Courses

CCR760: Contemporary Caribbean Rhetoric
The great risk of being considered ‘marginalized’ is that once you begin to make the move toward the ‘center’—wherever you believe that ‘center’ to be—you will find no one there. They have moved on without you. You will go again in search of that new center—with new words, fresh terms—only to find that it too has been moved. You now have a dilemma: do you go again? or, do you stand still, making a center of yourself? Yet another dilemma: what do you say when the screaming stops, and you have an audience willing, for once, to listen? This seminar is designed to familiarize students with the Caribbean rhetoric tradition not only as a vernacular cultural practice, but also as a viable method of scholarly inquiry. We will be guided overall by two key questions: What does it mean to persuasively enact one’s “Caribbeanness” in the face of hegemony/homogeny? and What could a Caribbean perspective mean for research and teaching in rhetoric, composition, communication, education, and English studies?

Adopting such an approach, we will examine some of the major modes of Caribbean discourse as they are deployed in multiple genres (including fiction, nonfiction, memoir, letters, poetry, film, photography, and digital video). In addition, students will be required to perform their own sophisticated inquiries into subjects relevant to the course topic. Each student will complete a substantial research project that involves a study of a rhetorical issue or event directly related to the Caribbean rhetorical tradition. The goal is to give students a chance to learn the methods of rhetorical criticism as applied to original scholarship on an issue of Caribbean import—and, possibly, to have a chance to publish that work. As such, some attention will be given to publication opportunities, research methods, and the conventions of academic publication in rhetorical and literary studies

CCR631: Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
It is impossible for rhetoric to be defined as a single disciplinary history, or to be narrowed down to a single, comprehensive area of study. Over time, it has been approached in different ways, each approach changing what we might consider the nature of rhetoric to reflect the times. For instance, the linguistic turn of the 20th century resulted in its increased importance in English Studies and Communication Studies, and the Humanities, in general. What are we to make of our roles, then? According to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca in The New Rhetoric, no “hard-and-fast rules can be laid down, since one must take account of the particular character of the audience, of its evolution during the debate, and of the fact that habits and procedures that prove good in one sphere are no good in another. A general rhetoric cannot be fixed by precepts and rules laid down once for all” (1401) but “must be able to adapt itself to the most varied circumstances, matters and audiences” (1401). How do we do that? What are the conditions under which we are able to contribute and, in so doing, help define the parameters of our discipline? Implicit in this notion is the claim that a consideration of rhetoric should not be based solely on our meditations of historical figures at the expense of silencing the voices that define the course of rhetorical theory in contemporary times. We are obliged to do both, adjusting as rhetorical situations evolve.

Considering the enormity of satisfactorily charting the course of rhetoric, per se, our purpose in this course will be to consider “when and where we enter” the conversation as theorists (which, for the purpose of this course, is how I will regard you and how you ought to regard yourselves). This will be a twofold endeavor that takes the cusp of the 21st century as its point of departure. First, we will be immersing ourselves in that conversation (taking the opportunity, from time to time, to view some key figures in depth); as with any conversation, the focus will be on ideas and questions—some of which seem to persistently elude us. Second, we will collectively survey contemporary rhetoric journals, in an effort to consider rhetoric’s most current status. Correspondingly, I will ask you to complete two different projects, both of medium length (8-10 pages, or its equivalent): one that identifies a particular theme, tracing its historical grounding; and a second that asks you to take what has been gathered about contemporary scholarship and to engage in some preliminary (though robust) theorizing of your own.

WRT424: Caribbean Cybercultures
This upper division course examines how Caribbean rhetorical traditions are expressed in digital environments. We will explore, analyze, and critique a wide range of texts–produced “by” Caribbean people as well as “about” them. The course responds to the urgency of establishing a legitimate cybercultural presence in an ostensibly “free,” though increasingly restrictive, space: the Internet. In general, oral, literate, and visual performances that emerge (and endure) in digital environments represent sophisticated discursive practices that can enable Caribbean people to claim a legitimate presence in cyberspace. However, as many users struggle to participate in and define what a Caribbean cyberculture actually looks like—that is, what it can actually “be”—we are forced to consider the rhetorical significance of texts that privilege Caribbean forms of expression. Students will be expected to perform critical research for a final project (8-10 pages) and digital presentation (15-20 minutes) that not only contribute to the legitimacy of Caribbean cybercultural expression, but also interrogates the ways in which these texts abide by and/or resist what it means to be “Caribbean” in contemporary times. The exact nature of each project will be based on student interest (individual or group) and topic choice, which will be discussed in consultation with me. Possible research questions include:

  • How do the literacy practices on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, enable the continuity of traditional forms of vernacular agency?
  • How does the hypersexuality of video disrupt masculinist notions of power?
  • How does the reemergence of mixtape archives function as explicit, vernacular critiques of authorship 
and intellectual property?
  • What are the internal contradictions of “representative” texts that emphasize the individuality and 
anonymity of the performer?
  • How does technology enable Caribbean users to mediate multiple identities as an implicit critique of 
global citizenship?
  • How might contemporary social movements and legal rulings affect the development of Caribbean cybercultures?

