Public Rhetoric and Personal Communication

Bill Nericcio

CAT 125 Nericcio

Your UCSD course catalogue refers to this class as “Public Rhetoric and Practical Communication” and, indeed, we will, in the course of the fall quarter, explore the spheres of rhetoric, communication, and—brace for it—the joys of “writing a resume.” But we will also be embarked on other related, perhaps more profound missions!

Together, we will explore the following questions: What is “self” and what goes into its manufacture? In order to answer those questions (and to keep our adventure timely and of value for undergraduates from across the disciplines), we will be grappling with contemporary debates that impact on our construction and “branding” of ourself in worlds analog and digital. Other questions we will work with this semester include: What is a memoir? What is a self-portrait? Why does it feel so good to have our pictures "liked" by unseen entities, the digitized shadows of others, connected to us by the bizarre electronic network that is the Internet? What is the relationship of our Facebook page to our self? Are we living through a paradigm shift—a watershed epoch where something as basic as the “I” is totally being rewritten by our obsession with digitized eyes? In our class I will speak of hygiene’s cousin, “eyegiene,” and of something I call “I/EYEgasm”—where the addictive hedonizing pleasure of the visually digitized world evolves into the virtual equivalent of crystal meth.

During the semester we will hang out with a wide-ranging and eclectic group of characters including Banksy, the epic #streetart maven cum moviemaker, with Exit Through the Gift Shop; Frida Kahlo, who basically rewrites the notion of the self-portrait in oil painting and beyond; Nathanael West, American novelist and arch satirist cynic whose Miss Lonelyhearts will singe your existential synapses; and Dan Clowes, infamous graphic narrative guru whose Ghost World redefines notions of being for a twenty-first century audience. Also making cameos: Marshall McLuhan, Siggy Freud, John Berger, and Los Angeles playwright Oliver Mayer.