Claire Kramsch (Home Department: German)
Tuesday and Thursday 9:30-11:00, 101 Morgan (4 units), Class number: 39306

As the saying goes, "Sticks and stones/ Can break my bones/ But words will never hurt me"—but is that really so? We all know that people do things with words and that in turn words do things to people. Language can inform or deceive, seduce or insult, make us fall in love or kill our reputation. What is it about language that gives it that power? How can sounds in a conversation, signs on a page make us laugh or cry? Why are we so attached to the language we grew up with? Why can a foreign language be so sexy? What does it take to speak and be not only heard but actually responded to? How do our words remember, imagine, anticipate, respond to the words of others? And how can we acquire conversational power? This course will explore the workings of language as social symbolic power in everyday life. We will examine the discourse of politics and the media, children's books and advertisements, psychobabble and corporate-speak, as well as the relation between language and identity, ideology, and myth.

All are welcome, but the upper-division designation signals that the course will involve a good deal of reading, writing and thinking.


Claire Kramsch

the Distinguished Teaching Award


This course may be used to satisfy the Social and Behavioral Sciences or Arts and Literature breadth requirement in Letters and Science.