Critical Speaking Seminars
Critical Speaking Seminars utilize oral communication assignments as a primary method for learning and assessment. They have three key requirements:
- At least half of the course grade is based on two prepared oral presentations (one group and one individual).
- Students will meet with an undergraduate speaking advisor outside of class at least twice—one rehearsal for each of the two required presentations.
- Students will be video-recorded and will watch the recording with either the instructor or the advisor.
Critical speaking fellows are doctoral candidates who teach in their respective disciplines. Enrollment is capped at 16 students/course. For additional details regarding a critical speaking seminar listed below, please contact the course instructor.
Critical Speaking Teaching Fellowship
CWiC offers a teaching fellowship to graduate students working on their dissertation. This opportunity allows a graduate student to teach a critical speaking seminar in a field not only that they have an interest but that can be taught primarily through presentation. For details click here.
Fall 2015 Critical Speaking Seminars
Democracy & Education in Philadelphia
PHIL 249.401/GSWS 249.401
Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:00-1:30 pm
Instructor: Rob Willison <firstname.lastname@example.org>
What kind of educational institutions does a healthy democracy require, and do our own educational institutions here in Philadelphia meet that standard? In this course, we'll address several dimensions of these questions, focusing on developing critical speaking skills in the process. Can our schools make our society more democratic, or do we need a more democratic society to have a better school system? Should our public schools educate students so that they share a single, American identity, or should students receive instruction tailored to their distinct cultural identities? Is racial integration in the schools an important goal, or a distraction from ensuring that each student receives an adequate education, regardless of race? To address these questions, we'll combine readings in the philosophy of democracy and education with recent work in social science and education policy. We'll also follow the debates about public education going on in Philadelphia right now. Students will engage with these issues through a variety of assignments that emphasize speaking and listening skills.
Literature & Science: Darwin & Other Anxieties
ENGL 002.004/COML 002.004
Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:30 am-12:00 pm
Instructor: Kaushik Ramu <email@example.com>
Some claim Darwin’s theory of evolution is outrageous; others that it’s among the greatest ideas in scientific history. What anxieties are its controversies charged with? What makes it a ‘theory’? What rhetorical strategies does Darwin’s prose deploy? How useful, in our reading, is the mode offictionality? We will probe such questions by studying Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859) in the context of nineteenth-century British imperialism, and later texts on the human-inhuman threshold such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) and Edward Wilson’s The Diversity of Life (1992). We will review debates on evolution’s tensions with religious beliefs, note the theory’s feeding of fascist and racist dogma – but also admire its illumination of the natural world in the depths of time. Around these materials, and in an inclusive workshop-setting, we will fashion our own acts of critical thinking, speaking, interpretation, listening, and collective conversation.
Poetry Out Loud
ENGl 001.401/COML 001.401
Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:30 am-12:00 pm
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Timothy Chandler <email@example.com>
How is the spoken word different from the written? How do we find music in language or even make it ourselves? This course will explore the performative and sonic aspects of writing and reading poetry—its orality, sounds, and rhythms. We will begin with some foundational ancient Greek and Roman texts, the oral beginnings of poetry and its rhetorical and philosophical theorization. We jump forward in time to focus mainly on European and American poetry of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries (both Anglophone and in translation), with a strong emphasis on later works. This trajectory will take us from traditional genres and forms such as pastoral, elegy, ode, and ballad, through to more recent work such as beat, slam, and sound poetry. In addition to reciting and analyzing poetry, you will also have the option to complete creative assignments. This course will challenge you to speak and to listen, to think creatively and critically, to discover how poetry on the page sings out loud.
