Communication And Culture | Public Dialogue in America after 1945
C539 | 1210 | Robert E. Terrill

Class meetings: M 3:00-5:30 pm Mottier Hall - MJ112

"Public Dialogue" for the purposes of this course, refers to
speeches, films, novels, television broadcasts, radio shows, and
public performances of just about any kind. Whatever sorts of texts
may attract you, as a scholarly critic you are expected to
contextualize them within post-WWII American culture. This seminar
offers a chance to develop your abilities to do so, by examining some
of the dominant tropes, themes, and movements that characterize
American public discourse in the atomic age.

The central assumption of this course is that understanding the
exigencies and problematics that characterize American public culture
requires careful attention to public rhetoric. In past semesters, for
example, we have examined the ways that issues of identity, power,
and cultural fragmentation are addressed by the "beats" of the
1950s, "Rambo" movies of the 1980s, Cold War nationalism, "second
wave" and "third wave" feminism, and the rhetoric of "civil rights."
My intention is to set representative texts in dialogue with their
historical circumstances, with contemporary public discourse, and
with our individual research projects. My expectation is that the
students will bring to these texts their own interpretive agendas,
and that these primarily will drive class discussion.

A secondary, but significant, theme of the course concerns the ways
that academic criticism participates - or not - in a "public
dialogue." Who is our public? How do we (do we?) engage this public
in dialogue? To this end, on the syllabus I have paired exemplary
public artifacts with academic responses, so that we can approach and
evaluate these critical essays as a form of "public discourse."

The course will culminate in a critical research paper. Both the
object of study and the critical methodology (if any) are entirely
the prerogative of the student; I ask only that you be able to defend
your study as being an analysis of "American public dialogue after
1945." I especially encourage you to use this class as an opportunity
to extend or develop your dissertation research.

This year's syllabus remains under development.
You can view a previous syllabus and course materials at: