| Last Updated: 9/10/06 | 9:00 pm
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, developed through a process that may include pre-draft preparation, drafts, and revisions based on instructor's advice and classmates' comments. Each student will complete at least three writing assignments of increasing complexity. 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.
Themes and Professors
Themes and Professors
(click on title for full course
Tiffany Bailey - Stranger in a Strange Land: Contemporary Depictions of Americans Abroad
This course is taught on the Mount Vernon Campus.
CRN 15186 Section M7 | MW 11:30-12:45 (ACAD 129) and F 11:30-12:20 (ACAD 129)
Bliss - Yankees,
Belles, and Cowboys: Regional Identity in America
These courses are taught on the Mount Vernon Campus.
CRN 16376 Section M9 | MR 1:00-2:40 (ACAD 302)
CRN 16382 Section ME | MR 3:00-4:40 (ACAD 302)
Chernock - The
Empire Strikes Back? Colonial Uprisings, 1776 to the Present
CRN 15192 Section 46 | M 9:35-10:25 (M B06) and WF 9:35-10:50 (2020 K 6)
CRN 15193 Section 47 | M 2:20-3:10 (M B06) and WF 2:20-3:35 (M 205)
Drown - Urban
Legends and Conspiracy Theories
CRN 15184 Section 37 | TR 9:35-10:50 (1776 G 106) and F 9:35-10:25 (1776 G 101)
CRN 16383 Section 79 | TR 12:45-2:00 (1776 G 102) and F 12:45-1:35 (1776 G 105)
Brian Flota - The Album as Art-i-Fact and Cultural Object
CRN 16357 Section 61 | MW 8:00 -9:15 (MPA 208) and F 8:00-8:50 (MON B04)
CRN 16364 Section 68 | MW 9:35-10:50 (GOV 104) and F 9:35-10:25 (1776 G 168)
Sandie Friedman - Culture and Memory
CRN 15201 Section 55 | MF 3:55-5:10 (MON 104) and W 3:55-4:45 (GOV 309)
CRN 15202 Section 56 | MF 11:10-12:25 (MON 205) and W 11:10-12:00 (GOV 101)
Extreme Adaptation: Surviving Censorship from Text to Screen
CRN 14691 Section 16 | TR 9.35-10.50 and F 9.35-10.25
Cayo Gamber - Legacies
of the Holocaust
CRN 14693 Section 19 | TR 9:35-10:50 (2020 K 16) and F 9:35-10:25 (1957 E B14)
CRN 15181 Section 32 | TR 11:10-12:25 (2020 K 25) and F 11:10-12:00 (GOV 101)
CRN 16393 Section 35 | TR 12:45-2:00 (2020 K 9) and F 12:45-1:35 (M 205)
Guerra - The
Latin American Imagination
CRN 15178 Section 30 | TR 8:00-9:15 and (GOV 410) and F 8:00-08:50 (GOV 410)
CRN 15179 Section 31 | TR 9:35-10:50 and F 9:35-10:25
Harlan - Things
We Don’t Talk About
CRN 16367 Section 71 M 3:55-4:45 (ROME 352) and WF 3:55-5:10 (2020 K 16)
Hartman- Child's Play: Investigating Children's
CRN 14689 Section 14 | MW 12:45-2:00 (1776 G 102) and F 12:45-1:35 (GOV 302)
CRN 15206 Section 41 | M 9:35-10:25 (GOV 409) and WF 9:35-10:50 (XX 114)
Hayes - California
Dreamin’: Water Wars, Brush Fires, and Disneyland
CRN 15189 Section 43 | M 2:20-3:10 (M B04) and WF 2:20-3:35 (GOV 409)
Jerving - Uncommon
Knowledge: Intellectual Property and Public Culture
CRN 16390 Section 84 | WF 8:00-9:40 (GELM 402)
CRN 16391 Section 83 | WF 11:10-12:50 (2020 K 9)
CRN 16392 Section 57 | WF 03:00-04:40 (M B07)
David Johnson- Invisible Ink: Tracing Race and Rhetoric through Ellison and Burke
CRN 16363 Section 67 | MW 9:35-10:50 (1776 G 169) and F 9:35-10:25 (1776 G 169)
CRN 16370 Section 74 | M 8:00-8:50 (MON B04) and WF 8:00-9:15 (MON B08)
Gray Kristensen - Writing
Cultures in Africa and the African Diaspora
CRN 14686 Section 11 | TR 9:35-10:50 (2020 K 6) and F 9:35am-10:25 (GELM 502)
CRN 14700 Section 26 | TR 11:10-12:25 (2020 K 9) and F 11:10am-12:00 (GELM 609)
CRN 14701 Section 27 | TR 2:20-3:35 (GELM 502) and F 2:20pm-3:10 (PHIL 413)
Larsen - Teens
CRN 14692 Section 18 | TR 8:00-9:15 (GELM 609) and F 8:00-8:50 (PHIL 110)
CRN 15194 Section 48 | WF 9:35-10:50 and M 9:35-10:25
- The American Dream, American Political Culture and Public Policy
CRN 16359 Section 63 | MW 8:00 -9:15 (BELL 106) and F 8:00-8:50 (TOMP 202)
CRN 16362 Section 66 | MW 9:35-10:50 (MON 101A) and F 9:35-10:25 (1776 G 107)
Derek Malone-France - Morality, Diversity, and Human Rights
CRN 15197 Section 51 | MF 11:10-12:25 (MON 105) and W 11:10-12:00 (GELM 402)
CRN 15200 Section 54 | MF 3:55-5:10 (GOV 312) and W 3:55-4:45 (GOV 108)
Diane Matlock - Telling American Stories
CRN 15187 Section 40 | M 9:35-10:25 (MON B04) and WF 9:35-10:50 (MON 105)
CRN 15188 Section 42 | M 2:20-3:10 (GELM 402) and WF 2:20-3:35 (GOV 302)
Rachel McLaughlin -
Is Another World Possible? Ecology, Feminism, and Postmodernity
CRN 14703 Section 28 | MW 8:00-9:15 and F 8:00-8:50
CRN 14696 Section 23 | TR 9:35-10:50 and F 12:45-1:35
Meghan Mercier - Production by Numbers: Hollywood Musicals of the 1930s-50s
CRN 15199 Section 53 | MF 3:55-5:10 (GOV 302) and W 3:55-4:45(GOV 312)
Miller - The
Transatlantic Gothic, 1700-1900
CRN 14694 Section 20 | TR 9.35-10.50 and F 9.35-10.25
Mullen - Blood
on the Plains: The Custer Autobiography Project
These courses are taught on the Mount Vernon Campus.
CRN 15211 Section M5 | TR 11:30-12:45 (ACAD 301) and F 11:30-12:20 (ACAD 301)
CRN 15212 Section M6 | TR 1:00-2:15 (ACAD 301) and F 1:00-1:50 (ACAD 301)
Almila Ozdek -
Dystopian Societies: The Rhetoric of Apocalypse in Today’s
CRN 15190 Section 44 | M 9:35-10:25 (MON B05) and WF 9:35-10:50 (MON 206)
Presser - Firing
the American Canon: Symbolic Struggle and Cultural
CRN 15191 Section 45 | M 2:20-3:10 (M B05) and WF 2:20-3:35 (M 104)
CRN 15198 Section 52 | MF 03:55-05:10 (M B08) and W 3:55-4:45 (GELM 609)
Riedner - Activist
Writers and Alternative Communities: Zapatista Writing and
CRN 15183 Section 36 | TR 11:10-12:25 (2020 K 8) and F 11:10-12:00 (M 307)
CRN 15185 Section 38 | TR 12:45-2:00 (2020 K 6) and F 12:45-1:35
and Public Policy
These courses are taught on the Mount Vernon Campus.
CRN 15208 Section M2 | MW 11:30-12:45 (ACAD 302) and F 11:30-12:20 (ACAD 302)
CRN 15209 Section M3 | MW 2:30-3:45 (ACAD 306) and F 2:30-3:20 (ACAD 306)
Schell - Get a Life!: ‘Shippers, Slashers, and
Other Media Fans
CRN 16384 Section 80 | MR 8:00-9:40 (GELM 402)
CRN 16385 Section 81 | MR 11:10-12:50 (GELM 402)
CRN 16386 Section 82 | MR 3:00-4:40 (GELM 609)
Culture Shock: Immigration, Assimilation, and the Search for Identity
CRN 15203 Section 58 | MF 11:10-12:25 (MON 206) and W 11:10-12:00 (GOV 105)
CRN 16366 Section 70 | MW 9:35-10:50 (1776 G 170) and F 9:35-10:25 (2020 K 23)
Sylvie Shapero- Class
Consciousness and the Idea of Social Mobility
CRN 16360 Section 64 | MW 8:00-9:15 (MPA 305) and F 8:00-8:50 (GOV 108)
CRN 16361 Section 65 | MW 9:35-10:50 (GOV 309) and F 9:35-10:25 (2020 K 21)
Caroline Smith -
From Monet to the Gap – Images as Arguments
These courses are taught on the Mount Vernon Campus.
