Fall 2020 Teaching

In fall, I am slated to teach two courses that are not only near and dear to my pedagogical heart–and really, what other kind of heart is there?–but also timely, relevant, and dare I say essential for getting along in the world.

ENG-W 210: Literacy and Public Life (#35201)

2020 Vision: Essential Skills for Learning and Doing in the Post-Digital Era

Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:30am – 12:45pm in KO 200

ENG-W 210, which the IU bulletin gives the ecumenical title “Literacy and Public Life,” is a course I have taught several times before on such diverse topics as the mythology of the American Dream and the global corporation in American culture. Teaching it again in the fall offers an irresistible opportunity to revise the 2017 version of this course to take into account the explosion of interest in problematic information in the digital media space over the last three years.

We have to take seriously the notion that, in 2020 and perhaps for the foreseeable future, to exist at all is to dwell in the midst of a maelstrom of information. Research further suggests that traditional-age college students, who are often referred to as “digital natives,” are no more technologically savvy than anyone else. College students need to be taught how to use the web critically and carefully.

This course provides students with the background knowledge, critical skills, and essential strategies to not only succeed academically and professionally in an increasingly uncertain information environment, but also the means to survive and thrive in the post-digital era. Students learn how to be critical, careful consumers of media and learn essential strategies and habits of mind for navigating the digital environments in which we now spend nearly all of our waking hours.

Over the course of the semester, I plan to bring students up to speed on conversations surrounding

  • all forms of problematic information (e.g., disinformation, misinformation, propaganda, framing effects, “fark,” churnalism, deepfakes, cheap fakes, etc.);
  • the structure of digital textuality, micro-targeting, and algorithmic inequality;
  • cutting-edge research on digital media’s effects on the brain and our evolutionary/cognitive apparatuses for determining truth and falsehood;
  • the philosophical and theoretical infrastructure of media, cognition, and learning;
  • how digital media are superlative in their ability to actively condition and shape what we pay attention to as well as our perspectives and opinions on issues.


ENG-W 215 (#32859)

Language, Power, and Persuasion: An Introduction to Rhetoric

Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:00pm to 5:15pm in KO 104

ENG-W 215, the second course, is an introduction to rhetoric and the rhetorical tradition that I have taught several times before.

For many students, and perhaps even most people, the word “rhetoric” brings to mind the epitome of empty speech or pointless bloviation–talk for the sake of talking, some might say, or the empty lies associated in the minds of many Americans with politics.

However, as any rhetoric scholar or recent-ish PhD in English will fall all over themselves to tell you, rhetoric, as a concept, a discourse, an educational curriculum, and even an orientation to being itself (in the Heideggerian sense), is far more capacious and complex than these traditional understandings allow.

To put it bluntly, rhetoric–the art (science? practice? corporeal orientation?) of learning to be persuasive–writes the checks that make all other fields of inquiry and forms of learning possible (cf. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Erasmus, Francis Bacon, Nietzsche, …).

Rhetoric, as we will explore it in this class, is a way of seeing, knowing, and learning. This course will review the history of rhetoric across its vast two thousand-year history from the ancient Greeks to the present, as well as examine how rhetoric functions as a set of practices for writing, teaching, persuading, and communicating.

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