Recently on Twitter, I had mentioned that I am teaching a class called Resisting the Politics of Everyday Life this Spring. A lot of people replied asking to see a syllabus. I am sharing parts of the syllabus here (excluding the usual policy language). Feel free to check it out, send me any ideas if you have them, ask questions, or use any of these resources in your own teaching.
The Politics of Everyday Life is designed to study issues of experience, aesthetics, and practice in the study of human communication. You will examine the relationship between politics and bodies, the dramatic nature of society, and the shared and public nature of culture. This course emphasizes the role different modes of communication play in a variety of contemporary social issues. This course explores the mediated nature of communication and the importance of our encounters with communication in your everyday life. Moreover, this course tasks you with considering the ways in which your body and communicative acts subvert, support, and ignore structures of domination in our society. In this course, you will read theory and criticism from rhetoric, performance studies, and cultural studies to gain a theoretical appreciation for the politics of everyday life in anticipation of designing your own final performance-based project.
Gencarella, Stephen Olbrys and Phaedra C. Pezzullo. Readings on Rhetoric and Performance. State College, PA.: Strata Publishing, 2010.
Additional readings will be made available on Blueline (Canvas).
I should note that this course has a lot of objectives because of the core curriculum requirement it fulfills.
While each person will acquire something different from this class, these objectives remain constant for everyone:
1. Students will enhance their knowledge of rhetoric and performance studies. Specifically, students will be able to:
A) Analyze texts, performances, or practices from a rhetorical perspective.
B) Articulate how rhetoric, performance studies, and critical/cultural studies influence the study of human communication in everyday life.
C) Articulate theories of rhetorical practice.
D) Recognize your role in contributing to/constructing public discourse.
2. Students will develop their analytical skills. Studying rhetoric in everyday life requires sharp analytical skills. We will spend much of the semester developing the ability to communicate positions on social issues.
3. Students will practice communication. This class involves both written and oral communication skills. Class discussion, oral presentations, and written essays will reinforce these skills.
4. Students will apply critically the fundamental paradigms, and different ways of knowing and thinking from different disciplines.
5. Students will demonstrate an ability to think in a logical and systematic manner by becoming engaged in a problem, exploring its complexity through critical reading and research, analyzing and evaluating alternative solutions, and justifying a chosen solution with a reasoned argument.
6. Students will demonstrate an ability to think imaginatively, creatively, and holistically.
7. Students will describe personal involvement in work related to service and social justice.
8. Students will interpret a meaningful exposure to the consequences of injustices on individuals who are directly affected by them.
9. Students will integrate learning from various courses and experiences to articulate their vision of justice, of serving the common good, and of working as agents of social justice as community leaders, global citizens and professionals within their chosen disciplinary or career field.
10. Students will apply analytical tools, content knowledge, and ethical principles to contextualize social conditions, understand social justice implications of government policies, and identify opportunities to promote social justice.
11. Students will explain the relationship between culture, social experience, and the creation or use of different systems of knowledge or power.
12. Students will connect their understanding of diverse human identities and cultures to the theories or practices of more than one of the disciplines represented in the Core curriculum.
5% of your Final Grade
Take a moment to contemplate your daily routine. Reflect on those things you do almost without thinking. What are your daily routines, habits, and practices? How do you get ready for the day? Where do you go during the day and how do you get there? How do you get the food you eat? How do you spend your time? Thinking about these questions, select one of your daily rituals to write about. In 500–750 words, complete the following tasks:
1) Describe the ritual
2) Explain why you perform this ritual the way you do — strive to answer the question of why.
3) Contemplate how this routine may look different if your life changed substantially. For example, if you were unemployed and not in school, if you were younger or older, if you lived in another era in the past. Be creative and realistic.
What is Everyday Life?