CRN 14699 Section M1 | MW 10:00-11:15 (ACAD 306) and F 10:00-10:50 (ACAD 306)
CRN 16394 Section M10 | MW 11:30-12:45 (ACAD 302) and F 11:30-12:20 (ACAD 302)
Liz Sokolov - The Literary Response to September 11
CRN 14695 Section 21 | TR 8:00-9:15 (gelm 502) and F 8:00-8:50 (PHIL 111)
CRN 14697 Section 24 | TR 9:35-10:50 (2020 K 10) and F 12:45-1:35 (MON 104)
Stern - Topsy-Turvy: Satire and Subversive Writing
in the Victorian Period
CRN 15195 Section 49 | M 9:35-0:25 (GOV 105) and WF 9:35-10:50 (2020 K 9)
CRN 15196 Section 50 | M 02:20-3:10 (MON B07) and WF 2:20--3:35 (MON 206)
Michael Svoboda - Global Warming, Local Knowledge, and the Discourses of Environment
These courses are taught on the Mount Vernon Campus.
CRN 16380 Section MC | TF 8:00-9:40 (ACAD 302)
CRN 16381 Section MD | TF 11:10-12:50 (ACAD 127)
Truncellito - The Many Faces of Religion
These courses are taught on the Mount Vernon Campus.
CRN 16378 Section MA | MR 11:10-12:50 (ACAD 127)
CRN 16379 Section MB | MR 3:00 - 4:40 (ACAD 129)
Niles Tomlinson - Haunting America
CRN 14688 Section 13 | MW 8:00-9:15 (MON 307) and F 8:00-8:50 (PHIL 108)
Phillip Troutman -
Framing the Past: Animé, Comix, & Films as
CRN 14690 Section 15 | TR 9:35-10:50 (1776 G 102) and F 9:35-10:25 (MPA 309)
CRN 14687 Section 12 | TR 12:45-2:00(GELM 609) and F 12:45-01:35 (M B08)
CRN 15182 Section 34 | TR 2:20-03:35 (1776 G 170) and F 2:20-3:10 (GELM 609)
Lauren Weisholz - Feminist Utopias: Writing New Worlds
CRN 14702 Section 29 | MW 8:00-9:15 (GOV 409) and F 8:00-8:50 (ROME 352)
Wilkerson - The
CRN 14698 Section 25 | TR 9:35-10:50 (2020 K 9) and (1957 E 316) F 9:35-10:25
CRN 15180 Section 33 | TR 12:45-2:00 (GELM 502) and F 12:45-1:35 (M 105)
Wolfe - Law
as a Force for Social Change
CRN 15204 Section 59 | MF 11:10-12:25 (MPA 208) and W 11:10-12:00 (M 105)
CRN 15205 Section 39 | MF 3:55-5:10 (2020 K #24) and W 3:55-4:45 (TOMP 201)
Junkie: Writing about Politics in the Nation’s Capital
These courses are taught on the Mount Vernon Campus.
CRN 16395 Section M11 | TR 2:30-3:45 (ACAD 301) and F 2:20-3:20 (ACAD 301)
CRN 15210 Section M4 | TR 4:10-5:25 (ACAD 306) and F 4:10-5:00 (ACAD 306)
Christy Zink - Thought
Crimes: Reconsidering and Rewriting the Offender
CRN 16387 Section 86 | TF 8:00-9:40 (GOV 104)
CRN 16388 Section 87 | TF 11:10-12:50 (GELM 402)
CRN 16389 Section 85 | TF 03:00-04:40 (GELM 607)
Tiffany Bailey - Stranger in a Strange Land: Contemporary Depictions of Americans Abroad
As the title suggests, this course will involve examining books, essays, and films that depict the experiences of Americans who travel outside of the United States. Specifically, we will compare and contrast the various reasons Americans travel outside of the U.S. or leave their homeland to live abroad. More importantly, while exploring this theme, you will also learn how to articulate your critical analyses in writing. Class discussions are designed around a number of writing exercises and assignments that will guide you through the writing process, helping you write well-planned and concise papers without becoming overwhelmed. You will be introduced to the standards of academic and professional writing, refine your editing and revising skills, learn to conduct scholarly research, and develop a network of resources for writing. The primary goal of this course is to help you become a stronger writer, enjoy writing more, and help you build solid communication skills necessary for your academic and professional career as well as for life.
The materials used for this course will be engaging, varied, and informative. Through writing assignments and class discussions, you will have the opportunity to think and write about these materials on both a personal and a scholarly level. Some of the issues we will explore include: How do personal, professional, and political experiences influence a person's decision to go abroad? How does this affect the way writers write about these experiences and the audience they target with their writing? Are narratives and essays about living abroad intended to be entertaining, informative, political, or persuasive? If so, how? How do Americans abroad interpret the United States from a distance? What can these travel narratives tell us how natives of other countries view America? How do authors incorporate these views into their writing?
Emily Bliss - Yankees, Belles, and Cowboys: Regional Identity in America
Is the Midwest the cultural equivalent of a single-ingredient casserole - a homogenous expanse of men and women bound by Red State family values? Is the Northeast the bastion of the liberal elite - effete men in argyle and women in tennis whites, each cut by Exeter and polished by Harvard? Is the West Coast a detached Xanadu of sunshine, organic lettuce, and blond hair? Is the South a red clay and kudzu nest of barefoot, dancing grannies and rifle-bearing Confederates?
Of course, the answer to these questions is no - or not really. Yet these regional identities - as false and simplistic as they are - figure centrally in how we understand not just American identity and national politics, but who we are and how we relate to everyone else. It’s no real surprise, then, that these regional identities get constantly re-affirmed not just through the national news media and tourists’ vacation narratives, but also by these regions and their citizens: It seems that Southern fiction is more Southern than the South itself!
In this course, we will study regional identity in America, with a focus on the tensions between reality and the mythologized regional cultures that writers have created, maintained, and nurtured. As we develop your skills as academic writers, thinkers, and researchers, we will ask how a region cultivates and packages its own identity, how both outsiders and expatriates impose identities onto regions, how regionalism manifests itself in politics and art, and how all these ideas relate to personal identities. At the heart of these questions are ideas that relate directly to research and writing. How does writing create, convey, and perpetuate regional identities? Who are you, as the writer, and how do your biases affect how you analyze unfamiliar places and ideas? Texts may include Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America; Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulations; scholarly articles from cultural studies and anthropology; journalism; and fiction. In addition to several papers, you will write a 15-page research paper that examines both the reality and mythologized culture of a specific place.
Arianne Chernock - The Empire Strikes Back? Colonial Uprisings, 1776 to the Present
This writing-intensive course will examine how various colonies (the United States, India, Ireland and Kenya) have historically responded to and challenged British imperial rule. We will devote significant attention to the arguments and tactics used by colonized peoples to resist domination, in the process examining the tensions inherent in the idea of “empire” itself. In the final weeks of the course, we will consider the vexed legacy of imperialism to both colonizer and colonized, and weigh the ethical and moral responsibilities of countries to intervene in crises in the regions they once controlled. Primary and secondary texts to be consulted will include Thomas Jefferson’s “Summary View of the Rights of British America,” M.K. Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and Caroline Elkins’ Imperial Reckoning, among other works.
In the process of investigating these themes, we will focus on improving your critical writing and thinking skills. Assignments will include dictionary entries, theoretical meditations, comparative essays, book reviews and in-class presentations - all projects designed to introduce you to the rigors of college-level writing. The course will culminate with a research project on a topic of the student’s choice (subject to my approval), which will ask students to engage with and adjudicate between a range of scholarly sources.
Drown - Urban Legends and Conspiracy Theories
University Writing 20 is designed to enhance first-year students’ skills in critical reading, writing, and thinking, as well as to equip them with university-level research and project-management tools. In this section, we’ll meet these goals by studying urban legends and conspiracy theories. We’ll ask how such legends as The Kentucky Fried Rat and The Promiscuous Cheerleader and such conspiracy theories as the Government Cover-up of UFOs at Roswell, NM and the New World Order of the Illuminati are created and disseminated. You’ll learn how to collect, analyze, and interpret them. We’ll look at how mass media (newspapers, publishing, film and television) (re)make them. We’ll explore what psychological, cultural, and political work these stories do, and explain what they say about the societies in which we live. There are substantial bodies of academic and popular writings on urban legends and popular theories. So, even as students develop their own ideas about these narrative phenomena through reflection and original research, they will engage the works of scholars and popular cultural critics. Writing assignments may include vernacular essays (see www.popmatters.com for samples), critical review essays, and a research-based essay, as well as participation in an online discussion group. Other assignments as necessary.
