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PWR 1OS: The Rhetoric of Freedom and Unfreedom

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Catalog Number: PWR 1OS

Instructor: Olesya Shayduk-Immerman

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: None

Course Feature: WR-1 requirement


How, and when, do people feel free or unfree? Does the French law prohibiting burkas unequivocally liberate women? Do people seek extramarital affairs in search for freedom? Does an ability to afford expensive things and hobbies always free people? Do all LGBTQ people experience coming out of the closet as freedom? In what ways are the Covid-19 vaccine mandates liberating, and in what ways are they restricting? The term freedom is strongly connoted with the Western liberal discourse and is rarely associated with the collectivist societies, like China, Soviet Russia or some Muslim countries. Does this mean that there is no space for freedom outside of the US and other Western liberal countries? The students will learn from the course that political, economic, and cultural contexts determine what people experience as freedom and lack thereof.

Reading the articles on freedom, we will pay attention to their structure, components, and rhetorical devices to enhance our own writing. We will learn to recognize competing discourses. For example, we will see how Bedouin women, wearing bikinis, claim to achieve freedom from the power of Bedouin tradition but, in doing so, use the discourse and become subjects of another power, namely that of capitalism and consumption. Reading about journalists in modern China, we will learn to identify Western liberal, Chinese governmental, and scholarly discourses.

You will have a variety of options for your projects. You could look at the #MeToo movement and consider whether it brings women liberation from the power of the patriarchal rule, or to what extent it reduces a woman to a victim, or ruins the spontaneity of people’s infatuation. You could think of an extent of people’s bodily freedom in different cultures. You could think whether legitimized close bodily contact of a partner dance, martial arts sparring, medical exam, massage session, etc. is capable of giving the same feeling of freedom as spontaneous bodily contact does. You could examine the images of a secular and a religious world in the movie Unorthodox, and see how your understanding of freedom fits into these images.

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 freedom and unfreedom.

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 the topic. You’ll analyze how different sources, voices, and perspectives inform the larger conversation about your topic. 

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 as it relates to your topic.

Photo credit: Nathan Bar