10% of your Final Grade
One persistent and difficult question we will encounter throughout this semester is: What is everyday life? Drawing on our readings to date, and through your own research, define everyday life. You should use academic research and original examples. Also, avoid the use of dictionary definitions. Your essay should do this in three parts:
1) Define everyday life using the literature we have read and your own research
2) Explain how everyday life connects to the concepts of culture and rhetoric. How are they related? How do culture and rhetoric shape everyday life?
3) Suggest one major social/political issue you want to explore this semester through the lens of everyday life. Include why this issue matters to you.
Service and Social Justice Essay
15% of your Final Grade
Craft a personal narrative about a time where you completed some form of service work for a community other than your own. Palpate your performance of service for connections to issues of injustice and social justice. Reflect on how issues we discuss in class sustain injustice and the ways your service work did and did not intervene in instances of injustice. Finally, drawing from our conversations around the politics of everyday life, articulate what justice means to you as a community leader, global citizen, and professional.
20% of your Final Grade
In this final essay, you will pick a controversy in contemporary society to explore. Using between 3,500 and 4,200 words write a well-organized, researched, and argumentative essay that completes the following tasks:
1) Argue your position in a given social controversy.
2) Articulate the role of everyday practices in contributing to, maintaining, and/or worsening the problems related to this controversy
3) Support your position with academic research, news, events, observations, and other relevant information.
Ultimately, your paper will develop and support a coherent argumentative thesis that will support your final performance.
20% of your Final Grade
Using your thesis from your final paper, you will transfer is from a written medium to one of the performative media we have talked about this semester. You are tasked with creating a performance that:
1) Demonstrates your knowledge of everyday life, culture, rhetoric, and performance based on our readings on the subject this semester and
2) Expresses the arguments and ideas of your paper through alternative communicative means by dramatizing your desire to resist the politics of everyday life which enable this social issue.
3) Persuades an audience to make changes in the status quo as an opportunity to do social justice.
Your performance must be at least six minutes in duration and can be up to twelve minutes long. You may ask members of the class for assistance and in certain circumstances you may team up with a one or several of your classmates to complete this assignment. However, if you choose to do so, the performance will need to be longer. See me for details.
20% of your Final Grade
The course will include two in-class examinations. Each examination will be composed of short and long answer questions. Questions will be taken from lectures, textbooks, homework, in-class exercises, and discussions. Questions are written with the assumption that you have read the course material carefully, made connections among reading, and can respond about specific issues and controversies within each reading. All exams are open-note and open book. The exams offer the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of course material.
10% of your Final Grade
Reflecting on building a classroom where participation is a fundamental part of the learning experience, Emily Pine (2018) explains:
I have tried to realise some of [my] ambitions by making my classroom a safe (and equal) space in which all of my students can take risks. Sometimes it seems that the biggest risk they can imagine is to say something out loud. I know that they are afraid of saying the wrong thing and being laughed at. But I want them to speak despite this fear. Because I worry that if students are quiet about their ideas in class perhaps they will be quiet about other things too. Things they should not be quiet about. If they cannot talk in class, how will they speak out if they get harassed, or discriminated against, or hurt?
Discussion in this class functions as an invitation to think and take risks with one another as we build the community of the classroom. This is a discussion-based class and that means your thoughts matter in this class. Part of what our cooperative effort is about in this class is working for you to find your voice. That voice requires your collaboration in the classroom. The quality of your discussion has a direct impact on your grade and thought formation in class. I recognize that discussion looks different for different students. Both larger class discussions, small group discussions, and efforts during activities are included in your discussion grade. During the semester, you will receive feedback on your efforts during class discussion and have the opportunity to make adjustments if needed.
Grading expectations for class discussions are as follows:
- Students earn 100%-90% of this grade by participating in all of the following ways: arriving at class prepared for the day’s work; making frequent and substantive contributions to discussions informed by our readings and their lived experience; avoiding dominating discussions; significantly advancing in-class discussions; showing interest, engagement, and respect for the thoughts and contributions of others; working as an active and leading member during group work.
