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PWR 1JEA: Call and Response: The Rhetoric of Transformative Change

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How might you call others to action? How might you respond to a call? How might you respond to the response? More specifically, how does call-and-response operate within our daily lives? The call represents a behavior that ignites a response (i.e., chanting over a loudspeaker during a student protest, signaling to the crowd during a live music performance, listening to the pastor during a church service, etc.). The response represents a reaction typically performed by an intended or unintended audience that are recipients of a particular message (i.e., a sports crowd chanting a star player’s name on the field, a Saturday Night Live skit parodying a recent political debate, reactions on Twitter after a major awards ceremony, etc.). Call-and-response embodies a direct expression of the way we engage with communities and societies across the world.

This course utilizes call-and-response, derived from traditions of African music, as a framework for thinking about how we produce and make meaning in response to societal phenomena. Our focus on call-and-response offers an opportunity to engage with course material that critically explores our worlds and addresses structural inequities in an effort to consider solutions and create new possibilities. What call does a rhetor (i.e., writer, artist, entertainer, athlete, politician, engineer, doctor, teacher, activist, etc.) make when delivering their message? What factors determine whether and how an audience responds to the call? This course will highlight how we tend to perceive, interpret, and respond to circumstances that shape our worlds.

In this course, you will explore different socio-political, cultural, and historical events that yield specific responses as a solution and call for transformative change. We will draw upon visual performances, speeches, storytelling, personal narratives, and written texts that capture how we as humans make calls and produce responses in alignment with our everchanging environments. You will identify various research topics and issues that encourage your active engagement and proposed critical solutions for change in a desired area of interest.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis (1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages): In this assignment, students use rhetorical principles to analyze how a particular text makes an argument. Students will identify what call the rhetor makes, how the audience responds to their call, and how the rhetor appeals to their audience. Through the use of call-and-response, this assignment introduces students to basic rhetorical concepts, types of appeals and situations.

Texts in Conversation (1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages): The Texts in Conversation assignment sets the stage for the Research-Based Argument, helping students develop a focus for their research project and to move toward crafting their own source-based argument. Students are asked to locate various historical or current events and identify rhetors involved with responding to these specified events. It asks students to put texts (about particular events) in dialogue with each other, incorporating different perspectives on key issues. Students examine how events garner varied levels of attention by writers with a diverse set of framing for each issue. Students will also scrutinize where the writers connect and where they conflict.

Research-Based Argument (3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages): This assignment asks students to produce a well-supported, focused argument drawing on library and web-based research centered around their interests. Students will identify various issues and include an action-based research approach that calls forth a set of solutions to the issues explored.