The Study of Public Address

Instructor: John Louis Lucaites

Last Taught: Fall 1994

S406 - The Study of Public Address is an introduction to the role of "public address" in the production and maintenance of social and political community. Our primary goal is to develop a rhetorical perspective from which students can identify, analyze, interpret, and evaluate the forms and functions of public dialogue in contemporary society. To this end we will focus attention on a series of issues and problems concerning the relationship between public argument and ideology; the source and substance of the rhetorical situation; the potential and limits of the influence or effects of public advocacy in creating, changing, and/or sustaining socio-political realities and communities; the role of narrative in public discourse; the ethical implications of public persuasion, and so on. Rather than to address these issues and problems in the abstract, we will ground our consideration of them in historical and rhetorically specific contexts, probing selected key moments in the development of an "American" identity in the rhetorical culture of the United States from 1740 to the present.

By the end of the semester students will develop: (a) a rhetorical understanding of the range of forms and functions that public address serves in the negotiation of public values and policies in U. S. society; and (b) the ability to analyze and describe the rhetorical context(s) in which social and political problems exist so as to interpret and evaluate the rhetorical choices that confront us as both producers and consumers of public discourse. To achieve these goals students will read and carefully study twenty to thirty speeches and other public documents; attend weekly lectures and actively participate in class discussions; produce 10 informal mini-essays (250-500 words); write two formal, critical essays (7-10 pp. + footnotes and references); and take a comprehensive final examination.