2020-2024 RTC Course Offerings

Fall 2024

HU 5003 Technical & Scientific Communication | A. Fiss

84942 | MW 2:00-3:15 | Walker 329B

Course Overview

We’ll have two monograph-length touchstones: Naomi Oreskes, Why Trust Science? (2019); and Marika Seigel, The Rhetoric of Pregnancy (2013). The first section of the course will be about the “turns” of technical communication throughout the history of humanities approaches to the field (1970s-2013); the second section will be about theoretical approaches to science and technology (staring with Naomi Oreskes but then reviewing 1960s-2010s approaches); and the third section will be about technical communication since the social justice turn (with Marika’s book as well as post-2013 articles).


HU 5004 Cultural Theory | Morrison & Van Kooy

84943 | W 3:30-5:45 | Walker 329B

Course Overview

The complex development and meaning of the word culture, as Raymond Williams notes in Culture and Society (1958), is distinctively modern. Etymologically  grounded in the rural and agrarian acts of cultivating land and tending crops, the meaning of culture transformed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with industrialization, global wars (including the slave trade), and the emergence of democracies. Culture became equated with refinement,  with  intellectual and creative arts, with the establishment of customs, institutions, and to the achievements (or perceived failures) of a particular nation, people, or social group, and with the critique of particular socio-economic  and political conditions that inhibited or nurtured the further cultivation and growth of  society. 

This semester we’ll tighten the scope of cultural theory to focus on visual and performative constructions (and critiques) of space and place as well as gendered and racialized  identities so we can explore the changing relationships between society and nature and between culture and society. To this end, we will be reading a selection of texts that may include but are not limited to this tentative list of writers and readings:

Theodor Adorno; Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (2006); Hannah Arendt; Karen Barad; Laruen Berlant’s “Cruel Optimism” in The Affect Theory Reader (2010); Judith Butler’s Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (1993); Aime Cesaire’s Discourse on Colonialism; Jonathan Crary; Michel de Certeau’s The Practices of Everyday Life (1980); Michel Foucault; Fredric Jameson, Katherine McKittrick’s Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle (2006); Tiya Miles’s All that She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (Random House, 2022); Achille Mbembe’s “Necropolitics”; and Joseph Roach.


HU 5012 Cultural Theory | Collins

84944 | M 7:00PM-9:30PM | Walker 329B

Course Overview

Because the notion of communication spans an enormously wide range of approaches and concepts within its scope, the study of communication theory confronts us with a vast body of literature drawing from a number of disciplines making up what has become the field of communication inquiry. In this course, we will narrow our focus to include some intellectual legacies intersecting with humanistic perspectives on communication, culture, and technology. These include: 1) the constitutive relation between communication and culture, 2) socio-historical approaches to communication technology and social change, 3) medium theory, 4) political economy and media industries, 5) culture and representation, 5) geopolitics and communication power.

PLEASE NOTE: Selections from the following readings are tentative and may change:
John Fiske, Introduction to Communication Studies (2011)
James Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (2009)
Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century (1988)
Harold Innis, The Bias of Communication (1951)
Daniel Czitrom, Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan (1982)
Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (2003)
Sarah Sharma, Re-Understanding Media: Feminist Extensions of Marshall McLuhan (2022)
Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructure (2015)
Robert McChesney, Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (2015)
Andreas Hepp, Mediatized Worlds: Culture and Society in a Media Age (2014)
Thomas Streeter, The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet (2011)
Dwayne Winseck and Robert Pike, Communication and Empire (2007)


HU 6002 Culture & Social Justice | Viera-Ramos

84945 | W 7:00PM-9:30PM | Walker 329B

Course Overview

 Bodies in Transition: Conceptually Exploring Some “New” Feminist Writers in Latin America

Jacques Lacan used to claim that "poets, who do not know what they say, nevertheless always say, as is well known, things before others" (my translation). Building upon Lacan's observation, this seminar will approach contemporary fiction by Latin-American writers (in translation) with the aim of interrogating present-day understandings of feminist theory.

Writers such as Mariana Enriquez, Samanta Schweblin, Fernanda Trías, Camila Sosa Villada, and Gabriela Cabezón Camara express a “new” political sensibility: as the feminist movement becomes of paramount importance for social justice, these authors explore the unknown—yet familiar at the same time—of a social relationship yet to come. For instance, Enriquez’s writing delves into politics, not solely by amplifying the voices and visibility of feminist movements, but also by urging a reshaping of social dynamics. Her work possesses a unique quality that blends elements of familiarity and novelty, paving the way for a future distinct from the political landscape as we have known it. Although her writing does touch on other facets directly connected to politics, such as using Argentina’s dictatorial era as a backdrop that accentuates the terror in her stories, the emphasis is placed on the individualized body that fosters an alternative, spiritually-driven social connection. Maintaining the Freudian premise of sexualized and eroticized bodies, this seminar will approach the traditional body-mind division as a possibility for intimately intertwining affections as a way of disrupting each other. Of course, on a “spiritual” level, these disruptions involve an ideological reinterpretation of the current social relationship —as it is the patriarchal model.

In a more concrete manner: if a notion of “woman” is to be deconstructed from its historical, political, economic, and cultural development, then the notion of “man” should also be a part of this deconstruction. Hence, the lingering question is: What kind of politics looms on the horizon of our daily lives?

Tentative reading list:
Borges, J.L. “Emma Zunz
Enriquez, M. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed; Things We Lost in the Fire
Sosa Villada, C. Bad Girls; I’m a Fool to Want You
Trías, F. The Rooftop
Schweblin, S. Fever Dream
Cabezón Camara, G. Slum Virgin
Lacan, J. Feminine Sexuality (Chapters TBC)
Butler, J. Gender Trouble (Chapters TBC)
Ettinger, B. The Matrixial Borderspace (Chapters TBC)
Haraway, D. “A Cyborg Manifesto”