WRT 423: Caribbean Rhetoric in Harlem 1920-1939
Caribbean writers’ contributions to the Harlem Renaissance—one of the premiere movements of the 20th century—are frequently overlooked, as are many of the definitive roles they played in the development of American society. This course examines the diverse rhetorical strategies of Caribbean writers and activitists who were integral to this remarkable period of artistic development and social change. We will read and discuss some of the major ideas, themes, and issues of the period as perceived and interpreted by this relatively underexposed social formation. You will be required to submit a final paper researching the work and influence of at least one figure covered in the course. Topics will be selected in consultation with me. Papers will be at least 2,000 words and must adhere to standard documentation styles (MLA or Chicago). They will be judged based on the degree to which students articulate and develop a viable thesis or main idea, the extent to which they rely on evidence from the course text(s) and from secondary sources, and the measure of clear expression they exhibit. Organization, sentence structure, grammar, and usage will also be considered. In the last week of class, we will have a symposium, during which you will have the opportunity to present (and possibly publish) synopses of your research projects for discussion. Multimodality is encouraged but not required.

WRT 413: Rhetoric & Ethics
In this course, we will examine the interplay of rhetoric and ethics as they manifest in contemporary culture. You should expect to write frequently and in a wide range of situations and genres. All of the activities of our course will be designed to challenge you to think critically and analytically and to demonstrate rhetorical agility and ethical sensibility in your writing. You will be expected to employ strategies for critical research to find, use, evaluate, and engage
with a range of sources beyond the scope of the readings included below. More specifically, this course will rely on a significant deal of self-inquiry—a constant questioning and articulation of your own ethics, as well as demonstrable awareness of how such ethics may be communicated in different contexts and to the greatest effect. You will consider what it means to be ethical beings in society, paying close attention to the critical importance of being cognizant of your
impact on the communities you associate with the most (and even some you don’t). You will be encouraged to think and write with the awareness that you are always in a “rhetorical situation” that calls for ethical awareness at every level. This presumes that what we have to say is not just important, but essential to larger conversations oriented to a sense of the common good.
(WRT 413 Rhetoric and Ethics Syllabus)

WRT 205: Research, Writing, and Visual Culture
This WRT 205 will teach you strategies for academic writing and research that will focus on analysis and argument in visual culture. You should expect to write frequently and in a wide range of situations: formal, informal, etc.; some assignments will require you to share some of your work publicly while others will be submitted only to me. All of the activities of our course will be designed to challenge you to think critically and analytically and to develop rhetorical agility in your writing, so you will learn strategies for critical research to help you find, use, evaluate, and engage with sources in your writing. More specifically, this course will rely on a significant deal of self-inquiry and reflection as you consider what it means to “write yourselves into being” and the critical importance of being cognizant of your impact on the communities you associate with the most (and even some you don’t). In short, you will be encouraged to think and write with the awareness that you are always in a “rhetorical situation” and that what we have to say is not just important, but essential to larger conversations.

WRT 114: Writing Culture, Writing Ourselves
This course provides an introduction to creative nonfiction (CNF), a genre of non-academic writing that encompasses many kinds of prose: memoirs, biography, travel writing, science writing, and literary journalism, to name a few. The crucial distinction between creative nonfiction and fiction is that nonfiction purports to tell the truth with very little embellishment. Works of creative nonfiction can be as short as a paragraph, or as long as a book; in this class, we’ll focus on composing essays with the aim of exploring a wide range of topics and experimenting broadly with voice, style, form, and the use of research to enrich our writing. In order to establish vivid depictions of reality, creative nonfiction borrows techniques of fiction writing, such as scene, character, and dialogue. It also draws from poetic approaches to language, including imagery, metaphor, tone, and shifts in point of view and perspective. We’ll study these building blocks of creative nonfiction and use them to compose flash nonfiction and longer work.

One of the greatest challenges in writing creative nonfiction is how to go about telling our stories, which are always subjective, always at once personal and political, and always complicated by gaps and erasures in memory. In this class, no subject or writing experiment is taboo, as long as you stay faithful to the truth—or, your version of it—and demonstrate its meaning to others. I encourage you to take chances with subject matter, language, and form. This is a creative writing class, so be creative! Have fun with the assignments. You will be required to compose an original memoir of publishable quality on any topic of your choosing. Manuscripts will be submitted, along with final revisions of other coursework, on the last day of classes.

WRT105: Studio 1, Practices of Academic Writing
This course is an introduction to academic writing that focuses on the practices of analysis and argument, practices that carry across disciplinary lines and into professional and civic writing. These interdependent practices of critical inquiry are fundamental to the work you will do at Syracuse University and later in your careers and civic engagements. Critical inquiry is not a staid and dull endeavor. It takes imagination to understand more fully the things that surround us. I’m not talking about the imagination of Walt Disney, or the imagination needed to create the world of Harry Potter; it is the ability to acknowledge and make meaning out of difference, to grasp the complexity of issues and experiences, and to avoid the impulse to reject the unfamiliar. We develop such an imagination by being willing to look closely and critically at the world around us, and to ask questions of what we see, experience, and assume. Analysis, as Rosenwasser and Stephen claim in Writing Analytically 5th edition, “is a form of detective work that typically pursues something puzzling, something you are seeking to understand rather than something you are already sure you have the answers to. Analysis finds questions where there seem not to be any, and it makes connections that might not have been evident at first” (4). You analyze when you think carefully enough to recommend a course to a friend, or explore why a particular college sports team is so dominant, or decide who you will vote for in the local election, or come to understand better the geopolitical situation produced by the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Argument involves analysis and moves into making claims to a specific audience about how the world is or should be. Argument here goes beyond pro/con debates on abortion or gun control and extends into situated social practices such as when you are working together as a sorority to plan the next event, or persuading your parents that body piercing makes a social statement, or taking a stand in an education class on the value of anti-racist pedagogy. Evidence for your arguments comes from analysis, from discussion with others, from your personal experience, and from research in the library and on the web.