Communication and Culture | Media, Culture, and Politics (Topic: Red States/Blue States: Rural America and the Rhetorical Construction of American Identity)
C445 | 5069 | Motter, J.

M-F, 11:30 AM-12:20 PM, SY 004

Instructor: Jeff Motter
Office: Mottier Hall 258
Phone: 855-0844

During the 2004 U.S. Presidential election political pundits divided
the United States into red and blue states. This popular division of
the United States between Republican red states and Democratic blue
states reminds us of the significant political, religious, and
cultural differences between urban and rural America. These
differences are not unique to the twenty-first century but rather an
ongoing theme in US public culture that reaches as far back as
Thomas Jefferson’s understanding of the “yeoman farmer” as the
embodiment of distinctly American values like individualism, self-
sufficiency, and public virtue. At the turn of the twentieth century
rural America continued to be identified as the “heartland” and
associated with nature, truth, and faith while the urban represented
immorality, foreignness, greed, and paganism. Significant
differences between urban and rural America continue to exist yet
the significance of rural America in the construction of American
identity is often overlooked.

But what is rural America? What is the relationship between rural
America and American identity? We will approach these questions from
the perspective that both rural America and American identity are
rhetorical constructions that are contested and reinvented.
Generally, this course addresses the constitutive function of rural
America in our collective past, present, and future. We will look to
the past to understand how the rhetorical construction of rural
America continues to inform our understanding of American identity.
We will look to the present to understand how capitalism and
commercialism have reinvented rural America and American identity.
Finally, we will look to the future of rural America and the impact
of globalization on the American landscape.

• Readings will include: Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt,
Richard Hofstadter, Mary Stuckey, Janice Hocker Rushing, Wendell
Berry, and Thomas Frank.

• Topics will include: The Frontier, Religion, Capitalism, and

• Assignments will include four essays (3, 4, 4, & 7 pages) and
class participation.