Chris Gilbert completed his degree in Rhetoric in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University Bloomington while serving as a Future Faculty Teaching Fellow in the Department of Critical Communication and Media Studies at Butler University. His dissertation, entitled An Art of War: National Character and the Burden of Caricature, examines the ways in which certain wartime national characters are expressed in and out of proportion with definitions, descriptions, and depictions of the so-called American way of life. His other work is published across a number of leading journals including the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Text and Performance Quarterly, Critical Studies in Media Communication, among others.
Can you talk a bit about the Intercultural Communication course that you’ve taught in the past?
The study of intercultural communication is essentially the study of the forms of perceived and actual difference (and similarity) that exist in the messy spaces between cultures, “foreign” or otherwise. My class leaned heavily on this premise by encouraging students to engage the messages, meanings, and manners that both separate and unite particular communities, and especially those messages, et al. that circulate everyday in our most common and familiar interactions. The course constantly challenged students to unpack the ethical stakes of ordinary, as well as seemingly-peculiar ways of thinking about communication within and across cultures, and to then take stock of the consequences entailed in both stated and unstated assumptions about intercultural conflict.
What types of research work have you completed and what do you have in the works right now?
My research works are all what I would dub ‘rhetorical-cultural analyses’. All of them take on the role of comicality in public culture, though each is driven by a particular question that revolves around moments of conflict, crisis, or controversy. Right now, I am working toward converting my dissertation on the prevalence of caricature as an art of rhetorical combat in U.S. wartimes into a book manuscript while continuing to explore the ways in which pain and/or pleasure work as organizing principles for war cultures and culture wars.
“A good deal of my teaching puts a premium on meeting students where they are, which is to say finding inroads to what matters to them.”
I am also developing a few articles that take on topics including a recent racial controversy around revisions of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and another regarding the politics of nineteenth-century caricaturist Thomas Nast, the graphic art of Arthur Szyk during the Second World War, and the homely caricatures of Norman Rockwell.
What courses will you be teaching at Northeastern and how do you plan on using your past experience and research to make your classes unique?
I will be teaching Public Speaking and Persuasion, and Rhetoric. A good deal of my teaching puts a premium on meeting students where they are, which is to say finding inroads to what matters to them. In the past, this has meant making my own research interests central to course proceedings (i.e., using comicality as an introduction into examinations of public culture). My sensitivity to media means that students will be encouraged to experiment with multiple formats for speaking in public, from participation in mock town hall meetings to the production of podcasts.