English 309 001 Controversy

Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine
2019W Term 2
Instructor: Dr. Loren Gaudet
Class Meetings: MWF, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Controversy! examines the role of language, argument, and persuasion and how it affects the production, translation, and circulation of scientific and medical knowledge. Our course will address the idea of controversy in science, technology, and medicine.

We will pay specific attention to what rhetorical theorist Leah Ceccarelli calls “manufactured scientific controversies,” or controversies that emerge publicly despite consensus within the scientific community. We will investigate how language and argument are used in relation to anti-vaccine publics, global warming deniers, and others. Other readings will explore controversies in medicine: contested diagnoses, unethical clinical trials, and fabricated results. We will also investigate controversies around technologies such as CRISPR, a genome editing technology, and ask how language plays a role in the production of such controversies.

No background in science or medicine is assumed. One of the topics of this course includes thinking about how experts communicate to the wider public, and how non-experts interact with science, technology, and medicine and their vocabularies. Although the primary role of this course is to provide students with the framework to understand the rhetorical dimensions or science, technology, and medicine, students will also gain skills to assess more critically scientific and medical literature and their popular translations.