Communication and Culture | Visual Rhetoric
C432 | 25100 | Kaplan, M.

MW, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM, 800 E. 3rd St. – room 203

Instructor: Michael Kaplan
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 219
Phone: 856-1365

What does it mean to be a citizen of a democracy? How do we know
what makes a (good) citizen? And what kinds of activities count as
citizenship? What happens when the conception of citizenship we rely
upon begins to appear unjust or unworkable? Most importantly, what
are the consequences for democracy of defining citizenship one way
as opposed to another? Such questions have been debated at length by
scholars, but we have all given them much more thought than we may
even realize. Both the meaning of citizenship and the problems that
beset it have long been important themes of the most familiar forms
of entertainment, such as fiction film. In fact, we learn the most
consequential lessons of good citizenship from movies that feel
nothing like civics class and seem not to be about politics at all.
This course examines the ways we collectively imagine democratic
citizenship by taking a comparative approach: we will read samples
of major debates about citizenship (rights vs. obligations; personal
virtue vs. good institutions; abstraction vs. particularity; the
challenge of multiculturalism; the promise of cosmopolitanism; etc.)
and watch films in which these issues are addressed and/or
imaginatively resolved. The point is to see how watching such films
is in fact our most common way of “doing” our own
citizenship “theory,” and to think about the political implications
of this fact. So, students will analyze the rhetorical strategies of
films in relation to theoretical readings about citizenship—think
High Plains Drifter as a thesis about civic virtue, Die Hard with a
Vengeance as a defense of liberal multiculturalism, Thelma & Louise
as a critique of abstract universalism, or Bulletproof Monk as a
model of hybrid cosmopolitanism.