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Spring 2019, 49.1, pages 3–24

Trauma, Trigger Warnings, and the Rhetoric of Sensitivity

Abstract: This article examines commonplaces in the debate over using trigger warnings in college classes with special attention given to the repudiation of “sensitivity.” Arguments against sensitivity have privileged appeals to academic freedom over course and classroom accessibility, but these values may engender conflicting and even contradictory obligations. A rhetorical theory of sensitivity can equip teachers and scholars of rhetoric to make more ethical decisions in the debate over trigger warnings and can lead the field toward a more “sensitive” rhetoric.

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