Communication and Culture | Rhetoric and Socio- Political Judgment
C513 | 23808 | John Louis Lucaites

W 2:30P-5:00P, Mottier 112

(This course is cross-listed with Cultural Studies 701)

Professor:	John Louis Lucaites
Office:		202 Mottier Hall
Office Hours:	MW 9:30-10:30
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 which 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 always already an unstable
category, 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 affect the
problems and possibilities of collective judgment.

The specific 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 being 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 (re)theorize the relationship between “liberalism”
and “democracy” in contemporary Western public culture.

For further information see an earlier version of the course
syllabus at