ENGLISH 203 - Introduction to Language and Rhetoric
Section: 001 Rhetorical Dimensions of U.S. Civil Rights Movements
Term: WN 2018
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 8 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:

Many of us learned an old playground rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” While that may reassure an elementary school child, anyone who spends even a few minutes studying language and politics, or language and advertising, or language and just about anything, soon realizes that naming has tremendous power. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously defends his “willingness to break laws” by naming some laws just and some unjust; lives hang in the balance pending whether something is named murder or self-defense; selecting a category of racial or national membership on an application or a census poll has many practical consequences.

If we acknowledge the tremendous power tied to our linguistic and rhetorical choices, it becomes so important to think critically about them. How do we use, engage, sometimes take apart arguments — whether we are building nations, establishing equalities, normalizing behaviors, applying for jobs, or appealing parking tickets? We’ll increase our critical and analytical facility with persuasive discourse by engaging some inspiring and often masterful texts from U.S. civil rights movements (1960s Black freedom activists of course, but also gay rights, women’s rights, and disability rights movements, too) — and also, in our conversations and writings, by bringing what we learn from that engagement to the worlds around us, outside of our classroom. Basically, we get to study terrific texts, and what we come up with just might change the ways we look at the every day, every day. Might even be as fun as playing on an elementary school playground, without the sticks and stones.

Our texts, mainly speeches and short essays by people including for example Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Susan B. Anthony, Zach Wahls, Frederick Douglass, John F. Kennedy, and Harriet McBryde Johnson, will be available online via Canvas.

Course Requirements:

Work for the course includes an exam and several short engagements (approximately three pages each).

Intended Audience:

No background knowledge is required for this introductory course. Everyone is welcome, including people with backgrounds in history, politics, or activism as well people just taking the course to fill a requirement.

Class Format:

Lecture and discussion.

ENGLISH 203 - Introduction to Language and Rhetoric
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
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