Flota - The Album as Art-i-Fact and Cultural
In what ways can the sequential ordering of music--the songs and sounds on an album--serve to increase our attentiveness to details, themes and tropes as writers? Since the 1967 release of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album has developed its own canon of masterworks. Joining media such as painting, sculpture, poetry, the novel and film, the album has contributed defining moments of beauty, politics, community and psychological depth to large audiences spanning multiple generations. In this course, we will examine the unwritten rules of "album-making," the role of cover art and liner notes in the listening experience, the marketing of artists, what makes "great" or "horrible" albums, musicality, anti-musicality, the importance of sales figures, the political content of lyrics and music, and the powerful critical apparatus that has formed the various lists of "essential" albums. We will also reconsider the relevance of the album in the age of compact discs, online downloading and iPods. More importantly, we will explore how the examination of the album can help us develop the critical, analytical, theoretical and structural skills needed to approach writing in both the university and in the professional marketplace. Also, we will examine how the current critical discourse about albums can or cannot serve as potential compositional models for student writers. Reading will consist of various record reviews, introductions to album-based music guides, Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, Ashley Kahn's A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album and Charles L. Granat's Wouldn't It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Course requirements include in-class presentations, weekly journals, and three essays, with revisions. This class is writing intensive and will culminate with a ten-page research paper.
Sandie Friedman - Culture and Memory
The richness of interior life depends upon memory, yet memories are subject to loss, distortion, and repression. A society's collective memory—the shared images of traumatic or triumphal events—is perhaps even more mutable than personal memory. In this writing seminar, we consider both personal and collective memory, examining the concrete forms that memory takes and considering (among others) the following questions: What forces determine personal memory? How do memories define and motivate cultures? And what do reconstructions of the past reveal about the present? We begin with an analysis of the thriller Memento , about a man who has lost all short-term memory, but remains obsessed with avenging his wife's murder. Next, we examine and theorize collective memory with a class trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In the third unit, each of you will choose a memorial site in DC and research its history, developing an argument about how its shape reflects not just what it commemorates, but the values of those who built it.
Three principles have guided the design of the writing element of the course. First, I believe that writing is a medium for thinking, so we will use informal writing in each class to develop ideas, not merely to record them. As Patricia Hampl writes in "Memory and Imagination": "I don't write about what I know: I write in order to find out what I know." Second, I believe that compelling essays come about only through revision -- even for gifted and experienced writers. So I will work with you over the course of the semester on deep revision (which is not the same as editing!). Third, the essay assignments are based on the kinds of essays you will write at GW, so that the skills you acquire in writing them (building arguments, analyzing texts, crafting lucid sentences, incorporating multiple sources) will be transferable to other classes. Aside from practical applications, I also believe that this kind of thinking and writing work can be transformative--that it can lead to a richer and more reflective life.
Matt Fullerty - Extreme Adaptation: Surviving Censorship from Text to Screen
In what contexts does art get banned? Why do books, short stories, plays, and their film adaptations, undergo censorship? What does this mean for the author, historical and contemporary audiences, and the text itself? As a focus for argumentative university-level writing and research, this course frames the intersection of adaptation and censorship. Where is the line between adapting and appropriating an artistic vision? What are the questions of authorial integrity in representing experience? The class will provide a means of debating written and visual culture as sites of social and political conflict, change and truth-assertion.
We will look at banned texts in their historical, political, social, sexual and religious controversies as well as how they are understood and re-written for consumption today. How does ‘extreme adaptation’ between genres complicate questions of meaning, value, ideology and creative freedom? How much should the artist be compromised at the expense of ‘protecting society’ and how much should society support the desire to ‘re-imagine’ past literature and film? Texts include Anthony Burgess’s and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and its two film versions, and Spike Jonze’s film Adaptation.
Cayo Gamber - Legacies of the Holocaust
One of the primary legacies of the Holocaust has been the call to remember. In this course, we will discuss the various ways in which the Holocaust is remembered. We will bear witness to first-hand testimonies of memoirists (for example, Charlotte Delbo in Auschwitz and After) and the video testimony of survivours (in Yale's Fortunoff Video Archive). In addition, we will question the ways in which the Holocaust has been "interpreted" in middle-school and high-school curricula, in documentary film (for example, in Claude Lanzmann's Shoah), and in art (such as, Alan Jacobs' "Then and Now"). Finally, we will interrogate the "Americanization" of the Holocaust (for example, in Art Spiegelman's Maus I and II, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Donna Deitch's film of The Devil's Arithmetic).
Over the course of the semester, you will choose a topic-related to the theme of the course -and will dedicate yourself to locating pertinent research; evaluating the merit of your research; fully attending to the arguments made by the scholars; thoughtfully and accurately incorporating those scholars' ideas into your own writing; and using their research findings in order to shape your own engaged and engaging arguments. Each of these tasks is incorporated into the series of assignments you will perform, in stages, over the course of the semester. In addition, one-on-one conferences, peer review, drafting, and revision will aid you as you develop coherent, complex, and compelling arguments.
Gustavo Guerra - The Latin American Imagination
This writing intensive course explores issues and themes surrounding identity, sexuality, and art within Latin American and Latino/ Latina studies. The course explores the significance and multiplicity of meanings of identity as a tool of analysis in literature, history, and politics. Some of the questions we will pursue are: How does identity and sexuality interact in Latino and Latina contemporary writing? How do issues of class, or national origin circumscribe the possible meanings attached to sexuality and identity? The main focus of the class will be on how all of these ideas are put forth as a set of arguments that we will examine rhetorically.
Elizabeth Harlan - Things We Don’t Talk About
History is filled with horrible events. Some, like the Holocaust or slavery, are remembered and even memorialized. Depictions of them are quite common in film and literature. They are regarded with the attitude that we must keep discussing them so that they are never forgotten. Yet at the same time, other appalling historical (and even current) events are ignored. Why, for instance, are there Holocaust museums in Germany, but no museum in the United States concerning the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Why are people urged to “never forget” one example of genocide, while the ongoing situations in Africa are given little attention? In order to explore these issues, we will read literary, journalistic, and scholarly accounts of a number of historical atrocities, as well as scholarly articles that deal with the memorializing (or lack of it) of these events. Since writing is often what brings attention to issues, what we read will foster discussion of how people choose what to write about, as well as the great impact that writing can have. Each student will choose one of the more ignored events to focus upon for an ongoing research project that will include a historical account, an analysis of the lack of attention it has received, and a proposal for a way in which it could be remembered. In order to achieve this, scholarly research on the topic must be found, analyzed, and incorporated into your own argument.
Stephanie Hartman- Child's Play: Investigating Children's Culture
The way a culture imagines childhood tells us more about adult preoccupations than about the actual nature of children. At different historical moments, children have been seen as miniature adults, innocent angels, unruly creatures in need of socialization, imaginative free spirits, and empowered consumers. Such figures from children's popular culture as Peter Pan, PeeWee Herman, Barbie, and Barney likewise encode attitudes toward childhood and ideas about its relationship to adult life.
The texts for this writing-intensive course will be unusually varied, from picture books and toy catalogs to parenting manuals and scholarly articles. We'll consider representations of children in art and books; we'll decode the cultural conceptions of childhood embedded in toys and stories; and we'll tease out the underlying assumptions about media reception and childhood in contemporary debates about children as consumers. We'll also try to imagine what children might really be doing with the artifacts of their world: the books, films, comic books, toys, and video games that parents tend to sort into “good” and “bad” kinds of entertainment. This rigorous focus on kiddie stuff will require you to use the process of writing to think critically about popular culture, to “read” the world around you, to engage with other thinkers, and to frame and refine your ideas.
You will undertake two major projects with multiple components, in addition to numerous short writing assignments. The first will hone your awareness of audience: you will propose a children's website, book, or other form of media, with sample content for children and other documents for adult audiences. The second, a substantial critical research paper, will develop your scholarly writing: your paper will make an original argument about a book, film, game, or toy of your choice, and participate in some aspect of current debates about the nature of childhood, the role of media, and the activity of audiences.
Carol Hayes - California Dreamin’: Water Wars, Brush Fires, and Disneyland
California: The land of Hollywood dreams, surfers, and Disney fairytales, a land where people are intensely interested in the “image” they project-or, in writing terms, in how they represent themselves, their clients, their corner of California. Beyond these dreams-or images of dreams-, California is also the land of natural disasters, controversies over immigration, and water wars, a landscape that has been shaped by arguments over class and race as much as by nature and Disney. In this writing and research course, we’ll read a number of texts focused on California, with the goal of examining these texts as models for how representation, argumentation and scholarship work at the university level. These texts, such as Mike Davis’ Ecology of Fear, take stories that we’ve all heard about (for example, news stories that
represent the “tragedy” of California families displaced time and again by brushfires), and look at how these representations are shaped, who shapes them, and what the effects of these representations are on society (in terms of class, race, gender, the environment, and other critical frameworks). In other words, the texts we’ll be reading interrogate what lies beneath-and what is produced by-the glittering dreams of the “Golden State.” I’ll then ask you to model your writing after these types of inquiries, so that you’ll be approaching writing as a process of intellectual engagement, a process that focuses on the politics of representation. Finally, we’ll also focus on moving beyond the high-school five-paragraph essay to the more complex arguments that you’ll be asked to develop in many of your university courses.
