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Topics in Rhetoric: Posthuman Rhetorics, Spring 2019

Catalog Description

ENG 446: Prerequisite, written inquiry. An opportunity for in-depth study, this course may focus on a single theme, historical period, or group of rhetoricians. Possible topics include Early Rhetoric (Greek, Roman, early Christian, medieval and scholastic); History of Rhetoric from the English Renaissance to today; the Rhetoric of the American Slavery Debate, History of Women Rhetoricians, the Rhetoric of Technology. May be repeated for credit with different emphasis. Dependent upon its emphasis, this course might be used to satisfy one of the distribution requirements for English majors. (Offered as needed.) 3 credits.

ENG 500: Prerequisite, graduate standing at Chapman University. An opportunity for in-depth study, this course may focus on a single theme, historical period, or group of rhetoricians. Possible topics include Early Rhetoric (Greek, Roman, early Christian, medieval and scholastic; Meso-American); Chinese Rhetorics; History of Rhetoric from the English Renaissance to Today; the Rhetoric of the American Slavery Debate; History of Women Rhetoricians; the Rhetoric of Technology; Queer Rhetorics; Chicana/o Rhetorics; World Englishes; Disability Studies and Composition. May be repeated for credit with different emphasis. (Offered as needed.) 3 credits.

Topic: Posthuman Rhetorics

Through an immersion in a variety of “texts” and discourses—critical theory, literature, cinema and television, and even video games—this course will interrogate the rhetoric (re)examining and (re)inventing human and nonhuman being.

Supported BA in English learning outcomes

  • Students will develop their skill in crafting a compelling thesis-driven essay, with substantiating evidence.
  • Students will develop their skill in finding, analyzing, and utilizing secondary sources (including appropriate methods of citation).
  • Students will develop their skill in writing grammatically, coherently, and persuasively.
  • Students will develop their ability to explain and apply significant theoretical and critical approaches in the field of English studies.

Supported MA in English Program Outcomes

  • Students will demonstrate the ability to produce a sophisticated, article-length essay.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to situate their projects within broader critical, historical, social, cultural or philosophical contexts.
  • Students will demonstrated a polished writing style (free of major mechanical errors) that enables them to present ideas and evidence at a high scholarly level.
  • Students will demonstrate in-depth knowledge of key critical/theoretical debates relevant to their topic.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, each student should be able to

  • Understand important current debates in rhetoric and cultural studies related to the theoretical field of posthumanism
  • Engage with and respond to texts in critical theory through close reading and annotation
  • Engage with and respond to rhetorical artifacts through a practice of theoretically-based analysis and deconstruction
  • Engage in informed discussions of complex discourses
  • Synthesize complex discourses in the contexts of rhetorical practices

In addition, by the end of the course graduate students should be able to

  • Closely read, interpret, and engage with foundational philosophical arguments/texts, and synthesize those discourses with other discourses in the course
  • Lead informed and helpful discussions on the discourses represented in courses texts
  • Know how to create a theoretically-informed syllabus for a college composition course
  • Articulate your own position on a range of theoretical and pedagogical issues in relation to other composition scholars and teachers

Course Format

As a combination advanced undergraduate and graduate rhetoric course, this class presumes a foundational knowledge in literary and rhetorical criticism. Our goal should be to immerse ourselves into the “texts”—critical, philosophical, literary, cultural, media (and on and on)—and effectively join a critical discourse. You will be challenged to apply your current knowledge of literary theory and criticism, of rhetorical theory and criticism, of cultural theory and criticism, and to also subvert that existing knowledge in order to formulate persuasive discourses of cultural, of texts, and of rhetorical practice, adding to the “ongoing conversation.” For this to occur, there needs to be wide ranging, meaningful dialogue in the classroom.

The critical and philosophical texts are dense, and carry long histories of discourse and traditions. While I’ve attempted to make the reading load manageable, you will likely need to give the texts multiple passes, and do additional contextual research to understand the scope of the discourse they are a part of. To ensure an enjoyable and successful course, everyone needs to complete (and annotate) all of the assigned reading prior to each class session. The course format will be based on discussion: small group discussion to get the conversation started, discussion leaders to help guide and focus, large group discussion to bring our various ideas and perspectives together, and a smattering of lectures to provide context to some of the more difficult theory.

In our digital age, we cannot ignored the ways in which discourse is mediated by various forms and writing environments, particularly the online public sphere. To this end, writing will be “public”—meaning your classmates will be able to read and gain insight from your work—through individual blogs accessed from my blog, Weekly short response writing for the theory will help get the ideas started, culminating in two significant essays at the middle and end of the term.

Technology Requirements

  • Regular access to a computer and the internet
  • A Chapman email account. I will conduct all class e-mail communication on your official Chapman account.
  • A free blog. All composed work will be posted here, and your blog will be linked to the course page so that your classmates may read your posts.
  • Access to Blackboard, where I will post the syllabus, our daily schedule, and other important documents. Please check Blackboard regularly.
  • Access to, using your Chapman University credentials to log in.

The following categories spell out how the course will work:

Required Texts

Areas of Evaluation

Classroom Environment

Course Calendar


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