Previous Research Guide
Retailers Abercrombie and Hollister sell sexy-woman clothes to the prepubescent girl. Animated television serial South Park appropriates the cartoon idiom of the child to explore once-taboo topics with expletive-laced dialog. Readers of all ages devour Harry Potter. The boundary between child and adult has so blurred that media critic Neil Postman observes "the disappearance of childhood." Many children dispute Postman's claim, as he himself acknowledges. So what version of "childhood" is Postman referring to? What values and institutions from the past does it draw on, or reform? This class will investigate the claims that childhood as we know it—a separate, special phase of life in need of protection—is an invention of the modern West, and that it is constantly being reinvented, today in a global context.
We will begin by analyzing the global evolution of an enduring argument about childhood: the folktale Little Red Riding Hood. We will then deliberate, along with historian Peter Stearns, the possibility of a global childhood. After all, the website of Danish LEGO, the most popular toy system in the world, can be accessed in twenty languages. Little League, an American youth sports organization, can be found on all five continents. Successful Brazilian and Finnish education experiments inspire American policy makers. And Tiger Mothers import Chinese parenting philosophies to the United States. But is childhood the same in Cleveland and Beijing, in Copenhagen and Buenos Aires? Using the research of anthropologists and lawyers, cultural critics and pediatricians, we will investigate how local ideologies shape how children read, learn, play, eat, dress, and shop; and debate if and how children are able to distinguish themselves from the adults who otherwise define their lives.
A sign in Stanford's Memorial Quad says: "No vehicles in the quad." The dictionary defines a "vehicle" simply as "a device or structure used to transport people or things." Are strollers prohibited? Bikes? Segways? Ambulances?
Outside of a hypothetical, we read and understand the "No vehicles" sign as a flexible guideline for behavior—obviously an ambulance can drive through to reach a sick child in the quad, obviously a stroller is not a "vehicle" within the meaning of the statute. Our ability to make these decisions relies on a specific understanding of law: not as a list of written rules which need only be followed to the letter, but as a daily interpretative practice grounded in rhetoric. If police charge a man with violating the statute—say, with a moped—his lawyer will attempt to persuade the judge that the man's interpretation of "vehicle" was valid (e.g. a moped is more like a bicycle than a motorcycle). Both the lawyer's language and the language of the statute are examples of legal rhetoric; both create specific arguments mean to encourage a certain outcome.
James Boyd White defines rhetoric "not as a failed science nor as an ignoble art of persuasion ... but as the central art by which culture and community are established, maintained, and transformed" (28). The focus of this class is the study of law as a branch of rhetoric in White's sense. How do we establish, maintain, and transform culture through legal rhetoric? What is the relationship of rhetoric to American legal ideals like justice, equity, and equality?
When we think of learning and communication, we often think of speech, writing, presentations, images, movies, and sounds; yet we rarely consider another element: the human body. We experience the physical and cultural worlds we live in through embodiment, that is, the way our bodies orient us to the world around us.
In every act of communication—at a job interview, in a religious ceremony, on the dance floor or in a lecture hall—the movement and disposition of bodies plays an important role. This is true not just on an individual level, but also on a social or cultural level. Paul Connerton in How Societies Remember explores how bodily performances play an important role in forming and maintaining a culture's social memory. The ways in which we experience the present depend largely on our knowledge of the past. Commemorative ceremonies and bodily practices help members of a society to recollect that past and move it into the future. For example, military parades with a set repertoire of postures, gestures, and movements, celebrate important victories, thereby commemorating a particular aspect of a culture in its bodily social memory.
Ritualized bodily activities also play an important role in educational environments. Julie Cheville's Minding the Body: What Student Athletes Know About Learning studies how student athletes struggle between different learning environments, the basketball court and the classroom. Other scholars have studied how students at Harvard Medical School learn with the body and embody their new medical and surgical knowledge (Good and DelVecchio; Prentice).
When does life begin? When should it end? What is the role of medicine, and how should humans practice it? How should we approach this science? How should we teach it? What should the medicine strive to accomplish—and what shouldn't it? These are some of the core questions of biomedicine, the study of human healthcare and science. To even begin to address these questions requires a strong mastery of rhetorical skills, analysis, argumentation, and writing.
This course provides students with classical texts and classical arguments that address the central questions of biomedical ethics. Some of these texts are ancient, written by Plato, Aristotle, and Confucius. These classic works provide instruction for rhetorical technique and delineate virtues for a healthy community. More recent texts present competing arguments: some claim that we should respect universal standards that always apply, while others urge that we should make decisions based on context and outcomes. There are famous historical cases to examine: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, The Joyce Brown Case, Roe v. Wade, Nazi experimentation, the politics of embryos; and cutting edge science.
In this course, you will sharpen your critical ability to evaluate arguments about the quality of life, the good of the individual and the community. You'll choose an area of your own interest or a particular case, and draw on the tools of rhetoric to analyze the arguments that support each position and determine which arguments are the most sound.
We will consider how biomedical rhetoric varies depending on the audience and the context. Many arguments have competing notions of community and good and we will debate the questions of cultural difference, not merely between scientific and nonscientific communities but between different cultures and belief-systems.