150 | CCN: 26419

Rhetoric of Contemporary Politics

Toxic Rhetoric: The rhetoric of fear, anger and resentment in contemporary American politics

Instructor: Michael Wintroub,

4 Units

T/TH 3:30 - 5:00 PM, Dwinelle 209 ///

There is no better way to create unity and a sense of common purpose than through the creation of others—as dangers to be quarantined, persecuted, feared, or destroyed. In America these targets have taken diverse forms: witches, communists, intellectuals, “cultural elites,” terrorists, etc. Despite its many and changing figurations, the trope of the other has played a crucial—perhaps even a defining—role in American politics. In this class, we will be particularly interested in the most recent history of this rhetoric; our aim will be try to understand it in context. That is to say, we will try to understand the genealogy of a number of different instances (or targets, if you will) of this rhetoric, both in terms of the unique socio-historical situations within which they appeared (e.g., the existential angst of the nuclear age, economic crises, the civil rights movement, feminism, 9-11, or the twenty-four hour consumer/media cycle), and in terms of more durable, longer term, histories of religious revivalism, notions of American exceptionalism, and traditions associated with rugged individualism and the spirit of the frontier.