UW1020 Courses - Spring 2012

Last Updated: 10/14/11

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About UW1020

Because all UW20 sections are theme-based, with their own individualized readings and writing assignments, it's important that you peruse the course descriptions below to find a theme that is of interest to you.

REQUIREMENTS: The following requirements and workload expectations are consistent across all sections of UW20. Students will complete a total of 25-30 pages of finished writing, spread out over at least three writing assignments of increasing complexity. All students will engage in pre-draft preparation, drafts, and revisions based on instructor's advice and classmates' comments. Papers will be based on assigned texts and often on additional reading; although instructors will develop assignments that reflect a variety of academic writing projects, one paper will require significant research.

REGISTERING: Here at the First-Year Writing Program, we do our best to provide students with a selection of interesting course themes.  However, there will inevitably be students every semester  who find that the sections they want are full.  If you find yourself in this situation, here is everything you should know about UW20 policies:


Each UW section is capped at fifteen students.  There are no exceptions to this.  Over-enrollment is not an option.


UWP instructors cannot sign you into a course, even if there is an opening.  All transactions must be through GWEB.

The best advice we can give you is to continue checking the GWeb Info System as often as you can. Students can add/drop classes at any point during the scheduled registration periods (see Registrar's websitefor exact dates). This is particularly true right before the start of each semester, when students return from the holidays and try to create better schedules. Students who check often will be the first to see if a course opens up.

Please note: All University Writing courses take place on the Mount Vernon campus. Please plan accordingly.

UW1020 Course Preview Options

»Alphabetical Order by Faculty Member
»Detailed Description of Course Theme




Bernstein, Arielle - Facing the Future: Theories of Time and Human Behavior

This class investigates the complex relationship human beings have to time. Through reading philosophical, scientific and literary texts we will explore how our experience of time shapes human desire and behavior. This course will involve rigorous class discussion where you will be asked to think both creatively and analytically We will ask what our visions of the future tell us about the present and the past, research the human mind and consider what science can tell us about our temporal experience. This class will be interdisciplinary so be prepared to read critical theory and also look closely at literature and film. The writing assignments in this class will give you the opportunity to hone your research and analytic skills and challenge you to think about the world around you in new and meaningful ways. Throughout this course you will get substantial feedback on your writing from your peers and your professor.

Berry, Shannon - Science, Religion, and Popular Culture

Since the Enlightenment science and religion have often been seen at odds with one another. This course will analyze the basic premises of this dichotomy, asking questions about this rift between faith and reason and its origins as well as how the relationship between the two has been understood and treated in popular culture. From analyzing television shows like The Big Bang Theory and Battlestar Galactica to films such as Star Wars and Tree of Life as well as contemporary novels and pieces of music, this course will both delve into the history of the conflict, engaging basic terminology in both science and Western religion, as well as look at the basic ideas that define both religion and science and the practice of the two. The final research project for this course will engage traditional sources as well as interviews, attendance of a religious service, and reading a sacred text. Finally, as this is a writing course, students will learn to process their own thoughts and research while honing their ability to write academically and sustain a thoughtful, well-reasoned argument about a two often-controversial topics: science and religion.

Bliss, Emily - All You Need is Love?

Cultural and media messages inundate us with the idea that happiness lies in money, material objects, and social status. Facebook, Twitter, text-messaging, and email encourage us to live virtually, interacting with others principally through brief, superficial, technologically-mediated exchanges. And yet, emptiness and chronic searching seem endemic to any life conducted principally behind the curtain of technology or dedicated mainly to accruing things and attaining power. A primary reason these common modern existences feel lacking – or even lonely and desolate – may be an observation philosophers, neuroscientists, spiritual leaders, sociologists, and psychologists have all shared: interpersonal connections, emotional intimacy, and love (defined broadly) figure centrally in our sense of fulfillment and existential meaning. Those Beatles were on to something.

In this writing- and research-intensive course we will examine how writers and thinkers in multiple disciplines have used writing to explore the role of empathy, intimacy, and human relationships. Our reading and writing will lead us to investigate and consider recent developments in the neuroscience of empathy, ethical questions surrounding the problem of evil, and the role of human connections in modern institutions and lifestyles. The course will involve several short writing assignments, seminar-style discussions, workshops, and three analytical, research-based papers of increasing length and complexity. Our readings may include writing by Simon Baron-Cohen; Martin Buber; Viktor Frankl; Erich Fromm; Daniel Goleman; Marco Iacoboni; Douglas Kenrick; Carl Rogers; Sherry Turkle; and Frans de Waal. As we write and revise, we will practice analyzing information, connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, and applying theory to our lived experiences.

Buursma, Joshua - Darkest Hours: Film Noir, The Decline of American Civilization, and the Rise of Academic Film Criticism

You probably already know a bit about "film noir" even if you've never heard the phrase.  The genre-- if indeed that's what noir is-- has been imitated, parodied, and argued over for a half century now.  Though the moniker "noir" was originally applied by French critics to describe American detective films, crime stories, and other melodramas from the 1940s and early 1950s, today it's rather clumsily attached to a host of dark, violent narratives in all different genres and media.  In September 2011, architects redesigning Times Square even claimed they wanted to give the area a "film noir feel." 

What is film noir, anyway?  That's one question this course will ask.  The question is an academic one-- because really, what difference does it make?-- but as we'll see in our readings, renewed interest in film noir coincided with rise of academic film criticism.  Beginning in the 1960s, films became objects of study by scholars in universities and at film institutes; some of these bookish types even went on to make films of their own (like Paul Schrader, MA in Film Studies, screenwriter of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, director of Hardcore and Affliction, and author of the academic essay "Notes on Film Noir"). 