Ryan Jerving - "Uncommon Knowledge": Intellectual Property and Public Culture
You might think your thoughts are your own, but you’d be wrong. That melody stuck in your head, that clever phrase, that elaborate critique of the global military-industrial-media complex you’ve come up with—all of it, in part or in whole, came from some place else within the common cultural storehouse. And increasingly, it's likely, at least legally, to belong some place else too as copyrights, trademarks, and patents come to enclose much of what you might otherwise safely call “yours.” In this course, we’ll consider this tension between the cultural reality of collective creation and the legal/economic reality of private claims to intellectual property. And we’ll ask what this problematic will mean for you as a 21st-century citizen, consumer, and writer. You will design the specific case studies our class will tackle concerning issues such as file sharing, sampling, internet fan fiction, indigenous cultural rights, freedom of information and homeland security, or the role of patents in the world-wide AIDS crisis. We’ll frame our discussion within somewhat broader questions of national identity, theories of language, and the work of art in the age of mechanical (and now digital) reproduction, with an extended consideration of how American history and public culture has been or could be appropriated and re-imagined. And as we learn to conduct, cite, and document primary and secondary research; develop arguments that incorporate and rework the ideas and language of others; engage in academic “fair use”; invoke and play with established writing genres; and revise in collaboration with our peers—as we do all that, we’ll explore the particularly murky waters of intellectual ownership to which the act of writing inevitably leads.
David Johnson - Invisible Ink: Tracing Race and Rhetoric through Ellison and Burke
In 1945, Ralph Ellison began writing Invisible Man , an essential and challenging novel about race, identity, history and culture. Throughout the writing process, Ellison corresponded with Kenneth Burke, who had just begun work on A Rhetoric of Motives , gained valuable insight into race from the rhetorical perspective, and actually edited his novel accordingly. Similarly, Burke altered his essay on rhetoric as Ellison provided information about race from the literary perspective. In sum, each writer ‘watched' the thoughts of the other, gradually incorporated these thoughts into his own intellectual system, and then galvanized these ideas to construct a written text.
This course engages students in the project of ‘watching' the thoughts and language about race of various writers through the Ellison/Burke theoretical lens. We will look at such texts as David Walker's Appeal, Views on Colonization, Our Nig, The Anti-Slavery Speeches of Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Confessions of Nat Turner, and Shadow and Act in terms of Ellison's concept of ‘identity' and Burke's concept of ‘motives,' in order to see specifically how American thinkers write about the African American situation. We will also peek at some primary sources, including letters from a prominent Georgetown family who resided at Dumbarton House during the early part of the Federal period, so that we can catch a glimpse of some local notions about race.
The upshot of this course is for you to view through serious writings various thought processes, in this case about the African American experience, so that you can invent and arrange your own thoughts about this issue in several informed, organized, and important essays. In short, your writing will be founded on sound and complex thinking and not merely on acquired rhetorical skills.
Randi Gray Kristensen - Writing Cultures in Africa and the African Diaspora
“What is Africa to me?” asked the poet, Countee Cullen, more than fifty years ago. As representations of Africa swirl around us - from kente cloth to pyramids, civil wars to global AIDS - we will consider this question from a range of perspectives. How are contemporary African and African Diaspora writers and artists considering issues of identity, nationality, globalization, gender, race, class and other issues in a context of rapid change? Investigating these questions from a basis in African and African Diaspora literatures heightens our attention to questions of language, audience, genre, and disciplines, and we will also consider our own positions as researchers on this topic: what is our relationship with Africa, and/or what is our relationship to the issues facing peoples of African descent?
You will write an autoethnography, in which you describe and analyze your relationship to language within your own cultural heritage; an ethnography, in which you analyze and theorize the interactions within a zone of cross-cultural contact of your own choosing; and a 12-15 page research paper on the topic of your choice, drawing on the wide range of themes we will investigate in the class. Your writing will be supported by our readings, class discussions, and shorter writing assignments designed to enhance analytical and writing skills, as well as group and individual peer review activities, introductions to information resources, and individual conferences with me, which will refine skills in the arts of critical reading and revision.
Texts may include films such as Keita: the Heritage of the Griot, which considers the educational choices facing a young man from Burkina Faso in West Africa; Life and Debt, on the impact of globalization in Jamaica; and Drylongso, a drama about making the transition into adulthood in Oakland, CA. Readings may include Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, set in pre-colonial Nigeria, Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Johnetta Cole’s Gender Talk, which analyzes contemporary gender relations in African American community, and Beverly Bell’s Walking on Fire, a collection of testimonies by Haitian women who survived the last military dictatorship. Thus our class includes representations of and by people of African descent in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States.
Kathy Larsen - Teens in America
One might argue that from the end of World War Two (and perhaps more precisely from the coining of the term "rock and roll" by Alan Fried in 1951) to the present, the perception of America's teenagers has undergone a massive, and for the most part, unsavory shift. From juvenile delinquent films such as Blackboard Jungle to hormonally over stimulated “teen films” such as the American Pie series, teenagers have typically been presented as dangerous, disturbed, alien, or idiotic. Ironically (or not), this is often done via venues aimed at a predominantly teen audience, raising questions of exactly what message is being sent, to whom, and why? At the same time adolescence is being demonized, it is also being idealized as a period of pristine innocence to be protected at all costs. This has led to a century’s worth of calls for censorship that have most often used this innocence as a justification for government and private monitoring of literature, mail, airwaves, and movie screens among other things.
Thus adolescence is often a hotly contested site for sociologists, psychologists, lawmakers, filmmakers, musicians, and corporations out to sell the latest “cool” product. The one voice that is often left out of all these debates however is that of the adolescents being fought over. This course seeks to interrogate the construction of “youth culture” (who is doing it and for whom is it is being produced) and to formulate a series of responses to the generally accepted teenage stereotypes. In other words, we will try to shift the parameters from monologue to dialogue, moving “talking back” out of the realm of punishable offenses and into the arena of encouraged discourse.
Possible questions we may want to pose include asking what kind of impact these images have on self-perception, the direction the representation of America's youth is taking in the twenty-first century, and what alternatives, if any, are being presented. However, students' own research, conducted across a variety of disciplines, ultimately will form the basis for both class discussion and writing assignments. The final project will involve a student written and edited e-zine.
Leslie - The American Dream, American Political
Culture and Public Policy
In hundreds of stories about young boys who worked their way up from poverty, Horatio Alger (1832-1899) created a literary world in which, with hard work, good character, and a bit of luck, even the most down on his luck person could achieve the American Dream. However, ideas of personal uplift and self-help, like Alger's, have often served to obscure the dynamics of race, class and gender and the ways these have functioned historically to exclude some Americans from reaping the fruits of the American Dream.
In this course, we will explore the nature, sources, consequences, and limits of the myth of the American Dream. We will use film, literature, and popular and scholarly writing to examine expressions, and critics, of the myth of the American Dream. We will consider how unique aspects of the American experience (e.g., Puritan theology, American geography, urbanization, and the American rejection of European traditionalism) contribute/d to the emergence of the myth. And, looking at American attitudes toward the welfare state; the public, academic and congressional debates around welfare reform; and welfare policy itself, we will also consider the consequences of the mythology of the American Dream for American political culture and public policy.Paying special attention to assumptions implicit in the myth of the American Dream about the nature of selfhood and individual autonomy, you will engage the assigned texts and films in a series of close reading and writing exercises that are designed to encourage and sharpen your critical ability to assess how unarticulated definitions and background assumptions inform American political culture. Through these exercises, you will improve your ability to examine and interrogate academic, professional, and your own writing, as well, particularly for unspoken assumptions and implications. This is course is designed to make you a more astute reader, and therefore also a stronger writer, as you enter the conversation in writing of your academic and/or professional discipline. By the end of the course, you will have written 25-35 re-drafted pages, including a final research paper that will be your own analysis of the issues raised in the course and that draws on the writing you have done throughout the term.
Derek Malone-France - Morality, Diversity, and Human Rights
In a culturally diverse world, what basis is there (if any) for the notion of "universal" human rights and the existence of laws guaranteeing such rights? This question lies at the heart of current debates over issues ranging from the impact of "globalization" and the development of international law to the war in Iraq and the wider "war on terrorism." The manner in which one answers this broad theoretical question will largely determine what sorts of answers one gives to more specific and practical questions about what policies are most appropriate and/or effective in promoting the interests of the United States, as well as those of the rest of the world community.
