Rhetoric, Agency, and Race:

The Problem(s) of Subjectivity and Identity

in Contemporary Public Address

Instructor: John Louis Lucaites

Last Taught: Spring 1996

The study of contemporary public address has been complicated and frustrated in recent years as it has confronted what, for lack of a better term, we might call the "postmodern condition." In using the phrase "postmodern condition" I mean to call attention to what I take to be an almost revolutionary change (that in the end may turn out to be no more than an interregnum between modernism and what comes next) in the ways in which "culture" and "governance" are conflated in the discursive practices of everyday, public interaction, as well as to the ways in which this change has accentuated and magnified the fragmentation of personal and collective being. One of the primary outcomes of this postmodern condition is a potential crisis of legitimacy for Anglo-American style, liberal-democracies: a nagging (if not prevalent) sense in theory, criticism, and practice that individual agency is no longer a viable or effective medium for social and political engagement and/or empowerment. The problem of agency, often discussed under the rubrics of social action, subjectivity, and identity politics, is an implicit concern of both rhetorical studies, with its grounding in classical and neo-classical conceptions of the "orator," and cultural studies, with its groundings in marxissant, freudian, and post-structuralist critiques of the "subject." Our goal in this seminar is to attempt to characterize and explore the problem of agency by placing rhetorical and cultural studies in dialogue with one another as a means of generating a more nuanced and complex accounting of the multiple and interacting sites at and through which public address, broadly defined, might function to effect and influence social and political change in a postmodern world. Because such problems are seldom productively engaged in the abstract, we will approach them by focusing on the ways in which the concept of "race" is implicated in considerations of contemporary American public discourse. "Race talk," or how we negotiate the problem of "race" in public discourse, is a particularly fruitful arena in which to consider the relationship between rhetoric and agency, for since the founding of our nation "race" has been and remains today both the great tragedy of the American "experiment" and a part of our collective consciousness that we continue to seek so mightily to repress, even as we continue to be committed to developing a thoroughly egalitarian, democratic society.



1. Class Meetings. S726 is a research seminar designed to describe, analyze, and engage a particular problem in contemporary rhetorical studies. When I teach such seminars it is because I am actively working on the problem posed by the seminar and am looking for interlocutors who share a common interest. Put simply, this means that I treat the seminar as "our" work together, and as such I operate with the assumption that each member of the seminar shares the responsibility of carefully completing the assigned readings in a timely and more than casual fashion prior to each meeting. More, it is essential that each of us comes to each meeting prepared to develop questions and arguments regarding the assigned readings and the ways in which they implicate and interact with the larger topic of the course, as well as our individual projects related to the seminar topic. I never lecture in seminars (well, sometimes I can't help myself and break out into spontaneous lecture ... a hazard of the profession, I suppose) and I always assume that some other member of the seminar will be responsible for taking the lead in class discussions. In order to share the work and to make sure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to shape and develop our discussions I am assigning "position papers" and "class facilitations."

a. Position Papers. Two of you will be assigned to prepare a brief 4-6 pp. position paper on the primary readings (identified by a double asterisk on the reading list) for each class during Part I of the class calendar (1/19, 1/26, 2/2, 2/9, 2/16, and 2/23). Your task will be to do develop and explain a provocative question or argument that draws on the primary readings for a given day and speaks to the ways in which we might theorize the problem(s) of "public address" (and "race talk" in particular) in the postmodern world. Your essays are due at the beginning of class. When class begins one or the other of you will be responsible for providing a 5-10 minute extemporaneous summation of your position (with the other following somewhere else in the seminar meeting) and helping to guide the discussion that follows. Position papers will account for 20% of your final grade for the seminar.


