Steven Wexler


English 654-01: Advanced Topics in Rhetoric and Composition
The Politics of Information
Fall 2012
Jerome Richfield Hall 319
T 7:00 - 9:45
Office Hours: T Th 9:30 - 10:30 AM

This graduate seminar considers the rhetoric and materiality of information, from the rise of the European public sphere to contemporary information technologies that drive global integrated circuits of production, consumption, and exchange.

Some important questions to be considered throughout the semester:

  • How do information technologies influence participatory culture and social change?
  • What constitutes work in the 21st century?
  • How do new economies (e.g., service, knowledge, information) produce value?
  • What does it mean to be posthuman?
  • Do new media represent a break from or remediation of old?
  • How have information technologies and socioeconomic shifts shaped higher education?
  • What is the relationship between information, urbanization, and risk?

Each class is collaborative and discussion-based.


A seminar bibliography of suggested readings follows the syllabus below.

Aronowitz. The Knowledge Factory: Dismantling the Corporate University and Creating True Higher Learning

Bolter and Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media

Davis, Hirschl, and Stack, eds. Cutting Edge: Technology, Information, Capitalism, and Social Revolution

Habermas. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society

Harvey. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution

Martin. An Empire of Indifference: American War and The Financial Logic of Risk Management

Schiller. Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System

Webster. Theories of the Information Society


Course Requirements:
Your main projects include 3 Analysis Papers, Seminar Discussion, Seminar Paper, and Blog. I am most interested in your overall contribution and commitment to the seminar. 

  • 3 Short Analysis Papers @750 words. These short analyses are critical reflections on the semester's most recent readings. These papers could figure into your seminar discussion and final paper.

    Hardcopy and blog version required.

  • Seminar Discussion.  Early in the semester, pair up with a classmate and choose one of our required texts for a seminar discussion. Begin thinking about how your pair will lead a discussion on your texts.  Your pair is responsible for the following:

    1. Select an additional reading that connects to and helps clarify the week's reading. Feel free to choose from any of the suggested readings listed in our seminar bibliography.
    2. Let us know which text you've selected one week before your discussion date.
    3. Upload a PDF or a facsimile on Moodle (an excerpt is satisfactory if you select a book). Visit my office before your discussion date so that we can discuss your thoughts on the texts and strategies for a good class conversation. Rather than lecture, find interesting and creative ways to help your classmates situate the text historically, politically, pedagogically, and so on.  The goal is for everyone to rehearse important approaches to the text as well as shed new light on its subject matter, relevance, and implications for the field.

  • Seminar Paper.  This ten-page paper is a critical extension of an idea that we’ve examined during the semester. You will develop and defend your own thesis about a specific aspect of the politics of information based in part on what we’ve read and discussed throughout the semester.  You’ll present a section of the paper to the seminar and field questions from your classmates, just as you would at an academic conference.  These papers could serve as drafts of journal articles. Hardcopy and blog version.

  • Blog.Your blog is a legitimate research website that will draw readers from around the world. Your blog also functions as a compendium of your semester's work.

    During the first week of class, create a blog devoted to our course theme, the politics of information. As the semester progresses, and you have a better idea of your main interests, your blog will reflect a more specific theme under the politics of culture umbrella. NOTE: While it may be tempting to write informally, as if you’re chatting with a friend, all of your work must meet high academic standards, including a formal tone. Feel free to be creative; experiment with new media! Begin here:

    Blog Requirements:
  1. Weekly Reflection: Post an informal yet thoughtful response to our weekly readings and class discussions.  This is an important opportunity for you to establish a meaningful dialogue with your classmates since they will post, too. So it is suggested that you visit your classmates' blogs and comment accordingly. I'll look for clear, convincing reflections.  Go beyond summarizing.
  2. 3 Short Analysis Papers
  3. Seminar Paper
  4. Use of Web media (e.g., graphics, clips)
  5. Profile with name and preferred email

Attendance, Participation, and Academic Honesty:
This is a graduate seminar and attendance is absolutely necessary.  Please do not come late to class, since repeated late arrivals will count as a full absence.  You cannot pass this course if you miss more than two classes, miss an assignment, or plagiarize.  Please feel free to come by my office to discuss your progress, our assignments, and any other concerns.


