ENGLISH 203 - Introduction to Language and Rhetoric
Winter 2022, Section 001 - Rhetoric and Rights: Language and Power in U.S. Civil Rights Movements
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 8 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 1/5/22 - 4/19/22 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


Our conversations in this course will impact the ways we look at the every day, every day. Rhetoric, after all, is everywhere. And we know that words matter. Sure, lots of us learned an old playground rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While that may reassure an elementary school child, once we spend even a few minutes studying language and politics, or language and advertising, or language and just about anything, we soon realize 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, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and disability rights movements) – and also, in our conversations and writings, by bringing what we learn from that engagement to the worlds around us, outside of our classroom. Might be as engaging, and sometimes as challenging, 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, Tammy Baldwin, Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer, Huey Newton, John F. Kennedy, and Harriet McBryde Johnson, will be available online via Canvas.

Course Requirements:

This course is a gameful course, which means students can select from a menu of assignments, try different activities, and collect points as they move through the semester. Some options include writing traditional essays, designing and completing multimedia projects, journaling about our shared texts, engaging with other classmates through online discussions, and introducing additional materials into our course. 

Intended Audience:

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

Class Format:

Lecture and discussion.


ENGLISH 203 - Introduction to Language and Rhetoric
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
1/5/22 - 4/19/22

Textbooks/Other Materials

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