Writing 20: Understanding the Rhetoric of Media Culture

Full Title: Writing 20: Understanding the Rhetoric of Media Culture: Reading Signs, Rescuing Identities

Term Offered: Fall 2019
Timeslot: 2
Prerequisite: None.
Dist: ART.
Instructor: Wendy Piper.

Course Description

In this class, students will learn to read the media images that surround us daily. We’ll begin by understanding that the use of images, whether print, digital, or even artworks, is always allied with class interests and intended to perpetuate those interests. Thus, while advertising images may sell products, they also sell (or shape) identities, values, and worldviews. We’ll look at the strategies of corporate narratives, then, to ask what else, besides the use value of the product itself, the narrative is selling. Why, for instance, would the popular American clothing company, Banana Republic, choose a brand reminiscent of colonialism? Or, alternatively, why would a coffee company promote its interest in fair trade and global sustainability over the quality of its coffee beans? Assuming that corporations exist to sell product and satisfy shareholders before promoting good will, we might ask what they know of consumers that we might not even know of ourselves?  Students in this class will study the rhetorical strategies used when corporations develop cultural narratives designed to shape perspectives. This work will enable them to make informed and responsible choices as citizens and consumers.

Learning Outcomes

The main goal of this course is to help you identify and analyze the persuasive techniques used by media texts in order to be able to challenge them.  As we work toward this goal, you should become better writers and speakers. Below are capabilities that the course will help you develop.

  • Come to see media texts as cultural narratives.
  • Be able to “unpack” the arguments of visual media.
  • Use theory to analyze the culture industry.
  • Recognize the symbiotic relationship between the global economy and corporate, cultural narratives.
  • Understand the concept of hegemony in relation to consumer need.
  • Adopt a critical perspective toward media culture that will enable agency and activism.