Headshot of Michael Young

Graduate Fall 2021: Michael Young

Humanities Dissertation Release Scholar – Twentieth Century Sophistries: Popular Science, Human Manuals, and American Rhetorical History

Department of English

Histories of rhetoric are important routes across the fields of composition studies, cultural studies, and American history, because they document how humanistic education can shape the movement of history itself. This project traces one such narrative, through a study of “human manuals”: a genre of popular rhetorical education that includes self-help literature, handbooks of occult spirituality, science journalism, and pop psychology. I argue that this genre constitutes a kind of “hidden curriculum” in American rhetorical culture, one that has launched social movements, created scientific controversies, and defined political life in the twentieth century.