b. Facilitation. Two or three of you will be paired and assigned the task of working together to facilitate class discussion for each of the classes during Part II of the class calendar ( 3/1, 3/8, 3/29, 4/12, 4/19). Facilitations, like the presentation of position papers, are designed to focus class discussion on interesting and provocative problems and issues emanating from the readings and implicating the problems (and promises) of public address in the postmodern world. In the second half of the course each of the readings serves, at some level, to provide the grounds for theorizing some dimension of a concept of "rhetorical agency." Your task will be to find instances of contemporary "public discourse" that implicate the concept or phenomena of "race" in some particular way and use them to interrogate the possibilities for rhetorical agency implicit in the readings. Put otherwise, it will be yourcollective task to make a brief presentation (20-25 minutes maximum) of the readings (both the assigned readings and whatever particular instance(s) of public discourse you choose) with an eye to developing an argument for how they might implicate some aspect or dimension of a rhetorical conception of agency. Of course, you may define the notion of "public discourse" broadly to include any discourse you can arguably maintain is somehow involved in addressing a "public." Speeches, pamphlets, advertisements, songs, TV shows, movies, etc. are all viable possib-ilities in this context. If you want the members of the seminar to read, watch, listen to some particular instances of public discourse prior to our meeting you need to make it available one full week before your assigned facilitation. Additionally, you must turn in a 1-3 page description of your facilitation by 4:00 P.M. on the Wednesday prior to the class in which the facilitation will occur. The facilitation will account for 15% of your final grade in the class.

2. Seminar Project. Each member of the seminar will prepare a research paper on some topic related in more than casual fashion to the problematics of identity, subjectivity, agency, and race as they are implicated in the practices and/or study of public address. The paper should be 20-25 pages + notes and written with an eye towards presentation at a convention and eventual publication. If this can be turned towards your thesis or dissertation work all the better. The paper will be written and reacted to at three stages in its development. On 02/09 you will turn in a 3-5 pp. prospectus that describes the problem you want to address and how you intend to approach it. You should also turn in a preliminary bibliography. On 03/08 you will turn in a 7-10 pp. critical literature review of the key conceptual materials you will be working with. On 4/19 you will turn in two copies of the final paper. If you are presenting the facilitation on 4/19 you can turn in your final paper on 4/22. The literature review will account for 25 % of your final grade, and the final essay will account for 40% of your final grade. One copy of your final paper will be given to another member of the seminar, who will be responsible for preparing a brief, 3-5 critical response to it. On 4/26 and 5/1 you will make a ten minute presentation of your work to the members of the seminar, followed by approximately ten minutes of questions and discussion.

3. Discussion List. As will become clear after the first few class meetings, the readings for each week will raise far more issues, problems, and concerns than can be effectively encountered and discussed in our weekly meetings. And more, even when we engage an issue or problem in class it may not be possible for us to deal with it in as much depth as we would like; in some instances we simply won't have the time to do it, and in other instances it will take more reading and reflection before we can get a firm(er) grasp on an issue or problem or to develop the point we want to make. Put simply, there is clearly a need for us to be able to extend (or presage) class discussions. In order to help us in this endeavor--as well as to discuss other issues or concerns that may emerge in our own research projects for the class or elsewhere that relate to theoretically defined issues--I have set-up a computer list for this class (lucaites_rhetagency @majordomo. indiana.edu). I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the list.


Grades will be assigned according to the following scale: A = 94-100; B = 84-89; C = 74-79; F = 73-60. In-between grades, such as 92, 81, etc. indicate indecision on my part and should be read as A-/B+, B-/C+. Your final grade for the course will be deter-mined according to the weighting listed below: position paper = 20%; facilitation = 15%; Literature Review = 25%; final essay = 40%. As always, I reserve the right to adjust final grades upward or downward by one increment (e.g., A to A+, or B to B-) on the basis of my subjective evaluation of your general class participation.


I am always available to graduate students between 8:00 A.M. and 9:00 P.M. (except on Sundays and Tuesdays, which I reserve for my own writing). The trick, of course, is to find me. I will generally be in my office during the afternoon on MWF, and those are the best times to seek me out. If you are near the Speech Communication Building feel free just to stop by; if you are not near the building it is always a good idea to call first (5-5411) to make sure that I am in the office. If you need to see me at other times it is a good idea to make an appointment -- and do not be shy about asking for an appointment if you need one. Under NO circumstances (short of life and death emergencies) are you to call me at home (317-535-0719) before 8:00 A.M. or after 9:00 P.M. (or during IU basketball games!). I check e-mail frequently, and that is always a good way to get in touch with me (lucaites@indiana.edu).


