Not only in the academy, but also in private and professional life, arguing carefully considered opinions is a key characteristic of a vital and well educated person. One of the original meanings of to argue is “to make clear.” Accordingly, this course explores effective and persuasive techniques in precisely making clear in written and oral communications that which you believe. This course focuses on timely issues in contemporary essays and aesthetic issues in creative literature and film. And, yes, students will be expected to have an opinion on everything. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 128: Shaping the Shadow: Argument and Insight
This course treats written and oral presentations as ways to develop critical thought, rhetorical understanding, and the clear expression of ideas in argumentation. Using a variety of texts, including literary nonfiction, fiction, poetry, film and/or visual arts, students draft and revise a series of writing and speaking assignments. The primary goal of this seminar is to learn to compose, present, and evaluate arguments, including how to address opposing arguments fairly (pro/con reasoning) and how to deal with logical fallacies, emotional appeals, stereotypes, and other elements of persuasions. With a growing sense of stylistic elegance, the course also explores aspects of argumentation such as appropriate voice and awareness of audience. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 129: Power and Perception: The Mirror and the Music
This course centers upon the rhetorical dimensions of reading and writing, speaking and listening. The course, at its heart, gives students practice in forming, shaping, and bringing to fruition persuasive, compelling arguments designed to genuinely move an authentic and diverse audience. The course teaches students how to construct arguments that can address a variety of rhetorical contexts; arguments that engage a variety of texts - cultural, visual, written - in a variety of genres and modes, in both written and oral forms. The course involves intensive drafting, polishing, editing, revision; practice in analysis and evaluation of texts; and practice in shaping effective rhetorical distances between writer/speaker and topic, and writer/speaker and audience. This course also helps students create a public speaking voice that is powerful, persuasive, and responsive to a number of different speaking contexts. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 130: Print Culture, Literacy, and Argument in American Life
This course explores contemporary debates about the role(s) of literacy, print culture, and argument in American life as a way to introduce students to making oral and written arguments within the kinds of complex controversies they will encounter in their academic work as well as their civic lives. Course requirements include reading assignments, extensive and intensive writing and revision, participation in writing workshop groups, and class debates and presentations. Through the semester, students learn to read and evaluate print and Web sources, how to write essays and speeches that make persuasive arguments by drawing on relevant evidence and considering multiple viewpoints, and how to develop awareness of and control over their own writing processes and speaking styles. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 131: Three Big Questions
This course focuses on three fundamental questions that nearly every American must confront. The questions are: Where are you from? What do you do? And what do you want? Each of these questions is explored through the reading of appropriate texts, and through intensive practice in written and spoken presentation of arguments and positions concerning these fundamental questions. The course introduces and develops rhetorical, analytical, and evaluative techniques and methodologies appropriate to college-level work throughout a liberal arts curriculum. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 132: Ecology of the Text
This course provides students with the skills and experience necessary to develop effective written and verbal arguments. Course reading consists of selections of ecologically-oriented essays, fiction, and poetry, which are examined for their rhetorical approaches and which serve as both subjects and models for an integrated series of writing assignments. Focusing on a semester-long exploration of an ecology/environment of each student’s choosing, these assignments include journal writing, a critical essays on a related literary text, a research paper on a relevant ecological issue, a research paper on local history, and a creative response. Twice during the semester, students make oral presentations to the class on an aspect of their chosen environment. Writing assignments are revised through collaborative peer review, and the semester’s work culminates in a comprehensive paper, which is submitted along with a portfolio of all student writing, research, and peer evaluation. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric seminar core requirement.
ENGL 133: Politics of Space, Public and Private
This course examines the political dimensions of public and private space as it is addressed in historical documents, iconographic imagery, fiction, and nonfiction, focusing particular attention on first learning to “read” space and then turning to readings on Western, Suburban, and City spaces. In the process, it presents rhetorical techniques and evaluative methodologies appropriate to college-level work in the liberal arts and offers extensive and intensive practice in the writing, revising, and orally presenting arguments. Students write and orally present arguments advancing critical claims about recent local debates about the public good and private interests utilizing course readings and independent research for support. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric seminar core requirement.
