e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu



I'm teaching Honors Writing & Rhetoric II this term for the first time and having a great time, another reminder how thankful I am for this great life interacting with and challenging students. Students are looking at a timely debate of their choice throughout the term: the ACA's contraception mandate, the viability of Islamic feminism, internet neutrality, and the local LGBTQ activist community's stance toward straight allies are a few examples. I've tried to move the students away from the notion of writing about a "subject" and toward analyzing an ongoing "debate" happening right now in the public sphere.

Our emphasis is on rhetoric. We're reading Sam Leith's book Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama which is an accessible and sometimes funny stroll through classical rhetoric, tropes and terms, and thoughts on how rhetorics of various stripe circulate in the contemporary world. The sequence of assignments ask students to provide an overview of the kairotic moment (a kind of "state of the debate" piece), critique various instances of rhetoric culled from the debate they're analyzing (using various lenses--Aristotelian, one based on Lazere's "Rules for Polemicists," etc.), intervene in the debate by creating a piece of rhetoric of their own (a tumblr, an op-ed...the possibilities are endless), and eventually compile all they've done into a comprehensive report at the term's end.

I'm not sure I've ever sequenced assignments or foregrounded rhetoric in quite this deep (obsessive?) a fashion. Working with honors students is interesting because in my fifteen+ years teaching, I've gravitated toward the other end of the spectrum--"basic writing" classes and the like. I appreciate the chance to expand and try something different. The honors program and the writing program share an awesome administrative assistant, are next door to one another, and have always had a close relationship. I'm leaning toward teaching the first-semester honors course next Fall, and perhaps getting on a rotation of these two courses. Let's see how thing unfold...

No comments: