Tuesday, April 29, 2008

For Thursday, May 1

Read William Burroughs' "Immortality" in the reader. Yes, it is hilarious, brilliant, and insane.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Final Essay Assignment


DUE: TUESDAY, MAY 13, IN YOUR GSI’S MAILBOX, NO LATER THAN 3:00 PM. NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED. So, please, just hand in the paper on time. (Note that the Rhetoric office is CLOSED from 12-1; plan accordingly.)

The assignment: Perform a rhetorical reading of Plato’s Phaedrus. You may choose to focus on any aspect of the text that tickles your fancy. You may find it helpful to explain yourself by discussing other texts we’ve read this semester. What follows are prompts, leaping off points, ideas. Do not take them as law but rather as suggestions.

1. Is Socrates ever serious? Is he kidding? Must it be one or the other? How does this ambivalence, this irony, this play function? And how does this play differ from McLuhan’s play, from his puns and jokes and humor? Or consider "Dissoi Logoi": How does the ambivalence of the “Dissoi Logoi” relate to Socrates’ irony in the Phaedrus? In what ways do the texts engage different modes of ambivalence? What's at stake in this difference? Be sure to focus on particular passages from each text.

2. Is Phaedrus a written text or spoken text? Must it be one or the other? How do the speeches within the dialogue affect this distinction? How do quotation marks function to inflect this distinction? And how does this relationship shape the argument of the text?

3. Throughout Phaedrus, there is a strange and ever moving play of voices. How does this multiplicity inflect how we read the text? Whom can we believe? Or any of the voices to be trusted? If so many people are speaking, how are we to make sense of this text?

4. If we can consider Phaedrus a pedagogic text, who is the teacher and who is the student? Who learns? How? Who instructs? How? And I don't think you can say that Socrates teaches and Phaedrus learns. But you will need to say why that is NOT the case.

The stipulations: Failure to follow these stipulations will be reflected in your grade.

  • Write no more than five pages.
  • No cover page. Repeat: no cover page.
  • No folders. Repeat: no folders.
  • On the upper right hand corner of the first page of your paper, write your name, the name of the course, your GSI’s name, and the date.
  • Margins: 1 inch top and bottom; 1.25 on the sides.
  • Use a 12 point font.
  • Include page numbers.
  • Staple your papers.
  • Spell your GSI’s name, and the authors’ names, correctly.
  • Edit your paper carefully; typos will impact your grade.
  • Title your essay.

Things to keep in mind:
  • Be textual. Begin talking about the texts then continue to talk about the texts. You may focus on one passage but be sure to show how that one passage functions in terms of the text as a whole.
  • Cite the texts properly and consistently.

Friday, April 11, 2008

For Tuesday, April 15

Read Plato's Phaedrus. Try to read all of it—definitely read through Socrates' first speech.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

For Thursday, April 10

Write an entry to Poetical Dictionary. That is, perform the sense of a word, its concept and mood. Type it up. Hand it in—in class.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

For Tuesday, April 8

Read, Poetical Dictionary by Lohren Green. Yes, all of it. Pay special attention to the introduction—it is not only smart and thorough, it is exquisite.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Assignment Over Break: Due April 1 in class

Over break, read The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan.

And: Write a summary of the book's argument. It must be typed, no more than one paragraph. I will collect it on Tuesday, April 1.

Vacation well, please.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Midterm Paper Assignment & Prompts

DUE: THURSDAY, March 20th, IN LECTURE. NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED. So, please, just hand in the paper on time.

The assignment: Perform a rhetorical analysis of any text we've read so far in class. You may use one of the prompts below but it is by no means necessary. Feel free—but be faithful to the text.

1. In what ways can we say that Raymond Queneau is not the author of Exercises in Style? You may, and probably should, bring Barthes' essay in to help explain your argument.

2. What, precisely, does Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" perform? How does the punctuation make an argument? What is that argument? Be sure to consider what the text says as well as how it says it.

3. On page 51 of the “Dissoi Logoi,” we find the following passage: “So it is already clear that it is just to tell lies to deceive one’s parents, and for that matter to steal the property of one’s friends and use violence on those whom one holds very dear.” How does this passage perform? Is the text serious? In what sense?

4. How to Do Things with Words begins like this: “What I shall have to say here is neither difficult nor contentious; the only merit I should like to claim for it is that of being true, at least in parts.” What does Austin perform in this one sentence? How does this claim relate to Austin’s argument about the performative? Be sure to consider the phrasing of this one sentence quite carefully.

5. Nicholson Baker claims, "Our opinions, gently nudged by circumstance, revise themselves under cover of inattention." If that is so, how does his essay go about nudging our opinions about opinions? In what ways does "Changes of Mind" argue "under cover of inattention"?

6. At the end of Nietzsche's "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense," we find the introduction of a new character, "stoical man." Who is this figure? How does it function in terms of Nietzsche's argument throughout the essay?

7. Nietzsche writes, "With creative pleasure, [the free intellect] throws metaphors into confusion and displaces the boundary stones of abstraction...." In what ways does his essay perform this "free intellect"? Be sure to consider in what ways it does not; or, rather, in what ways this free intellect may not be so free.

