LWR Speaker Series: Risa Applegarth, "Kids Today: Youth Activism and Vernacular Public Memory"

April 18, 2019
2:30 - 4:00 PM
2115 Tawes

Abstract: A year ago, when high school students organized the March for Our Lives to agitate for gun reform, media coverage turned to the past with surprising frequency, calling upon prior eras of student protest to make sense of widespread demonstrations by teens. In this talk, I analyze the rhetorical consequences of media efforts to link contemporary teen activism with historical precursors. Treating media coverage as a site of everyday, vernacular public memory, I argue that commonplaces about the past, embedded in media coverage, operate to predict the future failure of youth activists' efforts. Drawing from interviews I've conducted with teen activists in North Carolina, I reframe these circulating (and restrictive) notions of success and failure into terms more reflective of the varied motivations and ambitions articulated by youth activists themselves.

Bio: Risa Applegarth is an associate professor of English and director of the college writing program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her previous research on gender, genre, and professional writing has appeared in College English, College Composition and Communication, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and in her book Rhetoric in American Anthropology: Gender, Genre, and Science (U of Pittsburgh P, 2014), which received the 2016 CCCC Outstanding Book Award. Her current book project, Children Speaking: Rhetorical Agency in Children's Activism, aims to contribute to rhetorical theories of agency by analyzing contemporary activist efforts among children and teens in the US. 

For more information contact: Melanie Kill (mkill@umd.edu)