So our understanding of noir-- what it is, what it isn't-- is tied to the birth of Film Theory and Film Studies as academic disciplines, whether we like it or not.  In this course, we'll practice writing academic essays, developing strategies for critical reading, research, and revision as we do.  And yes, we'll tackle the seemingly minor question of what defines film noir.  But we'll also be asking more important questions about the era from which the classic films noir of the 40s and 50s emerged: a period of disillusionment in the midst and aftermath of WWII, followed by apocalyptic paranoia during the Cold War.  Why did this unique thing we call film noir-- defined as much by visual style as by story conventions-- emerge from that particular period?  And what can these films tell us about mid-century America that, say, wartime propaganda or rosy post-war advertisements and sitcoms can't?

The course will culminate in an in-depth, thoroughly researched "case study" of a film from the classic period.  Texts will include The Film Noir Reader Vol. 4, The Little Seagull Handbook, the films Kiss Me Deadly, Detour, and Crossfire, and other films and essays provided online.

Coulter, Charles - American Myth in the Western Film

Many have said that jazz music and the western film genre represent   two of the few quintessentially American art forms. However, the   classical view of the western genre as fundamentally conservative in   outlook has been shaped somewhat by poor journalism.

In fact, western films that receive the praise of serious critics   and maintain cultural staying-power (they continue to be watched on   Turner Classic Movies or purchased as DVDs) possess values that fly   in the face of the stereotypical lone gunman forced to clean up the   town. In many ways, the genre responds to the cultural undercurrents   of its times better than most so-called independent films do today.

In this course, we will watch the films of directors such as John   Ford, William Wellman, and Clint Eastwood. While this is a class  about university-level writing, we will master film terminology and   attempt "readings" of these films as texts that reveal much about   the periods in which they were made. History and politics are   important to this discussion. What do westerns say about sexual  morality or the construction of racial/ethnic identity for that   matter?

At the crux of the western film is a profound meditation both of  what it means to be American and to be civilized. Students will  develop skills – critical analysis and writing – that will help them   develop polished, well-researched university-level arguments.   Students will draft short analytical response papers, daily writing   and one larger research essay.

Text: Jim Kitses' Horizons West: Directing the Western from John   Ford to Clint Eastwood

Donovan, Julie - Art & Autobiography

This service-learning, hybrid course, which will work with non-profit organizations in Washington D.C., examines the intricate relationship between art and autobiography. We will think about different modes of self-expression, and how art has served, and continues to serve, as a means of social change. Concentrating on how self-representation can be an incomplete, evolving, elusive phenomenon, we also analyze its aspiration to completeness, however imagined that completeness may be. Focusing on narratives of self-development and formation in not only writing, but also through the visual arts, music, film, and online communication, we will analyze the tension between private, individual documentation and professional authorship, with an emphasis on how different forms of expression proliferate and take on another life as a collaborative or communal history.

Fletcher, Wade - The Image of Everyday Life

As participants in American society, we are deluged with a barrage of images on a daily basis. Visual argument presents itself in numerous forms and guises, from advertising and marketing to art and fashion, each competing in some way for our attentions. In this course, we will examine and interrogate the role of the image in everyday life, both on campus and in society at large, reading images alongside written texts, and exploring the parallels between the two forms. To this end, we'll also discuss what it means to examine something as an "image," investigating how visual narratives and arguments are formed, composed, and realized.

Throughout the course, we'll work our way through a variety of visual and written texts, including wordless graphic novels, photography, visual art (including required visits to the Smithsonian's American Art Museum), advertising, and product packaging, as well as essays and criticism, in an effort to better understand the role of visual mediums in our daily lives.

Students will build their reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills through participation in an online discussion forum, small-group work and the completion of several "visual projects," all corresponding with three essay assignments of increasing complexity, each focusing on a particular image.

Friedman, Sandie - Beyond Rotten Tomatoes: Writing With Film Theory

Inception made my brain hurt.”  “Chapter four in the boy-wizard franchise, and still no good scenes.”  “Simply Tarantino’s best.”  We turn to sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB to get pithy statements about recent films from fellow viewers, and this is fine for deciding what to do on a Saturday night.  But if we are looking for a way to understand the layers of meaning in a film, or to grasp how it relates to a larger cultural context, Rotten Tomatoes isn’t enough; we need to turn to film scholars who can illuminate films in new ways.  Further, in order to write sophisticated analyses of films, we need the conceptual power of film theory.  In this class, we use film criticism and theory to interpret both outstanding recent films, and classics including Casablanca and The Godfather.  As the culminating project of the semester, students write an essay for Film Matters, a new journal for undergraduate film scholars.  If Inception made your brain hurt, write about your pain—in a cogent, theoretically informed essay.  

Note: Laptops required.

Fruscione, Joe - Adapting Shakespeare

Using three plays—The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Richard III — this course will focus on various approaches to adapting a handful of Shakespeare plays into a period film, a novel, and a postmodern documentary (or, meta-adaptation). We will discuss the plays as plays and as the source text for various adaptations. What does it mean to "adapt" Shakespeare? What does it mean to be "faithful" to a Shakespeare play when adapting it? How might we see Shakespeare himself as an adapter of preexisting literary, historical, and mythical sources?

This course assumes a basic knowledge of Shakespeare, and it is not designed for students who lack a background or interest in Shakespeare, literary study, film, or adaptation studies.

Required Texts: Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Richard III; Christopher Moore's Fool; The Little Seagull Handbook.

