The course considers the relationship of communication to democracy by examining various forms, functions, and examples of political communication strategies and tactics as they reflect the present state of political culture. The goal is to become more informed and reflective about the rhetorical characteristics of political narratives, myths, media, campaigns, deliberation, and dissent in a multifaceted and media-saturated public sphere.
This course examines war propaganda in the American past and present. It considers forms, themes, and strategies of war propaganda, the history of war propaganda (including the war on terror), the role of media, and the impact of war propaganda on democratic culture.
Democratic Dissent in Wartime
This course examines wartime dissent in the United States—its cultural status, political role, and rhetorical constitution. Although dissent is quintessentially democratic, it is readily suppressed in wartime and commonly represented as dangerous, unpatriotic, and disloyal. We trace the historical roots of contemporary attitudes toward wartime dissent while asking: Who dissents from war? When and how do they dissent? What are their arguments against war? How and why is wartime dissent repressed? What are the implications for liberty and democracy when wartime dissent is repressed? Does democratic dissent undermine national security?
This course explores communication practices that engage conflict constructively and build progressively toward a culture of peace. We give special attention to humanizing language that resists demonizing discourses of war, fosters political friendship, transcends the viewpoint of war, and apprehends the perspectives of adversaries for the purpose of encouraging collective self-reflection.
Productive Criticism of Political Rhetoric
This course conceptualizes rhetoric as a mode of social critique while focusing on the problem of the scapegoat in public culture. It draws on Kenneth Burke’s dramatism as a framework of productive rhetorical critique to critically examine problematic constructions of the threatening Other, which foster alienation and victimization within and between polities.
Rhetorical Theories of Cultural Production
This course examines theories of rhetoric as a primary source of cultural production. It features Giambattista Vico on eloquence, tropes, and the poetic wisdom of culture, Friedrich Nietzsche on rhetoric, metaphor, and the will to power, Chaim Perelman on the realm of rhetoric and the problem of justice, and Kenneth Burke on rhetoric, identification, and the drama of human relations.
Constituting Democracy in Rhetorical Discourse
This course compares the role of rhetoric in liberal, deliberative democracy to radical, participatory, agonistic democracy. It examines rhetorical constructions of democracy in US political culture and their relationship to exaggerated perceptions of national peril.
Rhetorical Critiques of War
This course treats rhetoric as a heuristic for critically engaging discourses of war. It focuses on the problem of war in U.S. political culture and may critique in any given semester the discourse of a single war, some combination of wars, war in a historical era, a sustained period of international tension, a recurrent motive for war, or some current cause for international conflict.