Sounding the Postcolonial: Music & Resistance from Contredanse to Hip-Hop
Mondays & Wednesdays 2:00-3:30 pm
Instructor: Laura Donnelly <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rapid decolonization in the mid-twentieth century drastically changed the global political landscape and has resulted in “postcolonial” interactions and relationships. The postcolonial manifests itself in music through the creation of “postcolonial music,” or, music that emerged or was directly and profoundly altered from the postcolonial condition, and “the postcolonial in music,” or expressions of postcolonial sentiments in music, whether it be through lyrics or other musical factors. Through the examination of readings, musical recordings, class discussion, and oral communication and presentation, this course aims to examine and explore the multiple registers (political, economic, social, historical among others) in which the postcolonial is mediated through sound. Topics will include hip-hop as resistance in Paris, bhangra in the United Kingdom, and raï in Algeria, among others.
Spring 2015 Critical Speaking Seminars
Arab Voices of Dissent: From Muhammad to Tahrir
NELC 008.401/COML 008
Tuesdays & Thursdays 3:00-4:30 pm
Wednesdays 2:00-5:00 pm
Instructor: Elias Saba <email@example.com>
From Tunisia to Egypt to Syria to Iraq, dissent and rebellion seems to be on the upswing in the contemporary Middle East. The 'Arab Spring' brought about a renewed focus on the heritage of dissent in the Arab Middle East. This course will examine this heritage, starting with the religious and political dissent of the Prophet Muhammad against the polytheism of the Arabian peninsula, focusing on the different styles and kinds of dissent in, for example, art, religion, and politics. In understanding this heritage, we will then look to how the actors in the 2011 Arab revolutions voiced their own dissent and interpreted this heritage of dissent.
Drug Wars: The Influence of Psychoactive Rhetoric
COML 140-401/ENGL 259
Wednesdays 3:00-6:00 pm
Instructor: Nese Devenot <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Competing views about the dangers and potential benefits of drugs are ubiquitous. As the world transitions its drug laws regarding psychedelic medicines, the legalization of marijuana, and "mandatory minimum" jail sentences, how can we gain insight into the cultural history of drugs in our society? This Critical Speaking Seminar will provide the opportunity for students to directly engage with recent debates over drug legislation by critically reflecting on the evolution of literature about drugs over the past 250 years. In conversation with newspaper articles, scientific research, governmental reports, and literary texts, we will examine the history of drug use and legislation from America’s early stages of prohibition through President Nixon’s "war on drugs" to contemporary legal challenges. How does the cultural understanding of drugs change with shifts in rhetoric? How can we balance the need to protect society as a whole while still respecting individual freedoms and privacy? What role should the government play in regulating scientific research? How can the latest scientific and sociological research help to guide legislative decisions? We will respectfully explore opposing viewpoints through discussions, individual and group presentations, and in-class debates.
From Monteverdi To Mozart: Two Hundred Years of Musical Virtuosity
MUSC 034 (formerly 234)
Tuesdays & Thursdays 3:00-4:30 pm
Instructor: Suzanne Bratt <email@example.com>
Music 234, “From Monteverdi to Mozart,” explores two centuries of music history by listening to musical virtuosity. As this is a Communication Within the Curriculum seminar, students will fine-tune their own artistry in sound while considering that of others – and while learning about singers, instrumentalists, composers, and combinations of the three. Specific topics to be studied through discussions, debates, speeches, screenings, and lectures include: the emergence of opera; organology; Baroque music’s use of rhetoric; music and emotion; composing practices for voice and instrument; and the creation of specific legends of virtuosity.
Cities Citizens & Utopia
Tuesdays 3:00-6:00 pm
Instructor: Jonathan Argaman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Political thought had its beginnings in questions about the nature, form, laws, and composition of the city. The word 'politics' itself refers to the affairs of the polis, the city, and that history of inquiry into specifically urban affairs has left its mark on political thought. This course will explore that legacy by reading canonical texts that focus on the city, from figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Machiavelli, Hannah Arendt, and Jurgen Habermas. We will then apply these theories to better understand politics in real (and not-yet-real) cities, examining ethnic and religious tensions in diverse and divided cities from Los Angeles to Beirut; urban protests in the modern Middle East; and attempts to put theory into practice and build real-world utopias – cities of the future, crime-free cities, socialist cities, godly cities, even floating cities – and what became of them. Themes will include public space, diversity and cosmopolitanism, protest, citizenship, and utopianism. No prior experience with political or urban theory is assumed.
