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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Courses I'm Teaching This Summer in Rhetoric at UC Berkeley

Rhetoric 121: "Rhetoric of Narrative Selfhood in the Graphic Novel"
TWR 4.30-7 100 Wheeler May 23-July 1

In this course we will survey rhetorical gestures -- logical, topical, and tropological -- through which a selfhood whose substance is construed as narrative is variously conjured up and deployed in a host of (mostly) contemporary graphic serial textual forms from Trajan's great stone self-promotional column to the scattered photographs of the deceased Didier Lefevre organized and supplemented between the covers of "The Photographer." What passes for selfhood -- from the records of notorious historical figures to traces from anonymous everyday citizens, from the voices of reporters and storytellers, from politicians on a mass mediated campaign trail to the ethos of a whole socioeconomic class at a particular historical juncture, to a "living" political document, among many other subjects -- and what matters in and about these selves varies enormously across the range of these works of graphic biography and autobiography, imaginary memoir, advocacy journalism, adapted ethnography and media transcripts we are reading, as well as in a couple of film adaptations we'll watch together. We will devote attention to writings by artists Will Eisner, Scott McCloud, Alan Moore, and Art Spiegelman on both the theory and practice of storytelling and characterization in graphic novelization, but the center of gravity for our conversations will remain our shared and intensive engagements with these extraordinary works over our weeks together. By the end you'll have a story to tell about selves for yourselves.

Our reading list is long and, I fear, dauntingly expensive. I will put a copy of every piece we are reading together available on reserve in the Rhetoric library, and I hope that at least some of us can arrange to trade and share copies as a community to defray some of these costs. Those of you who buy all of the required texts may find you have accidentally embarked on a new and ruinously costly obsession (my apologies). These works will be supplemented by practical and theoretical essays collected in a brief reader.

Required Texts

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Michael Crowley and Dan Goldman, 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail
Howard Cruse, Stuck Rubber Baby
Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre, Frederic Lemercier, The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan With Doctors Without Borders
Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell, The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation
Sabrina Jones, Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography
Hayao Miyazaki, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (film adaptation of Miyazaki's own graphic series)
Keiji Nakazawa, Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima, vol. one
Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, and Frank Stack, Our Cancer Year
Harvey Pekar, Paul Buhle, Studs Terkel, Working: A Graphic Adaptation
Joe Sacco, Palestine
Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud, writers and directors, Persepolis (film adaptation of Satrapi's Graphic Novels)
J.P. Stassen, Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda
Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Good-Bye
Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

Rhetoric R1B: "Argument Against Violence and As Violence"
TWR 3-5.30 79 Dwinelle July 5-August 12

This is a course in critical reading and argumentative writing. More specifically, this course will teach you how to write a research essay in the form of an argument based on textual close readings. We will work on the elements of such an argument early on in the term. But from the beginning of the course to the end our efforts will not be confined to the reading and writing of arguments from a rhetorical vantage, but also to an extended meditation on rhetoric conceived as a space for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes. We will think about persuasion not only as practices that would repudiate violence, but as practices haunted by violence, complicit in violence, responsive to violence, and responsible for violence as well. The texts with which we will be grappling provide us with exemplary arguments and incite us to generate arguments of our own. We will be examining texts that range widely in form -- a Platonic dialogue, a play, a manifesto, an open letter, essays and editorials, a novel, a graphic novel, a film. Over the course of our discussions and through a series of written assignments and workshop exercises you will slowly accumulate useful strategies for reading and writing arguments. By the end of the term you will have mastered the skills it takes to produce a first-rate research paper, and to prove it to me you'll produce one.

Required Texts:

Plato, Apology
Euripides, Hecuba
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto
Jane Addams, Newer Ideals of Peace
Dorothy Day, Pacifism
Mohandes K. Gandhi, My Faith in Nonviolence
Walter Benjamin, Critique of Violence
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail
Hannah Arendt, Reflections on Violence
Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence
Art Spiegelman, Maus
Octavia Butler, Kindred
David Cronenberg, dir., A History of Violence
Arundhati Roy, War Is Peace
Judith Butler, Undoing Gender

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