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CAS 507 - Issues in Rhetorical Theory

Professor: Pamela VanHaitsma
Office: 226 Sparks

This seminar will investigate queer rhetorics from an intersectional perspective. It will consider, in other words, the dynamic relationships between rhetorical theory, queer theory, and theories of intersectionality. How, we will ask, do scholars of rhetoric take up questions of sexuality and gender, especially as they intersect with other categories such as race, ethnicity, nation, class, and ability?

As Matthew B. Cox and Michael J. Faris observe in their annotated bibliography of LGBTQ rhetorics, “the body of work in rhetorical studies…that addresses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (hereafter LGBTQ) issues has grown quite drastically. While the first few decades marked slow and interstitial development of this work, it has burgeoned into a rigorous, exciting, and diverse body of literature since the turn of the century—a body of literature that shows no signs of slowing down in its growth.”

This diverse body of queer rhetorics literature encompasses queer in at least two senses: as an adjective—an umbrella term characterizing a range of rhetorical practices by LGBTQ individuals, communities, and social movements—and as a verb—a methodological move we may make in order to trouble normative, hierarchical distinctions of sexuality, gender, and their intersections with other categories. Indeed, in the best of this literature, queer methodology is intersectional. Grounded in women of color feminist theory, intersectional approaches, in the words of Karma R. Chávez, seek “understanding of how multiple oppressions (and privileges) deriving from systems such as race, class, gender, sexuality and nation intermesh.”

Our seminar will engage with intersectional queer rhetorics scholarship through intensive reading, weekly discussions, and written assignments. Assignments will be geared to practicing genres important to academic life including annotated bibliography entries, social media posts, book reviews, essays that respond to a specific CFP, and mock conference talks. In the case of your book reviews and essays, they will be due as initial submissions, receive feedback oriented to revision for potential publication, and then be revised before the end of the semester.

Through this work together, the course will prepare you to become an active participant in scholarly conversations about rhetoric, sexuality and gender, power and identity, and intersectionality. The seminar will contribute to your training in rhetorical theory by offering an in-depth study of a disciplinary subfield—queer rhetorics—as well as two key concepts that frame a range of interdisciplinary work in the humanities—queer and intersectionality.

More information about the course is available at https://cas507qri.wordpress.com. Also feel free to email me with questions.