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We’ll study publics as rhetorical formations that are both ubiquitous and famously hard to identify. Questions we’ll consider over the course of the term include the following: What constitutes a public and how do we come to recognize it as such? What’s the relationship between publics and actions, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings? What would it mean to create a counter-public—to what effect?

Our readings alternate between those focused on ever-fractured, highly mediated contexts of contemporary public cultures and early formulations of publics and the public sphere. Overall, we’ll seek to understand how forms of “the public” come to function as repositories for other things–feelings, desires, memories–and so accumulate and reproduce rhetorical as well as cultural significance.

Required Texts

  • Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics
  • PDFs available on this site
  • Classmates’ drafts

This is a small class, so attendance and participation are crucial. ‘Nuff said.

  1. Regular weekly blogging in response to prompts (listed in the schedule, where applicable) and on your own. Please complete blog entries before class meetings. (25%)
  2. Two synthesis assignments presented during class; goal is to synthesize ideas or concepts or debates from readings using whatever means you choose. Consider experimenting with genre in order to approach the material from different angles. For example, in addition to generating text, think about creating a map, graph/chart, collage, audio text, parody, set of images, etc. Your name appears in brackets on the schedule when you’re responsible for presenting a synthesis (20%)
  3. Drafts and responses to peers’ drafts. (15%)
  4. Final 15-20 page essay that produces and analyzes an archive of a public culture. Your archive should be focused on an issue of your own choosing, preferably an area of study that you hope to explore further beyond this class. One of the main tasks of this assignment is learning how to approach public texts as repositories of cultural and rhetorical meaning, behavior and activity, memory and metaphor, among other possibilities. (40%)
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