In this course, we will begin the semester by examining the emergence of classical formulations of the idea of human rights in the modern west, paying close attention to the historical relationship between such formulations and the gradual development of the concepts of moral "pluralism" and "relativism" that have come to challenge the claimed "universality" of human rights discourse. Next, we will look at a wide spectrum of positions in moral theory, ranging from "absolute universalism" to "absolute relativism," and investigate the specific challenges that the arguments for these positions pose for human rights claims. Finally, we will turn to the concrete claims regarding human rights that are made by governments, international institutions and treaties, and non-governmental organizations that work for human rights. We will also visit various governmental agencies and NGO's located near GW, in order to examine the ways in which policies get formulated and documents either promoting or critiquing those policies get produced.
Students will engage in a series of linked reading and writing assignments over the course of the semester, culminating in a research paper that brings together all of the various threads of our discussions in order to present their own answers to the questions raised by these discussion. These writing assignments will not only initiate students into the language and concepts of moral and political theory and practice but also develop their skills and sensibilities as academic writers in general.
Diane Matlock - Telling American Stories
According to Clifford Geertz, "Culture is simply the ensemble of stories we tell about ourselves." In this intensive reading and writing course, we will scrutinize the stories people in the United States have told about their country and themselves. We will consider such issues as how and why Americans think of themselves as a nation, what methods we can use to understand the society and culture of the United States, and how do we represent the past and what importance does that representation have? To do so, we will examine texts, images, objects, and places as we interrogate the interplay of material practices and the realm of ideas. As we discuss what these different types of evidence reveal about the creation of the American nation and American identity, we will consider how the search for truth is undertaken and how evidence is assessed by different disciplines. We will also consider the reciprocal relationship between the generic conventions of the texts we read and the story of American experience they tell. We will use a variety of evidence including scholarly books and articles (in such fields as history, literary criticism, architecture, political science, and anthropology), novels, autobiographies, biographies, speeches, sermons, poems, films, paintings, photographs, material culture, and the built environment to show that we can, and need to, analyze everything in the world around us. In addition to broadening our class discussion by including texts from other disciplines, these sources will also initiate our discussions about reading and writing effective argument.
By focusing on the rhetorical situation of the texts we read and write, we will concurrently examine the procedure and product of our own writing and analysis. To do so, students will spend time reflecting upon their learning processes as we discuss and practice various methods for writing argumentative essays and constructing effective research projects. This will entail close, critical readings of a variety of texts, active participation in discussion, writing workshops, and research collectives, diverse writing exercises, and sharply analytical papers discussing how gender, race, class, and historical experience influence the views people hold.
The course is roughly divided into two sections. In the first part, we will analyze the "discovery" of America and its impact on indigenous peoples. Beginning with the story of Pocahontas, we will explore the relationship between myth and national identity. We will then read various texts about contact between English settlers and members of First Nations, critique representations of Native Americans, and listen to native voices. In the second section, we will turn to the period of the Early Republic, investigating the rise of a "free" nation in the context of slavery. Beginning with the place of Washington, DC and the figure of George Washington, we will analyze the relationship between memory and history and consider the role of space and place in the representation of American national identity. We will then turn to slave narratives and the Civil Rights Movement as we look at the experience of African Americans in the capital and question what America and which Americans our national monuments, sites, and holidays represent.
PLEASE NOTE: There are three field trips for the course, scheduled on Saturdays. You are required to attend at least ONE of the field trips, although you are of course invited and encouraged to attend all of them. We will be visiting: The Museum of the American Indian, the National Mall, and Mount Vernon. You should select a trip that fits your interests and your schedule. For the field trips that you cannot attend, you will take a "virtual" tour and then analyze and evaluate the website.
Rachel McLaughlin - Is Another World Possible? Ecology, Feminism, and Postmodernity
How acceptable is it to modify the genome of a potato? How about that of a mouse? Who has a right to clean air and water? Should animals be raised solely for the purpose of being eaten? Do the disabled automatically deserve access to the same services as the able? Is deforestation acceptable if the profits provide food and medicine to human beings? Should corporations provide restitution for the presence of industrial chemicals in breastmilk?
This course will investigate the philosophical and activist ideas behind social movements that aim to recast the distribution of power among the different forms of life on earth. Ecofeminists believe that humankind's domination of the natural world is causally linked to other forms of social injustice and oppression such as racism, poverty, and violence against women and children. Ecofeminism asserts that both forms of oppression draw from systems of meaning, emerging out of “modernity,” that legitimate unequal distributions of power. The grand narratives of modernity relied upon ideas such as hierarchy, struggle, anthropomorphism, dualism, and progress. Postmodernity, however, represents a shift in thought that can allow for a successful ecofeminist intervention. In contrast with the themes of modernity, themes of postmodern life include destabilization, multiplicity, pluralism, randomness, and fragmentation. We will explore how postmodern thinking helps us think about alternative ways of living and co-existing on earth.
While we will spend the first half of the course analyzing the central themes of ecofeminist and postmodern theory, the latter half of the course will focus on one central question: “Is another world possible?” Students will write a substantial research paper on a topic of their choosing that makes use of the conceptual framework explored in the first half of the course. Possible topics include biodiversity; genetic engineering; globalization and development; environmental racism; disability rights; animal rights; overpopulation; agribusiness; conservation movements; and water rights.
Meghan Mercier - Production by Numbers: Hollywood Musicals of the 1930s-50s
Films like Chicago and Moulin Rouge have recently demonstrated that the live action musical genre is not yet dead, while older films still grace the airwaves of nostalgia cable channels. These old films have much to offer the contemporary audience, from an earnestness unfamiliar in our age of irony, to the kind of quickly-intercut shots and creative camera angles usually thought to be the property of the MTV generation.
This class will explore early musicals as rich sites for multiple kinds of analysis. As commentaries on the preoccupations and assumptions of their times, they will be fodder for thought about race, gender, sexuality, and class, while as highly stylized and conventional assemblies of scenes, they fall easily into component parts for our study. Students will write on social and technical aspects of films, research recent and contemporary reactions to select films, make individual presentations on writing issues, and will produce a culminating project on a particular star. Students will work individually and in groups, and share what they produce with their peers for critical comment. Because we will view a film a week, the class will agree on a separate film showing time slot. Titles include Top Hat, Singing in the Rain , Show Boat (James Whale version), and Stormy Weather.
Mark Miller - The Transatlantic Gothic, 1700-1900
"All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story."
This course will explore the way in which significant historical sorrows of the U.S., Europe, and Latin America - such as poverty, slavery, and Native American genocide - have been described and disguised in Gothic literary, architectural, and more generally aesthetic traditions marked by transatlantic exchange, colonialism, and the expansion and fragmentation of global empires. In our study of these Gothic traditions you will augment your capacity for critical thinking, writing and research by approaching texts in sustained and meaningful ways. Not only will you analyze the course materials in formal essays with revisions, informal writing assignments, and peer reviews, you will also, in dialogue with me and your peers, develop a research project that responds to your own individual interests and concerns.
We will read a wide variety of texts. You and your classmates will select many of the course readings as part of a collaborative project. Your work on this collaborative project will directly contribute to your final research essay. We may explore the economics of the Gothic in essays by Karl Marx and Claudio Veliz's recent comparative study of North and South American economies, The New World of the Gothic Fox; psychoanalytic readings of the Gothic in essays by Sigmund Freud; the postcolonial Gothic in Cuban dissident José Martí's essay "The Truth About the United States" (1898); the racialization of the Gothic in Tod Browning's film Dracula (1931), lynching postcards, and short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Brockden Brown; and the political Gothic in classics such as Charles Perrault's "Bluebeard" (1697), Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764), and in U.S. laws such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
Mark Mullen - Blood on the Plains: The Custer Autobiography Project
Released in 2002, the film We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson, although set in the Ia Drang valley of Vietnam in 1965, reaches back approximately 90 years to one of the most traumatic occurrences in American military history. For the unit depicted in the film is the first battalion of the US Seventh Cavalry, the same regiment that, under the leadership of the flamboyant George Armstrong Custer, achieved lasting notoriety when on the banks of the Little Big Horn river in June of 1876 they encountered a large encampment of native Americans. In the subsequent battle Custer, and a third of his men, were surrounded and completely wiped out. In the film, once again, a group of brave, determined US soldiers is surrounded, in an alien landscape, by a pack of “hostiles.” The film reminds us repeatedly of the unit’s lineage, but assures us that this time the “good guys” will prevail. The film is thus the latest example of what historian Richard Slotkin has described in The Fatal Environment as an ongoing US cultural fascination with the idea of the last stand in general, and Custer’s fate in particular.
