Communication and Culture | Rhetorical Critiques of War
C616 | 1173 | Ivie


This course is joint-listed with both Cultural Studies and American
Studies.

The general purpose of the course is to employ rhetoric as a heuristic
for critically engaging discourses of war and transforming the
legitimization of
war into a cultural problematic, especially within U.S. political
culture.  It sometimes addresses the discourse of a single war or some
combination of
wars in a given historical period or sustained period of international
tension; other times it is concerned with a recurrent thematic of war
rhetoric such
as freedom and democracy and/or some current cause for international
conflict.

The course will be focused this coming Fall semester specifically on
critiquing the strategic design and negative cultural and political
consequences of
the prevailing discourse of war against terrorism as it has developed
in the United States since last September 11 in response to the
dramatic attacks
against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The argument of the course focuses on profiling terrorism.  It aims to
develop a better understanding of the rhetorical design of the present
“war” on
terrorism in order to identify its limitations for achieving peace and
fostering democracy.  Like the rhetoric of the Cold War, a declaration
of total
war against international terrorism represents the threat to America
as an attack on freedom and thus polarizes the world between
nation-states
supporting the U.S. and those supporting terrorism, curtails the very
freedom it purports to defend, authorizes covert operations beyond the
reach of
public accountability, and prolongs the struggle indefinitely against
an ill-defined and elusive enemy without a clear measure of victory.
In particular,
the exercise in profiling terrorists deflects attention away from the
key issue of profiling terrorism itself realistically.  Accordingly,
the critique begins
with a discussion of the Bush administration’s rhetorical profile of
terrorism and then turns to identifying missing features in that
profile which reveal
it to be a problematic and counterproductive caricature of terrorism.
By premising the defense of freedom on a caricature of terrorism as
the
personification of evil, “patriotism” is constructed, celebrated, and
witnessed as an exercise in “othering” and scapegoating in opposition
to
democratic practice and pluralism, thus undermining the nation’s
ability to respond to the condition of diversity within its own
borders and throughout
the global village except by the futility of coercion and domination.

Primary texts for the course will feature various public discourses on
the war against terrorism, such as selected addresses by the president
and
members of his administration, samples of supporting editorials and
opinion pieces, critical commentary and parody of administration
policy, and
expressions of patriotism in popular media and forums, including
sports spectacles, public memorials, and film.

Other texts selected for critical reading will include books on
terrorism such as Jeffrey D. Simon, The Terrorist Trap:  America’s
Experience with
Terrorism, 2nd ed.  (Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 2001);
Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York:  Columbia University Press,
1998);  and Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God:  The Global
Rise of Religious Violence (Berkeley:  University of California Press,
2000).

A third set of readings will introduce students specifically to a
rhetorical perspective for critiquing war discourse, including for
example the
instructor’s work on metaphorical analysis, images of savagery, and
productive criticism.

The major project for students enrolled in the course will be a set of
short written critiques on the assigned readings culminating in a
final,
article-length scholarly paper on a theme, genre, medium, or other
focus of interest determined by each student according to his or her
purposes and
in consultation with the course instructor.