Assignments: Analysis papers about The Merchant of Venice and King Lear/Fool; peer workshopping and evaluation; and a final research-based project. .

Gamber, Cayo -Legacies of the Holocaust

I have not chosen the theme of this course – Legacies of the Holocaust – because I believe that engaging in such study necessarily will prevent a future Holocaust, future acts of genocide. Moreover, I concur with Terrence Des Pres when he argues that in the course of such study, we will not learn to understand the Holocaust. As Des Pres argues: "The question Why? will naturally persist…. Why enroll in such a course?.... And certainly, if by good we mean answers and rational explanation, if we mean atonement and redemption, then there is nothing to be gained by knowing the facts of the death camps" (35).

While we may not be able to make amends for the Holocaust, I believe that through the careful study of the lives of those who perished and the words of those who survived, we become witnesses who are willing to be bearers of the stories and history of the Shoah. The range of research topics is wide, from the role art played in the Holocaust to the workings of a particular concentration camp; or from the role liberators played (or failed to play) to what is known about the "bearers of secrets," the Sonderkommando, who were eyewitnesses to the Final Solution.

The series of writing tasks you will perform -- including composing brief response papers, annotating sources, writing a research paper (in a series of stages which afford you multiple opportunities for revision) that integrates both primary and secondary sources -- are designed both to help you write an authoritative study of your chosen topic and to help familiarize you with some of the types of academic writing you will perform in the semesters to come.

Hybrid Course: "Hybrid" is the name given to courses that blend face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning to improve learning outcomes. Hybrid courses thus move a significant amount of course work to an online environment. If you have any questions about this class, please contact Professor Gamber at cayo1@gwu.edu  

Goward, Shonda - Out of Her Mind: Women and Madness through the Lens of Literature

American social norms have attached a derogatory label of "mad" to women who assert themselves, who seek to define their lives separate and apart from social norms, or who stand in the way of their husband's younger prospective bride. However, many of the women labeled mad were simply fighting against patriarchy for the right to be equal, or in the case of women of color, fighting to be considered human. Nonetheless, many women have actually gone mad for various reasons including being forced to remain in suffocating marriages, being subjected to abuse, or from the fear of death as they petitioned their nation for rights. This class will explore women and madness in literature to uncover how American women writers depict the descent into madness and its causes. Our work will include analyzing the time period in which the work was written and that period's influence on the writer. Our methods will include peer to peer workshops; journaling; historical research; and analytical writing which will all challenge your ability to read critically and write on a scholarly level.

Hamilton, Leah - When 'That's Just the Way It Is' Does Not Suffice: Examining Assumptions in American Culture

In this course, students will be raising the questions that are so essential that they are seldom asked, such as: Why do people go to college? Why do we eat what we eat? What is proper English? Why is this class required? As a class, we will raise questions about aspects of daily life that are so rarely examined that they have become assumptions. At some point in time, these questions might have been dismissed with "That's just the way it is," but as students consider these questions more deeply, that answer will no longer satisfy them.

Examining cultural phenomena such as tattooing, Facebook, Wal-Mart, and MLA format through a variety of essays and short readings, students in this course will learn not only how to read critically and learn from published writers' attempts and techniques, but also how to identify assumptions which writers (oftentimes unintentionally) reveal through their writing. Then, by harnessing this awareness and directing it toward their own writing, students in this course will move toward a greater recognition of and control over the ways in which their own assumptions influence their thought processes and writing.

Assignments will include frequent short writings, an annotated bibliography, and three longer writing assignments. Two of the longer writing assignments will incorporate research, giving students both preparation and practice for future writing intensive classes at the university level.

Hamilton, Leah - Old Englishes: The Craft of Medieval Writing

In this course students will examine a variety of Medieval English texts (epic, romance, poetry, and history) to closely examine the roots of this evolving language they will be expected to master and work with throughout their careers, focusing on the beginning of the English literary tradition. Supplemented by secondary readings from scholars including J.R.R. Tolkien and S.A.J. Bradley, these readings will give students a glimpse of the Middle Ages' creation of a language that was both useful and, against all odds, survived to become the incredibly influential and complex language it is today.

From the perspectives of the writers who lived this history, and also from the scholars who both popularized and legitimized the study of these texts, students will see that the processes that were at work then are at work now: Beowulf may have something in common with Edward Cullen, and the decision to change the spelling of "sunu" to "son" is based on the same impulses that lead students to address each other as "u" in electronic forms of communication. As academic writers, students will examine etymological curiosities and influential rhetorical techniques in Old and Middle English texts, discovering not only the history behind, but also explanations for, various elements found in the language today. This course offers students greater mastery of the craft of writing in the ever-changing language of contemporary English, and hopefully an understanding of its history that will allow them to adapt to the various rhetorical demands that will be made of them in their future as professionals.

Through frequent short writing assignments, in-class projects, and three major papers that will incorporate research, students will be introduced to topics in the fields of Rhetoric, Historical Linguistics, Paleography, and Medieval Literature, while working toward mastery of the critical writing process employed in all scholarly fields. Laptops required for in-class work.

Hayes, Carol - Speak Out!:  The Law, Space, and Power

In spite of the first amendment, speech in the United States has historically been far from free. The rights to free speech have been carved out through activism and legal battles that are often connected to issues of public space. To be able to speak, after all, one needs a place from which to speak (streets and sidewalks, parks, campuses). In this class, we'll begin the semester with a focus on public space, including a discussion of the decline of public space in the face of privatization (for instance, the replacement of traditional downtowns with shopping malls). In the second half of the semester, we'll investigate part of the twentieth-century legal history surrounding the freedom of speech, particularly as it pertains to public space. We'll use our readings throughout the semester to model how scholars frame their writing within academic discourses, such as the law, theories of public space and place, class, and race (among others). Through a series of writing and research projects, you'll learn to frame your own work in these ways as well, so that by the end of the semester you'll not simply be reporting on what other scholars have said, but actively engaging as participants in university-level writing and research.