From Mammies to Madea:
Race and Representation in African American Film
Instructor: Maryann Erigha
How have on-screen and behind-the-scenes representations of African Americans changed over time? Are some cinematic representations of blackness more authentic than others? What is a "black" film? This critical speaking seminar offers students the opportunity to improve their public speaking skills through multi-media individual and group presentations, class discussions, and debates that focus on African American film. We start by examining African Americans' roles and responsibilities throughout several periods of film, such as the silent film era and Blaxploitation. We then use this knowledge to discuss and critique past and contemporary films, roles, and representations. Topics include: blackface, fat suit comedies, African Americans and the Oscars, and black women filmmakers
Echoes of Prophets, Poets and Princesses
in the Arabic Intellectual Tradition
Instructor: Ryan Rittenberg
Through the power of their voices, Arab poets made and unmade rulers, mobilized armies, and immortalized the deeds and words of countless individuals. The voice of ‘Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, rang out loudly in the political and military affairs of the nascent Islamic Empire. Early debates about the nature of God’s speech led to a violent confrontation between religious and political authorities and subsequently shaped their interaction for centuries. In this CWiC critical speaking seminar, we will examine the role of the spoken word in the Arabic intellectual tradition. In particular, we will study its influence on the development of Arabic literature, theories of linguistic signification, the educational system, and identities of different groups. We will study in translation works of Arabic poetry, religious texts, speeches, debates, court cases, collections of stories, and works of dialectics. Although we will focus on texts that date from 500 C.E. to 1500 C.E., we will also examine contemporary examples of speech in order to better understand the performative context and continuity between pre-modern and modern traditions of speech in Arabic. Students will improve their speaking and listening skills through class discussions, debates, storytelling, and other types of presentations. All readings are in English and the course presumes no prior knowledge of the topic.
Malcolm X: Voicing the Revolution
Instructor: Asma Al-Naser
Malcolm X is remembered as one of the most commanding, radical voices of the 1950’s and 60’s, for representing and articulating a powerful critique of the ideological underpinnings of racial oppression in the United States. He is also remembered as a poignant orator, as a man capable of writing and delivering forceful speeches. However, these two legacies are not unrelated; in fact, Malcolm’s ability to mobilize his audience relied on an intersection of the power of critique and the power of delivery. In this class, we will read texts and watch videos of some of Malcolm X’s most poignant speeches and pay attention, on the one hand to some of the key themes and concerns, such as his call for a black revolution, his representation of race in America, his views on the place of African Americans in the world, and of course his thoughts on the ethics and politics of violent resistance. On the other hand, we will also search the texts for signs of the spoken moment: an awareness of audience, a reliance on emphasis and repetition, and strategies of conversion.
As a Critical Speaking seminar, this course will offer students the opportunity to improve their public speaking skills through class discussion, class debates, and individual and group presentations. Students will be encouraged to explore personal convictions, to articulate and defend different or opposing points of view, and to regularly participate in oral communication assignments.
When Disaster Strikes: the Fault Lines of Humanitarian Aid
Instructor: Catherine van de Ruit
Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, Hurricane Katrina, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the subprime mortgage crisis: global phenomena that have produced catastrophic human suffering and trauma. In this seminar, we will explore the central paradox of emergency aid: how do humanitarians respond to the ethical urgency to reduce suffering while contending with resource scarcity that attaches material value to human life? The course will consider the underlying social, political, economic and cultural conditions that magnify disasters, and critically examine how disasters expose the fault lines of social inequality embedded in society. Additionally, we will attend to ways in which disasters are presented and represented visually, critically examining media footage of disasters. This course will offer students the opportunity to improve their public speaking skills as they analyze cases of disasters and their aftermath in a variety of speaking assignments including multi-media presentations. Classroom discussions and debates about topics such as the ethics of emergency aid and expert versus local problem solving strategies will provide additional speaking practice.
