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PWR 1EH: Rhetoric of Resistance

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Crowd protesting with fists raised


Fall 2021: Section 1 MW 1:30PM-3:15PM, Section 2 MW 3:30PM-5:15PM

Winter 2022: Section 1 TTh 1:30PM-3:15PM, Section 2 TTh 3:30PM-5:15PM

Spring 2022: Section 1 MW 1:30PM-3:15PM, Section 2 MW 3:30PM-5:15PM

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: None

Course Feature: WR-1 requirement

What is resistance? More importantly, what do we resist, when, and why? In this course we will examine what constitutes an act of resistance and we will use rhetoric to help us understand who decides when resistance is celebrated, needed, righteous, and who decides when it is condemned or misguided. Resistance is an important skill to understand and hone as we enter into public discourse as writers, researchers, and community members. What narratives, knowledges, or ideologies do you resist and why?

We will situate ourselves in narratives of resistance by looking at both past and present texts and movements of resistance. To begin, we will analyze how and why writers have composed narratives of resistance around various themes like race, gender, language, identity, and power. We will consider how past and present social movements that might have opposing narratives--Black Lives Matter, the Water Protectors,  anti-vaxxers, the Proud Boys, etc--have expanded or contracted national conversations. Throughout our class, we will root our analysis in thinking critically about how language creates or thwarts resistance.  

In your own research, you will be able to investigate how resistance is performed in a topic of your choosing. You might, for instance, analyze resistance narratives in the medical field to the Covid vaccine or cloning. Or, you might choose to research the resistance to certain technologies like self-driving cars, AI, or GMO foods. You might interrogate resistance narratives around the need for a college degree, or how social media has affected the narratives of specific social movements. Narratives of resistance can be found in all fields so your topics can range widely, and you will be encouraged to choose a topic that you are interested in learning more about. All quarter, we will be returning to these questions: What is considered valid or needed resistance in the midst of our ever shifting social, political, economic, and environmental extremes.  What is the relationship between resistance and truth; resistance and democracy; and resistance and our language choices?

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) This assignment asks you to analyze the rhetorical strategies of a text of your choice that makes an argument about resistance. You might analyze a resistance poster from the Black Panthers or Colin Kapernick’s Nike ad; a historical or contemporary resistance movement; a counter narrative to an act or social movement of resistance; or a resistance essay like one written by abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) This assignment marks the beginning of your research project. Here, you will research and investigate the larger research question you’d like to explore relating to resistance. You’ll analyze how different sources, voices, and perspectives inform the larger conversation about your topic. For instance, you might explore why and how engineers are persuading the public to use a new technology, or you could examine how corporations have co-opted narratives of resistance.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages)  Your RBA is the final product of this course where your voice enters into the conversation. Here is where you’ll build on and expand the work you began with the Texts in Conversation assignment by integrating a variety of sources to produce your own complex, provocative argument about resistance as it relates to your topic.

photo credit: Gayatri Malhotra