Walter Lucken IV

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Assistant Professor

Research Interests

My work focuses on public rhetorics of state violence, incarceration, social movements, and higher education. My current monograph project, Caverns of Fear: Crisis and Containment in the New American Century argues that efforts to eliminate social justice content in humanities curriculums function as part of a larger strategy of counterinsurgency to frustrate and redirect the energy of counter-systemic social movements. The overarching goal of my research is to use historical methods alongside the resources of rhetorical criticism to perform an excavation of the deeper underlying logics of public discourse and demonstrate that the norms and boundaries of debate are themselves a field of struggle. For example, one current project explores the late 1980s trope of a the “crack baby” as an epideictic performance aimed at delegitimizing low income Black and Latinx families and shaping public perception of the welfare state. My previous writing has appeared in Art & the Public Sphere, Refractions Journal, Community Literacy Journal, and Michigan Quarterly Review.

Teaching Interests

My primary goal as a teacher is to support students in developing their confidence in making arguments that are ethical, informed, and sustained. In the teaching of rhetoric, this means that I instruct students to imagine the act of argumentation as a search for the balance between that which is true or just on the one hand and that which is persuasive on the other. In teaching literature, I ask students to consider how works of literature reveal the social conditions of their period and how the use of different literary devices produces a certain view of the world. In sum, my aim is to show students how the use of written language shapes our perception of the world.