Everyday Scientific Rhetoric
Complete Syllabus - 206_Syllabus.doc
Location/Time: Mon/Weds 2:30-4:20, Loew 113
Instructor: Lillian Campbell (Lilly or Ms. Campbell)
Office: Padelford B-402
Office Hrs: Weds 12-2 or by appointment
Class Website: https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/946882
We don’t usually think of “Rhetoric” and “Science” as two ideas that belong in the same sentence. “Rhetoric” is often used to describe language practices that are showy but intentionally deceptive, (as in “empty rhetoric”). Meanwhile, scientific argument is all about the transparent communication of facts. So, there’s no rhetoric in science… right? This course will introduce you to a scholarly field that believes otherwise: the Rhetoric of Science. This field believes there is a lot of rhetoric to be found in scientific communication. Of course, this is going to require expanding our definition of rhetoric to include all kinds of persuasive language. By this definition, even the use of technical jargon or the strategy of noun-ing a verb counts as rhetoric. As we develop some strategies for recognizing persuasion at work in scientific writing, we’ll also have our sights set on the big questions:
- What are the choices that scientists make in communicating? Where is there flexibility?
- What kinds of rhetoric help some scientific claims to gain prominence while others fail?
- Who is empowered by scientific language and who is disempowered?
- How does the communication of science change across disciplines or to public audiences?
My goals for you in this course are three-fold. First, I am writing teacher at heart and this is a writing intensive course, so you will improve your writing skills over the course of our ten weeks together by writing regularly as a way to reflect and engage with ideas. You will do in-class free writes, a “mini crit” that will give you a chance to try out an analytic strategy on a scientific text and get feedback on your analysis, and a research paper. These assignments will strengthen your close reading skills, as well as your ability to use theories to analyze excerpts from texts. In addition, you will improve your critical thinking, as this course will challenge you to think through difficult concepts and ideas related to language, communication and identity. Finally, you will leave with an idea of what people who study rhetoric “do” when they look at texts and how people who study the rhetoric of science fit into the field of rhetorical scholarship. In other words, you will have some disciplinary context. Obviously, a single introductory course can’t give you a full lay of the land, but my hope is that you leave with some idea what this “rhetoric” thing is all about..
Course Texts and Materials
- English 206 Course Pack: Available at the Ave Copy Center, 4141 University Way NE #103
- A notebook for in-class reflections and note taking
-Regular Internet Access to submit assignments and participate in online discussions and Email*
*I will periodically send announcements and updates via email. Outside of office hours, email is the best way to get in touch with me. If you email me between 9am and 5pm on weekdays, I will respond to you by midnight that day. Emails sent after 5pm or on weekends might not be answered until the next business day.
For complete Syllabus, click here: 206_Syllabus.doc
Any course materials/presentations not in the course pack will be posted here: Course Materials
We don’t usually think of “Rhetoric” and “Science” as two words that belong in the same sentence. “Rhetoric” is often used to describe language practices that are showy but intentionally deceptive (as in “empty rhetoric”). Meanwhile, scientific argument is all about the transparent communication of facts. So, there’s no rhetoric in science… right? Right? This course will introduce you to a scholarly field that believes otherwise: the “Rhetoric of Science.” We will learn some basics about rhetoric, which we will define as any strategic use of language and symbols to get things done in the world. Then each week, we will use a different rhetorical strategy to look at a contemporary scientific issue, including topics such as genetics and global warming.
Class projects will require students to identify, explore, and respond to the rhetorical aspects of a scientific topic of their choosing. We will consider both the consequences of scientific rhetoric, as well as how rhetoric might be deployed as a tool for social action and intervention. This course meets the University’s W-credit requirement and will include an in-class presentation, a 7-10 page final paper, and informal weekly writing.
No background in rhetoric or in science is necessary to take this course. This course will be particularly beneficial to individuals interested in professions in the sciences as well as law, education, business, public relations, and journalism.