Department of English

KJ Schaeffner



RHE 309K • Rhetoric Of Protest Music-Wb

42290 • Fall 2020
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM
Internet; Synchronous

Music is often celebrated as a “universal language”: as a positive force that breaks down barriers and
brings people together. You might find it difficult to disagree with this romantic sentiment at first
glance. But when an artist like Public Enemy calls upon their audience to “fight the power”, it’s
doubtful that this message lands in a universal way. Some may be moved by this song: feeling
energized and encouraged to resist injustice. Others may feel alienated by its intense energy. Some
may even feel as though they are the enemy of Public Enemy: or feel like they are the power that the
rap group aims to bring the fight to. Audience divisions -- and music’s lack of universal appeal -- is
perhaps never more salient than in protest music. Music that challenges societal injustices (like police
brutality, public figures, or war) rarely tries to romantically connect all people. In fact, it often serves
to emphasize the disconnection amongst different groups, disrupt the status quo, and upend
sociopolitical inequities.

In this course, students will focus on music that protests. Students will analyze how social issues are
presented and argued about through music with a special focus on how protest music is composed
for particular listeners in certain circumstances. They will learn to listen to these musical arguments
strategically and ethically to understand the political positions that different musicians take on social
issues. They will also learn to listen to the surrounding contexts and conversations that the music
reflects on and disrupts. In reaching these understandings through research and analysis, students will
form their own argument concerning the ways that protest music is/isn’t persuasive and empowering
to different audiences and in varying contexts. They will be listening to music that is deliberately ununiversal in the language that it uses and the messages it promotes: attending to music’s ability to do
more than bring us together by attending to music’s ability to bring the noise.

Assessment Breakdown
Project 1: Annotated Bibliography -- 15%
Project 2.1: Rhetorical Analysis -- 10%
Project 2.2: Rhetorical Analysis Revision -- 15%
Project 3: Argumentative Paper -- 15%
Project 4: Argument Podcast Remediation -- 15%
Short Writing Assignments -- 20 %
Participation -- 10%

Course Reading List

Nicotra, Jodie. Becoming Rhetorical: Analyzing and Composing in a Multimedia World. Cengage Learning, 2018. (required purchase)
Online writing handbook: UNC-Chapel Hill

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