The stipulations (failure to follow these stipulations will be reflected in your grade):

  • Write five pages and not one word more. You may write less, but be sure you've said all that needs to be said.
  • No cover page. Repeat: no cover page.
  • No folders. Repeat: no folders.
  • On the upper right hand corner of the first page of your paper, write your name, the name of the course, your GSI’s name, and the date.
  • Margins: 1 inch top and bottom; 1.25 on the sides.
  • Use a 12 point font.
  • Use Times or Times New Roman.
  • Include page numbers.
  • Staple your paper.
  • Spell your GSI’s name, and the authors’ names, correctly.
  • Edit your paper carefully; typos will impact your grade.
  • Write about a text, not about life or language in general. Be specific; be textual.

Friday, February 29, 2008

For Tuesday, March 4: Two Assignments

There are two assignments for Tuesday:

1. Write an exercise in style; that is, continue Raymond Queneau's book by adding your own exercise. It should follow the format in the book, with a title that functions as a rule and a performance of that rule.

This should be typed and printed twice, one for class and one for your sections. I will collect the class version in lecture.

2. Read Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lies in Their Nonmoral Sense"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For Thursday, Feb 28

Read the book, Exercises in Style, by Raymond Queneau. Yes, the whole book. It's not long; it should take you no more than an hour.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

For Tuesday, 2/19

Read Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author" in the reader.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Getting Poetical Dictionary

Poetical Dictionary is currently being reprinted; there may be some stray copies here and there. But in 6-8 weeks, you'll be able to get a copy here: http://www.spdbooks.org/. SPD is in Berkeley so you can actually walk in and buy the book. And they're a lot cooler than, say, Amazon.

Reading for Tuesday, Feb 12th

Read Nicholson Baker's "Changes of Mind" in the reader (from The Size of Thoughts)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Reading for Thursday, Feb. 7

Read Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," in the reader. Read it out loud and you'll hear and feel why it's so good.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reading for Tuesday, Feb. 5th

JL Austin, "How to Do Things with Words," Chapter 1, in the reader.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Syllabus, or Probable Order of Readings

These texts we will definitely be reading. I think.

1. Anonymous, “Dissoi Logoi”
2. JL Austin, excerpt from How To Do Things With Words (Chapter 1)
3. Nicholson Baker, “Changes of Mind” and maybe Ginsberg's "Howl"
4. Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”
5. Raymond Queneau, Exercises in Style
6. William Burroughs, "Les Voleurs" + "Immortality"
7. Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in Their Nonmoral Sense”
8. Lohren Green, Poetical Dictionary
9. Marshall McLuhan, Medium is the Massage
10. Plato, Phaedrus

These texts we may read but in any case I suggest you read them because they're excellent:

11. Allen Ginsberg, "Howl"
12. Michel de Certeau, "Walking in the City" + " General Introduction" (from The Practice of Everyday Life)
13. Roland Barthes, excerpts from Mythologies
14. Fallacies
15. FĂ©lix Guattari, "So What" (from Chaosophy)
16. Roland Barthes, excerpt from The Pleasure of the Text (last page)
17. Vladimir Nabokov, excerpt from Ada, or Ardor
18. Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, "A Conversation: What is it? What is it for?" (from Dialogues II)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

For Tuesday, 1/29

Read the "Dissoi Logoi" in the reader. Not being able to get the reader in time is not an excuse. Copy Central is fast. And you can find it in the library—this is UC Berkeley, after all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Introduction to the Class

Rhetoric is strange. Unlike philosophy, rhetoric eschews the search for universal truths. And yet the rhetorician does not dismiss propriety. On the contrary, the rhetorician relentlessly seeks it, always trying to say the right thing at the right time. Picture a lawyer: he or she must heed a complex confluence of factors before speaking—the law as it reads, legal precedent, available evidence, the make up of the jury, the disposition of the judge, public opinion, etc. The lawyer does not enjoy the luxury of the philosopher; the lawyer cannot meditate in solitude discovering eternal truths. The lawyer, the rhetorician, must reckon a truth that is local, that changes as the world changes.

This is the art and logic of rhetoric, the art and logic of circumstantial propriety, of knowing the right thing to say and do in this or that circumstance. In this class, we will read a wide variety of texts—from Plato and Nietzsche to Barthes and McLuhan—, exploring what it entails to be a rhetorician, what it entails to make sense of a world, of texts, without stable truths but nevertheless with local laws. We will look at how texts function, how arguments are created, how meaning comes to the fore, and what it entails to read all of these things at once.

Required reading:
A robust reader available at Copy Central on Bancroft
Plato, Phaedrus (please use the version translated by WC Helmbold and WG Rabinowitz)
Lohren Green, Poetical Dictionary (buy from bookstore now; very hard to find elsewhere)
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (version doesn't matter)
Raymond Queneau, Exercises in Style (version doesn't matter)

Requirements and Grading
  • We expect that you’ll not only do all the reading but think about it.
  • There will be a mid-term essay; this will account for 30% of your final grade.
  • There will be a final essay; this will account for 40% of your final grade.
  • The remaining 30% of your final grade will be based on class participation. This means attending lectures and sections, doing the weekly writing assignments, and actively participating in section discussions.
  • We understand that it is not always possible to attend class. So you may officially miss three classes. For every class you miss after that, your grade will be lowered 1/3.
  • If you miss class, you may not come to office hours to discover what you missed.
  • Weekly reading and assignments will be given in class. You are responsible for knowing what the assignment is. We highly recommend you exchange phone numbers with someone in the class so, in the chance you should be absent, you’ll know what you missed and what to do.