Literature and Social Change:
Rhetorical Activism and U.S. Civil Rights Movements
Professor Alisse Theodore
Mondays 3 - 4 and Wednesdays 9 - 10
The signers of the United States Constitution recognized the power of
rhetorical activism when they declared freedom of expression the most
important right of United States citizens. Susan B. Anthony and dozens of
other women spent eight decades using the only power they had, the power
of language, to ensure women their right to vote in this country. The
persuasive eloquence of Martin Luther King, Jr. changed this nation's
consciousness as well as the experience of civil rights for all of its
citizens. And although the United States did not ratify the Equal Rights
Amendment, people like Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan forever altered
the expectations and opportunities for women and men. How did these
ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things by speaking up and
speaking out? More broadly, how do people use language to define, reform,
and even revolutionize politics and society? That will be our central
question as we study texts representing a range of positions from several
U.S. civil rights movements: the early woman's rights, antislavery,
women's liberation, 1960s civil rights, and gay rights movements. Work
for this course includes weekly readings (hard copy and online), exams,
and quizzes. This course satisfies the Race and Ethnicity requirement
for LS&A students as well as the New Traditions and American
Literature requirements for English concentrators.
A few people have emailed me to ask about waitlist policies.
I will not make any adjustments to the class roster (i.e., oversubscribe
or drop students) until after the second class meeting. At that point, I
will automatically drop any student who has not attended both of the first
classes. After the second class, if there are spaces available I
will authorize students who are on the waitlist and who
attending class to register for the course until the course has again
met its maximum capacity.
Most recent update: August 15, 2001.