INSTRUCTOR: Jacqui Pratt
SCHEDULE: MW 10:30 - 12:20 CDH 115
We are constantly surrounded by varied and conflicting messages — from Tweets to advertisements, clickbait to the 24-hour news cycle. All of these different messages employ rhetoric: the art/skill/craft of effective communication. This course examines the complexly interwoven rhetorics at play in the media we consume, the materials we encounter, and the environments we inhabit in order to become more conscientious and ethical participants in our everyday lives. We begin with a general foundation in rhetoric and rhetorical theory—what it is, why it matters, and why we should study it— that stresses how multiple rhetorics shape, circulate, and get practiced in everyday life. We then examine media rhetorics, focusing on internet culture, social media, and advertising, in order to trace how different values, ethics, and beliefs are represented, circulated, and negotiated in our everyday encounters with media. Next, we shift to material rhetorics to explore how everyday materials (things, stuff) have a life and presence all their own: how they act on/with us, how they communicate to us, and how, ultimately, they are not neutral (that is, immune from the representation, circulation, and negotiation of values, ethics, and beliefs). Finally, we turn to environmental rhetorics to consider how the spaces we inhabit and move through, much like the materials we engage, shape our everyday rhetorical experiences.
To contextualize the above theories of rhetoric surrounding media, materials, and environments, you’ll be doing a quarter-long inquiry into one of the communities to which you belong. This can be an ethnic or cultural community, a religious community, a geographic community, a social community, an intellectual community, an activity-based community, etc.— the key is that your participation in and belonging to this community informs a core piece of your identity. Starting in week 2, you’ll be completing a series of weekly discussion posts on Canvas that will have you identifying, analyzing, and reflecting on the rhetorics of your chosen community. For your final project, you’ll be creating a zine that purposefully engages the media, material, and environmental rhetorics of that community. Taken together, your quarter-long inquiry, centered around community, identity, and self/world dynamics, leaves space for you to apply course content to your own diverse lives, coming to better understand how you’re personally and socially affected by the everyday rhetorics surrounding you.