HONS 110: Rhetorics of Age: Tracking Change in Life and Culture
From No Child Left Behind and Jennifer’s Law, to Death Panels and Death Taxes, politicians and pundits constantly deploy rhetorics of age and aging to forge connections with the American public. We might not give much thought to the names, whether official or not, given to certain laws or directives. But these names remain crucial, playing alternately on our nurturing and protective instincts on the one hand, our fears of death and sickness on the other. In many cases, we are for or against something before we even know much about the complex issues at hand.
The rhetoric of age is not only a staple of political discourse. Whether the emphasis is on the young or the elderly, it also sells products, determines social policy, informs urban planning, and governs our conception of human beauty. In this class–both in course readings, and in your individual research projects–we will reflect on the rhetorics of age as we address questions such as: How does the history of aging in America compare with other national and cultural contexts? In what ways have developments in reproductive science forced us to revise what we think of as a “normal” family? What is your generational identity (iGen? Millennial? GenY?), and how does it shape society’s perception of you? How has the media variously drawn our attention to, mocked, or encouraged changes in what’s expected or apparent in people of all ages? And finally, how do people cope with the ultimate horizon of death, whether that involves indulging the cult of youth or investing their hopes in a hereafter?
In short, this class focuses on a analyzing, researching, and writing about and within a discourse that shapes many of our public and private actions and beliefs in significant and often unrecognized ways.