This course continues the work begun in the Fall of 2004 when a small group of students developed the structure for an interpretative, scholarly website based around a series of autobiographical writings by Custer that recount his early campaigns against the Plains Indians in the late-1860s. Our work dealt with some initial descriptive pieces where Custer introduced the geography of the Plains and the methods of campaigning to his readers. This semester we will be dealing with writings that describe Custer’s military failures, his court-martial for desertion, and his subsequent comeback to find military and popular success. But this project has grown well beyond a narrow concern with Custer himself. Last fall the site began to explore the connections between Custer and the larger history of the US Plains Wars; this semester we will be casting the net still wider to consider the ongoing impact of both Custer’s life and death and the mythology of the West on the present.
Note: This course will be taught as a hybrid class where reduced face-to-face classroom contact hours will be supplemented by online course work. If you have any questions about this class, please contact Professor Mark Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Almila Ozdek - Dystopian Societies: The Rhetoric of Apocalypse in Today’s Culture
When Thomas More published Utopia in 1516, he depicted and defined an ideal society in both public and private spaces ranging from legal systems and governance to familial relationships, class structures, and distribution of wealth. During the five hundred years since its publication, people have been trying to achieve this state of perfection, wanting to believe that technological advancements, economic developments, and betterment of human rights will enable humanity to realize this utopian world. However, some argue that after two world wars, man has fallen: all hopes for a better state of the world have been relinquished; all advancements have caused still bigger problems, and ours now is not a utopian but dystopian world, a world in which nothing ever goes right.
This course will explore how the rhetoric of dystopia has permeated our daily lives. We will look at genres from film to novel and to non-fiction which employ dystopian themes and which proclaim that the end of the world has come. There will also be theoretical work to provide a background in our interrogation of dystopian rhetoric. You will be expected to write reviews of literature and responses/essays for the material we study. There will be a final research paper in which you will introduce your own material to analyze and formulate an argument. Through peer-reviews and oral presentations, you will receive feedback on your work and learn to write to an audience, thus acquiring the skills to articulate yourself more effectively in your future pursuits.
Pam Presser - Firing the American Canon: Symbolic Struggle and Cultural Wars
The writing classroom is a site of intense symbolic struggle. What exactly is good writing? How important is emphasis on aspects associated with traditional writing instruction? What set of ideas about writing should be developed and promoted in the classroom? What are the connections between writing and knowledge production? What constitutes rigorous research? Questions like these provoke heated debate in the academy.
This course will start with the assumption that classrooms are contested spaces, and instructors don't agree how best to choose texts to teach, or how to study the texts once they are selected. These debates are often referred to as "culture wars." As a student, you are well-equipped to participate in this conversation, since you have expertise about which pedagogical strategies work for you, encouraging you to become engaged and knowledgeable about the subject you are studying, and you also know which methods fail to inspire you.
The course title is intended to invite inquiry about key terms such as "canon" and "culture." As a class, we will discuss and write about pedagogical issues such as: Should classes be student or teacher centered? Should education be pleasurable? Is popular culture a suitable academic subject? What can comics, movies and children's books reveal about the culture that produced them? What constitutes American literature? Class members will participate in the selection of course readings and the design of writing and oral presentation assignments.
Rachel Riedner - Activist Writers and Alternative Communities: Zapatista Writing and Independent Media
In this course, we will read the writings of three oppositional/revolutionary social groups, looking at how these groups have used writing, visual rhetorics, art, and independent media as a site of activism that produces alternative, even radical, social meaning. Through our investigation of the Zapatistas of Mexico, a small community group in Columbia, and Indymedia.com, we will consider the local and global interventions that these groups make through their writing and other media.
Focusing on the conjucture between writing and representation, art, public discourse, and community activism, we will ask the following questions: How and why does writing become a means of social and political activism and struggle? How do we read alternative public writing and rhetorics? How do we create alternative, oppositional writing and rhetorics? How do different forms of public writing ask us to reflect on who speaks in the public sphere and who is being spoken about? How do writing and other independent media encourage us to change the words, ideas, and social traditions that we identify with? How do they ask us to reconsider how we share social knowledge, goals, and habits? How do they ask us to reflect upon the basis that our identities are constructed? (Williams, Rushdie, Fraser, Hall)
As we read, we’ll think specifically about our own writing. We will ask ourselves what we can learn about our own writing by reading and researching writers and artists who advocate for social and political change. Because activist writing encourages us to recognize voices who have not been represented in the public sphere, and encourages us to speak and to act, in each reading and writing assignment we’ll consider how our own writing has meaning within and beyond the classroom. All students will complete an independent, major research paper as well as two shorter papers. Students will be asked to use different rhetorical strategies in their writing assignments and to think carefully and creatively about language.
Matt Riley - Science and Public Policy
Suppose that you invented a computer virus that could erase illegally shared files. All you have to do is release it on the net and bingo, no more copyright infringement. So, now what do you do? Destroy it? Sell it to the highest bidder? Call a lawyer? Hire a bodyguard? Or let’s suppose you invented a device that generates electricity from sunlight or that tracks industrial pollution back to its source. It may be different science, but the problems remain the same: someone will pay you, someone will sue, some will give you prizes, and others will hunt you down. And this situation applies to more than just scientists and inventors. It determines what medicine is available to doctors, what textbooks are used in the schools, what technology hits the market, and even who gets to be parents.
In this course we will look how science is used in public discourse once it leaves the lab. We will examine arguments that have changed how people view the environment, debates about the origin of life, laws that protect citizens and restrict private enterprise-or vice versa-and the ever amazing carnival of public opinion. Students will summarize and analyze arguments, engage in a panel discussion, write letters to editors or elected officials, and conduct research on a public policy issue of their choice.
Heather Schell - Get a Life!: ‘Shippers, Slashers, and Other Media Fans
In 1987, William Shatner, still famous for his role as Kirk on Star Trek , appeared on Saturday Night Live. During a skit in which Shatner played himself at a Star Trek convention, fans asked him detailed questions that suggested they were taking the sci-fi series too seriously. He finally yelled, “Get a life!” In the aftermath of this hugely popular skit, debates raged among “Trekkers” about whether or not Shatner had really meant what he said. The incident raises a number of questions about fans, expertise, and creativity. For example, how do we decide which ideas or texts or people are sufficiently important to merit close study? (Does Shakespeare deserve it? Anne Rice? General Hospital ?) How devoted can fans be to their chosen topic, without provoking concern or contempt? And what about those troublesome fans who use some preexisting story as the springboard for their own stories or art: are they thieves, or pathetic parasites, or authors in their own right? How do we compare a fan novella drawing on characters from the Harry Potter universe to such a work as the critically-acclaimed Wide Sargasso Sea , which reworks the characters of Jane Eyre ? These questions will lead us to larger philosophical mysteries, such as the line between knock-off and clever adaptation, or between copyright violation, plagiarism, and scholarly citation. This semester, we will read and write about fan fiction and adaptations, with a particular focus on fan fiction. Groups of students will undertake research projects investigating the metamorphosis of a particular story through time and multiple media. The project will culminate in a funding proposal for an apocryphal fellowship opportunity. As a model for this project, the whole class will trace the evolution of Allan Quatermain, a hero from Victorian adventure novels, as he migrates through twentieth-century film (perhaps inspiring the name for a soap opera character along the way) into twenty-first-century graphic novels. Next, we will investigate scholarly theories about fan fiction, postmodernism, and originality. Every student is also required to participate actively in the fandom of her/his choice (e.g., Full Metal Alchemist or Lord of the Rings ); this experience will form the basis for several analytical essays and a polished final project: a bound, thematic fan fiction portfolio, comprising both scholarly and creative writing, that documents the semester's engagement with writing, revision, and internet fandom.
Samantha Shanley- Culture Shock: Immigration, Assimilation, and the Search for Identity
What are the effects of embracing a culture other than one's own? Must immigrants alter their cultural systems of belief when entering a new country, or are they just pressured to do so? How are people affected by straddling two societies: one in which they were born, and another in which they live? Furthermore, what are the effects of immigration on the societies to which people migrate?
In this writing course, we will look at the experience of several real and fictional immigrants by reading short stories, novels, essays, and articles, and exploring the ways in which assimilating into another culture sheds light on how people come to believe certain truths about life and culture in the first place. Writing assignments will ask you to look at the historical, social, and cultural aspects of immigrants' lives, the impact of human migration on a global scale, and finally, you will explore the reasons why certain socio-cultural practices are either embraced or shunned by those who are foreign to them. In effect, this course takes an analytical (and perhaps existential) look at issues of cultural and religious tolerance in an effort to uncover the reasons why certain groups of people hold onto traditional beliefs tightly while others seek to define themselves in beliefs from abroad.
Sylvie Shapero- Class Consciousness and the Idea of Social Mobility
Class has a lot to do with economics, but even more to do with literature, history, and sociology. Class, after all, is a social construction. It is one of the ways in which we identify ourselves. We need to speak about class—just as we need to speak about race, gender, and sexuality—because class is an important category of difference, especially in the United States, where we are led to believe that society is largely egalitarian.