- Students earn 89%-80% of this grade by participating in all of the following ways: arriving at class prepared for the day’s work; making regular and substantive contributions to discussions informed by our readings and their lived experience; avoiding dominating discussions; advancing in-class discussions; showing interest and respect for the thoughts and contributions of others; working as an active and vocal member during group work.
- Students earn 79%-70% of this grade by participating in some or all of the following ways: arriving at class prepared for the day’s work; making sporadic but substantive contributions to discussions informed by our readings and their lived experience; avoiding dominating discussions; following in-class discussions; showing interest and respect for the thoughts and contributions of others; working as an active member during group work.
- Students earn 69%-60% of this grade by participating in some or all of the following ways: arriving at class mostly prepared for the day’s work; making few, if any, contributions to discussions; avoiding dominating discussions; following in-class discussions; showing respect for the thoughts and contributions of others; working on task during group work.
- Students earn 59%-0% of this grade by participating in some or all of the following ways: arriving at class unprepared for the day’s work; making few, if any, contributions to discussions; dominating discussions; being inattentive to in-class discussions; not showing respect for the thoughts and contributions of others; working off task during group work.
Course Units and Readings
(G&P indicates chapters from Readings on Rhetoric and Performance).
Unit One: Everyday Life
- Van Straaten, “Meleko Mokgosi Wants You to See the Politics of Everyday Life.”
- Lefebvre, “The Everyday and Everydayness.”
- Felski, “The Invention of Everyday Life.”
- Blanchot, “Everyday Speech.”
Unit Two: Key Concepts
- McHendry et al., “The History of Rhetoric (Abridged)” (In-Press).
- Koopman, “The Power Thinker.”
- Butler, “Violence, Mourning, Politics” in Precarious Life & excerpts from “Gender, Politics, and the Right to Appear” in Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly.
- Gencarella & Pezzullo, “Introduction” (G&P).
- Conquergood, “Ethnography, Rhetoric, and Performance” (G&P).
- Williams, “Culture” & “Culture is Ordinary.”
- wa Thiong’o, “Art War With the State: Writers and Guardians of a Postcolonial Society” in Penpoints, Gunpoints, and Dreams.
- Pezzullo, “Resisting ‘National Breast Cancer Awareness Month’: The Rhetoric of Counterpublics and their Cultural Performances” (G&P).
- Bennett, “Passing, Protesting, and the Arts of Resistance: Infiltrating the Ritual Space of Blood Donation” (G&P).
- Fuentes, “Performance, Politics, and Protest: What is Performance Studies?”
Ideology, Myth, and Everyday Life
- Barthes, Excerpts from Mythologies
- De Certeau, Excerpts from The Practice of Everyday Life
- Campbell, “Introduction” to Writing Security.
- Taylor, “The Theater of Operations: Performing Nation-ness in the Public Sphere” (G&P).
- Achter, “Military Chic and the Rhetorical Production of the Uniformed Body.”
- Upton, “Architecture in Everyday Life.”
- Dickinson, “Joe’s Rhetoric: Finding Authenticity at Starbucks.”
- Han, “‘Can I Tell You What We Have to Put Up With?’: Stinky Fish and Offensive Durian.”
- Ziegler, “The Politics of the Third Rail.”
Bodies & Everyday Life
- Brouwer, “The Precarious Visibility Politics of Self-Stigmatization: The Case of HIV/AIDS Tattoos” (G&P).
- Douglas, Excerpt from Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo.
- Bodtke & McHendry, “Disgusting Rhetorics: ‘What’s the Warts That Could Happen?’”
- Kelly & Hoerl, “Shaved or Saved? Disciplining Women’s Bodies.”
- Pine, “Notes on Bleeding & Other Crimes” in Notes to Self.
- Michael, “Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve: The Surveillance of Women’s Souls in Evangelical Christian Modesty Culture.”
Technology and the Everyday