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CAS 597 - Political Leadership, Presidents, and Contemporary Social Issues

President Kennedy delivering speech

Professor: Mary E. Stuckey
Office: 240H Sparks Building
Email: mstuckey@psu.edu

This class takes a rhetorical perspective on the ways in which social issues in the contemporary political context filter up into and through the US presidency. It focuses on the institution as a node of discourses surrounding the entirety of our shared political life. These discourses may originate in the Oval Office or in the administration more broadly, but they just as frequently stem from media agendas, citizen activists or corporate interests. Whether or not a president is personally invested in any given issue, administrations must engage with any and all of the discourses that circulate around them.

Different sections of the class will address questions like: the presidency as a locus for the development of theory; the various ways to analyze and understand publics and public opinion; how presidential libraries and archives are useful resources for analyzing social movements, issues, and controversies; the role of technology in crafting visual, aural, and textual images of political actors; and of course, the limits and possibilities of political leadership.

Course Objectives

There are two main parts to the course. In the first, we will be investigating the cultural and institutional influences on the presidency and the rhetoric associated with it. The second part of the course will involve analysis of the genres of presidential speech.

Presidents