Howell, Katherine - Rewriting Jane Eyre

Who "owns" literary icons? Who "owns" culture? How do we approach re-visions of cultural artifacts? Students in this course will explore the ideas of literary archetypes, of myths and how they are made, and of what, exactly, a novel is. Students interested in all types of literature will enjoy this course as we read Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, and The Eyre Affair, as well as excerpts from Harry Potter and selected literary theorists.

The class will revolve around discussion both of the content of the texts and the rhetoric of the texts: what they say and how they say it. Students will write in every class, and will revise in most classes. Like the texts we read, we will strive for global revisions and ways of re-seeing the texts we write. The class will culminate in each student's own revision of a section of Jane Eyre.

Johnston, Elizabeth - Natural Law, Social Conflict, and American Identity

To be human is, in great part, to be dissatisfied by the status quo.  But Americans, in particular, have forged their nation through protest.  Protestant sects made pilgrimage to the New World to found a city on a hill, a theocracy they believed would be fundamentally different from the culture they knew.  African-Americans brought to the United States in chains inspired and generated centuries of protest and some of the most powerful and influential movements for justice in American history.  Political ruffians and men of letters joined to launch the world's first popular revolution in America, conceiving a new nation.  Later, immigrants fled countries where they suffered war, poverty, famine, finding and responding to new problems in their new land. 

In this course we will examine with a fresh eye some of the canonical texts of American protest—works by Thomas Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others—as well as lesser-known works that still retain much of their power to shock and unsettle.  We will also read critics to help us interrogate these texts.  With other scholars, we will ask: why study protest?  Does protest make a difference?  What sways people more—in-your-face, shocking works, or subtle, open-ended pieces that pose questions to which we do not yet have answers?  And if protest is about change, why do we feel compelled to protest the past?

One answer to the question of why we study protest literature is this genre's immense persuasive power.  All rhetoricians study how language works to persuade, but protest literature more than many other kinds seeks to persuade in ways that prompt people to change their behavior.  The techniques writers use to end slavery, stop wars, halt the progress of AIDS, save the planet, or—that great American project—ensure equal rights for all citizens are ones we consider in part so that we can borrow for our own uses.  Indeed, at the end of the course, students will create their own work of protest literature, art, music, or film and explain how their work adopts and adapts American traditions of protest.

Kristensen, Randi - Radically Rewriting America

This section of UW1020 is a service-learning class. Our partner organization is the African American Women's Resource Center, located in Southeast DC. This semester, we will be assisting the Resource Center with their social media strategies and resources. The Resource Center is also sponsoring an Oratory Contest for DC girls, and we will be supporting their coaching project. To prepare for and contribute to the work of the Resource Center, we will read about African American women and social change in the United States, and about some of the particular challenges facing African American women and girls in the 21st Century. The idea of "Radically Rewriting America" will be explored by asking what would happen if the histories, achievements, needs, challenges, and possibilities of African American women and girls were moved to the center of imagining America. What about the American Dream, political processes, educational systems, economics, and other structures might need to be rewritten? Thus, this course is designed as a writing workshop for our own research-based radical rewrites of "America." We will closely read authors of our choosing to consider whether and how to model our own writing on their rhetorical strategies of argument, style, voice, truth claims, research, and audience. We will also present multiple drafts of our work for peer and instructor review, and engage in continuous revision in light of our research and reader responses. Writing projects include an autoethnography, a critical bibliography, and a research project.

Larrison, Jennica - International Humanitarianism: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

What is humanitarianism in contemporary international society? What are the goals of humanitarian organizations and how effective are these groups in reaching their goals? This writing course will explore the long-standing humanitarian vision embedded in contemporary movements for human rights, economic development, and other forms of global unity. Through critical analysis and writing, we will investigate the role humanitarianism plays in conflict areas and after natural disasters throughout the world. We will link these forms of humanitarianism with the newer forms of celebrity and marketing activism to determine whether humanitarian goals have remained the same over time or if they have co-opted into something new. We will review and analyze international humanitarianism through various mediums weekly, from journal assignments to research papers, discussing the topics with classmates through class discussion, group projects, and a final in-class presentation. As the course is a hybrid, we will use web-based forums throughout the semester to address writing techniques and foster collaboration. Ultimately, the class approaches writing as a dynamic and multi-faceted process through which we will examine the varying perspectives on humanitarianism.

Larsen, Kathy - Media Fandom: Geeks, Fanboys and Stalker Chicks

Lonely Trekkies in Vulcan ears, hysterical Twilight fans weeping at the sight of Robert Pattinson, basement dwellers,  pale in the glow of a computer screen. These are our stereotypes of media fans.  They make us laugh, they make us nervous, they are objects of derision, but who are they really and what do they do?

"Most people are fans of something. If not, they are bound to know someone who is. As much as we all have a sense of who fans are and that they do, the question arises as to why we need to furhter study a phenonomenom we seem so familiar with. Why do the questions of which television program, music or artist we follow make an important contribution to our understanding of modern life? How can a focus on pleasure and entertainment be justified at the wne of what will enter the history books as a centruy of violence, driven by rapid social, cultural, economic and technological change, and with the twenty first century set to follow the same trajectory? What contribution can the study of fans make to a world faced with war, ethnic conflict, widening inequality, political and religious violence, and irreversible climate change among other disasters?"

