Communication and Culture | Rhetoric and Race (Topic: Ways of Speaking About Race: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X)
C342 | 12959 | Terrill, R.
MTuWTh, 10:00 AM-11:30 AM, C2 100
Carries College Intensive Writing Credit
Instructor: Robert Terrill
Office: C2 231
People in America talk about race. Sometimes, we talk about race as
if it doesn’t exist, sometimes we talk as if it shouldn’t exist, and
sometimes we talk as if race is the single most significant aspect
of our daily lives. The talk is sometimes heated, often thoughtful,
and is in any case an integral part of daily life in the United
The purpose of this course is to enable us to become better-informed
participants in this significant and on-going conversation.
We will guided in this effort by a rhetorical perspective. This
means that rhetorical theory will supply our core analytical
vocabulary, but it also means that we will proceed in accordance
with a few general assumptions. That race is a public issue, for
example, rather than merely a private or individualized phenomenon,
and that therefore the most useful conversations about race also are
public. That public discourse is necessarily persuasive, at least
to the extent that it seeks to constitute an audience aligned with a
particular perspective or attitude. And that examples of past
public discourse are useful not merely as historical artifacts, but
as models that illustrate and embody ways of speaking in the present.
Our two primary models will be Malcolm X and Martin Luther King,
Jr. These two men are often invoked together as a short-hand way of
referring to fundamental tensions in the African American (re)vision
of America. They have become inventional resources, ways of
understanding the world and reacting to it. The ways that they
talked about race in America, in other words, continue to inform the
ways that we talk about race in America.
We will begin by attending to historical documents that predate
Malcolm and Martin, for just as we speak about race within a context
defined, in part, by those who came before us, so too did Malcolm
and Martin. We will then turn to a chronological and comparative
study of key speeches and writings from these two men, concentrating
both on their relationship to one another and on their relationship
to the historical works we read at the beginning of the semester.