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Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse Mission

Rooted in the University of Chicago’s principles of freedom of expression and academic inquiry, the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse offers an innovative curriculum in the theory and practice of public discourse and deliberation. It strives to foster vigorous, inclusive, and productive public discourse by developing capacities to seek and engage difference and disagreement and effectively articulate and communicate. Theory-driven as well as practice-oriented, the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse offers courses at multiple levels of instruction. Courses study the history and theory of free expression, rhetoric, and discourse, and examine and apply principles and practices of public speaking, deliberation, and public engagement. The curriculum aims to study discourse theory and develop communicative competence within a wide variety of academic, professional, and civic contexts. The Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse will be integrated into the College’s distinctive undergraduate curriculum and reflects the conviction that open discourse can advance probing and challenging critical thought.

Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse Courses

PARR 21300. Freedom of Expression, Public Discourse, and Campus Engagement. 100 Units.

Based in theory and practice, this course interrogates current discourse on campuses and in the public arena. Students will examine freedom of expression and methods to foster more productive and inclusive discourse on their campuses and in their communities. By exploring case studies, models, and best practices, students will design and be prepared to implement practical interventions to engage their peers and communities in the principles and practices of free expression and open inquiry. The University of Chicago has long been a prominent proponent of free expression, which depends on the ability to engage in and faclitate productive public discourse by opening spaces for others to speak freely. This course extends that tradition by preparing students to actively create the conditions to foster robust and inclusive discourse.

Terms Offered: Summer

PARR 24223. Parrhesia: Fearless Speech from Socrates to Greta von Thunberg. 100 Units.

The course will examine the long history of parrhesia, the Greek term for free and fearless speech, from ancient Athens to its current renaissance through the rediscovery by Michel Foucault. Focusing on the relation of truth and discourse, the course will consider not only the extraction of truth as a form of subjection to disciplinary power but also acts of telling truth to power as a practice of self- formation and exercise of freedom. Parrhesia implies a relation between the human self and the act of truth-telling that is suffused with interesting political, philosophical, and ethical possibilities, which students will be encouraged to explore. The course will begin by reviewing Foucault's final lectures on parrhesia and "the courage of truth." It will then examine some of the ancient Greek and Christian texts that Foucault analyzed. It will go on to consider early modern instances of parrhesia (e.g. Galileo and Descartes) and will conclude by surveying relatively recent versions (e.g. Greta von Thunberg and James Comey, JD'85), including contemporary feminist and queer practices of parrhesia. Lectures and discussions in English. No prerequisites.

Instructor(s): Christopher Wild     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): RLVC 34223, CMLT 34223, CMLT 24223, GRMN 24223, GRMN 34223, RLST 24223



Leila Brammer
GB 107


Associate Director

Deputy Director
Ryan Solomon