Thus begins the Introduction to Fandom, edited by Jonanthan Gray, Cornell Sandvoss and C. Lee Harrington. We will begin here as well, posing these questions and idetifying others that may also need to be asked. This writing and research intensive course will begin with an examination of the current research on fans and fan communities.  We will then look closely at fan practices in online fan communities and analyze fan generated media.  Student research will involve close examination of a online fan community.   

This course is a partial hybrid. Friday class sessions will sometimes make use of alternative formats using wiki technology and Blackboard resources; these sessions may also take the form of conferences or small group meetings.

Lee, Jee Yoon - Asian American Experience

In this course, we will examine representations of Asian American experiences in contemporary American society. The course is designed to introduce you to historical and cultural concepts of "Asianness" as imagined by Asian American writers and artists. What does the term "Asianness" mean? In what ways can this concept be a shared American experience? In this course, we will focus on questions of authenticity, documentation, and representation. As part of our contact with a wide range of texts — poems, short stories, essays, photographs, and films — we will read, discuss and write about the Asian American experience within a broader American culture. The course materials will serve as topics of conversation for class discussions as well as the content for your writings. The writing assignments will give you opportunity to sharpen your writing and research skills on specific thematic issues.

Levine, Peter - Debates in Contemporary Fiction

About This Class

Who's to say what fiction ought to do, and what it ought to look like?  How do we begin to separate the "important" from the merely entertaining?  What criteria do we use to differentiate the quirky, clever, and transient, from the truly substantive, valuable, and enduring?  How much sex, violence, and vulgarity are you willing to permit in the name of "art"? 

In 1978, the writer and critic John Gardner published On Moral Fiction, a series of essays that set forth a premise about the purposes and characteristics of "moral" fiction.  Believing that the goal of fiction is to instruct and to affirm life, Gardner felt that to endorse anything less was to forfeit the right to tell each other how to behave, to live in a world where there are no "correct" models of human behavior. 

Using this text as a jumping off point, we will explore different arguments about the roles and purposes of fiction in our lives. We will examine short stories, essays, journal articles, scholarly research, and many other sources to further this aim.

Why Is This a "Writing" Course?

This class offers an opportunity for you to agree or disagree with experts' claims about what fiction should do and what it should look like. It is likely that you have not thought about fiction in the same way we will this semester, and so you will begin by establishing a fixed point in the debate and moving outwards.  You will become a stronger writer and thinker as you discover different ways to approach this topic, different rhetorical techniques to persuade your audience (in the spirit of works we read), and develop your own style and voice while joining a long-standing conversation.  Our study of writing and other forms of art allows us to crystallize what we as writers value in our own work.  You will need to bring all the skills of a collegiate writer to bear throughout the term.


Marcus, Robin -African American Rhetorics - Black Speech in Public Space

In this course, "Black Speech in Public Space" is not limited to an examination of what is variably labeled African American Vernacular Speech, Black Language, Ebonics etc. It refers more broadly to the sociolinguistic study of Black Speech and the ways this speech has been used to convey history and argument. In addition, we expand the concept of Black Speech in order to understand the ways this language operates rhetorically (whether subtly or overtly) in visual art, film, dance, the pulpit, music, and theater. This will allow us to appreciate how contexts and issues relevant to Black life in America are framed within the public sphere. Emphasis will be placed on class discussions based on reading a variety of texts. Students will be expected to undertake research that produces fresh approaches and observations through the production of three papers including one major research paper. Class participation is weighted equally with other graded work. Students will also be expected to attend evening lectures featuring guest lectures, off campus events, relevant university events and one field trip.

McCaughey, Jessica -Telling True Stories: Truth and Memory in Creative Nonfiction

Is the truth precisely what occurred, or is it in how we recall an event, or a conversation, or an image years later? Should we trust our own memories in storytelling? What about those of other people? How should gaps and haziness in memory be addressed in writing? Does a text's "truth" affect its power? Do the answers to these questions shift with audience, or the purpose of a piece of writing? In addition to countless literary scandals surrounding memoirs and creative nonfiction over the past several years, the exploration of what constitutes "the truth" in writing is an essential and fascinating element of not only literary study, but in examining our world and its stories. In this class we will read a variety of nonfiction texts—from literary journalism and essays to memoirs and book-length creative nonfiction—and we'll write intensely both about the ideas and arguments of these writers and about our own experiences and research.

McClain, Daniel - The Politics of Death, Dismemberment, and Resurrection in Harry Potter

Can "children's literature" be political? Given its long history of integration with allegory, especially religious allegory (e.g. The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, George MacDonald's fairytales) it seems that children's literature has real capacity to bear deeper meanings that get more or less obscured by exciting plots, breath-taking details, and riveting story-lines. Take, for instance, The Wizard of Oz's subtle political commentary of late 19th, early 20th century America, or the exploration of colonialism in the Babar the Elephant series, or Dr. Seuss' searing attack of deforestation in The Lorax; it seems that children's lit has been making incisive interventions in politics for some time now.

But, what do we do when the political and the religious allegories appear along side one another in the same work? How do we make sense of them when in fact one allegory seems to be both political and religious? Religion and politics are strange bedfellows. In America, we have learned that they do not seem to get along so well. And we often project this out of the ambivalently public realm of politics to supposedly private spheres, like our various forms of media (visual arts, film, literature), as well as different "life-style" outlets, of which, in fact, religion seems to have become just another.

