Communication and Culture | Rhetoric and Critical Hermeneutics
C618 | 23811 | Robert Terrill

M 2:30P-5:00P, MJ 112

Professor: Robert Terrill
Office: Mottier Hall 204
Office Hours: W 9:30-12
Phone: 5-0118

Whatever you are interested in “reading” — film, political speech,
television, social movement, public performance, etc., — the
critical act involves an interaction between you and a “text”
or “texts.”  Whether your goal is to uncover previously unnoticed
features of a text, or to set it within a productive historical or
ideological context, or to use the text as an opportunity to explore
broader issues, or to situate it as an intersection of agonistic
cultural values, or to invent a text assembled from cultural
fragments, or to interpret the text in a self-reflexive commentary
on the art of interpretation itself, or all of these things, or
something else entirely, in the end a work of criticism is the
residue of an encounter between critic and text.

This course presents an opportunity to explore ideas about textual
interpretation.  We will proceed more-or-less chronologically
through the 20th century, reading carefully and making connections
among works of interpretive theory, method, and attitude.

A historical survey of rhetorical criticism as it has been defined
and practiced within the field of communication studies will be
emphasized throughout the semester.  The not-explicitly-rhetorical
works on textual interpretation will serve as a backdrop, critique,
and interpretive lens for the explicitly rhetorical works.

A tentative and incomplete list of the authors to be discussed might
include:  Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Northrop Frye, Ernest Wrage,
Sergei Eisenstein, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Stanley Fish, William Empson,
Stephen Greenblatt, Michael Leff, Susan Sontag, Michael McGee,
Robert Ray, Cleanth Brooks, Janice Rushing, Steven Mailloux, Helene
Cixous, Roland Barthes, Christian Metz, Dilip Goankar, David
Bordwell, Edwin Black, Kenneth Burke.

Students will select (or invent, or assemble) a “text” which will
serve as their object of study throughout the semester.  This could
be just about any public text(s) — film, TV, speech, performance,
social movement, poster, pamphlet, website, photograph,
commemorative monument, public space, etc. — but should represent an
integral part of the student’s larger research program.  Students
will produce several short essays and one longer one that make use
of course material to frame “readings” of their “text.”