Communication and Culture | Rhetoric and Visual Culture (Visual Citizenship)
C617 | 28175 | Lucaites,J

CMCL-C 617: Rhetoric and Visual Culture
(Topic: Visual Citizenship)
Class Number: 28175

F, 9:30 AM-12:00 PM, C2 272

Meets with CULS-C 701 and AMST-G 751
Open to Graduates Only!

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

This seminar is concerned with developing a program of inquiry that
draws upon the interdisciplinary field of visual studies to explore
how persuasion and public culture depend upon visual practices.
Visual studies are becoming increasingly important across the human
sciences and the relationship between rhetoric, public culture, and
visuality can be explored in any number of ways.  Our focus this
semester will be on the relationship between visuality and
citizenship.  Citizenship has been renewed as an important topic in
rhetorical and cultural studies, as well as political theory.  We
will address the contemporary problem of citizenship by exploring
the question: What does it mean “to see” or “to be seen” as a
citizen in a liberal-democratic public culture?  That is, we will
direct our attention to the ways in which visuality is implicated in
constituting and managing the norms of civic public culture–locally,
nationally, and transnationally–through a democratic optic (or
aesthetic).   What does the good (or bad) citizen “look” like? What
are the norms for visually performing one’s citizenship?  How are
citizens schooled “to see” the world around them? What is “seen”
within the civic culture?  What is considered “invisible”?  And so

The field of objects open to such study is enormous and could
include television and film; museums and monuments; urban design and
public spaces; political and commercial advertising; performance,
embodiment, and fine art; and numerous other practices as well.  We
will focus the majority of  our attention in class conversations on
photography and photo-journalism– what some have dubbed the “public
art” of liberal-democracy–so as to provide a sustained focus to our
discussions (but members of the seminar are encouraged to develop
semester projects that draw from the full range of media and visual
practices relevant to the general theme of the class).  Particular
topics that we will address will concern the ways in which seeing or
being seen as a citizen implicates social and political identity
(including race, gender, and class, as well as nationality);
cultural and public memory; and the norms of democratic civic
behavior (How does one visually perform citizenship in the presence
of war or crisis?  Or dissent?  How does visual culture implicate
the "compassion" needed to establish humanitarian identification?
And so on.)


Readings will include theoretical work on visuality that speaks to
enduring problems of visual meaning and analysis as they have been
set out in both classic statements and contemporary scholarship, as
well as critical and historical works on the visuality of
citizenship and public culture.  We will also consider some
contemporary literature on the problem of citizenship   The reading
will be substantial, as is commensurate with the expectations of a
seminar designed to train scholars in a competitive,
interdisciplinary field of study.  Students will be asked to make
occasional in-class reports based upon short positions papers  and
to prepare a semester long research project commensurate with the
goals of the class.

*This course is jointly offered with AMST as G620 Colloquium in
American Studies.