Although unbeknownst to or unacknowledged by most critics, the recently completed Harry Potter series profits from the amalgamation of the religious and the political, especially in Rowling's use of death. This class will explore the mythic relation between religion and politics through an analysis of life, death, the relationship of body and soul, institutional involvement in death and life, and the relationship of the above to magic in selections of the Harry Potter series. Students will develop the reading skills, critical thinking, and vocabulary necessary to conduct this exploration through in-class discussion, regular readings, several small writing assignments, and three longer essays, including one research paper.

Mullen, Mark - A Casual Obsession: Videogames for Everyone?

When I say the words "videogame" or "gamer" there are probably a number of images that immediately come to mind.  Most likely you picture someone who owns a Playstation or an Xbox, who plays a lot of games involving mayhem and arterial blood spray.  Most likely that person you are picturing is also a guy.

But have you ever found it impossible to avoid dipping into a game of Solitaire while your teacher drones on at the front of the room?  Ever lost an entire afternoon to Angry Birds?  Ever grown concerned that your Farmville crops are going unharvested?  Then you, my friend, are also a gamer.  In fact, you are part of a growing wave of gamers that are redefining what it means to design and play videogames.  Our class will start by looking at the rise of casual gaming, and in doing so we will also be looking at how one of the most famously non-casual of gaming genres (online role-playing games) is being redefined to embrace casual players.

The main reason for looking at this topic, however, is that it provides excellent material for both investigating the way current writing and communication practices are changing, and honing the skills necessary to write for diverse audiences across a variety of contexts: academic, professional, and popular.  Videogames are, perhaps surprisingly, intensive writing arenas.  Developers write lengthy descriptions of their work and respond to player's questions; players write extensively as they organize guilds and society and communicate with one another; some players who enjoy role-playing use the game worlds as a jumping off point for creating their own character fictions.  We will be analyzing many of these examples of new media writing and responding in kind with our own efforts.  Most importantly, we will be developing extended research projects that draw on multiple academic disciplines in an attempt to make sense of these disorderly new worlds.

Note: This course will require you to play an online game.  This game will not cost you anything.  However, if you own an Apple computer you may find it impossible to play these games unless your Mac is capable of running Windows programs.  It is a sad fact that not a lot of games in general are made for Apple computers, and the number of Mac-friendly online games in particular is exceptionally small.  I wish it weren't so, but there it is!

Myers, Danika - Honky-tonk Angels, Redneck Women & Dixie Chicks: Feminism & Femininity in Country Music

Popular country music constructs an idyllic, rural America where men are cowboys or farmers, and women love Jesus and raise children – but the women who top country music charts have resisted traditional femininity as often as they have embraced it. In 1952, Kitty Wells was banned from major radio stations when she took men and a societal double standard to task singing, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," but the song spent six weeks at number one in spite of the ban. In the sixties, Tammy Wynette spelled out D-I-V-O-R-C-E at the same time as she enjoined women to stand by their men, while Bobbie Gentry sang "Ode to Billy Joe," a song about the emotional toll of unintended pregnancy. The Dixie Chicks challenged country music's long-standing pro-military patriotism when lead singer Natalie Maines said she was embarrassed that then-President George W. Bush was from her home state of Texas. Dolly Parton could teach Lady Gaga a thing or two about creating a public persona. More recently, artists like Gretchen Wilson and Carrie Underwood have tackled class issues and co-opted the rebellious good-timing that has long been the domain of male country artists.

This class will ask you to draw on feminist and gender theory as well as music criticism to untangle and analyze the way country music has constructed, evolved, or subverted the feminine. You will synthesize a body of work to see how gender transgressive acts are accepted, celebrated, or punished. Assignments will include a gender analysis of an album, postings in a course blog, and a research project which will culminate in the production of a podcast.

This is a hybrid course, which means Friday class sessions will make use of cyberspace formats including wordpress blogs and wiki technology; these sessions may also take the form of conferences or small group meetings. The final project for this course will require the use of audio recording & editing software; no prior experience with this technology is necessary. Because this class will study music, homework will include frequent listening assignments.

Myers, Danika - Rhetorical Intersections of Science, Culture, & Media

We are daily presented with news that turmeric kills cancer cells, red wine stops heart disease, and corn syrup causes diabetes—information often attributed to a nameless, faceless group identified only as "scientists". The implication is almost always that the findings are "facts"—except when the science in question is evolutionary, in which case the phrase "only a theory" may be used. Scientific findings are sometimes reported as a debate between two extreme and absolute views and sometimes reported as absolute fact, but rarely as a nuanced space of interpretation, probability, and predictive models. While major newspapers often assign reporters with no science background to cover science news and rely on a "he said-she said" formula, a rich community of science blogging is flourishing on internet sites like Scientopia.org, Discover.net, and Scienceblogs.com.

What constitutes ethical science writing? Is there a real debate about the link between autism and vaccines, or is that debate a media invention? This class will engage these and other questions about the way science and scientific discovery are covered and communicated in contemporary American media. This class might appeal to you if you are considering a major in the physical or biological sciences, technological or engineering, or journalism – or if you'd just like a better toolkit for interpreting the articles in Women's Health, Runner's World, and the science section of The New York Times.

Assignments will include posts in a course blog, a critical review of a peer-reviewed article, and a team research project analyzing the way "science" is constructed and reported in an online or print publication. This final project will culminate in a collaborative research paper. This is a hybrid course, which means Friday class sessions will make use of cyberspace formats including wordpress blogs and wiki technology; these sessions may also take the form of conferences or small group meetings.

