Course Description

Truthiness. Infotainment. Gonzo Journalism. Recent history has supplied some strange vocabulary to identify the variable conventions of “good” communication. This class will examine a number of the more intriguingly bizarre popular media texts as models for staging the inevitable influence of the unstable, the unreliable, the unconventional public utterance. Why do societies make room for, and thus encourage, speakers whose ways with words only lead us in circles? What is the appeal of the untrustworthy source? How is it possible that those individuals who most lack credibility, or who otherwise earn our incredulity, are the very people who may determine the course of a fashion, a custom, a trend, a pedagogy, a social movement, even the course of history?

Over the semester, we will consider three broad course goals: 1) through close reading, analyze and discuss philosophical texts and popular media (fake news programs, “new” journalism, movies, web comics, etc.), focusing in particular on the inclusion of unconventional utterances as an intentional rhetorical strategy; 2) research the social, theoretical and political contexts surrounding these texts in order to identify what activates the defiance of traditional standards of credibility; 3) develop multimodal compositions that investigate, imitate and evaluate the power and the complexity of convention breaking.