COMM 347

Public Discourse

Public Discourse: This course analyzes the creation, reception, and impact of American public discourse over the last five decades. Course material focuses on the process of rhetorical advocacy as it occurs in key political and cultural events and significant public controversies. Through detailed analysis of message construction, the course enhances students' appreciation of the range of strategic choices available to public advocates, increases students' understanding of the limitations and constraints that confront public advocates, and nurtures students' ability to analyze and evaluate public discourse. Through the reconstruction and analysis of important episodes and controversies in recent American history (including decisions to drop the atomic bomb, the cold war, Vietnam, civil rights, and feminism), the course develops students' knowledge of the role of public discourse in historical events and illustrates the relationship between rhetorical practice and American public culture.

African American Discourse: This course analyzes the tradition of African American public discourse from the late eighteenth to the early twenty-first centuries. Through detailed analysis of message construction, the course enhances students' appreciation of the range of strategic choices available to African American advocates, increases students' understanding of the limitations on constraints that have confronted public advocates, and nurtures students' capacity to analyze and evaluate various forms of public discourse. Course topics include: the emergence of an African American public voice in late eighteenth-century America (e.g. Benjamin Banneker, Absolom Jones), African American abolitionist voices (e.g. David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Henry Highland Garnet), the advocacy efforts of African American women (Maria W. Stewart, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells), African American public discourse in the reconstruction and post-reconstruction era (e.g. Joseph Rainey, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois), the twentieth-century civil rights movement (the Brown decision, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, "black power" advocates), and various contemporary civic controversies (e.g. reparations, affirmative action).

Prerequisites: Previous work in rhetorical studies (COMM 240, COMM 343 or COMM 344) recommended.