Category: Colloquium Series

RTC Graduate Student Colloquium Series Presents “Visual Rhetoric in the Polis”

RTCColloquiumPosterCorrectedThe Humanities Department’s Rhetoric, Theory and Culture 2015-16 Graduate Student Colloquium Series will be holding an event, “Visual Rhetoric in the Polis” on Friday, October 2, 2015 from 4-6 PM in Walker, Room 120A. Two of our esteemed graduate students, Thomas Adolphs and Heather Deering, will be presenting papers, respectively titled “Solidarity and the Life-World: Facebook and the Image that United the LGBTQ Marriage Equality Movement” and “The Whitewashed Eye: Le Corbusier’s Refashioning of Subjectivity.” Dr. Karla Kitalong will be offering commentary and moderating discussion. These papers both deal with questions about visual rhetoric and its political implications.

This event will inaugurate a series of colloquia in which graduate students and faculty will have opportunities to share their work in a format modeled on a typical academic conference panel. The goal here is, in part, to create opportunities for graduate students to gain experience presenting their work among peers and colleagues, but it is also hoped that this will be a venue for the sharing of scholarly work and questions across the various disciplines that make up our department. I hope that everyone will be able to attend and contribute to a lively, collegial discussion.

Light snacks and Dionysian refreshments will be provided. All are welcome.

Here are the abstracts for the papers to be presented:

“Solidarity of the Life-World: Facebook and the Image That United the LGBTQ Marriage Equality Movement”

This presentation will focus on the red and pink marriage equality logo, developed by the Human Rights Campaign’s to provide a sense of unity for the LGBTQ movement through digital space. The distribution of the logo began on March 25th, 2013, through the peer-to-peer website, Facebook. The intended symbolism of this event was, as described by the HRC, to display a sense of solidarity among the LGBTQ community and its advocates as the U.S. Supreme Court came to a decision on the case United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. The response to this logo, however, could not have been predicted. Facebook saw a 120% increase in the number of profile images changed during only a twenty-four hour period, roughly 2.6 million individuals. Seemingly overnight, the red and pink logo was a cultural phenomenon, with corporate entities as diverse as Kenneth Cole and Bud Light displaying their support for the cause by replicating the logo with their own products. How and why did this viral event happen? What impact has the event had on our cultural cognition of LGBTQ rights after we “unplug” from our digital devices? By investigating the phenomenological theory of the life-world, it is the author’s intention to address such questions.

“The Whitewashed Eye: Le Corbusier’s Refashioning of Subjectivity”

In the initial stage of his architectural career, Le Corbusier promoted whitewashing as the communicative medium that could restore order and rationalism to the larger society. Through its ability to define the very lines of architecture and to erase impurities associated with expression of ethnicity and class, whitewashing was the means through which Le Corbusier desired to reform the human eye—to condition it to see that which was worthy of its gaze.  This paper explores his work through Foucault’s theories of spatiality and subjectivity to address how whitewash could impact the larger society, leaving behind inscribed lines of class and racial segregation.  Furthermore, through establishing this new way of seeing through the fashioned form of a rational human, Le Corbusier instituted a new subjectivity, a new inhabitant of living spaces. In an environment devoid of sensual identities, this human becomes the product of a systemic machine powered by pervasive binaries.

Gareth Williams to Speak on Violence in Contemporary Mexico

williams_colloqThe Humanities Department’s Rhetoric, Theory and Culture 2014-15 Colloquium Series is pleased to welcome Gareth Williams, Professor of Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Michigan. Professor Williams’ talk is entitled “2666, or The Novel of Force.” It will take place on Friday, April 3rd, at 5 pm, in Forestry G002 (refreshments will be available). All are welcome!

Here is the abstract for Professor Williams’ talk:

Upon the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, Simone Weil penned one of her most renowned essays dealing with the relation between force and the foundation of the city, titled “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force”.  Roberto Bolaño’s 2004 novel 2666 is a fictionalized attempt to approach the murder of hundreds of working class women in and around the city of Santa Teresa (Ciudad Juárez) in the deserts of northern Mexico from the 1990s to the present.  The novel also offers a sustained reflection on the double originality of the political, that is, the constitutive relation between reason and force.  At the heart of the novel’s aesthetic is the questioning of the relation between war as the register and experience of the everyday and the contemporary grasped as (im)possible metaphorization, which in turn raises the question of what is possible in literature, in life, in the face of death.

Professor Williams is the author of The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America (2002), The Mexican Exception: Sovereignty, Police, and Democracy (2011), and numerous articles examining the relation between cultural history, literature, and political philosophy. He is one of today’s key thinkers about Latin American politics and culture.

For more information, please contact Marcelino Viero-Ramos.

Photo credit: Shaul Schwarz for The New York Times

2014-15 Rhetoric, Theory and Culture Colloquium Series


On November 7th and 8th, The 2014-15 Rhetoric, Theory and Culture Colloquium Series was pleased to welcome John Russon, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Philosophy from the University of Guelph.