According to the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University, “This erasure of class has denied individuals an important source of understanding of their experiences.” Class consciousness is necessary in order to overcome “powerful feelings of alienation and resentment both by and toward members of the working class.”
In this course, we will discuss class struggle. Beginning with the Communist Manifesto, we will talk about the conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. We will continue this discussion with Proletarian Literature from the Great Depression. (If writing is an artifact, then how do we preserve the words of those who cannot speak for themselves? Do we, the class conscious, speak for them? And why has much of this writing slipped through the cracks of the literary canon?) The contemporary issues of class that we'll be discussing include the trailer park, the working-class uniform, and the migrant farm worker.
Though we will increase our understanding of class, we will also have a lot of questions. (Who are the soldiers who fight and die in wars? What is the future of the labor union?) These questions will give us opportunities to conduct research. The writing you do for this class will build on your critical thinking skills. I will guide you through the writing process, focusing on revision, which is substantially different from editing, and, as a class, we will learn to articulate our thoughts and to create class-conscious pieces of academic writing.
Caroline Smith - From Monet to the Gap – Images as Arguments
Have you ever noticed just how much of an impact images have on our lives today? Each morning, we may wake up, turn on the news, eat our breakfast and flip through the newspaper, glancing at the advertisements on the pages in between. On our way to campus, we may pass a flyer or two, each decorated with a catchy image and a few phrases. From television to advertisements to paintings to the Internet, it's hard to escape this infiltration of images!
In this class, we will explore all kinds of images and objects from “classic” works of art (painting, photography, sculpture) to pop culture creations (product packaging, advertisements, music videos, movies). This class will encourage you to thoughtfully consider different kinds of visual texts and ask you to think about how these texts serve as a means of communication. For instance, to what extent does attractive product packaging influence what we buy? How do magazine advertisements appeal to our needs and convince us to make particular purchases? And, how do movies like Fight Club depict gender roles? Not only will we look at these texts, but we will also read essays about these works, exploring the intersections between critically seeing and critically reading. Additionally, we will examine novels, like Bridget Jones's Diary , in order to determine how fictional characters respond to popular culture mediums. In turn, these visual and written texts will serve as the starting points for our writing assignments, as we experiment with our own methods of argumentation. Writing assignments for this class will include short, research based essays as well as an independent research project on the topic of your choice. Our semester will conclude with students constructing their own illustrated, personal narratives. Ultimately, as a class, we will explore the ways in which all images and objects – from Monet paintings to Gap ads – affect our everyday lives and shape our culture.
Liz Sokolov - The Literary Response to September 11
September 11, 2001—a fateful autumn day when “everything changed.” Having witnessed that day and lived in its aftermath, you are now in a unique position to investigate how literature, too, “changed” or responded to September 11. We will ask the following questions regarding the effect of September 11 on literature: What does a literature look like that responds to an unimaginable horror? Can literature respond in a way that is healing for the nation, or does any attempt to approach the horror fall short? Is the literary response to September 11 reminiscent of earlier literary responses to national tragedy such as the Civil War and World War I, or does it break new boundaries?
Our study will include poetic, fictional, and musical responses to September 11. Poetry underwent a national resurgence in the aftermath of the tragedy, and we will examine both previously-written poems that were given another life, and poems written in direct response to the tragedy. We will then study one of the first novels to fictionalize the events of September 11: Jonathan Safran Foer's, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close . In our last weeks we will model a research project in class by analyzing Bruce Sprinsteen's album “The Rising,” also inspired by the events of September 11.
In all of the above genres, it is not only the words or lyrics that lend meaning, but how those poems, songs, or novel are structured . Through essay assignments in each genre, you will become comfortable making the sophisticated leap from writing about content only, to writing about content and form. You will learn to interpret the signficance of line breaks, rhythm, and meter in poetry; dynamics and mood in music; and how to understand the blank pages and occassional nonsensical prose in Foer's novel. For your research paper, you will apply your knowledge to study poetry, music, or fiction that responds to another national or international tragedy. You will leave this class fearless in your approach to any new text, and, through our emphasis on drafting and revision, fearless toward any new writing assignment that comes your way.
Kimberley Stern - Topsy-Turvy: Satire and Subversive Writing in the Victorian Period
What does Charles Dickens have in common with Jon Stewart? While the revered Victorian author may appear to be worlds apart from the host of “The Daily Show,” both figures generate serious critiques of their societies – both belong to the world of satire. While Victorian culture is often described as a “society of manners,” some of the period's most celebrated writers produced devastating critiques of its social and political currents, promising to turn the Victorian world “topsy-turvy” in ways that we still feel today. In this writing seminar, we will use satire from the nineteenth century – a period noted for the emergence of religious conflict, political reform, and the women's movement -- as a way of understanding what it means to write “against the grain,” to develop an original argument, and to adapt your writing to the very different challenges that await you at GW and beyond.
Because all satire plays upon traditional forms of writing, this course is especially concerned with how writing itself can become a battleground in the war of ideas. To this end, we will pay special attention to how controversial writers (such as Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, or Gilbert and Sullivan) participate in cultural disputes that take place primarily through writing. As you undertake short academic papers, creative pieces of writing, and a research project of your own design, we will raise important questions about the social function of writing. For example, how do writers establish their authority while speaking against tradition? Do different genres of writing reflect specific social, political, or cultural perspectives? To what extent is writing performative? In other words, can writing do just as much as it says ? As we learn to evaluate and interrogate sources from a range of written media -- including fiction, the political essay, cartoons, children's stories, film, and drama – we will thus continually reflect on how to intervene in a public debate, address different audiences, and become part of a bustling, dynamic community of writers.
Michael Svoboda - Global Warming, Local Knowledge, and the Discourses of Environment
Even when arguing about the natural world we rely on the worlds we create with words, usually written. For this reason, a better understanding of the written word is a prerequisite for our effective engagement, both as readers and as writers. In our work together this semester, we will experience this interrelationship in two very different encounters with “the environment.”
The first, a critical reading of the fiery debate ignited by Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist , will present “the environment,” especially the possible effects of increased CO2 levels, in global terms. In this portion of the course, you will learn and practice several critical thinking/writing skills—summarizing and citing the work of others fairly, analyzing the claims and evidence of opposing viewpoints to determine where they meet and where they miss, and using electronic databases to find new information and/or interpretations—in order to present and defend a position on one particular issue. By working through the distinct phases of this project, you will better understand the role writing plays in research and scholarship.
In our second case study we will interpret the general, global, debate in the terms of our particulars. We don't live in “the world”; we live in a specific place. How can we talk about world environmental issues, like global warming, in ways that make practical, local, sense? This basic rhetorical problem—adapting a general message for a specific audience—is complicated by “the environment” because we don't usually identify our place in natural terms. (Think of your mailing address.) Using rhetoric's tools of invention, we will try to create a new language of natural place, one that will allow us to share with our environmental neighbors what we will be learning about the local effects of global environmental problems. The writing we do for this portion of the course could be quite diverse. After preparing a group research report on these local effects (and the responses we might make), we will try to translate its core message into a variety of media, including graphics, radio, video, and the web.
These two extended encounters with “the environment” will be supplemented by brief encounters with environmental works by artists, comics, essayists, musicians, naturalists, playwrights, politicians, poets, and screenwriters. And by some good, green fun of our own. Expect to spend some time outside!
David Truncellito - The Many Faces of Religion
Religion has played a number of roles in the history of humankind. People have lived and died for religion; people have tried to prove that their religion is right by way of argumentation, and have tried to show that their religion is right by way of war. There have been as many religions as there have been cultures, times, and nations (perhaps more!). Religions involve systems of belief, codes of morality, social conventions, literary traditions and canons, iconography, and rituals. Even in America, which ostensibly enjoys separation of church and state, religion permeates all aspects of political, social, cultural, and even educational life.
In this course, then, we'll think about the many aspects of religious belief: historical, cultural, psychological, sociological, anthropological, and personal. Questions we'll think about and write about will include: What is religion? How is it practiced in different places? Why do people believe? Do they have good reasons for believing? Is this question even meaningful? Is religion a good thing? Can we ask this question in such general terms? What is the appropriate role of religion in personal/academic/ political/social life? Is it important to respect others' religious beliefs? Why or why not? What do you believe, and why?
Each of you has surely thought, perhaps at length, about religion. But putting those thoughts in writing will help you to clarify those thoughts. There are many different ways to write about religion, and this course will afford you a variety of opportunities to do so. For instance, you'll write a reflective paper in which you try to codify your religious views, a persuasive paper in which you try to justify those views, and a research paper in which you pursue an aspect of religion which you've yet to think much about.
(N.B. This course is open to students of any religious (or non-religious) background; no particular belief or knowledge is required or expected. What is essential, though, is a willingness to think and write about religion in a reflective, critical fashion, and to discuss the matter in a collegial and respectful manner.)