In Other News: Gender, Minorities & Media in 20th-Century Germany
Instructor: Kerry Wallach
Extra, extra/meine Damen und Herren! From the press to cabaret, film, and hip-hop, different media have provided women and minorities with means for self-expression in modern Germany. Women as well as ethnic, religious, and sexual minority groups have utilized literature and media to differentiate themselves from the “majority” population and generate responses to discrimination or persecution. This course will explore literature, music, film, and advertisements in 20th-century Germany, from Yiddish cabaret songs and dramatic performances by Jews under Nazi supervision, to Turkish-German film, Afro-German poetry, contemporary klezmer and hip-hop, and LGBT poster campaigns. This course will offer students the opportunity to improve their public speaking skills as they analyze storytelling, performance, and staging techniques in a variety of speaking assignments including multi-media presentations. Classroom discussions and debates about topics such as censorship, memorials, and women’s and gay rights will provide additional speaking practice. (All readings and discussions in English.)
War & Morality
Instructor: Kathleen Harbin
Is war ever justified? What kind of conflict, exactly, counts as war? Questions about this terrible yet timeless force in human life are especially pressing and perplexing as America and its allies are engaged in a war on terrorism, as policies about how to treat battlefield prisoners are hotly debated, and as we wrestle with the question of whether pre-emptive war is acceptable. Yet claims about the nature and justification of war and of conduct during war are often presented from an incomplete or skewed perspective, and information about the actions and effects of war is often difficult to interpret. This CWiC critical speaking seminar will examine such claims through philosophical and media analysis of specific wars, while helping students develop oral presentation skills through debates, individual speeches, and collaborative presentations.
Discourse and Rhetoric in American Politics
Instructor: Meredith Wooten
This course will provide an introduction to the role of political communication in the American political process. We will consider the changing relationship between deliberation, discourse, and rhetoric over the course of American political development. Readings will incorporate a variety of theoretical, historical, and political perspectives to examine the role of language and discourse in shaping political outcomes. This course will emphasize written and oral communication as part of examining the primary topics and issues raised in the assigned readings. Topics include: agenda-setting, deliberative processes, public opinion formation, censorship and free speech, the role of the media, social movement discourse, and the “rhetorical advantage” of political elites. Readings and assignments are designed to help students reflect on and build their own skills as observers of and participants in forms of public discourse and debate. These assignments are intended to be fun and creative so that inexperienced or nervous speakers will be encouraged to participate and reflect on the importance of good communications skills.
Climate Change and Global Justice
Instructor: Anna Cremaldi
This course explores themes in consumer culture and climate change. The central argument we examine in the course is the claim that American consumer culture is detrimental to environmental health and that Americans ought, therefore, to consume less or pay the full price for consuming as much as we do. Consumption is not typically taken up in philosophy classes. But it has everything to do with seminal philosophical questions: How should we live? What material circumstances are required for a good life? Our inquiry will take us into a wide range of topics. These include: green consumerism, recycling, e-waste (see picture above), culture jamming and planned obsolesence. As the reader might gather, these are topics that bring us to the edge of philosophy and to the beginning of popular culture. During the final portion of the course, we will consider climate change. Our inquiry will be especially charged in light of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. We will attempt to understand various positions on the international agreement regarding climate change, some of which require that developed countries like the US cut back or compensate for their high consumption rates.
As a CWiC course, this class is designed to help you improve as a public speaker. You should use the course as an arena in which to explore your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator, as an advocate or critic of a position, and as a place in which to try new approaches to speaking in public. To those ends, you will work with a CWiC advisor; we will frequently discuss topics related to public speaking; and all of the class assignments will involve public speaking in some capacity. Previous experience in public speaking and/or philosophy courses is not required.
