Spring 2014 Multimedia Courses, WR 13300

Please note: WR 13300: Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric course descriptions are available here. Also, WR 13200: Community-Based Writing course descriptions are available here.

"Rhetoric and Discourses of Power"
Prof. Dan Murphy
WR 13300-01 / MWF 8:20-9:10 

We will interrogate “arguments” as they appear across media and explore their cultural, pedagogical, and political ramifications. Our main objectives concern developing critical thinking and reading skills and crafting sophisticated, inquiry-based arguments in writing. This course will also emphasize the specifics of formal argumentation, which means attending to the media-specific protocols that influence how different mediums make meaning. This formal focus will be applied to traditional texts as well as it will be used to engage with a diverse range of media, including posters, blogs, music, videos, and social media. Documentary and Hollywood films will receive a particular emphasis in the late stages of the course. The films we are likely to examine include Zero Dark Thirty, The Tree of Life, The Thin Blue Line, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, and Blood Diamond.

"Behind the Curtain: The Underlying Rhetoric of Visual Media"
Prof. Leanne MacDonald
WR 13300-03 / MWF 10:30-11:20 

As we participate in the social environments of academic, professional, and personal life, we are bombarded with a vast amount of information as part of a communication process that might not always be transparent. In this course, students will learn to engage critically with the underlying arguments of visual and written stimuli encountered on a daily basis, and express clear and effective responses to these stimuli in their own writing. Assignments will include a visual essay, rhetorical analysis of a piece of artwork found in the Snite Museum, a film review, a research paper, and a personal narrative. Students will also develop their own engagement with visual arguments by delivering a series of short presentations in which they share thoughts on an argument in a visual medium with the class.

"Utopian Visions"
Prof. Margaret McMillan
WR 13300-04 / MWF 11:30-12:20 

For centuries, writers have made arguments about how the world can or cannot be improved. Through Utopian fiction, writers sculpt an imaginary world by which certain theories of improvement can be tried and critiqued. Their arguments allow us to ask the potent question “what if?” Other individuals go a step further, attempting to bring their Utopian arguments to life in the real world. This class will examine how rhetorical tools function in a selection of fiction and non-fiction utopian arguments. Our interactions with this science fiction genre will also allow us to explore pressing questions about our relationship with technology, virtual communities, and how scientific advancement influences our perceptions of human identity. As you craft your own argument, you will have the opportunity to experiment with multi-modal mediums, in order to discover how genre contributes to content and allows us to present information in new and compelling ways. Projects include a research paper on a topic of your choosing, blog, audio narrative, and video/photo essay. 

"The Rhetoric of Knowledge and Belief in a Post-9/11 World"
Prof. Bryan Santin
WR 13300-08 / TR 9:30-10:45 

Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, large-scale public discussions emerged re-evaluating some of the most foundational questions of religious knowledge and belief. These discussions also coincided with unprecedented access to media technologies in the ensuing 2000s—e.g., personal and professional blogs, formal debates broadcast on Youtube, individual videos uploaded to the Internet by both skeptics and believers alike. In this class, we will think critically about the rhetorical tactics and strategies embedded in these multimedia debates. In the process, students will learn the principles and practices of rhetoric and composition in order to produce writing that is effective for its purpose, audience and context.

"Screen Literacies and (Re)Mediated Identities"
Prof. Erin Dietel-McLaughlin
WR 13300-09, WR 13300-11, and WR 13300-12 / TR 11:00-12:15, 12:30-1:45, and 2:00-3:15 

Historically, literacy--the meaning-making practices of a literate culture--have strong ties to identity, citizenship, and community participation; but digital culture continues to shape the ways in which we project our identities and interact with one another, with profound ramifications for private, academic, corporate, and civic sectors. With these shifts in mind, we will spend the term examining what it means to negotiate identity in digital culture, grounding this exploration in rhetorical principles that will advance your ability to think critically about your competing and interacting identities, both online and off. We will examine a variety of controversies related to digital media, with particular emphasis this term on the role of screens, screen literacies, and interfaces in our lives. Major projects include an audio essay, film/photography analysis, research paper, and visual essay.

"Aristotelian Arguments in a Digital Age"
Prof. Patrick Clauss
WR 13300-10 / TR 12:30-1:45

Two thousand years ago, someone wanting to share a message—to influence others—had a rather limited set of options: That person could write a letter, shout in a public place, or perhaps send smoke signals. Today, communicators have an unprecedented number of options, including television, radio, cell phones, YouTube, Twitter . . . the list goes on. Available media have exploded in recent years. However, have the fundamental components of the messages themselves also changed? What about argument methods and structures--have they changed, too? Or is it true that the more things change, the more they stay the same? Finally, what might we learn about digital arguments, for instance, from Aristotle’s classic On Rhetoric? Such questions will guide our work this semester as we investigate the ways humans use symbols, like language, to influence others in the 21st century.

"Environmental Sustainability in the Digital Age"
Prof. Joshua Kercsmar
WR 13300-13 / TR 9:30-10:45

This course will teach you three things: how to read well, how to write well, and how to argue well. The division is entirely artificial -- to know one is to know three. Just as you cannot separate what you say from how you say it, rhetoric must exist in particular forms -- in this case, media dealing with human relationships to the natural world. Some argue that escalating temperatures, ecological degradation, and the exploitation of plants and animals are the defining moral issues of our time. Others counter that such worries are overblown, and that environmental regulation is unnecessary or even harmful. Still others stake out a middle ground, saying that our most urgent dilemma is meeting the world’s increasing demand for natural resources while avoiding environmental destruction. In navigating this rhetorical thicket, how do we decide what is right, what is desirable, and what is even possible? By investigating the alarmism and optimism that fuel this debate, we can uncover rhetorical strategies that will lend style and force to our own reading, writing, and arguing. Even as we gain these skills, we will analyze how different forms of print-based and new media shape our messages. Our examination of traditional print-based sources will include press releases from environmental groups; essays from authors who challenge conventional environmental wisdom; and local and international news. Our examination of digital media will include films, documentaries, photographic essays, TED talks, websites, and more. By learning to read, compose, and argue in both traditional and digital contexts, we will learn how different media create different relationships with the people we are tying to reach, and why it is therefore important to tailor our messages to the medium we are using.