Pollack, Rachel - Dutch Painting at the National Gallery of Art

In this course we will develop writing skills through careful observation and analysis of 17th Century Dutch painting at the National Gallery of Art. Each student will write 2 polished catalogue entries (2-3 page each) of works from the National Gallery collection, a short exhibition review (3-5 pages), a short research paper (5-7 pages) and a larger research project (15-20 pages). Artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals will be the central focus of class discussion, as well as various landscape and still life masters. We will explore issues of technique (i.e. materials and methods) and art historical interpretations. Why do we consider Rembrandt a "genius?" Did Vermeer use the camera obscura? How did the new wealthy middle class affect art patronage? Together we will read a selection of scholarly articles related to each subject, as well as visiting the museum collection firsthand. Through critical writing, class discussion, and individual research, each student will learn to see and appreciate the art of the Dutch Golden Age.

Presser, Pam - Brain Matters: Can Science solve the Mystery of Your Mind?

If you could find out everything about how your mind works, would you want this knowledge? Or does some of the magic of life evaporate if all secrets are revealed? Utilizing recent discoveries about the brain, this class will interrogate the role values should play in scientific research.

Freud believed that unconscious wishes and repressed memories continuously controlled us, regulating what we thought during the day and what we dreamed at night.After scientists began discussing the chemical transmission of nerve impulses in the brain,. physicians rejected Freud's model of the mind, turning to biological approaches. Yet, as an interdisciplinary field which focuses on cognition has emerged, Freud's ideas have made a comeback. Neurologists, biologists, and psychiatrists are collaborating to analyze discoveries made possible by recent technologies which seem to corroborate Freud's theories.

This work has implications for students and teachers of the writing process. Understanding how the brain works can provide insight into how people construct meaning, use language, create narratives and develop arguments. Assignments for this class might include, but will not be limited to, a collaborative project, an annotated bibliography, and an analysis of a blog which is relevant to course concerns.

Riedner, Rachel - Writing Global Women's Lives

Beginning with historical analysis of the veil in France, this course will consider the powerful local and global forces that shape women's lives. Drawing upon Joan Scott's Politics of the Veil and other short essays, shared readings will lead to writing projects that look closely and carefully at women's experiences beyond literal or popular representations of their lives and explore how we can (or, cannot) rigorously write about and represent women. To begin our conversations about writing women's lives, we'll reflect upon how history shapes our writing, how we include the voices of others in our writing, how we use and frame evidence, and how we ethically represent our own knowledge claims. The course includes three major writing assignments as well as graded short writing assignments. The first assignment is an analytical and critical assignment that works closely and critically with shared course reading. The lengthiest assignment of the semester is a student-generated, critical research project that draws from writing and research methodologies learned in class. The course will end with an oral presentation where students present their research to an audience of their peers.

Riley, Matt - Songs & Script: Critical Writing about Music

This course is an ongoing study conducted by first year students about how popular music serves as a reflection of society. We will investigate a variety of ways that music is analyzed and argued about in both popular and academic communities, and we will research the issues about music that we, as a group, consider to be important. Songs & Script is based on the idea that students who take the course—past, present, and future— should form a community of scholars who build the course over repeated semesters. Consequently, the issues we address and the knowledge we establish comes equally from the students and the professor, and current students must always build upon the work of previous classes. For example, this semester students are investigating how we determine certain music artists to be "authentic." Next spring, students will take up this work and explore more deeply why authenticity is important to us in the first place.

Ryder, Phyllis - Writing for Social Change: Writing with DC Community Organizations

When people write in the real world—as when community organizers publish brochures to motivate their neighbors to fight injustice or even when college professors argue for a way to classify knowledge—they must consider their rhetorical situation carefully. In addition to conveying information, they must convince people that what they say matters, that what they are proposing has merit, that what they are asking is reasonable and possible. They must convey a sense of urgency and a sense of agency.
How do people make their words do all this? First, they learn to analyze how the context in which they are speaking affects their persuasiveness. Second, they develop a repertoire of strategies for responding—ways to enhance their credibility among different kinds of audiences, ways to heighten or diffuse audience concerns, ways to signal that they share their audience's values. They develop this repertoire by studying, with a writer's eye, how other people in the community speak, act, and write. That's what we'll do in this course.

We'll study the discourse of community organizations to understand these moves. Community organizations are a helpful starting point because their purposes and contexts are readily apparent. Looking at their mission statements, their websites, their history, demographics of their communities and so on, we can identify the challenges that they face as they seek to persuade others to work with them. As you partner with the organizations throughout the semester, you will gain an insider's perspective on the methods that they use to bring people together to make change.

Coming from this experience, we'll then consider the somewhat more elusive rhetorical context of academic writing. Just as a community organization is united around a particular social goal and a particular method of achieving it, so the academic community at a research university unites around its social goals and accepted methods. Using the analytical abilities we developed by studying community organizations, we'll study academic discourse and learn how to write in a way that signals that you are part of this academic community.

Hybrid Course: "Hybrid" is the name given to courses that blend face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning to improve learning outcomes. Hybrid courses thus move a significant amount of course work to an online environment. If you have any questions about this class, please contact Professor Phyllis Ryder at pryder@gwu.edu

Svoboda, Michael - The Political Brain: The Psychologies of American Politics

We like to believe we can be perfectly rational. Consequently, when others disagree with us at such moments, we also like to believe our opponents are being irrational. Sadly, both beliefs are almost certainly false, especially when it comes to politics. Our political convictions have psychological underpinnings. But, we must hasten to add, our psychological analyses of politics can also be prompted by political motivations.

In "The Political Brain," we will examine what models of cognitive psychology, eco-psychology, neuro-politics, and risk assessment can tell us about contemporary American politics, the politics represented by the 2012 presidential campaign in particular.