Abbreviations: CM = Communication Monographs; CSMC = Critical Studies in Mass Communication; QJS = Quarterly Journal of Speech; essays with one asterisk (*) after them are recommended, but not required readings; essays with two asterisks (**) after them should form the basis for position papers being written for that particular class period.


1/12 Rhetoric, Agency, [and Race]: The Problem(s) and Politics of Identity For Contemporary Public Address

Read: Calhoun, Craig. "Preface" and "Social Theory and the Politics of Identity" in Social Theory and the Politics of Identity, 1-8. 9-36.

Poulakos, Takis. "Human Agency in the History of Rhetoric: Gorgias's Encomium on Helen." In Writing Histories of Rhetoric, ed. by Victor J. Vitanza, 59-80. Carbondale, SIU Press, 1994.

Ellison, Julie. "A Short History of Liberal Guilt," Critical Inquiry 22 (1996): 344-371.



1/19 Modern Garb

Read: Taylor, Charles. "Identity and the Good," in Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989, 3-110.**

Goldberg, David Theo. "Introduction: Racial Subjects," "Modernity, Race, and Morality," and "Racialized Discourse" in Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning, 1-60.**


1/26 Marxissant Whole Cloth

Read: Althusser, Louis. "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation)," in Lenin and Philosophy: And Other Essays. New York: Monthly Press, 1971, 27-188.**

Coward, Rosalind, and John Ellis. "Marxism, Language, and Ideology," in Language and Materialism: Developments in Semiology and the Theory of the Subject. New York: Routledge, 1977, 61-92.*

Hall, Stuart. "Signification, Representation, Ideology: Althusser and The Post-Structuralist Debates." CSMC 2 (1985): 87-114.

Goldberg, David Theo. "Racist Exclusions" and "Racisms and Rationalities" in Racist Culture, 90-147.**

2/2 Freudian Slip

Read: Lacan, Jacques. "The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis," in Ecrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977. 30-113.**

Elliott, Anthony. "Subjectivity and the Discourse of Psychoanalysis:

Freud and Social Theory," in Social Theory and Psychoanalysis in Transition: Self and Society from Freud to Kristeva. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992, 14-50.

Coward, Rosalind, and John Ellis. "On The Subject of Lacan," in Language and Materialism: Developments in Semiology and the Theory of the Subject. New York: Routledge, 1977, 93-121.*

Zaretsky, Eli. "Identity Theory, Identity Politics: Psychoanalysis, Marxism, Post-Structuralism," in Social Theory and the Identity of Politics, 198-215.*

Hyde, Michael. "Jacque Lacan's Psychoanalytic Theory of Speech and Language." QJS 66 (1980): 96-118.*

Goldberg, David Theo. "Racial Knowledge" and "Polluting The Body Politic," in Racist Culture, 148-205.**

2/9 French Drag

Read: Foucault, Michel. "What is an Author?" in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault. Trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 113-38.**

Foucault, Michel. "Afterward: The Subject and Power." Trans. Leslie Sawyer. In Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. By Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982, pp. 208-26.**

Derrida, Jacques. "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," in The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism & The Sciences of Man. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970, 247-72. (Note: Please be sure to read the discussion that follows the essay.)

Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, 1-94.**

Nakayam, Thomas. "Strategies of Whiteness." QJS 81 (1995): 420-55.

2/16 An American Rhetorical Weave

Read: McGee, Michael Calvin. "In Search of "The People": A Rhetorical Alternative." QJS 61 (1975): 235-249.**

McGee, Michael Calvin. "Power to the <People>." CSMC 4 (1987): 432- 437.*

Charland, Maurice. "Constitutive Rhetoric: The Case of the Peuple Québecois." QJS 73 (1987): 133-50.**

Charland, Maurice. "The Constitution of Rhetoric's Audience." Unpublished Manuscript, 1995.**

Black, Edwin. "Idioms of Social Identity," in Rhetorical Questions:Studies of Public Discourse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, 21-51.

Diawara, Manthia. "Malcolm X and the Black Public Sphere: Conversionists v. Culturalists."

Omi and Winant, Racial Formation in the United States, 95-161.**

Crenshaw, Carrie. "The Rhetoric of Whiteness: Carol Mosley Braun vs. Jessie Helms." Unpublished Ms., 1996


2/23 Does the Subject Have An Identity? And What Difference Does it Make?

