INSTRUCTOR: David Fleming, PhD CLASS MEETINGS: TTh, 10:20 a.m. - 11:35 a.m., EN 107 OFFICE: EN 218 OFFICE HOURS: TTh, 11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m., & by appt. PHONE: 646-3931 (English Dept.), 646-2239 (office/voice mail) EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since World War II, however, scholars in the humanities have attempted to reverse their marginal status, blurring the line between rhetoric and science and “dressing down” the latter by highlighting the historical, sociological, ideological, argumentative, figurative, gendered, and cognitive aspects of the scientific enterprise. Taking its cue from contemporary work in the philosophy and history of science and the sociology of knowledge, a new field of inquiry has arisen among scholars in communication and English departments that often goes by the name of “rhetoric of science.” It presents a very different picture of rhetoric and science than that painted above. In the last few years, however, this picture has also been called into question; just as the earlier, Aristotelian and early modern one had drawn the line between science and rhetoric too neatly, the picture of science and rhetoric in the humanities had conflated the two against all common sense. Talking today about the “rhetoric of science” is especially difficult given that each term in the phrase is itself contested. In this course, we’ll try to figure out just what “rhetoric” and “science” are and what their interface might be. Rather than assume, as both of the above pictures did, that the relationship between the two is a question already answered (usually in favor of either one or the other), our focus will be on problems generated by their contact. Easy answers will be unavailable to us.
We'll approach rhetoric of science as an intellectual topic whose core problem is language use in the sciences. But we'll try to focus as much as possible on actual scientific discourse and orient things when we can to practical concerns. The course should be useful for future researchers & scholars, teachers of writing, administrators of writing-across-the-curriculum programs, and professional communicators. Our test case throughout will be the natural and physical sciences, but we will see three other areas of inquiry as closely related and relevant: 1) the rhetoric of the human and social sciences (and disciplinarity in general); 2) the rhetoric of engineering, design, and technology; and 3) the rhetoric of the professions (medicine, law, etc.).
The course will proceed in three units, of about 5 weeks each: the first,
concerning “big” questions in the history, philosophy, and sociology of
science; the second, dealing with particular research programs in the rhetoric
of science; the third, concentrating on your own individual research problems.
This is a movement from whole-class reading and discussion to individual
research and writing.
1) reading and discussion. I strongly encourage you to keep a journal of reading notes, writing down before each class at least one good question, comment, observation, or problem raised by your reading. I will often ask for volunteers to report on relevant outside readings.
2) mid-term take-home exam, probably due after Spring Break (Mar. 10) and concerning the reading, discussion, and lectures of the first part of the course. You will answer a single question, 5-7 pp. DS.
3) presentation on a controversy or problem in the rhetoric of science. This will be a 30 min. lecture built around a key article, paper, or book chapter that has generated controversy. Examples include:
-- the Sokal affair
-- popularizing science
-- science and feminism
-- science and the Holocaust
-- textbook presentations of science
-- the Two Cultures
-- expert-layperson relations (medicine, etc.)
-- science on trial
-- style of scientific prose
-- the rise of the experimental article
-- the scientific journal
-- the Challenger debate
-- technology transfer
4) a final research project. I see five main options for this project: a paper exploring a historical, philosophical, or critical problem; one employting textual or linguistic analysis of scientific discourse; an empirical or quasi-experimental study; an observational or ethnographic study; or a teaching plan for a 15-wk college-level course on rhetoric of science. We’ll go through the project in various stages:
a. announcement of interest, topic, question, situation b. report of initial reading and observations c. formal statement of research problem d. submision of preliminary plan e. submission of status report f. a public presentation (during final few weeks of semester) g. final paper (due during exam week, 10-20 pp DS).
These texts are required. In addition, I may put supplementary articles and chapters on reserve in the library. Finally, I will provide you with a list of articles and books recommended for individual reading.
Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. London: Penguin, 1968. Gross, Alan G., and William M. Keith, eds. Rhetorical Hermeneutics: Invention and Interpretation in the Age of Science. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 1997. Harris, Randy Allen, ed. Landmark Essays on Rhetoric of Science: Case Studies. Mahway, NJ: Hermagoras Press of Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997. Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 3rd ed. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996. Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1986. Megill, Alan, ed. Rethinking Objectivity. Durham: Duke UP, 1994. Shapin, Steven. The Scientific Revolution. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996.
Reading & discussion 15% take-home mid-term exam 25% presentation 15% final project 45% Final Grade = 100%