Niles Tomlinson - Haunting America
Hamlet famously tells his companion: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." He is, of course, referring to the (re)appearence of his spectral father. But he is also alluding to the disjointedness of time itself which occurs with every ghostly event. Moreover, he implies the opening up of a haunted space that will continue to echo within the confines of the castle and within his own mind.
So, what does it mean to be haunted? Why does haunting occur? How, more specifically, does the American project of purification and progress—the "Shining City Upon the Hill"—construct itself on and against a gothic sensibility (a dark side)? This course will examine discourses of haunting in America as they apply to specific sites, specific historical events, and specific cultural manifestations. We will be looking at haunting through a variety of lenses (including historical, psychological, theoretical, political) as a way to identify and understand competing rhetorics. As a method of inquiry, this course will use literature, film, essays, and case studies of famous hauntings. As a final project, students will be responsible for a research paper which investigates and constructs an argument about a haunted occurrence (either a historical event or an individual site).
Phillip Troutman - Framing the Past: Animé, Comix, & Films as History
Is there such thing as a graphic or visual "writing" of history? Comix (graphic novels), animé, and live-action films provide powerful visual ways of narrating, interpreting, questioning, evoking, and making meaning of the past. Yet professional historians often dismiss or simply ignore history-telling in these realms of popular culture. Why? What kinds of history are these artistic works doing? What kinds of interpretations are they making? What kind of research underpins them? How do they deploy evidence? How do they construct their narratives? What conclusions do viewers draw from them? And how significantly do these differ from academic history writing?
Graphic history-telling poses problems of critical thinking, research, and writing especially suited to UW20 as an introduction to academic writing-a course that stands outside any specific academic discipline (e.g., history or literature). First, it provokes questions about the historical enterprise that are not often addressed by historians themselves: What is history anyway? How does it work? Who gets to do it? Who gets to evaluate it? What is it good for? In engaging these questions, you will not be writing "disciplined" history but rather writing about the discipline of history. Second, graphic history-telling (often non-verbal or non-textual) points to significant limits of written narrative and interpretation. It resists being characterized by writing. And yet it provokes an enormous amount of writing in response-ranging from ranting diatribe, to thoughtful review, to semi-scholarly critique, to academic analysis (e.g., see www.tcj.com).
Your research and writing will therefore focus on the problems and practices involved in finding, understanding, and redeploying these disparate kinds of sources in your own written analysis of graphic history "writing." You will work both collaboratively and individually throughout the course. Your first essay (5 to 8 pages) will focus on coming to terms with academic arguments and on describing evidence to convey claims. The rest of the term, you will develop and carry out an independent research project on any graphic novels, comix, anime, and/or films that do some significant historical work, broadly construed. This will be staged through a series of writing assignments built on one another: reading responses, short sketches, argument abstracts, source descriptions, a research proposal, an annotated bibliography, drafts, reviews of peers' work, revisions of drafts, and a final polished research paper of 15-20 pages.
Lauren Weisholz - Feminist Utopias: Writing New Worlds
If the term utopia is meant to describe an ideal, if imaginary, society, we must ask—for whom is this society ideal? And if the term utopia describes an ideal society, then what does the term feminist utopia describe? Is it merely a redundancy, a juxtaposition of two terms that more or less have the same idealistic (some would say impossible) goals? Or does the juxtaposition of these two terms offer rich and complex interrogations of the possibilities and limitations of each? Can one be feminist without being utopian, and can one be utopian without being feminist? Do these distinctions even matter?
In this course we will explore these questions as we look at the ways in which feminist concerns and utopian projects intersect and diverge. Using actual utopian communities and feminist literary texts (such as Herland , Woman on the Edge of Time , The Female Man ) as our guides, we will examine the strategies by which utopian projects seek to remake society, and the ways in which feminist utopias question and rewrite existing social structures. As we do so, we will focus not only on the ways in which feminist utopias critique and reimagine social institutions such as gender roles, education, labor, motherhood, and government, but we will also employ their methods of critique in imagining and creating our own feminist utopias. To this end, you will engage in substantial reading, writing, and critical thinking, which will include writing workshops, several shorter papers and a longer research paper that reflects a feminist utopia of your own design. Additionally, as the imagining of a utopia (whether feminist or not) is itself often an intellectual exercise that can only possibly come to fruition through being shared with others, you will not only create a feminist utopia, but you will also respond to and evaluate the utopias of your peers. By engaging in a process of writing that not only requires critical engagement and critical imagination, but also interaction with a real, live audience, you will be able to see that when you write, whether it is for an academic audience or otherwise, our writing does not exist in a vacuum. This class will provide you with the opportunity to engage in a variety of writing tasks that will enable you to acquire the writing skills necessary to participate in an ongoing dialogue with your peers, the academic community, and the world outside of academia.
Abby Wilkerson - The Food Voice
How does food speak for us? How does our talk of food reveal the literal and figurative places we occupy in the world? How are ways of life expressed and realized through particular foods? How does food convey social dissent or social belonging? How are our identities and personal relationships shaped and expressed through food? How are our lives and communities shaped through relations of growers, producers, consumers, preparers, sellers, and servers?
This course considers food as a medium for human interaction, a point of contact between public and private worlds. We will explore how food and food writing serve as tools for meaning-making by (1) examining published narratives (autobiographical and historical) and theoretical works which provide critical frameworks for these readings, (2) creating personal narratives and reflections, and (3) conducting ethnographic-style research projects presenting and analyzing personal interviews.
Zachary Wolfe - Law as a Force for Social Change
Dr. King tells us that "law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that 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 a Birmingham Jail.") To be sure, concepts of law have been used many times throughout our history to prevent social progress. Sometimes the law creates 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 court system and to new legislation to effect their demands. How do we reconcile the history of what law has been with what we hope it can be?
This course will explore the language of law, as used by the legal system and by advocates for change. We examine changing conceptions of equality, competing ideas about the role of government, and most fundamentally, the inherent complications in attempting to use law as a means of creating a just society. Students will learn to explore these demanding topics through scholarly writing. In addition to papers in which the students reflect on assigned readings, students will produce a major final research paper by selecting an appropriate topic in contemporary public debate and crafting a persuasive argument that evaluates the legal arguments used by advocates and considers the appropriateness of the use of law to resolve this debate.
Robbin Zeff - Political Junkie: Writing about Politics in the Nation’s Capital
Washington, DC, is the ultimate political town-where national politics is local. This writing-intensive course will explore the exciting world of contemporary American politics by monitoring how political issues are debated and observing how national policy is made. Students will conduct original research that will have them digging deep into the inner-workings of the library’s database holdings and doing fieldwork into the hallways of Congress. Both short and long writing assignments will be used to learn the rigors and expectations of academic writing. Course reading will cover the craft of research and writing as well as contemporary political issues and events. In addition, students will be required to monitor daily news sources to stay on top of the current political landscape. A significant amount of work for this course will be conducted online; students will participate in online class discussions, maintain a blog, and use digital technology to facilitate research, writing, and revision
Note: This course will be taught as a hybrid class where reduced face-to-face classroom contact hours will be supplemented by online course work. If you have any questions about this class, please contact Professor Robbin Zeff at email@example.com
Christy Zink - Thought Crimes: Reconsidering and Rewriting the Offender
Bad seeds. Rotten apples. Evildoers. We take odd comfort in believing people are born bad or that we can detect incipient criminality and put a stop to it before it ever begins. In the 19th century, physician Cesar Lombroso thought that unusually-shaped ears marked people as offenders; delineating when guilt begins, and the ways a society can prevent crime, traces back to our very first stories. But much of the writing and cultural representation we encounter about crime and criminal offenders sticks into the safety of binary oppositions--bad/good, wrong/right, guilty/innocent--at don’t reflect the reality of human lives. What happens when we look into the more personal, difficult aspects of crime to reveal complex questions about social justice and the cultural room we create for grief, for retribution, for recompense, as we’ll do through reading Beverly Lowry’s Crossed Over: A Murder, A Memoir? How, as a society, do we balance the often contradictory needs for safety and protection with those of freedom; what happens when a crime is committed not by an individual, but by institutions and governments themselves, as shown in Eric Klinenberg’s Heat Wave? We’ll also examine the criminalization of writing itself-when the poetry of witness becomes a punishable offense-and when writing and research enter criminal territory through plagiarism, a charge levied against one of the texts we’ll use for this class.
This interdisciplinary, writing-intensive course will look at issues of crime and the offender through multiple genres as well as multiple fields of study. The course texts will be challenging, engaging works-such as Franz Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony,” sections of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Byrony Lavery’s play Frozen, and the film Capturing the Friedmans-that invite us to move past binary debate and simple position papers into complex, original critical research and writing. The course requires four papers, including a critical research project and a proposal for a public program that addresses crime and social justice in the city as we come to understand our individual responsibility in conceptualizing and writing about the offender in our midst.