English 706: Composition, Rhetoric, and the Nonhuman

Professor: Jim Brown
Class Meeting Place: 2252 Helen C. White
Class Time: Wednesday, 9:00am-11:30am
Office: 6187E Helen C. White
Office Hours: Monday 12:30-2:30 [Make an Appointment]
Email: brownjr [at] wisc [dot] edu

Course Goals:

  • Read and analyze recent scholarship regarding the role of the nonhuman rhetoric and writing
  • Examine the relationship between work within and outside of the field of Composition and Rhetoric
  • Consider the role of nonhumans in our own creative processes
  • Develop sustainable reading and writing processes

Required Texts:

  • Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press Books, 2010. Print.
  • Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2012. Print.
  • Bryant, Levi R. The Democracy of Objects. MPublishing, University of Michigan Library, 2011. Print. [also available for download]
  • Derrida, Jacques. The Animal That Therefore I Am. Fordham University Press, 2008.
  • Harman, Graham. The Quadruple Object. Reprint. John Hunt Publishing, 2011. Print.
  • Latour, Bruno. Aramis, or the Love of Technology. Harvard University Press, 1996. Print.
  • Oliver, Kelly. Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human. Columbia University Press, 2009. Print.

Other Readings (available for download):

  • Bay, Jennifer, and Thomas Rickert. “New Media and the Fourfold.” JAC 28.1-2 207-244. Print.
  • Brandt, Deborah, and Katie Clinton. “Limits of the Local: Expanding Perspectives on Literacy as a Social Practice.” Journal of Literacy Research 34.3 (2002): 337-356. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.
  • Brown, James and Nathaniel Rivers. "Composing the Carpenter's Workshop." O-zone: A
    Journal of Object-Oriented Studies
    . (forthcoming, January 2013)
  • Davis, Diane. “Creaturely Rhetorics.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 44.1 (2011): 88-94. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.
  • Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and SchizophreniaM. Trans. Brian Massumi. University of Minnesota Press, 1987. Print.
  • Hallenbeck, Sarah. “Toward a Posthuman Perspective: Feminist Rhetorical Methodologies and Everyday Practices.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric 15.1 (2012): 9-27. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.
  • Hawhee, Debra. “Toward a Bestial Rhetoric.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 44.1 (2011): 81-87. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.
  • Hawk, Byron. “Vitalism, Animality, and the Material Grounds of Rhetoric.” Communication Matters: Materialist Approaches to Media, Mobility and Networks. New York: Routledge, 2012. 196-207. Print.
  • Hesse, Doug, Nancy Sommers, and Kathleen Blake Yancey. “Evocative Objects: Reflections on Teaching, Learning, and Living in Between.” College English 74.4 (2012): 325-350. Print.
  • Kennedy, G. A. “A Hoot in the Dark: The Evolution of General Rhetoric.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 25.1 (1992): 1–21. Print.
  • Marback, Richard. “Unclenching the Fist: Embodying Rhetoric and Giving Objects Their Due.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 38.1 (2008): 46-65.
  • May, Matthew. “Orator-Machine:” Philosophy & Rhetoric 45.4 (2012): 429-451. Web. 10 Nov. 2012.
  • Muckelbauer, John. “Domesticating Animal Theory.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 44.1 (2011): 95-100. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.
  • Ng, Julia. “Each Thing a Thief: Walter Benjamin on the Agency of Objects.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 44.4 (2011): 382-402. Print.
  • Spinuzzi, Clay. “Losing by Expanding Corralling the Runaway Object.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 25.4 (2011): 449-486. Web. 9 Nov. 2012.

Course Work

  • Attendance (10%)
    Success in this class will require regular attendance as we discuss the readings and share our written work.
  • Questions for Discussion (5%)
    For each assigned reading, I will create a Google Document in which you should post questions for discussion. See the Assignments section for more details.
  • Maker Reports (10%)
    Throughout the semester, you will be working on some sort of "making" project. The form this project takes is up to you, though I will ask that you commit to a project by the end of our second week of class. During weeks in which a paper or project is not due, you will write brief "Maker Reports." These reports are informal, should be 250-500 words, and should be uploaded to Dropbox prior to our class meeting. You will share these with the rest of the class.
  • Alien Phenomenology Project (15%)
    The first major project will be inspired by Ian Bogost's book Alien Phenomenology and will give you an opportunity to begin using the theories we're discussing in your own projects. See the Assignments section for more details.
  • Encomium (20%)
    The second major project will be an experiment in Adoxography. You will write an encomium of a nonhuman that is somehow related to your semester-long making project. See the Assignments section for more details.
  • Summary-Response Papers (40%)
    Your final two papers (each paper is worth 20% of your grade) will summarize one of the theories that we've read this semester and then read that theory across your semester-long project. See the Assignments section for more details.

With the exceptions of Maker Reports and the questions you post to Google Docs, I will provide letter grades on assignments and a letter grade for your final grade. Maker Reports and questions will be graded on a credit/no-credit basis. Unless you hear from you, you should assume that you've received credit for these assignments.

Below are the grade criteria I will use when providing letter grades:

  • A: This is graduate level work. The grade reflects work that is the result of careful thinking. This grade also reflects work that effectively contributes to a scholarly conversation.

  • AB: This is graduate level work, but there are minor problems with your argument and/or with your execution. This grade means that the work would need some revision in order to effectively contribute to a scholarly conversation.

  • B: This is not graduate level work, and there are significant problems with your argument and/or your execution. This grade means that the work has serious flaws or would need significant revision before effectively contributing to a scholarly conversation.

  • BC or below: This is not graduate level work, and there are major problems with the argument and the execution. This grade means that the work does not effectively contribute to a scholarly conversation.

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