Strategic discourse surrounds you like the air you breath. Humans use language to live with others. Want something done? You communicate. Want to find someone to do it with you? You communicate. Don't like something someone else is doing? You communicate. Anyone who is worried about getting another $1 per hour from the boss, or who wants an inaugural ticket, or who believes that we are paying too little attention to good education knows about strategic discourse.
One of the metaphors that we use in attending to strategic discourse is the consumer. Caveat emptor let the buyer beware. You need to understand strategic communication to protect yourself against those who would use it to exploit you. True. And this semester you will learn much that will serve this purpose. When you disparage communication wielded to exploit others, however, it is well to remember that you sell all the time ideas, yourself, plans.
But interpreting strategic discourse is not just about being a consumer. In fact, I favor other metaphors. We spend less of our time persuading others about things that we believe strongly than we do trying to figure out what is happening and how we should respond. We interpret events. We share those interpretations with others, seeking who to believe, who to put our faith in, who to join in meeting our friendly and unfriendly world. In communication we strategize about our world.
So, this semester you will study the strategic dimensions of discourse and learn to interpret those moments of communication. How will you do so? First, you must master vocabulary. Once we have the words, we can see dimensions of the discourse that we could not otherwise see. So, I will introduce you to a whole lot of vocabulary. Sometimes this vocabulary fits together into systems of understanding. For example, we have standard ways that those of us who study and engage in strategic discourse talk about an argument. You will learn these.
Second, you will learn to bring this vocabulary to bear on strategic discourse to open it up for your gaze. You will, in short, learn to interpret discourse using the vocabulary that you are learning. Interpreting requires that you know the vocabulary, but only knowing the vocabulary leaves you with a shallow and useless knowledge. You must use that vocabulary for understanding strategic discourse differently.
There is another important feature to this course your experiencing strategic discourse. We will study strategic discourse in three arenas: public speaking, advertising, and public media. Speaking is integral to our public life. After we elect a president, we call for him to deliver a speech his inaugural address. When we lose a loved one, we expect a eulogy that celebrates his/her life and eases our pain. When a father or mother has had a catastrophic illness that has left the family poorer and the load of paper to fill out every week, we expect to hear someone who can express our anger and attract others to do something about a system that leaves such pain in the wake of illness. Most of the speeches we study will be speeches delivered by political leaders of our society at times when we demand a speech. We want to understand how they strategically met our needs in those moments.
But I mentioned above that communication does not only greet us at extraordinary moments it is as common as the air we breath. In studying advertising and other uses of the media, we will study this dimension of strategic discourse. People try to sell us products, habits, ideas, and services. We want to learn how to interpret such pleas.
So, expect a hard semester of mastering vocabulary with a reward in the insight
that you will gain on how strategic discourse works.
How should you prepare for class? There are two types of material you will read: material to introduce you to the vocabulary and systems for analyzing discourse, and texts of speeches and other communication we will analyze. The former will be in the Campbell and Huxman text and on the website. The latter will be available on the internet or, in a few cases, will require you to view the material in the library. The basic process of preparation is to study the vocabulary and apply what you learn to the texts. The initial product of this application will be an abstract of the discourse we study.
I will expect you to come to class every day having: (1) studied the material introducing the vocabulary and systems, (2) prepared an abstract that applies the material to the text we have listened to, and (3) previewed the text of the new material to be viewed that day. Specific readings are designated on the schedule chart on the website
Get used to using the course website. It is the official place for posting the daily schedule and contains study aids that will assist you in preparing for examinations. Some of the material for the class not covered in your textbook will be posted there. You should visit the website every day and are responsible for all material posted there.
Let me start by appealing to your intelligence. Attendance is more important in this class than some others because of three facts. First, material on the exams will not all come from the readings. You are responsible for material from lecture and discussion. Second, exams require understanding beyond information, and notes only record information. Although a majority of the exams will test your mastery of information, another large portion of the exam will go beyond information to require that you are able to talk intelligently about strategic discourse. To do this, you must acquire an ear and a voice for interpreting speeches. Written notes cannot capture nor communicate that. Third, the only way to master the analysis of discourse is to articulate your analysis and the class will provide you that opportunity. You will need to aggressively take advantage of it.
Of course, I spoke of participation, not just attendance. Being involved in the class, asking questions, and trying out your ideas is what participation in the class is about. You will master those aspects of the course that go beyond the acquisition of information with participation.
A final word for students who add this course after the first day. The university permits you to enroll after the first day of classes, but you are responsible for material from the first class period on. You will put yourself at a disadvantage by enrolling late, and the disadvantage and the responsibility for diminishing it are yours, not the instructor's. You are excused from no assignments which occur before your enrollment. Not being enrolled is not one of the legitimate reasons for absences. This course begins on the first day of class, not the first day after drop/add closes.
University Regulations on Attendance
The University of Maryland subscribes to policies requiring respect for other students, including policies pertaining to nondiscrimination, sexual harassment and disruption of the class. Those disrupting the class in any way will be asked to leave the class after a first offense and to drop the course after subsequent problems. Disruptive behavior is defined as any behavior that distracts students concentrating on the normal operation of the class.
Obviously, you need to turn any cell phones or aural pagers off before class
and keep them off for the duration.
University Student Conduct Code