ENGL 134: Architectures of Power
This course is designed to develop skills in analysis, evaluation, and argumentation through an exploration of texts from the historical, literary, journalistic, and visual arts. This class acquaints students with and gives them practice in the methodologies of critical reading, analysis, assessment, and argumentation appropriate to college-level work in the liberal arts, and offers intensive experience in the presentation and revision of oral and written argumentation. Students analyze different modes of argumentation – rhetorical, visual, narrative – and discuss and practice a variety of persuasive techniques and strategies suitable to academic work. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 135: Travel And The Other
Why do we travel? Is it a residue of our itinerant, pre-nomadic past, a desire for leisure and a change of pace, the lure of adventure, or the attraction of meeting new peoples and ways? This course examines the travel writings of men and women to a variety of places, both remote and close at hand, and explores the politics of what is involved in the encounter with the Other. It considers some of the ways writers have used travel and the encounter with the Other learn about the world, to leverage themselves into positions of authority, or to learn about themselves. Drawing on travel writings and theories of travel and tourism, students learn to develop the skills of strong oral and written argumentation. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 136: Imagining the American West
This course approaches the study of argumentation, using as its source material interdisciplinary perspectives on the American West as an "imagined" space. Topical areas of focus within the course include representations of cowboys, Indians, and sodbusters in dimestore novels and cinematic Westerns; historical and modern debates about water rights and the West as desert or blooming paradise; political arguments about Manifest Destiny and slavery; and contemporary legal perspectives on race, law, and property ownership. Course requirements include composition of written and oral arguments, reading assignments, extensive and intensive writing and revision, and participation in writing workshop groups and class debates. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
ENGL 137: Representing Multiculturalism
As citizens of the 21st century, we hear the words “diversity” and “multiculturalism” in the news, at school, and in the workplace. However, not many people are precise about what they mean or what they value when they invoke these terms. This course examines interdisciplinary representations of United States multiculturalism in literature, political essays, and popular culture. The course discusses a range of approaches to multiculturalism, both critical and celebratory. By the end of the course, students arrive at a working definition of multiculturalism, are able to articulate their relationship to this concept, and begin to address the significance of diversity for their college and professional careers. Because the course offers extensive practice in writing, revising, and orally presenting arguments, students develop critical, rhetorical, and analytical skills appropriate to liberal arts college-level work. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
HIST 111: Scholars and Warriors in China and Japan
This introductory text-based course in argumentation and expression examines the individual and society in Chinese and Japanese history with thematic emphases on the bureaucratic style of governance by scholar-officials in late dynastic China and the feudal-warrior style of rule in early modern Japan. An underlying assumption of the course is that these styles continue in contemporary China and Japan and also have influenced greater Asia. Study of the generation of these styles, their impact on the ideas and behavior of individuals, and their modification over time in the interest of "Confucian" socio-political order affords understanding of East Asian life and thought and the separate historical experiences of China and Japan; it also serves as a basis for the cultivation of critical thinking and the use of language to make a point, and a case, in both speaking and writing. Course readings include a range of sources, both primary and secondary, that inform extensive and intensive written assignments, both process and polished, and appropriate oral discourse; some assignments require library research and presentation of work-in-progress. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
HON 101: Encountering the Other/Writing the Self
This writing seminar offers a rich introduction to the challenges of oral and written argumentation. Students use writing as thinking - a way to explore unknown territory (external and internal), a way to generate as well as communicate ideas and knowledge. Learning to create effective arguments, including fair treatment of opposing views, is the major goal of the seminar, and students pay careful attention to drafting, responding, revising, and editing for various purposes and audiences. Writing groups provide concrete feedback for revision and help students to listen carefully. These and other collaborative activities focusing on written and spoken argumentation contribute to a growing awareness of how writers and readers connect over a variety of texts and contexts. Course readings represent divergent points of view, alternative texts that insist upon oppositional readings, upon ethical and intellectual dilemmas, issues that shoot to the core of human existence. As both writers and speakers, students construct persuasive arguments that either contradict or defend given assumptions about culture, history, identity, and the natural world. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
Prerequisite: Admission to the Honors Program.
HUM 121: Arms and Men: The Rhetoric of Warfare
This course explores the words, actions, thoughts and feelings of the individual amidst the catastrophe of war. The course treats a wide variety of materials from the ancient world to the present, including history, epic, lyric poetry, novels, memoirs, letters, film, and deliberative and commemorative oratory. Students explore the ways in which various rhetorical and narrative treatments of soldiers and of war offer us understandings of the subjective experiences and ethical choices of ordinary and extraordinary people under extreme stress and facing horrendous challenges. The course also intends to consider notions of the individual, the community, and civilization (with all that word implies), against the backdrop of the chaotic action of war and combat. Satisfies the Writing and Rhetoric Seminar core requirement.
OT 115: Schizophrenia Debates
How is it that Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is called America’s leading psychiatrist and “schizophrenia’s most zealous foe” by a New York Times correspondent and yet when he gives a keynote address at the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Conference people who have recovered from mental illness turn out to picket him and protest his message? How is it that a peasant who goes to a mental hospital in Chandigarh, India and is diagnosed with schizophrenia stands a much higher chance of getting well than someone diagnosed and treated in Rochester or Honolulu? What is this contested disorder called schizophrenia? Is it the sign of a “broken brain,” as Nancy Andreasen writes? Or are we wrong about that? What does the evidence say? Should people with schizophrenia be forced to take medication “for their own good” or in the interest of public safety? In this course students learn to articulate a reasoned position in a debate that affects public mental health policy and upon which they may be asked to vote. Satisfies the Seminar in Writing and Rhetoric core requirement.