In this section of UW 1020, you can join the ever-increasing number of political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, and, yes, voters, who are trying to understand—and to address—the dysfunctional state of American politics. Through a carefully selected set of readings, including Drew Westen's The Political Brain, you will participate in their broad interdisciplinary conversation. And through the critical thinking, creative research, and reflective writing you will practice in the assignments for this course, you will be able to make an original contribution to this ongoing discussion.

Tomlinson, Niles - Ghosts of Washington, DC: History, Folklore and Memorial

To study Washington as a place of haunting is to discover how traumatic events in American history are never fully buried or repressed but are instead always returning and exerting their influence on the present. This course starts with William Faulkner's premise that "[t]he past is never dead, it's not even past," and moves towards an exploration of how we might locate in Washington's ghost legends and national memorials the interchange between past and present, the popular and the officially authorized—in short, the ghostly whisperings that continue to haunt the American imagination.

We will begin by identifying specific strains of trauma and haunting in political speeches, short essays and fiction. We will then examine Washington's most famous ghost stories and analyze some of its most significant memorials. The final research project will give students a chance to explore in depth a haunted event that creates a unique link between discourses of nation and American culture. In all, this course will make the larger point that Washington has a haunting side rarely read about in history textbooks, and this spectral history is crucial in continually deepening and revitalizing the American imagination.

This course starts with William Faulkner's premise that "[t]he past is never dead, it's not even past," and moves towards an exploration of how we might locate in Washington's ghost legends and national memorials the interchange between past and present, the popular and the officially authorized, nation and imagination.

Troutman, Phillip - Serious Comix: Graphic Novels and Manga as Visual Argument

Do comic books, graphic novels, and manga make an "art argument" (as artist Paul Pope asserts)? Can this entertaining image/text medium really contribute to knowledge in history, literature, philosophy, psychology, journalism, politics, religion, or education? What criteria help us evaluate graphic novels like Maus, Persepolis, Palestine, or Pyongyang? By treating the comics medium as an object of academic analysis, you will develop key writing and research practices valued in academic work. You will acquire, practice, and refine a specialized analytical vocabulary; discover and frame relevant questions in terms of existing scholarly literature; and develop your own analytical voice by anticipating the expectations of academic readers. You will practice writing as a recursive process of sketching, drafting, researching, revising, and editing, especially by learning to respond substantively to peers' work and to their comments on your work.

In this Service Learning course, you will connect what you learn--both about writing and about comics--to the real world. Section M83 and M63 will work on comics composition and other creative writing projects with local public school students at 826DC (826dc.org). Section M81 will work with Safe Shores DC (safeshores.org) to research and compose comics aimed at teenagers at risk of experiencing or witnessing trauma. No prior comics reading or writing is required.

Wilkerson, Abby -Recipes, Politics, and Power

Recipes, with their detailed precision, may come across as essentially factual, yet closer study reveals a complex world of values just below the surface.  Through careful reading, a host of messages emerges regarding culture, nation, region, ethnicity, and religion, as well as sexual identities, what it means to be a family, and various forms of social privilege.  Recipes also often depend on assumptions about the global agro-industrialized food system and the political, economic, and social relations it structures.  Thus, recipes can reflect and reinforce established systems of power that have come under fire for assorted inequities.  Other recipes, however, testify to the losses and harms imposed by injustice, explicitly challenge power imbalances, or support food justice under the banner of the “Delicious Revolution.”  We will study a range of recipe-basedwriting and the contexts that generate them in order to reflect on these underlying sociopolitical and economic dynamics. 

Coursework includes learning and applying the film studies and critical literacy tool of “reading against the grain”; collaborating in small groups to conduct ethnographic-style research on recipe use; and writing an analysis of recipe-centered writing.

Wolfe, Zachary - Law as a Force for Social Change

"Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice  and . . . when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously  structured dams that block the flow of social progress."
-- Martin  Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

Manipulations of law have been used many times throughout our  history to prevent social progress or even create intellectual  justification for injustice, such as the once-revered concept of   "separate but equal" and the notion that a person can be property.   Despite this history, progressive movements continue to claim the law  as their own, invoking the language of rights at every stage and  ultimately turning to the courts and legislation to effect their  demands.  When those arenas are functioning at their best, we get to  see words and ideas taken seriously.  Advocates  construct legal  briefs, OpEd articles, scholarly journal articles, and legal  opinions.  These will be our course materials, which we explore in  often intense seminar-style class meetings.  Students then  explore  these concepts even more thoroughly in their scholarly writing,  culminating in a major final research paper that will advance the  discourse on a self-selected social justice issue in current public  debate.

Zink, Christine - Truth and Lies: Documenting American Lives in Writing and Film

"Every fact in my films is true," documentary filmmaker Michael Moore told Time magazine. While facts are by definition true, he felt the need to clarify, "The opinions in the film are mine. They may not be true, but I think they are." At first glance, we take for granted that documentary film is straight truth. But on closer look, we learn that most documentarians are quick to acknowledge--and struggle with--the central tensions in their work between fact and fabrication and between the real and its representation on the big screen. Sergei Dvortsevoy, a documentarian, tells us frankly, "When you see through the lens, you lie immediately."

This course takes as its central texts film documentaries on the American experience that rest with no easy answers. From films that explore outright political rebellion to those that consider interior battles of family politics, we will examine questions of fair and ethical representation, of substantial research and handling of facts and argument, and of what, in the end, it means to even try to document the truth. These very questions are, indeed, central to good writing work. In this course, you will take on the role as both critical audience and creative auteur to determine what constitutes truth and lies in film and writing alike.