Contemporary Theories in Rhetoric and Composition

W602 — Fall 2021

Freya Thimsen
Days and Times
11:30a - 12:45p MW (4 CR.)
Course Description

Topic: Pedagogy for Public Culture

What is the value and importance of educating? How are understandings of the value and importance of educating translated into pedagogical techniques? This course is intended to invite consideration of fundamental issues in the theories and practices of humanities teaching both inside and outside of the contemporary university. Pedagogical orientations should not be understood as context-free formulae but rather as cultural practices deeply embedded within long standing but constantly shifting institutions, traditions, narratives, and controversies. Techniques have consequences and genealogies, and an effective critical pedagogy entails a self-reflexive understanding of those consequences and genealogies. Scholars such as Michel Foucault, Wendy Brown, and Christopher Newfield have contributed important insights into how historical contexts have changed expectations and resources available for “educating” the public. Given shifts in the economics, politics, and culture of colleges and universities, how should we be conceptualizing the value of an education in the humanities, rhetoric, and persuasive arts? This course will begin the process of answering this question by considering critical perspectives on issues such as the neoliberalization of universities and how they both perpetuate and address racial inequalities, student debt, and other structural elements of education that pedagogy for public culture must respond to. We will then take up the work of historical and contemporary touchstone pedagogical thinkers such as Matthew Arnold, 

Stanley Fish, John Dewey, bell hooks, Paolo Friere, Isocrates, Henry Giroux, Fred Moten & Stephano Harney, and Jacques Rancière to explore how reconceptualizing the art of teaching and its goals can respond to (and fail to respond to) ongoing changes in public institutions that are capturing, defining, and distributing culture, power, and political action. Along the way we will consider the value and implications of a variety of pedagogically inflected activities that may include the following according to student interest: service learning, internships, writing centers, speaking centers, community literacy projects, museum-based education, administrative service, prison-based hybrid classrooms, and historical archives.

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

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