Sue Collins John Russon
Sue Collins asking a question at the Russon talk

On November 7, Professor Russon gave a talk entitled, “The Limits of Money: Phenomenological Reflections on Selfhood and Value.” In his paper, Russon argued that the sense of oneself as an autonomous self presupposes both a nexus of ‘intimate’ associations with others and, at the same time, a sphere of universally recognized value in terms of which we can become conscious of ourselves as members of a community of free individuals. Russon thus uncovered, within our ordinary experience, the roots of the phenomena of private property and money, but also the bases for a critique of the idea that all value can be reduced to market, or exchange value. The resulting tension between the logics of intimacy and economy is an inescapable feature of our personal and political lives. It was a provocative and stimulating presentation. We were pleasantly surprised by the attendance at the talk—our 50 chairs were quickly filled and about 25 more chairs had to be brought in so that we could get everyone seated!

This year the colloquium series has added a new feature to some of its visiting speaker events: we will be hosting workshops, or seminars, with our visiting speakers. In two sessions on Saturday, November 8, twenty-one faculty-members, graduate students, and members of the community met for about four hours to have an open, participatory, discussion of the themes of craft and technology, rhetoric, language, politics, and education through a close examination together of relevant texts by Aristotle, Plato and Heidegger.

Participants John Russon
Participants gathered at the seminar table

As RTC Graduate Student Vincent Manzie commented:

“The talk on the ‘Limits of Money’ and the seminar that followed it was an awesome experience. Not only did Dr. Russon draw participants into a thoughtful reflection together, the discussions, the contributions from other students and faculty members, and the very incisive questions and answers that popped up from the seminar group, gave me new ways to look at the phenomena under discussion from multiple lenses and to connect these with the postcolonial approach that I am interested in.”

John Russon Discussion
John Russon leading a discussion at the seminar

The colloquium committee would like to thank the department and especially Ron Strickland, Jackie Ellenich, Erin Smith, and Devin Leonarduzzi for helping to make these events a success.

This was the third event in our 2014-15 colloquium series. On September 25 the department hosted a talk by Anthony Webster, of the University of Texas at Austin, who gave a very stimulating talk on expressive linguistic devices at work in Navajo poetry (especially in the work of poets Blackhorse Mitchel and Rex Lee Jim). In the course of this discussion he also reflected on questions of orality and literacy, cultural identity, and artistic expression.

Anthony Webster Rex Lee Jim
Anthony Webster with Navajo poet, Rex Lee Jim

On September 7, Randi Gunzenhaeuser gave a very interesting talk to the department entitled “Humor in 20th Century American Art.” In her talk she offered reflections on humor in connection with American popular culture (cinema in particular) and some of its political themes and implications. This very well attended event was followed by a lovely reception at the home of Dieter and Janice Adolphs. We are also grateful for Dr. Guzenhaeuser’s willingness to visit classes and meet with students and other members of the department during her visit.

We will have two more visitors next term:

On March 20, 2015, at 5 pm in GLRC 102, Stacy Takacs ,Associate Professor and Director of American Studies at Oklahoma State University will give a talk on the theme of militarization and media, specifically on the US military and the emergence of the early television industry. A workshop with interested faculty and graduate students will take place on Saturday, March 21.

On April 3, 2015, at 5 pm in GLRC 102, Gareth Williams, Professor of Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Michigan, will give a talk (topic: TBA). Professor Williams is the author of The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America (2002), The Mexican Exception: Sovereignty, Police, and Democracy (2011), and of numerous articles examining the relation between culture history, literature, and political philosophy. A workshop with interested faculty and graduate students will take place on Saturday, April 4.

Philosopher John Russon to Speak Here November 7

The Humanities Department’s Rhetoric, Theory and Culture 2014 Colloquium series is pleased to welcome John Russon, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph (Canada). Professor Russon’s talk is entitled “The Limits of Money: Phenomenological Reflections on Selfhood and Value.” It’s being held Friday, November 7, at 5 pm, in the Great Lakes Research Centre, Room 201 (refreshments will be available). All are welcome!

Professor Russon is the author of two books on Hegel: The Self and Its Body in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (University of Toronto Press, 1997) and Reading Hegel’s Phenomenology (Indiana University Press, 2004). He is also the author of Human Experience: Philosophy, Neurosis and the Elements of Everyday Life (State University of New York Press, 2003), which was awarded the 2005 Broadview Press/Canadian Philosophical Association Book Prize. His most recent work is entitled Bearing Witness to Epiphany: Persons, Things and the Nature of Erotic Life (State University of New York Press, 2009).

Below is is the abstract for Professor Russon’s talk.

The Limits of Money: Phenomenological Reflections on Selfhood and Value

We are constitutively split between two different experiences.  In the experience of “intimacy,” the differentiation that we typically presume of self from other and of fact from value is not operative; such intimacy is distinctive of the formative experience of children.  This formative experience, however, precisely gives rise to the experience of “economy,” the experience, that is, of discrete subjects who work upon an alien world.  Our challenge is to live in a way that acknowledges both forms of experience without resorting to the authoritative terms of either.  Overall, I will argue that money, which is roughly the collectively recognized medium for recognizing the universality of exchange value, in principle misrepresents the lived nature of value.  Hence, the more money defines our frame of reference (“economy”), the more the non-universalizable values that are essential to our existence (“intimacy”) are effaced.