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Kairos and Ideology Analysis: American Values and Contexts

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Lego Captain America Stands In Front of American Flag
Image Credit: 
Brief Assignment Overview: 

This assignment asks students to fill out a worksheet for analyzing the ideological presuppositions of two arguments that rely on a popular superhero, Captain America, to make their respective arguments. This assignment can be used to solidify student understanding of kairos and presuppositions.

Assignment Length: 
Pedagogical Goals - Rhetoric: 
Pedagogical Goals - Literature: 
Required Materials: 

For students:

-Pen or pencil

-Worksheet (can be filled out on a computer through an LMS like Canvas or Blackboard, or in hard copy provided by instructor)

-The image and article to be analyze (either through a computer or in hard copy provided by instructor)

For instructor:

-Without classroom technology

-Hard copies of worksheet, comic book cover, and article for each student

-With classroom technology

-Projector to show image and article

Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

This assignment asks students to fill out a worksheet for analyzing the ideological presuppositions of two arguments that rely on a popular superhero, Captain America, to make their respective arguments. This assignment can be used to solidify student understanding of kairos and presuppositions.

The Captain America comic book cover published in April, 1942 features a larger-than-life Captain America physically subduing a stereotyped caricature of Japanese Emperor Hirohito. This cover appeared shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a historical event depicted on the cover itself. Students will analyze the kairos (Pearl Harbor and WWII) and the presuppositions about American values (victory through martial power, strength, an in-group mentality, patriotism, etc.) for this comic book cover.

They will compare the American values lauded in the comic book cover with the American values mobilized by the Sikh artist

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

Instructors should decide whether students will be given hard copies of the worksheet, the comic book cover and the article. Instructors should also be prepared to answer student questions about the publication dates of each source, the relevant historical context and the larger performance project of Singh.

Students should also have alread been introduced to kairos and ideology.

Students should first be given preliminary information about the comic book cover and the article. They should be provided with the publication dates for each and told about the medium in which each appeared.

Instructions For Students: 

I have pasted the instructions from the worksheet below. Before filling out the worksheet, students will need to know the publication dates of each source. The worksheet is also provided below in Additional Resources. The two sources are also linked below. My students took about twenty minutes to fill out the worksheet. We spent the remainder of the class discussing their answers.

Kairos and Ideology Critique: Captain America and American Values Worksheet

Name:

Rhetorical Analysis defines kairos as “both the occasion for discourse and the surrounding conditions that present the rhetor with opportunities and constraints: opportunities or openings to say certain things in certain ways; and constraints that limit what can be said and how” (9-10). We can think about kairos partially as the historical context for a controversy.

According to Rhetorical Analysis, ideology is “a set of presuppositions that influences most everything—people’s family lives, their political choices, their intimate and professional relationships. These presuppositions must be held by an entire social class, culture, or community” (185-86). Ideological analysis allows us to identify key beliefs and values held by a group of people.

Examine the Captain America comic cover from 1942 and the Salon article about the Captain America performance piece by Vishavjit Singh in 2013. Both sources are using the ethos of Captain America to make very different arguments. Answer the following questions:

 

What is the kairos for each source?

 

Are the sources “timely,” or, do they respond intelligently to their respective kairos? How so?

 

What does each source presuppose about American values? What values does the comic book cover ask you to share? What values does the performance piece ask you to share?

 

How do the values/beliefs about American culture in each piece match or mismatch the piece’s kairos?

 

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

This exercise seemed to make kairos and ideology readily accessible to some struggling students. The widely-known historical events of World War II and 9/11 helped clarify not only kairos, but audience as well. We talked about how the recent attack on Pearl Harbor helped create the audience for the comic cover and how an awareness of 9/11 made Singh's performance all the more relevant and powerful.

I did find it important to emphasize early on that the WWII comic cover uses racist imagery to make its argument. We had a very productive discussion about how the dehumanizing of Hirohito effectively concealed certain American ideological values like diversity while emphasizing others like exceptionalism and martial power.

Additional Resources: 

April 1942 Captain America War Propaganda Comic Book Cover (Captain America punches a Monstrous Emperor Hirohito while Pearl Harbor Unfolds at their Feet)

Sept. 2013 Salon.com "Captain America in a Turban" (Sikh artist

Kairos and Ideology Critique: Captain America and American Values Worksheet

Name:

Rhetorical Analysis defines kairos as “both the occasion for discourse and the surrounding conditions that present the rhetor with opportunities and constraints: opportunities or openings to say certain things in certain ways; and constraints that limit what can be said and how” (9-10). We can think about kairos partially as the historical context for a controversy.

According to Rhetorical Analysis, ideology is “a set of presuppositions that influences most everything—people’s family lives, their political choices, their intimate and professional relationships. These presuppositions must be held by an entire social class, culture, or community” (185-86). Ideological analysis allows us to identify key beliefs and values held by a group of people.

Examine the Captain America comic cover from 1942 and the Salon article about the Captain America performance piece by Vishavjit Singh in 2013. Both sources are using the ethos of Captain America to make very different arguments. Answer the following questions:

 

What is the kairos for each source?

 

Are the sources “timely,” or, do they respond intelligently to their respective kairos? How so?

 

What does each source presuppose about American values? What values does the comic book cover ask you to share? What values does the performance piece ask you to share?

 

How do the values/beliefs about American culture in each piece match or mismatch the piece’s kairos?

Course Description: 

I used this lesson plan in RHE 309k: The Rhetoric of Superheroes, an intermediate writing course with special topics chosen each semester by the instructors. Students are taught writing, research, rhetorical analysis, and invention.

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