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PWR 1SO: The Rhetoric of Place, Space, and Identity

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Catalog Number: PWR 1SO

Instructor: Lynn Sokei

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: None


Course Feature: WR-1 requirement

Most of us have a special place. It could be anything from a reading nook, to a baseball stadium, to the Grand Canyon. Where is your special place? If it is lost to a home sale, urban development, or natural disaster, what price would you pay—or what would you give up—to have it back? When we describe our special places, what might we reveal about ourselves? In this class, we will read and write about physical and imaginary places affecting identity. Given that we can hardly analyze place without considering time, we will also analyze places of the past and (re)imagine ones of the future.

When we read a specific place like a text, we are bound to discover complexity and conflict. How might one’s favored places conflict with the interests of others? For example, we can imagine how migration caused by global warming will place demands on natural resources in newly identified “climate havens” and possibly interfere with traditional, generational connections to land and water. The love of place might contribute to problems, such as nationalism, but might also contribute to solutions such as environmental protection. As a class, we will analyze essays, academic articles, film clips, news stories, and each other’s drafts. You will tease out the issues embedded in a particular place and present an innovative or informed perception of how we might view your chosen place or type of place.

Example research topics include the psychology of cohousing, proposing redesigns of historically controversial places, and analyzing place and identity in film. Sample topics related to the pandemic could look at residences functioning uneasily as places of school and play for kids and work for adults; the development of online communities for traditional rituals, such as Thanksgiving or weddings; the significance of having an outdoor escape for mental health.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) After participating in group rhetorical analyses of place depicted in different genres, and of a place you choose on or near campus, you will draft a short essay analyzing a place that is meaningful to you. You should feel invested in this place and, at the same time, maintain a critical distance allowing for valuable rhetorical insights for yourself and readers. An example topic is exploring the relationship between place, gender, and race in the play Fences by August Wilson or its film adaptation directed by Denzel Washington. Similarly, you could look at the minimal places and spaces allotted girls and women compared to the wide open space of outer space being reached by wealthy men.

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) To prepare for your Research-Based Argument, you'll choose a topic related to place, space, and identity and research it from multiple perspectives. Your sources should help you identify the scholarship that addresses, debates, and inspires the dominant conversations about your topic.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) In this assignment, you will add to your research from the Texts-in-Conversation assignment to create an essay that persuasively invites readers to share your views about your chosen place and its role in shaping identity.