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Media and Visual Culture (formerly Rhetoric of Mass Media) – CMST 2950

During the last half-century the study of gender and sexuality has garnered an impressive amount of attention from the media, the academy, and the political world. Strides for equality and recognition amongst women and LGBT people have left an immeasurable impact on our political and cultural landscape. Indeed, in our media saturated society, it is almost impossible to ignore the enabling and constraining effects that visibility and its accompanying representations have had on culture. This course critically examines the relationship between communication, gender, and sexuality to achieve a more nuanced understanding of how identification and difference is manufactured in American media. The course offers particular attention to the ways in which gender and sexuality have been mediated in various public spheres, looking to how visibility has produced disciplinary discourses as well as opportunities for resisting dominant ideologies.

Political Communication (formerly Politics and Mass Media) – CMST 3700

The American political process is simultaneously one of the most revered and distrusted in the entire world. While citizens are constantly reiterating a discourse stressing individual rights and the idea that “every vote counts,” most people are also well aware that the distribution of wealth and access to the political machine are reserved for a select few. Although elections are one of the major ways people can enact their citizenship, voter participation rates continue to decline. Despite the fact that we often imagine America as a map comprising of red and blue states stitched together by a tenuous common culture, we also overlook the shades of purple that stretch across it. In this course we will look specifically at the construction of the “American political system,” the “people” who participate in it, and the issues that are engaged. Ours is a system in which rhetoric and media are the central components that construct identities that are particularly American in their character, impulse, and output. While the term rhetoric has often been demonized as a force that arouses suspicion in voters, this course will treat rhetoric as a fundamental element of the democratic process necessary in mediated communication. It is imperative that we understand rhetoric not just as a tool that can distort the “truth” about issues, but as the central constituting power on which voters and politicians alike are dependent. Indeed, rhetoric is a dialogical force that can be employed by citizens just as much as it is any political party. As such, in this course we will study the ways in which politicians, the media, and intermediaries create specific forms of rhetoric, but we will also be responsible for creating discourses that are “political” in nature, helping to produce a more productive citizenry.

Rhetoric of Health and Medicine – CMST 3740

This course engages the cultural construction of medicine and health from a rhetorical perspective. Medicine and health are investigated as essentially contested concepts that are brought to life through narratives, metaphors, normativities, and everyday bodily practices. Employing an array of humanistic perspectives and approaches, the class investigates contemporary case studies grounded in art, ethics, activism, and public controversy.

Rhetoric of the Body – CMST 3750

The relationship between bodies and discourse is both convoluted and ubiquitous. We are confronted by bodies everyday (both our own and those of others) that reflect and constitute larger cultural meanings. Bodies communicate to us what is normal and abnormal, normative and transgressive, permissible and taboo. Invariably, these commonsense frames of understanding are deeply implicated in systems of race, gender, sexuality, ability, class, age, and nationality. This course surveys a range of theories about the body and applies them to specific case studies to think through the implications of how bodies are endowed with and convey meaning. Among others, we will look at theories of pollution, pain, dis/ability, and normativity. The case studies are diverse and seemingly disparate, but all preoccupy themselves with public conceptions of bodily meaning.

Queer Rhetorics – CMST 3760

Queer Rhetorics engages the intellectual, political, and cultural developments between queer theory and communication studies. Tracing the genealogical development of “queer” through rhetorical studies, gender and sexuality studies, and performance studies, this course ponders the utility, limits, and political uptake of the ubiquitous heuristic “queer.” The course will focus on debates in queer theory and rhetoric by turning to the works of Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, José Esteban Muñoz, and others. Topics include, but are not limited to, the historical emergence of queer as a concept, discourses of normativity and non-normativity, the relationship between identity and politics, and much more.