Course Description


Next year, 2018, marks two important anniversaries: the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu pandemic. Both occasions will be marked by special conferences and symposia, both at UNC and around the world. These anniversaries offer us an opportunity to engage with two broader phenomena from a rhetorical perspective: that of medical controversies, including issues of bioethics, and that of medical catastrophes. How do different stakeholders (doctors, patients, public citizens, journalists, etc.) engage with medical research findings? How do they contest medical knowledge? How do they argue for and against health-related policies? In this class, we will draw on the themes of “controversy and catastrophe” to examine these issues. Given the multiple opportunities to present research related to these themes in 2018, we will prepare conference papers and posters that will be ready for submission to a local, national, or international conference.


  • Analyze how rhetoric works in medical discourse and public discourses about medicine
  • Describe how medical knowledge circulates, shifts, and is transformed through controversies and catastrophes as it moves across and between audiences, media, and texts
  • Develop and practice methods for analyzing medical rhetorics
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