ENGLISH 527 - Contemporary Critical Theory
Fall 2021, Section 001 - Rhetoric, Race, and American Literature
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing and permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


What happens when we read literature rhetorically? Put another way: what happens when we take theories and methods typically associated with the study of “composition,” or argumentation, and bring them to bear on narrative fiction, poetry, and drama?

As we ponder these rhetorical and literary questions, our course will pay special attention to race, politics, and power. We will investigate how ancient, Eurocentric conceptions of speech and persuasion have acted in the service of enslavement, colonization, and exclusion. On the other hand, we also will explore how African American, Asian American, Native American, and U.S. Latinx speakers and writers have taken up—and revised—these ancient conceptions, redirecting them toward freedom, openness, and justice.

In the first few weeks of the term, we will work to get some grounding in the “rhetorical tradition” of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian, and then we will ask how the ideas of these Greek and Roman philosophers shaped sixteenth- through nineteenth-century debates around colonialism, slavery, “Indian Removal,” and women’s rights in the Americas. In the middle of the term, Zitkala-Ša, Ralph Ellison, Gordon Henry, Jr., and others will invite us to consider fiction, creative nonfiction, and drama as rhetorical theory, analysis, and praxis—especially in relation to early- and mid-twentieth-century American education and law. Finally, toward the end of the term, Gloria Anzaldúa, Jessica Hagedorn, and Ruth Ozeki, among others, will use their books to start a conversation about intertextuality and multimedia: how do poetry, film, TV, and prose work in concert to communicate cross-cultural messages about sexuality, dis/ability, and migration? What are the ethics of narration and readership, of production and reception, of speaking and listening?

Course requirements will include short weekly responses, two in-class presentations, and a final seminar paper of 12–15 pages (or an alternative final project of equivalent substance). Students from other departments and the MFA Program are very welcome.


ENGLISH 527 - Contemporary Critical Theory
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM

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