Written for a series of case studies titled “In the Humanities Classroom,” this contribution describes an undergraduate course on ancient rhetoric at Berkeley, in which Professor Ramona Naddaff was accused by a male student of demeaning women during a lecture and of causing him trauma in the process. He threatened to bring charges against her to campus authorities, claiming the support of fellow students. In her lecture, she had discussed the classical figuration of rhetoric—persuasive speech—as violence and sometimes rape. In a discussion the following week, some students requested the use of “trigger warnings” before the utterance of words like rape. The instructor and her teaching assistant Katharine Wallerstein individually give their views of this disconcerting experience and comment on the difficulties of teaching critical thinking in the current political and cultural climate. They conclude that the language of personal rights and the demand for self-protection tend to come at the expense of teaching and learning alike.
Research Article|January 01 2017
THE WRONG WORDS IN THE WRONG TIMES
Common Knowledge (2017) 23 (1): 91-100.