RHE 309K: Rhetoric of the Body (Summer 2009)

Rhetoric of the Body

Of physiology from top to toe I sing
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse,
I say the Form complete is worthier far
-Walt Whitman

Course Description

This course will be a study of the ways bodies have been argued on, with, and about in regards to understandings of identity, both communal and individual. The class will investigate the rhetorical strategies behind such representations: how these arguments might buffer regimes of power, how they might be taken up in defiance as a mode of self-determination, and even how an expanding idea of corporeal limits might change the way we think about the body.

The course will be divided into three units, each one looking at different ways the body has been deployed as a rhetorical strategy for establishing identity.

    • The first unit will look at how we construct communities through the body, how communities establish a somatic norm that is continually defined against different, defiant, or even deviant bodies.

    • The second unit will further investigate the “text” of the flesh. By looking at tattoos, scarification, and even plastic surgery, we will consider how identity can be “written” on the body, and even the possibilities for the individual to “revise” that text.

    • The last unit will take into consideration how our relationship with modern technology might challenge or further our somatic identifications. From Facebook to Second Life to the iPhone, technology seems more and more integrated into our lives and even our identities. How does our intimate relationship with technology affect this rhetoric of the body and corporeal identity? Are we now more machine than (wo)man?

While this course is structured around the rhetoric of the body, this is first and foremost a writing course and as such the course will use the chosen topic to develop your skills as a writer and editor of prose. You will write a lot in this course and the type of writing will include summary, analysis and synthesis arguments. Because this is a summer session, you will have a lot of time-intensive work outside of class and you should prepare your schedule accordingly.

Course Texts

f309K has four required texts.

    The CO-OP has two texts:
      Lester Faigley Little Penguin Handbook
      Victoria Pitts In the Flesh

    Jenn's Copies on the lower drag (underneath the Scientology center) has our required course reader

    You will also need to rent or purchase Terminator 2 for Unit 3. It is available for purchase from several vendors. Here is the listing on Amazon.com.

**There are also additional readings that will be posted to our website. You need to log in to the website in order to see attachments.**

Body of Work

You can download a copy of the assignment descriptions here or at the bottom of the page. Please note that this includes a prompt for the first and ongoing assignment for the semester: the summary analysis presentations.


Your grade in the course will be determined by the following distribution:

    Paper 1.1 (due Sun. 6/14 by 5) 5%
    Paper 1.2 (due Fri. 6/19) 15%
    Paper 2 (due 6/29) 20%
    Paper 3 (due 7/9) 20%
    Summary Response Presentations (3) (due 6/8, 7/6, per sign up sheet) 15%
    Short Writing (2) (due 6/18, 7/2) 15%
    Participation and Reading Quizzes 10%

Course Policies

Assignments: All assignments are due at the beginning of class or as indicated on the schedule. You must be present to turn in work. If you will not be in class on the day an assignment is due, you will need to contact me in advance in order to make alternate arrangements. No late work will be accepted.

Participation: Student discussion is simply essential for success in RHE 309K. For this course to be worth your time and that of your colleagues, you must be an active participant in every discussion. You will need to have all readings and assignments prepared for the class day to which they are assigned. This means you have read and thought about the work in terms of the goals of the class and are ready to discuss these thoughts with your classmates.

Technology in the classroom: Please do not use your laptop or other portable devices during class. These should be turned off and put away.

Office hours: I will hold three hours of office hours a week and students are strongly encouraged to see me at this time if they have a question or concern about the course in general or individual assignments or readings. I can only help you if I know you are having a problem so please make use of this resource. It is always best to make an appointment to see me during office hours so please email me or speak with me before or after class to set up a time to meet.

Attendance: Because of the importance of participation, this class has a strict attendance policy. You must sign the attendance sheet every day. If you arrive late you are considered tardy. THREE TARDIES WILL EQUAL ONE ABSENCE. IF YOU ARE EGREGIOUSLY LATE (MORE THAN FIFTEEN MINUTES), YOU WILL BE COUNTED ABSENT. You can miss only 5 class days regardless of whether an absence may be considered excused or unexcused. On the sixth absence YOU WILL FAIL THE COURSE. Because of possible consequences, it is important for you to keep track of your attendance. I will file an absence/failing report with the University after the third absence, but this is a courtesy notice. You are ultimately responsible for your attendance.

Please see the list of policies from the Department of Rhetoric and Writing (DRW). All DRW policies apply to this class.