rhetorics of sustainability:
discourse, science, and culture

ngl 597 & hort 503 fall 2006
preston k. andrews
patricia freitag ericsson


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sustainability in the news

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course description
This course is a graduate-level seminar in the rhetorics of sustainability. It proceeds from the assumption that all participants in controversies about sustainability, not only advocacy groups, but also industry spokespersons, government officials, scientists, teachers, and interested citizens, attempt to influence attitudes and actions, personal opinions, and public decisions through the production of persuasive public discourse—through rhetorical means.

detailed description
Since the struggle to shape meaning and action is so apparent in this area of public life, the rhetoric of sustainability is fertile ground for students in both the humanities and sciences who wish to gain insight into the dynamics of public discourse. And since rhetoric constitutes the very means by which sustainability issues are described, negotiated, ignored, and transformed, it is necessary for students from a wide spectrum of disciplines to understand the rhetorical dimensions of sustainability discourses.

In rhetoric and composition, sustainability should take a place with race, class, and gender as a subject deserving of focus and serious critique. In fact, sustainability is deeply interwoven with the experiences of women, people of color, poor people, and working class people. "Matters of social justice are largely matters of sustainability as well" (Owens xiii). The rhetorics of sustainability responds to a need to recognize the fundamental interconnections between culture, survival, body, and place.

In science, sustainability should take a place along with molecular genetics and nanotechnology as a discipline worthy of inquiry. Yet, the science of sustainability is not just a discipline, as it weds knowledge systems from many discrete disciplines into a biophysical, economical, and social ecology. Thus, the science of sustainability creates its own discourse and culture, forming a scientific community of self-realization and personal responsibility.

course objectives
By the end of this course students will be able to
>understand how sustainability encompasses social, economic, and ecological issues;
>understand how scientific discourse influences issues of sustainability;
> identify and analyze rhetorical situations and apply rhetorical strategies to sustainability issues;
>comprehend and articulate the relationship between sustainability and culture;
>use rhetorical concepts to analyze a variety of texts including written documents (found in a variety of publication venues from popular press to academic journals), visual presentations, and digitally created products;
use rhetorical concepts to produce a variety of texts including written documents (found in a variety of publication venues), visual presentations, and digitally created products;
> demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively through professional presentations;
>work both individually and collaboratively to complete high-quality projects.

required Texts
Principles of Sustainability
by Simon Dresner
Technology and the Contested Meanings of Sustainability by Aidan Davison

Green Culture: Environmental Rhetoric in Contemporary America by Carl Herndl and Stuart Brown
Our Common Future by the World Commission on Environment and Development (The Brundtland Report)

A detailed bibliography including print sources on sustainability(some on reserve at WSU's Holland Library) and a table of
web sites relating to sustainability is available as a .doc file. This bibliography will grow during the semester as we find more resources. Student contributions to the bibliography are encouraged. To add a source, email the details to Dr. Andrews at andrewsp@wsu.edu

attendance and assignments
To successfully complete this class, you must faithfully attend class and complete all assignments. Because we will be working collaboratively, your regular attendance is vital. Specifically this translates to the following requirements:
>more than two absences will seriously jeopardize your grade; after four absences you will fail the class;
> planned absences must be discussed and OK’d by the teachers prior to the absence; planned absences count in the total of absences;
> acceptance of late work is unusual and must be discussed in conference with the teachers. Late work will receive a lowered grade (depending on circumstances) if turned in within one week of the original due date. Work turned in later than one week past the original due date will be give an automatic grade of F.

See linked schedule.

audit/sit-in policy
Because of the number of students officially enrolled in this seminar and the need for those students to contribute to class discussions, we are not allowing official audits of the course. We will allow students to sit-in on a limited number of class meetings. Students who would like to sit-in are required to contact one of the two teachers before attending the class. In addition, students sitting-in must read the assigned texts if they wish to contribute to the class discussions.

wsu disability policy
We are
committed to providing assistance to help you be successful in this course. Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. Please visit the Disability Resource Center (DRC) during the first two weeks of every semester to seek information or to qualify for accommodations. All accommodations MUST be approved through the DRC (Admin Annex Bldg, Rooms 205). Call 509 335 3417 to make an appointment with a disability counselor.

academic honesty
All students are expected to act in accordance with the WSU policies on Academic Honesty found in the Student Handbook. These policies include falsification of information, fabrication of information, plagiarism, multiple submission, and various others. Information about these policies can be found in the Handbook. These policies will be discussed in class and students will be asked to acknowledge that discussion and a basic understanding of the policies. For additional information on plagiarism, WSU has a great new site.

We ask students to sign an academic honest form that is copied from the WSU Student Handbook. You can access the form by clicking here. Please print, read, sign, and bring this form to class during the first week of class. If you are not comfortable signing the form, please ask us for an appointment to discuss it.

projects and evaluation:
Project #1 (10% of course grade)
Collaborative groups will be the "experts" for different primary texts in the Jeremiad article. Each group will be responsible for a brief (approximately 5 minute) presentation of the primary text and how it is treated in the Jeremiad article. More details will be provided on this assignment as the date for it approaches. All class members are expected to read the entire article and be conversant with all concepts presented in it.

Project #2 (20% of course grade)
Collaborative groups will present the chapters in Green Culture. Each group will have 10-15 minutes for this presentation. More details will be provided on this assignment as the date for it approaches. All class members are expected to read the entire book and be conversant with all concepts presented in it.

Project #3 (50% of course grade)
This project will be completed by collaborative teams. Teams will be asked to investigate the rhetorical and scientific information that is used in a commonly available publication, film, or other public media. This investigation will focus on the scientific information that goes into the publication and the rhetorical strategies that are used to make arguments to general or specific audiences. Complete details of this project will be provided. This project will have three parts:
1. a mid-term project proposal;
2. a final text (this text can be broadly interpreted and may be a traditional written research report, a web-based report, a multimedia report, or another form as approved by the teachers);
3. a final oral presentation.

Class participation (20% of course grade)
Class participation includes attendance, collaborations, and discussion. In both presentations and discussions students are expected to evidence intellectual engagement with the readings as well as thoughtful, intellectually responsible responses to others in the class.

Derek Owens Composition and Sustainability. NCTE Press 2000.

contact information:
Preston K. Andrews
155E Johnson Hall

Patricia Freitag Ericsson
Dept. of English
223 Avery Hall


Note Bene: All assignments must be completed to pass this course.


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