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CAS 478 - Contemporary U.S. Political Rhetoric

Rhetoric, Violence, School Shootings, Public Memory

This course provides students the opportunity to use the study and practice of rhetoric for the public good in the context of an apparently intractable public problem in the United States: school shootings. Informed by the rich history of rhetorical theory in general and argumentation and public memory studies in particular, this course offers variously mediated texts as points of departure to enable students to learn and deliberate together about the causes, consequences, and possible remedies for school shootings and other public violence. Students will study political rhetoric about the causes and consequences of public gun violence and produce their own individual and collaborative discourses. Finally, we'll discuss what our focus on school shootings obscures: Given that most public violence in the United States is experienced by impoverished communities and women, part of our obligation as rhetorical critics is to make sure focusing on a relatively spectacular topic -- school shootings -- doesn't blind us to other, even more pernicious, structures of public violence.

Assignments Include:

  • Oral history or personal account of public or cultural violence and/or public memory
  • Rhetorical analysis of cultural artifact: news story, speech, film, videogame, image, etc.
  • Commentary on school shootings, rhetoric, and public memory: exigent topic of your choice