PWR 2 Summer 2020: The Red Pill or the Blue Pill? The Rhetoric of Drugs (Russ Carpenter)

PWR 2 Summer 2020: The Red Pill or the Blue Pill? The Rhetoric of Drugs

Course Description


Heroin, cocaine, coffee, marijuana, chocolate: all of these things cause neurological and peripheral (hormonal) actions in the human body. While classification may vary from recreational to pharmaceutical to performance enhancing, any ingested substance that is psychoactive in the human body is considered a drug. All of the substances listed above are plant-based products, yet some are highly illegal; possession of even a small amount could lead to prison. Others you can buy on campus and consume while in class or riding a bike.

The theme of this course is the relationship between humans and drugs, particularly how the human brain interacts with and is altered by ingested substances. Simultaneously we will explore how drug use is promoted, regulated, sensationalized, and commercialized. We will examine a wide range of perspectives: indigenous discovery, cultural and medical applications, biological mechanisms, sociological implications, artistic and poetic interpretation, and constitutional law. A variety of texts will be utilized to enrich our understanding of the nature and history of drug use and its representation in popular media, from The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, to clinical neuropharmacology trials, to lyrical musings from hip hop artist Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg).

The ability to formulate a clear, concise and compelling presentation of one's research is a major focus of this course. A significant portion of class time will involve studying and developing rhetorical approaches for creating and delivering powerful oral presentations. As the course theme is broadly defined, specific research topics will vary widely. One may choose to research the historical uses of psychedelics, from the peyote ceremonies of Native Americans to LSD-assisted psychotherapy used to treat ailments ranging from anxiety to alcoholism. Other research topics could vary from the medical applications of the newly FDA-approved anti-depressant Reconcile® meant for use in dogs, to professional football players' use of Deer Antler Spray as a "supplement."


Major Assignments

Research Proposal (5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 600-1200 words): You will begin the quarter by proposing research on some aspect of drug research/creation/use/abuse that is the subject of some scholarly and popular debate.

Written Research-Based Argument (3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages): Using the research and writing skills developed in PWR1, and building on your research proposal, you will create an argumentative paper that synthesizes and discusses a range of perspectives while supporting your thesis.

Delivery of Research (10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support): You will translate your RBA into an engaging and persuasive oral presentation for the class. The written script you use to prepare for the presentation is required. You will be expected to choose presentation strategies and techniques that will help you effectively support your argument and persuade your audience.

Genre/Modes Assignment (3-5 minute oral presentation; written text of 1-2 pages): Your quarter will conclude with a self-reflection on your work during the course, the rhetorical choices you made in oral, written and multimedia contexts, and the growth you've undergone as a writer and oral communicator.