The Image of Berlin
GRMN 238.401/COML 244.401
Instructor: Curtis Swope
Berlin was arguably the twentieth century’s most important city. It produced some of the world’s most innovative art, architecture, literature, theater and film during the 1920s, yet went on to become Hitler’s capital in the 1930s. It was the iconic city of the Cold War as its Western sectors received U.S. aid during the Berlin airlift and as its neighborhoods were torn asunder by the Wall in 1961. It is a city defined as much by its image and its symbolic force as by the reality of life along its boulevards and in its apartment buildings. This course will examine Berlin’s image in the twentieth century from the heyday of the cabarets to the new palaces of glass and steel in which today’s parliament and chancellor conduct the affairs of state. Key source material will include poetry, political manifestoes, travel guides, short stories and films by Berliners, Germans from other towns and visitors from the English speaking world. Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, John LeCarre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others are important texts and films to be treated during the semester.
The Science of Sport
Instructor: Andi Johnson
Did Lance Armstrong use drugs or not? Why do Kenyans win marathons? Does Gatorade really work? In this course, we won’t answer these questions ourselves but will explore the world of scientists who do. These scientists produce knowledge about how human bodies work and the intricacies of human performance. They bring elite (world-class) athletes to their laboratories—or their labs to the athletes. Through readings and video screenings, we will find out how these scientists determine the boundary between “natural” and “performance-enhanced,” work to conquer the problem of fatigue, and establish the limits and potential of human beings. Course themes include: technology in science and sport, the lab vs. the field, genetics and race, the politics of the body, and doping. While we will focus in class on the science of endurance sports, you will investigate the relationship between science and the sport of your choice for your final project. This is a Critical Speaking Seminar. In addition to reading about the science of human performance, you will have your own experiences as performing humans, experimenting with several forms of speaking. The oral communication assignments are designed to be both practical and interesting, and we will focus on the art of faking confidence. Requirements will include meeting with a speaking advisor, receiving peer feedback, and reviewing a video of one of your presentations.
“According to the Kinsey Report…”: The Politics of Sex and Science in Modern America
Instructor: Paul Burnett
Want to work on your public speaking skills? You will have a hard time keeping quiet in a critical speaking course about sex and science. We will examine how scientific research has influenced common conceptions of sex differences and sexual behavior during the last century, and how this knowledge in turn has shaped cultural conceptions of gender roles and “normal” behavior. Students will discuss, debate, and deliver formal presentations about these questions as we examine moments from the history of psychiatry, sexology, ethology, anthropology, endocrinology, genetics, sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, and neuro-endocrinology.
Society & Politics In Africa: Continuity & Change
Instructor: Marton Markovits
This course will provide a broad overview of politics and its multiple meanings in the African context. It will examine history, politics, culture, and economics on the African continent since independence. It will consider several topics that have political import, including colonialism and its legacies, identity, international relations, state formation, economic crisis, democratization, women, development, and the environment. The course is comparative and targeted at the beginning and or intermediate student of African politics. In addition to oral communication development, PSCI 398 is also designed to enhance critical reading, thinking, and writing skills. The course employs a diverse method of pedagogy and utilizes not only lectures and academic texts, but also films, novels, field interviews, case studies, and oral presentations.
Tales of Travel
Instructor: Tracy Musacchio
No matter what the destination, whether Cairo or Paris, Bangkok or New York, travel is captivating—so much so that many travelers, modern and ancient, have been compelled to record their experiences. Starting with ancient Egypt and progressing through to the modern world, Tales of Travel will explore the travel experience. By reading and discussing written records of travel, this Critical Speaking course will focus on using our understanding and appreciation of travel writing as a medium for developing and improving oral presentation skills.
Ancient Rhetoric and Modern Speaking
Instructor: Jacques-Albert Bromberg
This course is an introductory-level class in rhetoric and speaking. It has three main goals: to introduce students to ancient rhetoric; to learn how to draw from these Classical principles to put together articulate and persuasive speeches; and to explore the formidable role rhetoric plays in the construction of our own world. Students will study both classical and contemporary speaking. Assignments will teach students to analyze, compose and deliver public speeches, while weekly oral presentations and peer-review will further their understanding of effective argumentation and criticism.