Communication and Culture | Rhetorical and Sociopolitical Judgment
C513 | 27522 | Lucaites, J.

W, 2:30 PM-5:00 PM, C2 272
Meets with CULS-C 701 and AMST-G 620
Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: John Lucaites
Office: C2 245
Phone: 855-5411

Whether we think of it as a discursive practice (public address
broadly construed to include everything from oratory to
photojournalism to television to film to hyper-mediated web sites)
or as a meta-discursive theory or techne, "rhetoric" has survived
from classical times to the present in large measure as a result of
its capacity to reinvent itself from one epoch to the next as a
means of serving the changing demands of collective judgment – i.e.,
social judgment, political judgment, public judgment, etc. –  at a
particular historical moment.  “Judgment” or krisis is a problematic
term that implicates and articulates the dynamic and culturally
presumed relationship(s) between knowledge, understanding, and
action in a world of contingencies and probabilities.  Viewed from
this perspective,  “rhetorical theory" is an always already unstable
domain, a discourse practice subject to and predicated upon the
changing conditions and configurations of judgment in collective
life at any given moment.  Such indeterminacy is a potential
strength rather than a weakness, however, for it positions
rhetorical theory as a potentially powerful heuristic for producing
social and political criticism designed to respond to and effect the
problems and possibilities of collective judgment at any given
historical moment.

The goal of this seminar is to examine the ways in which “rhetoric”
is being (re)invented as a heuristic for social and political
critique apropos the problem of public or collective judgment in
late- or postmodern societies.  By "late" or "post" modernity I mean
to make general reference to the rapidly increasing (and often
paradoxical) conditions of intellectual, political, and cultural
fragmentation precipitated by hyper-specialization, pluralism, multi-
culturalism, globalization, and high-speed electronic/digital
mediation, all of which contribute to what Lyotard calls
the "incredulity to metanarratives" and which we might identify as
the prevailing discourses of  “progress,” “sovereignty,” “the nation-
state,” “the liberal-democratic consensus,” and so on. We will move
to our task by framing the problematic within a dialectic of
hermeneutics and critical theory, and then examining some of the
more prominent ways in which rhetoric-as-judgment is constituted
therein as a praxis designed to mediate the contemporary demands of
collective decision-making and action.  Key topics will include the
relationship between rhetoric and aesthetics (and epistemology);
constitutive rhetorics and public emotionality; and phronesis and
prudence. Throughout, we will focus attention on specific,
problematic instances of social and political judgment in
contemporary public culture.

This course will be of interest to anyone concerned with exploring
the possibilities of  “rhetoric” as heuristic to the performance and
transformation of public culture across media.  It should be of
particular interest to those studying the relationship(s) between
discourse and social/political theory, and especially those
concerned to retheorize the relationship between “liberalism”
and “democracy” in contemporary Western public culture.

Readings will draw from a range of 20th and 21st century readings on
the relationship between rhetoric and judgment that draws
prominently from rhetorical studies as well as social and political
theory broadly considered.  The course is reading intensive.
Assignments will include student journals, a theoretical review
essay in which students put rhetorical theorists in dialogue with
those working in related areas, and several in-class presentations.