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PWR 2NC: California Dreaming: The Golden State's Rhetorical Appeals

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Westlake Park in Los Angeles with fountain and palm trees


Fall 2021: Not offered

Winter 2022: MW 9:30AM-11:15AM; 11:30AM-1:15PM

Spring 2022: MW 9:30AM-11:15AM; 11:30AM-1:15PM

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

California’s siren songs may sound familiar. The state has promised wealth to generations of migrants; international stardom in Hollywood; power in Silicon Valley’s culture of “disruption”; year-round sunny beaches and pristine towering redwoods. But California’s many appeals have always been tempered by its darker sides, and the state comes with its fair share of warnings, including the exploitation of those who arrive seeking fame or fortune, and the threat of earthquakes and wildfires.

In this class, we’ll consider the stories immigrants, artists, journalists, ad men, and scientists have told about the land we now call California—analyzing the ways their rhetoric shapes our understanding of the state and its residents. Together, we’ll read about the Santa Ana Winds, watch news coverage of “hype houses”, and listen to a podcast on Golden Age Hollywood. We’ll use the Online Archive of California and Green Library’s Special Collections to explore how language and images have drawn people to California, and how they have been driven away. You will choose a topic based on your own interests and experiences of the Golden State to research, and find new modes and means of narrating California’s present or past. Some possible topics include how California’s farmworkers were successfully unionized, or how California treated these workers during the COVID-19 pandemic; the relationship between restaurants promising sustainable seafood and the decimation of California’s kelp forests; the economic opportunities that drew Gold Rush-era Chinese immigrants to California, or the ways these immigrants were treated as disposable as they built the railroads.

You’ll develop your research skills, your facility communicating findings through writing and oral presentation, and your ability to meet the rhetorical situation in multiple mediums as you explore the rhetoric of California.

Major Assignments                                                                             

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words): In your proposal, you'll outline a research project related to one of California’s many promises (technological, environmental, economic, or fame-driven) or perils.  Here, you will articulate your research question(s) and methods, establish the significance of the project, and present existing scholarship and information from relevant sources.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words): Drawing on primary and secondary sources, you’ll expand upon the ideas expressed in your research proposal to craft a research-based argument that seeks to persuade your intended audience and complicate in some way how a story about California is told.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support): In this oral presentation, you will share your research conclusions and argument, using appropriate media (props, music, film, slides, etc.).

Genre/ Modes Assignment

Adapting your research for a new medium, mode, and audience, you’ll dispel a myth—positive or negative—about California that relates to your research. You might create a series of critical travel posters inspired by the “Subpar Parks” project, revealing that it’s not all sunshine in the Golden State; a short podcast in the vein of “You’re Wrong About” that retells a piece of California history we think we know; or a multimedia PSA cautioning viewers about Silicon Valley’s latest technological promises.