Research in Rhetorical Studies

L756 — Spring 2018

Wylie Hall 111
Days and Times
5:45-8:45 T
Course Description

Does scholarship that critiques undemocratic relations serve democracy? Theories of democracy that explicitly reject its liberal and representational variations often avoid asking whether theoretically rigorous writing can serve the cause of direct collective rule of the demos by itself. This course will ask whether the act of scholarly critique has a role to play in democracy and if so, what is that role? First we will frame the development of contemporary practices of critique by briefly visiting works by Freud, Althusser, and Nietzsche and analysis by Ricoeur of them as the hermeneutics of suspicion. Critical theories developed out of these works have generated concepts like power, neoliberalism, empire, and biopower. These concepts are subsequently used by critics to identify and describe undemocratic phenomena and relations. But what, if any, are the political implications of critically labeling such phenomena and what does assuming the political value of critique suggest about the nature of democracy? As we explore the legacies and revisions of these critical practices we will unpack how figures of democracy function rhetorically in the performance of scholarly critique. These will include materialist and vitalist conceptions of democracy related to Foucaults work, Hardt and Negris appropriation of Deleuze and Guattari, Laclau and Mouffes accounts of populism and hegemony, Habermass critical theory of the public sphere, and Ranci_res democratic polemics. Additionally, we will speculate about ways of orienting critique toward serving democratic political movement. Freya Thimsen

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