You will receive feedback from me throughout the semester. Your course grade, however, is determined holistically, after the semester ends and your work has been examined in its entirety.


























FALL 2012

Discussion: "Knowlege, Information, Rhetoric, Aesthetics: Plato to McLuhan"

Bolter and Grusin. Remediation
Choose partners and readings

Bolter and Grusin. Remediation

Habermas. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

Webster. Theories of the Information Age
Terranova. "Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy" (Moodle)

Webster. Theories of the Information Age
Due: Short Analysis Paper #1

Davis et al. Cutting Edge: Technology, Information, Capitalism, and Social Revolution:
Chapter 2: Morris-Suzuki. "Robots and Capitalism"
Chapter 3: Caffentzis. "Why Machines Cannot Create Value, Or, Marx's Theory of the Machines"
Chapter 5: Carchedi. "High-Tech Hype: Promises and Realities of Technology in the Twenty-First Century"
Chapter 6: Kenney. "Value Creation in the Late Twentieth Century: The Rise of the Knowledge"

Davis et al. Cutting Edge: Technology, Information, Capitalism, and Social Revolution:
Chapter 10: Hirschl. "Structural Unemployment and the Qualitative Transformation of Capitalism"
Chapter 12: Witheford. "Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism"
Chapter 14: Otero et al. "New Technologies, Neoliberalism, and Social Polarization in Mexico's Agriculture"

Schiller. Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System

Martin. An Empire of Indifference: American War and The Financial Logic of Risk Management
Due: Short Analysis Paper #2

Martin. An Empire of Indifference: American War and The Financial Logic of Risk Management

Harvey. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution

Harvey. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
Bousquet. "The Waste Product of Graduate Education: Toward a Dictatorship of the Flexible"
Due: Short Analysis Paper #3

Aronowitz. The Knowledge Factory: Dismantling the Corporate University and Creating True Higher Learning

Due: Final Paper Draft
Conference-Style Presentations

DUE: Blog


Seminar Bibliography (suggested readings)

Labor, Technology, and Late Capitalism
Aronowitz, Stanley. False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness. Durham: Duke UP, 1992.

Bousquet, Marc, and Katherine Wills, eds. The Politics of Information. Web.

Braverman, Harry. Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review P, 1974.

Butler, Judith, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoj Zizek.  Contingency, Hegemony, and Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left.  London: Verso, 2000. 

Castells, Manuel. The Rise of the Network Society I. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.

Dyer-Witherford, Nick.  Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circles of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism.  Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1999. 

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri.  Empire.  Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000. 

Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.

---. Spaces of Hope.  Berkeley: U of California P, 2000. 

Karatani, Kojin. Transcritique: On Kant and Marx. Cambridge: MIT P, 2005.

Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon, 1968.

Rorty, Richard. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.

Sennett, Richard.  The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism.  New York: Norton, 1998.

Smith, Paul. Millenial Dreams: Contemporary Cultural and Capital in the North. London: Verson, 1997.

Terranova, Tiziana. "Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy."

Watt, Stephen.  “Organic Intellectuals and Knowledge Factories.”  JAC 22.1 (2002): 189-200. 

Wilkie, Rob. The Digital Condition: Class and Culture in the Information Network. New York: Fordham UP, 2011.

Critical Pedagogy and Public Intellectualism

Berlin, James.  "Rhetoric and Writing in the Writing Class.” College English 50.5 (1998): 477-94. 

Chaput, Catherine.  “Identity, Postmodernity, and an Ethics of Activism.”  JAC 20.1 (2000): 43-72. 

Cushman, Ellen.  “The Public Intellectual, Service Learning, and Activist Research.”  College English 61.3 (1999): 328-36. 

Farmer, Frank.  “Community Intellectuals.”  College English 65.2 (2002):  202-10. 

