Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Upcoming Courses:

Next fall, I'll be teaching a course on rhetoric and environmentalism, both at Berkeley and at the Art Institute. At SFAI the course is a Critical Theory (B) course, called "Nature and Theory," and at Berkeley the course is Rhetoric 181, "Green Rhetoric." Although the course is sure to change a bit in the next few months here's the description at present:
What does it mean to See Green? What does it mean to Be Green? What does it mean to Act Green? What are the differences between "environmentalisms" as sites of identification and disidentification, as subcultures, as movements, as political programs, as research programs, as critical and rhetorical perspectives? How have these Green worldly readings changed over time, how is the Green changing now, and in what ways does Greenness abide?

In this course we will read a number of canonical "environmentalist" texts, seeking to understand better what it means to read the world Greenly. Tracking through these texts each of us will struggle to weave together and testify to our own sense of the Green as an interpretive register, as a readerly skill-set, as a site of imaginative investment, and as a provocation to action.

This is a Keyword course, engaging environmentalist discourses historically, theoretically, and practically through an exploration of a number of key terms, among them: "Biodiversity," "Biomimicry," "Biopiracy," "Biosphere," "Climate Change," "Commons," "Consensus Science," "Cradle-to-Cradle," "Deep Ecology," "Democracy," "Denial," "Ecology," "Ecofeminism," "Ecosocialism," "Endangered Species," "Externality," "Footprint," "Leapfrogging," "Limit," "Monoculture," "Nature," "Recycling/Downcycling," "Permaculture," "Polyculture," "Post-Scarcity," "Precautionary Principle," "Sustainability," "Toxicity/Abrasion," "Triple Bottom Line," "Viridian," "Wilderness," and so on.

Fair warning: The course will be quite reading intensive. Each student will be delivering an in-class presentation drawn from personal research, as well as co-facilitating discussion of one of our assigned texts. The final exam will provide an occasion to come to terms with certain Key Words that will preoccupy our attention throughout our conversation.

Required Text:

Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang [ISBN: 0061129763]

A Required Reader, Including:

Carol Adams, from Ecofeminism and the Sacred
Tom Athanasiou, from Divided Planet
Janine Benyus, from Biomimicry
Murray Bookchin, from Post-Scarcity Anarchism
James Boyle, Enclosing the Genome
Rachel Carson, from Silent Spring
Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth (screening)
Donna Haraway, The Actors are Cyborg, Nature is Coyote, and the Geography is Elsewhere
Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, from Natural Capitalism
Stephen Kellert, from The Value of Life
Aldo Leopold, from Sand County Almanac
William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle
Carolyn Merchant, from Radical Ecology
John Stuart Mill, On Nature
William Morris, News from Nowhere
John Muir, from his collected Essays
Vendana Shiva, from Water Wars, and from Earth Democracy
Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

Texts Available Online:

Jamais Cascio, Leapfrog 101, etc.
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, The Death of Environmentalism
Extensive Background and Discussion of the essay "The Death of Environmentalism," via Grist
Bruce Sterling, Viridian Principles and Manifesto
Bright Green Blogs: Alliance for Green Socialism, The Gristmill, RealClimate, Treehugger, Worldchanging, etc.

Recommended Text:
Worldchanging: A User's Guide to the 21st Century, Alex Steffen, Al Gore, Bruce Sterling

This summer, I'll be teaching a short, intensive version of the Rhetoric Department's foundational argumentation course, Rhetoric 10. The six week version should feel a bit like bootcamp for the brain. I'm re-teaching the course next spring at a more normal pace, but with precisely the same texts and topic. Here's a description:
Rhetoric 10 is an introductory course in practical argumentation, textual interpretation, critical thinking, and discourse analysis. The works we will be reading together are exemplary argumentative texts in many different modes: philosophical dialogues and formal theses, polemics, literary readings, a novel, a play, a graphic novel, a film.

The word "argument" comes from the Latin arguere, to clarify. And contrary to its cantankerous reputation, the process of argumentation can be one that seeks after clarity rather than one that seeks always to prevail over difference. We argue, surely, to change minds and alter conduct, but we argue as well to inquire what are the best beliefs when we are ignorant or unsure of ourselves, we argue to interrogate our own assumptions, we argue to clarify the stakes at issue in a debate, we argue to gain a serious hearing for our unique perspective, we argue to reconcile deep differences, we argue to find the best course of action in the circumstances that beset us.

Over the course of the term, we will concentrate our attention on the idea of persuasion as a practice that would repudiate violence. We will discover persuasion is a practice haunted by violence, a practice complicit in violence, a practice responsive to violence, a practice responsible for violence, a practice through which violence is uniquely understood and resisted.

At the same time, we will survey many of the basic argumentative tools that have accumulated over centuries of rhetorical theory and practice: We will ponder the trivium; we will learn about the three Aristotelian appeals, logos, pathos, ethos; we will survey the common topoi; we will discover the difference between a scheme and a trope, a formal versus an informal fallacy; we will play around with enthymemes and learn the rules of engagement governing the various modes of syllogism; we will meditate on the differences between deliberative, judicial, and ceremonial discourse; we will astound loved ones as we analyze their pet arguments according to models like the Toulmin Schema or Rogerian Synthesis; and we will be enthralled to discover that contemporary enthusiasms for newfangled things like "memes" and "framing" happen to have been anticipated by millenia of rhetors writing on rhetoric, stylists writing on style, and wits writing on wit.


Art Spiegelman, Maus
Octavia Butler, Kindred

Selections Available in a Course Reader:

Euripides, Hecuba
Thucydides, Melian Dialogue from History of the Peloponnesian War
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Thomas Hobbes, from Leviathan
Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose
Carol Adams, Beastliness and a Politics of Solidarity
Friedrich Nietzsche, from The Genealogy of Morals
Michel Foucault, from Discipline and Punish
Hannah Arendt, from On Violence
David Cronengerg, dir. A History of Violence
Frantz Fanon, from The Wretched of the Earth
Mike Davis, from Planet of Slums
Judith Butler, from Precarious Life

1 comment:

Robn said...

Your courses make me jealous from both the professor AND student standpoints.