Effing the Ineffable: Exploring the Limits of Reading and Writing
Rhetoric 1A; Section 5 Class Hours: TTh 2-3:30 Instructor: Todd Barnes Office hours: TTh 4-5 and by appointment firstname.lastname@example.org
This course aims to prepare students for the critical reading, thinking and writing challenges they will face at Berkeley and beyond. In this course, we will explore the idea of the “ineffable” as we read challenging texts by authors who, through various rhetorical strategies, attempt to articulate the inarticulable. By exploring a range of philosophic, literary, scientific and sociological texts, will survey how various thinkers (and their respective disciplines) have grappled with and often tried to expand the limits of representation. While considering the ineffable as something both semantically unintelligible and morally unspeakable, we will be investigating the elusive boundary between different forms of representation and contents that always seem to exceed or escape such formal bounds.
We will examine and discuss a host of attempts to “eff the ineffable” within a variety of representational contexts. Throughout the semester, we will interrogate language’s attempts to represent experience, film’s attempts to represent dramatic texts, images’ attempts to represent affect, sociology’s and biology’s attempts to represent race and gender, cartography’s attempts to represent space, and history’s attempts to represent the past. All these discussions will ultimately return us to the ineffable’s relation to the problem of “writer’s block” as students attempt to eff the ineffable in a series of compositions.
Our readings, writings, and discussions will be guided by the following questions: What is the ineffable? Is it an epistemological category, or are its contours shaped morally? Where does interpretive reading end and argumentative writing begin? What activities exceed the limits of reading and writing? Where might we locate seeing, loving, feeling, remembering, performing or experiencing? Do these activities exist inside or outside the purview of reading and writing? Do these experiences serve as metaphors for reading and writing, or are reading and writing metaphors serving the activity and receptivity of such experiences?
• Writing Analytically. ed. Rosenwasser and Stephen. Heinle: 4th edition, 2005. • Style: Ten Lessons on Clarity and Grace. Joseph Williams. Ninth Edition. • A course reader which will include work by the following writers: F. Nietzsche, R. Barthes, M. Omi, J. Berger, G. Lakoff and M. Johnson, J.L. Austin, M. Foucault, M. de Certeau, R. Burt, C. West, W. Shakespeare, W. Benjamin, L. Althusser, T. Eagleton, Artaud, A. and J. McGann. The course reader will be available at Replica Copy on Oxford by 9/2.
This class will not be possible without your participation. Unlike some courses, the success of this course depends on your contributions, your labor, and your perspective. In addition to the authors we read together, your work will form a central focus of our attempts to understand what it means to articulate the ineffable.
No late papers will be accepted. Your essays need not be perfect, but I do expect them to be on time. Papers will be written, reviewed and returned in accordance with a shared schedule. Late papers threaten to jam what I hope will be the smooth machinery of the review process.
All papers are to be typed and formatted according to the most recent MLA guidelines.
Plagiarism, etymologically, means kidnapping. Do not steal the brainchildren of others. We do not want to encourage the fear of conception or downplay the connection between discourse and intercourse; however, those who engage in plagiarism will suffer the consequences set forth by the university. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, see one of the instructors or the university’s guidelines at:
If you feel you might need any accommodations in order to succeed in this course, please let me know privately as soon as possible. Also, you might contact the Disabled Students' Program, 260 César Chávez Center #4250, 510.642.0518 (voice) or 510.642.6376 (TTY).
Your weighted grade in the course will be determined according to the following schema:
The virtual component of this course is substantial. This semester, we will be utilizing bspace found at http://bspace.berkeley.edu. Students are required to regularly post comments and feedback through this site.
Prospective Schedule (subject to minor change):
Week One: Introduction: Reality and Truth
Lakoff, G./Johnson, H. Excerpt from Metaphors We Live By Nietzsche, F. “On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense”
8/24 Th: Introductions/Metaphoricity/Paper One Assigned
Week Two: Metaphors
Rosenwasser, D./Stephen J. Chapters 1 & 2
9/2 T: Discuss Lakoff/Johnson/Nietzsche 9/4 Th: Discuss Nietzsche/Rosenwasser & Stephen/ Paper 1 Due
Week Three: Textuality and the Textual Condition
Eagleton, T. “What is Literature?” McGann, J. “Textual Condition” Barthes, R. “Death of the Author” Rosenwasser/Stephen Chapter 3
9/9 T: Discuss Eagleton/McGann/Barthes/Blog 1 Due 9/11 Th: Discuss Eagleton/McGann/Barthes/Blog 1.2 Due
Blog: Discuss one idea from these three articles in relation to a textual object.
Week Four: Social Spaces and Spatial Publics
de Certeau, M. “Walking in the City,” “Spatial Stories” & “Reading as Poaching” Rosenwasser/Stephen Chapter 4
9/16 T: Discuss de Certeau/Rosenwasser & Stephen 9/18 Th: Discuss de Certeau/Paper 1.2 Due
Week Five: Social Spaces and Spatial Publics (Cont.)
Althusser, L. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” Foucault, M. “Panopticism” (excerpt)
9/23 T: Discuss Althusser/Foucault/Blog 2 Due/Peer Review 1 Due 9/25 Th: Discuss Althusser/Foucault/Blog 2.2 Due
Blog: Discuss two of these five articles in relation to a spatial object. Week Six: Racialized Bodies in Cultural Media
Omi, M./Winant, H. “Racial Formation in the United States” Omi, M. “In Living Color: Race in American Culture” West, C. “Race and Modernity”
9/30 T: Discuss Omi/Winant/West/Paper 1.3 Due 10/2 Th: Discuss Omi/Winant/West/Style Exercises 1 Due
Week Seven: Gendered Bodies in Science
Martin, E. “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles” Laqueur, T. “Orgasm, Generation, and the Politics of Reproductive Biology”
10/7 T: Discuss Martin/Laqueur/Blog 2 Due 10/9 Th: Discuss Martin/Laqueur/Blog 2.2 Due
Blog: Discuss two of these texts in relation to a scientific or filmic object.
Week Eight: Performance and Performativity
Austin, J.L. Excerpt from How to Do Things With Words (Lectures I/II/III) Shakespeare, W. Othello