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Rhetoric, Media, and Publics

The Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Media, and Publics is replacing the PhD in Communication Studies (Rhetoric and Public Culture). Rhetoric, Media, and Publics is an interschool program between the School of Communication, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. It is housed in the Department of Communication Studies and administrated through the School of Communication.

The PhD program in Rhetoric, Media, and Publics is grounded in the humanistic tradition of rhetoric and its focus on the study of politics, philosophy, and the arts. The new program asks the fundamental question of how people influence, reflect, and transform society through mediated practices. Students learn to analyze the production and circulation of meaning in a range of rhetorical and journalistic texts, practices, and institutions through varied modes of qualitative inquiry, and to engage audiences and communities directly in the production of knowledge. The stakes of this inquiry are profoundly social and political as well as formal and aesthetic. The program teaches students to approach public media as sites for political contestation, for the representation and interrogation of ethics and power, and for imagining personhood and collective life.

Program inquiry focuses on the many ways humans constitute individual and group identities, influence others, and generate, maintain, and challenge communities and cultures. The interschool program in Rhetoric, Media, and Publics employs interdisciplinary perspectives to investigate how different media are mobilized within modern historical contexts to constitute distinct publics with specific social relations as well as ethical-political orientations. The program studies a diverse array of media, from oral to print, from the visual to the sonic, and from the performative to the digital. Our aim is to investigate how the formal and aesthetic particularities of different media technologies interact with the diverse aims that producers and their audiences bring to their use. By drawing upon rhetorical analysis, critical/cultural theory, media history, media aesthetics, and political theory, we train students to think rigorously about the relationships among individual experiences in everyday life and large-scale social, technological, and political transformations. We seek to understand how global inequalities are both perpetuated and challenged as audiences, publics, and communities are called into being through communication practices over time. We encourage our students not only to analyze but also to engage different publics in their scholarship, in order to deepen their critique of such inequalities.


2023-24 Handbook