Cultural Studies | Topics in Rhetoric and Public Culture
C701 | 29189 | Kaplan

M, 10:00 AM-12:30 PM, C2 272

Meets with CMCL-C 611
Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Michael Kaplan
Office: C2 219
Phone: 856-1365

This course responds to the recent emergence of new, radically
discursive models of power and political agency grounded in the work
of so-called “post-structuralist” theorists, particularly Jacques
Lacan, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. Setting out from the
premise that relations of power are implicit in the structure of
signification itself, these models differ as to the precise meaning
and implications of this premise for political agency and cultural
critique. In this course, we will take a close comparative look at
the four most influential of these new models. Specifically, we will
examine Jürgen Habermas’s attempt to derive rhetorical norms from
the structure of communicative action in order to ground political
legitimacy; Judith Butler’s rhetorical theory of the performativity
of power; Ernesto Laclau’s thesis that the struggle for hegemony is
rooted in the rhetorical dynamics of signification; and Giorgio
Agamben’s recent efforts to elucidate a newly resurgent form of
sovereign power rhetorically grounded in permanent war. While all
these authors conceive of power and discourse as mutually
implicated, their shared premises generate diverging descriptions of
politics and competing, often incompatible prescriptions. A
comparative study of these theories will disclose differences of
decisive importance for critically productive analysis of
contemporary public culture, particularly in relation to gender,
race, globalization, and democracy.