Submitted by Jim Aune on September 10, 2005 - 11:15pm
Here's another Top Five game. What are five dissertation topics you'd love to see someone work on? Here's mine, all in "public address/social movement studies":
1. A comparative study of the rhetoric of violent political outbreaks in the antebellum period in the US: The Whiskey Rebellion, Fries' Rebellion (1798, Pennsylvania), the Nullification Crisis (1832, South Carolina), the Buckshot War (1836, Pa.), and the Dorr Rebellion (1842, Rhode Island). In all these rebellions the meaning of the "Guarantee Clause" (Article IV, sec. 4) was disputed (what was a "republican government?).
2. A systematic study of oral argument before the US Supreme Court, perhaps including studies of particular advocates, e.g. Daniel Webster.
3. Rhetorical biographies, based on a systematic analysis of judicial opinions, of Supreme Court justices, e.g. Hugo Black, Scalia (see Katie Langford's 2005 dissertation at Penn State), and other controversial justices.
4. A rhetorical history of the "money question" in the late 19th century/early 20th century, up to the formation of the Federal Reserve.
5. A rhetorical analysis of the current case for a return to the Gold Standard, as advocated by Ron Paul (R-TX), Murray Rothbard, and others.
What are your top five, dear reader? Or, what topics are your students currently working on? My students right now are working on: the debate over legislative redistricting in the US from the original "gerrymandering" to Baker v. Carr to Tom DeLay (Jeremiah Hickey); the formation of women's public sphere in India (Yogita Sharma); a rhetorical biography of Clarence Thomas (Jay Judkins); a history of the "right to petition" in England and the US, explaining the demise of what was once a central part of the First Amendment (Marisa Hill).