Conversation and Participation (From the 2014-2015 Annotated Syllabus)
This year’s course is loosely designed around conversation as a method of participation and knowledge making in communities, both inside and outside the university. Scholarly essays in the humanities and social sciences have long been characterized as a kind of ongoing conversation where participants build on, extend, and counter the work of others, thereby furthering thinking and knowledge about the subject and the field. Academe, however, is not the only place that individuals are engaging in conversation. In our classes, we will ask students to explore at least one other site outside of the university where both vibrant and passionate and, sometimes, troubling and troublesome conversations are taking place.
A conversation has to be about something. (And there has to be more than one person talking about that something). Participants have to have access to perspectives other than their own, and most importantly, they have to learn how people in different communities typically carry out their conversations. How these conversations are carried out depend on the specific subject matter, purpose, analytical approaches, and conventions of specific communities or disciplines. What counts as effective writing, then, is always a function of context and rhetorical situation.