In FRLA 8211, we question the conventional understanding of political persuasion as a process in which communicators try to convince other people to change their attitudes or behavior in an atmosphere of free choice. We will grapple with the idea that persuasion may not always function as a simple, neutral vehicle by which to convey one’s political beliefs, and so may not always serve a good faith and open exchange of ideas. When, during an interview on France’s BFM TV, Marine Le Pen “alerte les Français sur l’autorisation du regroupement familial pour les migrants” (alerts the French about the authorization of family reunification for migrants), is she performing a simple transfer of information or appealing to and affirming values she knows are central to her base? What is the impact of “alerting”? Of recalling national identity (“les Français”, as if all French people shared a single objective identity) in the context of “migrants”? Of referencing authority (that of the State) and family (the blood that unites the migrants as Others)? Her statement could be mistaken for an innocent news headline, but behind her words lies a complex web of cultural distinctions and hierarchies that, without careful attention, we may remain mostly unaware of. Second language learners in particular risk “missing the point” because of the implicit nature of embedded meanings (Tanaka, 1988).

Research in pragmatics tells us that shared cultural assumptions are deeply embedded in our language, and this embeddedness is instrumental in both the intersubjective affirmation and active construction of worldviews (Bourdieu, 1990; Duranti, 1997; McConachy, 2013). The primary objective of FRLA 8211 is to guide learners to see and question this web of cultural assumptions and values in language use, and in persuasive political discourse in particular. Once students begin to have an awareness of the processes that both reaffirm and alter their cultural, social, and political realities, they have a chance to take agency over those processes. In other words, this course encourages language learners to step out of the mold of passive language imitator to foreground language learners as language users and intercultural mediators who can piece apart the layers making up contemporary political discourse and proactively weave their own stories into the complex web of French language use today.

9:00am-10:50am on Friday at MRSE B209 (Aug 27, 2018 to Dec 14, 2018)
10:00am-11:50am on Tuesday, Thursday at MRSE B208 (Aug 27, 2018 to Dec 14, 2018)
Morse B209