Freire, Paulo.  Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos.  New York: Continuum, 1970. 

Giroux, Henry A. “Public Pedagogy and the Responsibility of Intellectuals: Youth, Littleton, and the Loss of Innocence.”  JAC 20.1 (2000): 10-42. 

---. Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning.  Critical Studies in Education.  New York: Bergin, 1988. 

Giroux, Susan Searls.  “The Post-9/11 University and the Project of Democracy.”  JAC 22.1 (2002): 57-91. 

Harris, Judith.  “Re-Writing the Subject: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Creative Writing and Composition Pedagogy.”  College English 64.2 (2001): 175-204. 

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Routledge, 1979.

Hindman, Jane E.  “Making Writing Matter: Using ‘the Personal’ to Recover[y] and Essential[ist] Tension in Academic Discourse.” College English 64.1 (2001): 88-108. 

Knodt, Ellen Andrews.  “Teaching in the ‘Contact Zone’: Writing Assignments to Counter Resistance to Multicultural Readings.” Journal of Teaching Writing 17.1 (1999): 74-87. 

Lu, Min-Zhan.  “Redefining the Literature Self: The Politics of Critical Affirmation.”  CCC 51.2 (1999): 172-94. 

Miller, Richard E.  As if Learning Mattered: Reforming Higher Education.  Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1998. 

Ochse, Roger. “From Alienation to a New Vision: Using Class Letters to Transform English 101.  Journal of Teaching Writing 16.1 (1998): 75-100. 

Olson, Gary A., and Lynn Worsham.  “Changing the Subject: Judith Butler’s Politics of Radical Resignification.” JAC 20.4 (2000): 727-66.

Spellmeyer, Kurt.  Common Ground: Dialogue, Understanding, and the Teaching of Composition.  Prentice Hall Studies in Writing and Culture.  Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1993. 

Tingle, Nick.  “Self and Liberatory Pedagogy: Transforming Narcissism.”  JAC 12.1 (1992): 1-11. 8 Feb. 2000.  <>.
Trainor, Jennifer Seibel.  “Critical Pedagogy’s ‘Other’: Constructions of Whiteness in Education for Social Change.”  CCC 53.4 (2002): 631-50. 

Yadlon, Susan.  “In Search of a Democratic Classroom.”  Political Moments in the Classroom.  Portsmouth: Boynton, 1997.  41-49. 

Zebroski, James Thomas.  “The Expressivist Menace.”  History, Reflection, and Narrative.  The Professionalization of Composition, 1963-1983.  Ed. Mary Rosner, Beth Boehm, and Debra Journet.  Perspectives on Writing: Theory, Research, Practice 3.  Stamford: Ablex, 1999.  99-113.

The Corporate University  
Bleich, David.  “The Materiality of Language and the Pedagogy of Exchange.” Pedagogy 1.1. (2001): 117-41. 

Bousquet, Marc.  “Composition as Management Science.”  Composition as Management Science:  Literacy Work in the Managed University.  Ed.  Marc Bousquet, Tony Scott, and Leo Parascondola.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004.

---. How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation. New York: NYU P, 2008.

---. “Waste Product of Graduate Education: Toward a Dictatorship of the Flexible.”  Social Text 70.20 (2002): 82-104. 

Downing, David B. The Knowledge Contract: Politics and Paradigms in the Academic Workplace. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2005.

Harris, Joseph.  “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Class Consciousness in Composition.”  CCC 52:1 (2000): 43-68. 

Johnson, T. R.  “School Sucks.”  CCC 54.2 (2001): 620-50.
Miller, Susan. Textual Carnivals:  The Politics of Composition.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1993. 

Nelson, Cary.  Manifesto of a Tenured Radical.  New York: New York UP, 1997. 

Readings, Bill. The University in Ruins. Cambridge UP, 1996.

Rhoades, Gary, and Sheila Slaughter. Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Entrepreneurial University. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.

Schell, Eileen E. Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction. Portsmouth: 1998.