Read: Smith, Paul. Discerning The Subject. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 1988.

Goldberg, David Theo. "Taking Race Pragmatically" in Racist Culture, 206-237.


3/01 Rhetoric as Identification

Read: Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives.

3/8 Identity, Liminality, Representation, and Violence

Read: Norton, Anne. Reflections on Political Identity.

Norton, Anne. "Images of Identity and Alienation," in Alternative Americas: A Reading of Antebellum Political Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. 132-202.


3/15 Spring Break

3/22 Class Meeting With Anne Norton, 1996 J. Jeffrey Auer Lecturer in Political


3/29 Critical Rhetoric As Rhetorical Agency

Read: McKerrow, Raymie E. "Critical Rhetoric: Theory and Praxis." CM 56 (1989): 91-111.

McGee, Michael Calvin. "Against Transcendentalism: Prologue to a Functional Theory of Communicative Praxis." Form, Genre, and the Study of Political Discourse. Ed. Herbert W. Simons and Aram A Aghazarian. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1986. 108-58.

McGee, Michael C. "Text, Context, and The Fragmentation of Contemporary Culture." Western Journal of Speech Communication 54 (1990): 274-89.

McGee, Michael Calvin. "Performative Criticism: A Response to the Fragmentation of American Culture." (1996): in press.

Hariman, Robert. "Critical Rhetoric and Postmodern Theory." QJS 77 (1991): 71-74.

McKerrow, Raymie E. "Critical Rhetoric in a Postmodern World." QJS 77 (1991): 75-78.

Gaonkar, Dilip Parameshwar. "Performing with Fragments: Reflections on Critical Rhetoric." In Argument and the Postmodern Challenge: Proceedings of the Eight SCA/AFA Conference on Argumentation. Edited by Raymie E. McKerrow. Annandale, VA; SCA, 1993, 149-155.

McKerrow, Raymie. "Critical Rhetoric and the Possibility of the Subject." In The CriticalTurn: Rhetoric and Philosophy in Postmodern Discourse. Edited by Ian Angus and Lenore Langsdorf. Carbondale, IL: SIU Press, 1993, 51-67.

4/5 Class Meeting with Raymie E. McKerrow, Professor of Rhetoric and Communication Studies, University of Ohio

4/12 Rhetoric, Feminism, and Agency

Read: Lorde, Audre. "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984, 40-45.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "Can The Subaltern Speak." In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988, 271-316.

Minh-ha, Trinh T. "Not You/Like You: Post-Colonial Women and the Intrerlocking Questions of Identity and Difference." In Making Face, Making Soul.: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color. Edited by Gloria Anzaldúa. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1990, 371-376.

Anzaldúa, Gloria. "La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness," in Making Face, Making Soul, 377-90.

hooks, bell. "Representing Whiteness." In Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1992, 165-179.

Biesecker, Barabara. "Coming to Terms With Recent Attempts to Write Women into the History of Rhetoric," Philosophy and Rhetoric 25 (1992): 140-161.

Mann, Patricia. Micro-Politics: Agency in a Postfeminist Era. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. 1-32, 156-207.

4/19 Rhetoric, Hegemony, and Radical Democracy: Articulating the Grounds

of Agency in the Postmodern World

Read: Laclau, Ernesto & Chantal Mouffe. "Beyond the Positivity of the Social," and Hegemony and Radical Democracy" in Hegemony & Socialist Strategy: Towards A Radical Democratic Politics. New York: Verso, 1985, 93-196.

Somers, Margaret, and Gloria D. Gibson, "Reclaiming the Epistemological 'Other': Narrative and the Social Constitution of Identity" in Social Theory and the Politics of Identity, 37-99.

Calhoun, "Nationalism and Civil Society: Democracy, Diversity, and Self-Determination," in Social Theory and the Politics of Identity, 304-336.

Condit, Celeste Michelle. "Hegemony in a Mass-mediated Society: Concordance about Reproductive Technologies," CSMC, 11 (1994): 205-230.

4/26 Presentation of Seminar Papers and Critiques I

5/1 Presentation of Seminar Papers and Critiques II

Note: 5/1 is the regularly scheduled final examination period for S726, and is listed as meeting at 8-10:00 A.M.