Course Detail

Language as Social Action


Those who wish to promote social change have typically relied on language, perhaps our most important symbolic resource, to help them to define problematic social and political practices and to argue for new policies. How have persons and groups mobilized linguistic resources in order to argue for social change in the United States? Rhetoric-the study of how public understandings are shaped, shared, and changed through the agency of language-has since ancient times guided speakers and writers in the production of persuasive discourses. The course will examine several episodes of sharp disagreement in American life where civic roles and the rights of citizens have been contested. Using a rhetorical lens, we will analyze primary documents (written and spoken discourses produced during these episodes) in order to understand and evaluate the ways in which groups with unequal power have struggled to define some significant part of their common experience.

Students entering 2012 and after: satisfies the Literary Studies, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric distribution requirement.