English Course: Rhetorically Constructing Criminality

Registration for the Fall 2020 semester is now closed.


Due to COVID-19, this fall course will now be taught remotely.

Don’t miss out on the Department of English’s Rhetorically Constructing Criminality (ENC 4930-U04) course available this fall.

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How does legal and social rhetoric shape what we call criminal? Much of what (and whom) we have come to label criminally threatening has been informed over time by our evolving criminal justice system, political rhetoric, popular culture and media. Some scholars contend that our notions of what constitutes criminality have been historically influenced by law enforcement and criminal justice practices, as well as media campaigns, that have targeted nonwhite, working-class communities in particular.

In this course, students study writing that underscores how modern understanding of criminality and justice reflects a historical trajectory that has shaped what’s considered “criminal” through social, cultural and legal rhetoric. The class examines a variety of texts, including constitutional amendments, local and state laws, op-ed writing, historical articles, autobiography, prison poetry and work songs. Since discussions will draw upon numerous disciplines and fields of study, we will also practice intersectional forms of writing, as well as writing in different genres. The course gets students to think critically about how rhetoric informs society’s views about justice and to seek a deeper understanding of criminality as a rhetorical construct.

Professor Carolina Villalba will teach this course remotely on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Villalba specializes in first-year writing, multi-ethnic literature of the U.S., prison literature and autobiography.

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