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PWR 2TSC: All the Feels: The Rhetoric of Emotion

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Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

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

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

After centuries of neglect, the study of emotions has recently become an exciting focus across many disciplines. Feelings are everywhere these days, with the rise in attention to anxiety, panic and dread as conditions that seem to plague everyday life; to the role of anger, outrage or empathy in creating solidarity across communities and towards ideas; to the capacities of AI to experience or demonstrate genuine affect. Importantly, emotions can seem dangerous; they compel us to see beyond the rational/ irrational binary, to confront feelings as real sources of knowledge alongside the “factual.” How can emotions be motivating, and what can invoke them? How do the systems and structures that we navigate daily create conditions for anxiety or panic, and how do such systems respond to it? How do we understand anger in relation to ideals and social action? How is suffering and pain understood and treated? What is happiness, and should it be the ultimate goal? To what extent can emotions be understood as social or inherently human phenomena?

We will approach these questions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, from cognitive science and social psychology to philosophy, communication and sociology. Throughout, we’ll be interested in recovering emotion as a serious site of inquiry into how we understand ourselves and our engagements with the world. Ultimately, students will choose their own fields in which to intervene with their research projects, approaching questions that might range all the way from advertising and social media to mental health, architecture, activism or community development.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5 minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) In this assignment, students will propose a research project related to the theme of the emotions. The proposal will establish the stakes and scope of the project, articulate research questions and potential methodology, and present preliminary findings from prominent sources. Potential projects might include, for example, an exploration of gender in relation to emotion through constructs like “feminist killjoy” or “#maletears,” an analysis of AI bots in counseling contexts, or an approach that looks at fear and alienation in rhetorics of global epidemics.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) For this project, students will craft a well-researched, analytical argument about how the rhetoric of emotions works in their field or topic of inquiry.

Delivery of Research

(10 minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) In this assignment, students will present their research as a live oral presentation with media support of their choosing, thinking critically about the choices we make in the use of media and its relationship to the emotions of the audience.

Genre/ Mode Assignment

(500-800 word written text) In this assignment, students will write a series of reflections to become self-reflexive about the research and presentation process, developing awareness of their own positionality in relation to objects of study and thinking critically about practices of translation between writing, speaking and visualizing.