CA 470: Contemporary Political Discourse (Spring 2018)

The Rhetoric of Modern Democratic Revolutions
4028 Vilas Hall
T/Th – 1:00PM – 2:15 PM

This course will explore the ideas and rhetoric of the democratic mass movements that have played a defining role in the making of our modern world, examining the imagery, speeches and symbolic actions shared by democratic revolutions on five continents over the span of a century. Taking a comparative approach, it will trace links from Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King, Jr., to the impact of the US Civil Rights Movement on the ‘people power’ revolutions of the past three decades, ending with the recent uprisings in the Arab world and new social movements at home. In pursuit of this inquiry, the course will examine a range of political discourse, from the soaring speeches of key leaders to pivotal acts of defiance. Class discussions will study their mobilizing impact in each movement as well as the power of iconic moments to inspire similar actions elsewhere in the world. The course will also allow students to study the role of different media in transforming public and counter-public within and outside democratic movements. Finally, it will help students begin to look critically at the role of different forms of rhetoric in driving or derailing popular movements to help make sense of successes, failures, and transformations that otherwise defy easy assessment.