Seminar in Rhetoric & Culture: Curating, Mapping, Inventing

Tu 6:00PM - 8:55PM / 1414 Cathedral of Learning / CRN 30148

Here is a core assertion: the intellectual tradition of rhetoric is a treasure-trove of humanities presuppositions and practices.  Here is another sense in which this is true: contemporary initiatives in digital humanities, library and information science, museum arts, and procedural literacy studies can be understood as continuations of the invention, arrangement, and memory components of classical rhetoric.  Rhetoricians and scholars from other fields can benefit from awareness of these connections in equal measure.  In this seminar, we examine curating in a variety of domains as a rhetorical process of organizing archives, libraries, and collections of all kinds for certain kinds of attention and practice.  We conceptualize mapping as a practice of working out and recording (or metabolizing) the distances between curated artifacts.  And we theorize inventing as a kind of facility within a range of curated and then mapped artifacts, a facility that is capable of discerning and producing new performances.  The point of orientation in this seminar is Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas, in the first instance.  We engage with the Atlas as an example of the curating, mapping, inventing sequence just described.  And we use Warburg’s Atlas in order to think about a series of analogous cultural phenomena: image atlases in the medical sciences, fine art exhibitions, and aphoristic collections, for instance.  But we also use the Atlas to organize a series of elemental disciplinary configurations: the rhetorical tradition in its entirety; contemporary visual rhetoric; interpenetrations of rhetoric and aesthetics; comparisons of the ars topica and biopolitical taxonomy; and algorithmic approaches to imagination.  We conduct Skype interviews with authors of recent books appearing at the intersection of these emerging fields.  The lectures of my introductory undergraduate course on rhetoric will be made available, so members of this seminar will come to share a basic vocabulary.  Research papers can take a number of forms: nodes in the history and theory of rhetoric (gearing up for the 2018 Rhetoric Society of America conference on inventio), contemporary debates about the framing of monuments or public memory in exhibition spaces, or projects that could dovetail with the Public Humanities Fellows Program in Summer 2018.

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David Marshall

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Category D: Designated Courses

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