WRIT 116.413 | The Rhetoric of the Extraordinary
Bob Blaskiewicz | Fall 2013 | MWTh 9:00-9:50 AM & T 8:00-9:50 AM
Otherwise normal people can believe some pretty weird stuff. There’s a guy in the UK, David Icke, who tours the world and commands large crowds promoting the idea that the world is secretly run by shape-shifting transdimensional reptilian aliens. A sizable number of Americans believe that a small atmospheric research facility in Alaska, the HAARP array, is responsible for weather control and causing earthquakes. Last year, after a fake documentary that appeared on Animal Planet suggested otherwise, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a press release clarifying that no credible evidence exists for the existence of mermaids. Stranger than the beliefs themselves is the fact that the people who hold them are (usually) not actually crazy but instead arrived at their conclusions primarily because they have normally functioning human brains!
In this course, students will explore the rhetorical principles and practices that underlie all communication by examining extraordinary claims; these are claims that, if they are true, will radically alter our understanding of our relationship to the world, to each other, and even to ourselves. We will apply critical concepts in the ancient field of rhetoric to texts advocating (and opposing) fringe beliefs, especially those of cryptozoology, ghost hunting, alternative medicine, conspiracy theories, and parapsychology. As we investigate and write about these topics, we will also develop the communication, critical thinking, and research skills fundamental to a successful academic career.