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Cultural Studies Program

Courses :: CULS C701 Topic: Productive Criticism of Political Rhetoric

C505 is an introduction to rhetoric as a mode of engaged or productive criticism that emphasizes the “sociality of language” as it contributes to the constitution and performance of democratic public culture.  By “engaged or productive critique” I mean to call attention to scholarly labor that is aware of its political and ideological assumptions and which strives to contribute actively to the development of both disciplinary knowledge and understanding, as well as an evolving and inclusive democratic pluralism.  We will approach our task in three stages, first (1) giving consideration to
the “anxiety” of critical practice in late modern rhetorical studies; second (2) focusing attention on Kenneth Burke’s “comic corrective” as a dramatistic framework for the rhetorical critique of cultural and ideological practices including specifically tragic rituals of victimization and rites of redemptive violence; and third (3) examining “allegory” and “irony” as specific rhetorical attitudes for animating creative and inventive approaches to the problems and possibilities of a vibrant democratic public culture.

Core course readings will draw from  Kenneth Burke’s Attitudes Toward History, Philosophy of Literary Form, and A Rhetoric of Motives; Walter Benjamin’s Selected Writings; Robert Hariman’s Political Styles; and Peter Sloterdjik’s Critique of Cynical Reason. These readings will be supplemented primarily by journal articles from the mainstream journals in contemporary American rhetorical studies that model and/or complicate our understanding of productive rhetorical critique.

Assignments: In addition to participating actively in weekly class discussions of assigned readings, each student will write several short critical reviews of assigned readings designed to animate class discussion and undertake a semester project in rhetorically engaged critique in an article-length essay targeted for scholarly presentation at a conference or workshop.