TA 41: Persuasion and Public Controversy
|Office:||120 Lyman Hall|
|Office hours:||T, W 2:00-3:00 and by appointment|
The subject matter for this course is the world of messages on social, political and personal issues and topics that matter to us. We all have to make judgments and decisions about these subjects, and sometimes to take actions in respect to them as well. The goal of this course is not so much to learn more about controversial subjects (although that will likely happen) but rather to investigate how and why we accept some messages over others -- to consider how we and others influence and are influenced.
By the end of the semester, you should be able to analyze a persuasive message for its argumentative soundness, its symbolic appeal and its ideological or institutional dependence. This overall objective includes many particular objectives in terms of what you should know by the end of the semester and what you should be able to do. Among these objectives are the abilities to:
- explain the theoretical grounding and orientation of the classical, symbolist and institutional perspectives on persuasion;
- identify the components of an argument;
- analyze the strengths and weaknesses in a persuasive message in terms of the patterns of reasoning in the message, the frame of mind of the audience, and the image and authority of the persuader;
- identify linguistic, non-verbal and formal strategies of persuasion;
- explain the influence of the institutional context on the persuasiveness of a message;
- apply the theoretical concepts in each unit to a variety of forms of persuasive messages.
Because the course concerns persuasion about controversial issues, I have another set of objectives that has to do with improving our ability to express our opinions to one another. We will work to become active and critical listeners, to be able to express our views clearly and cogently, and to foster discussion from diverse points of view. Class and section time will include considerable time for discussion and debate.
- Cooper and Nothstine, Power Persuasion:
- Moving an Ancient Art into the Media Age.
- Berger, Seeing is Believing
- Bawer, A Place at The Table
- Packet of xeroxed exercises and materials, available at the Brown Bookstore
This is a satisfactory/no credit course. In order to receive a grade of S, you must:
- Participate in class discussions on a regular basis. I expect you to come to all classes having read and considered the material carefully and I will plan our class time accordingly.
- Participate in each of the oral argument activities of your section.
- Complete satisfactorily the paper and project assignments described below.
- Achieve a satisfactory mark on unit exams
Exams and Assignments
- There will be in-class exams at the end of Units I and II. Dates are marked on the schedule.
- Throughout the semester, I'll be making short written and/or oral assignments that are designed to facilitate our class and section discussions.
- The Final Paper/Project is the largest and most comprehensive assignment in the course. It consists of an individual research paper and a presentation, each of which provides an opportunity to consider persuasion that occurs, not as a single event, but as a long-term, mass-mediated, institutional effort.
A salient public issue of the last several decades has been gay and lesbian rights, a topic which encompasses dozens of controversies. This broad area will be the subject for the class’ research and projects. Beginning at the end of the first unit, we will begin compiling resources to share with one another. Several of our section meetings will be devoted to the class’ research and the exploration of particular topics for individual research and analysis. Each student will write a research paper (about 10 pages) on some aspect of persuasion on the issue; the paper is due before Thanksgiving. After the Thanksgiving break, individuals or groups will share presentations with the entire class.
The paper involves traditional research and rhetorical analysis. Follow the MLA or another standard reference for footnote and bibliographic style. The presentations, on the other hand, offer considerable creative license. Your goal is to teach us something that on the topic of gay and lesbian rights by using the rhetorical tools we have studied. But how you do that is up to you. You can work independently or in groups. You can present the combined research of several individuals, analyze a significant rhetorical artifact, make a video, perform a play, conduct a class activity . . . . etc. More detailed descriptions of the paper and project assignments will be provided by 10/11.
Readings in the text are listed for the date by which they should be completed.
Section meetings serve several purposes. Previous students in TA41 have requested opportunities to use the skills that we discuss in class as speakers and advocates. Thus, one purpose of sections is to provide a time (and a small enough group of people) for you to do some persuasive speaking to one another. Sections also provide small enough groups for focused discussions, group project work, and so forth.
|Wed.||9/4||Introduction to the course|
|Fri.||9/6||Section: Meet one another
Discussion: What is persuasion?
|Mon.||9/9||Persuasion in a media age
The Classical Perspective
Read: ch. 1 and 2
|Wed.||9/11||Argumentative Analysis Read: ch. 3
Packet materials, pp. 13-15
|Fri.||9/13||Section: Presenting and responding to arguments
Packet materials, pp. 1-2
|Mon.||9/16||Reasonable arguments: evidence and reasoning
Systems of analysis Packet materials, pp. 16-20
|Wed.||9/18||Analyzing longer arguments
Packet materials, pp. 21-27
Prepare for legal debates
|Fri.||9/20||Section: Presenting and responding to arguments
Packet materials, pp. 3-4
Read: ch. 4
Read: ch. 5
|Fri.||9/27||Section: Legal Debates, pp. 5-12|
|Mon.||10/2||Exam on Unit I|
|Wed.||10/4||The Symbolist Perspective; Language
Read: ch. 6 and 7
|Fri.||10/6||Section: Legal Debates, pp. 5-12|
|Mon.||10/7||Language, continued; Nonverbal and Nondiscursive Symbols
Read: Ch. 8; Berger ch. 1-3
|Wed.||10/9||Application: analysis of print ads|
|Fri.||10/11||Section: Brainstorming session for final papers and projects|
|Mon.||10/14||No Class - Columbus Day Holiday|
|Wed.||10/16||Visual symbols, continued
Read: Berger, ch. 4 and 5
|Fri.||10/18||Section: Share resources for final project|
|Mon.||10/21||Images and Argument|
|Wed.||10/23||Form and Structure
Read: ch. 9
|Fri.||10/27||Section: exercise in media logic|
|Mon.||10/28||Exam on Unit II|
|Wed.||10/30||The Institutional Perspective
Read: ch. 10; Brummett, "Media Determinism and the Look of Public Discourse in the Age of Television", packet pp.35-52.
Read: Ch. 11, Epstein, "Have you Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond", pp. 53-64
Read: Ch. 12
|Mon.||11/11||Campaigns vs. Movements: We Are The World video|
|Wed.||11/13||Ideology and propaganda Read: ch. 13 and 14|
|Mon.||11/18||Application: Rosie the Riviter|
|Mon.||11/25||Research Paper due
|Mon.||12/2||Preparation for presentations|
|Tue.||12/12||(Exam slot) Presentations|