UW20 Courses - Fall 2009

Last Updated: 1/10/09 | 8:30 pm

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About UW20

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.

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




Bernstein, Arielle - Telling Truths; Making Mythologies

One of our most important jobs as writers is to be able to analyze an argument and assess its credibility. In doing so, a good writer should think about the kind of bias an author brings into her argument, such as a writer’s individual background and the culture in which the author is writing her work.

This task is often easier in hindsight, precisely because it is easier to assess an ideological standpoint we as a culture no longer ascribe to. Today, few would argue that the earth is actually flat or that acting and dressing as a different gender can actually change one’s sex. But these were ideas and beliefs that were staunchly held to by individuals throughout many different time periods. For this class we will isolate, examine and investigate the beliefs which we as a culture most fiercely cling to. Through readings and class discussions you will confront issues which range from what we as a culture consider to be common knowledge to what we see as being provocative, outlandish and bizarre. Throughout class we will struggle to understand how and why we regard certain things as necessarily right and true.

This class revolves heavilly on class discussions, debates and select readings.While a major aspect of this class is learning to cultivate more nuanced interpretations of ideas we normally take for granted, your goal as a writer this semester will be to use your critical thinking skills to analyze and assess the information at hand in order to create a clear and specific argument. You will have three major papers for this course, all of which will require strong critical thinking skills, and one of which will require both library as well as field research.

Berry, Shannon - Environmentalism and Religion

This course will introduce students to the basic literature and terminology of the environmentalist movement, including the complexity of the current environmental crisis as well as its critique of the monotheistic religions, particularly Christianity. In turn, the final section of the course will focus on various religious responses to such a critique. As such, the course will also explore the themes and terminology of Christian theology and biblical exegesis as well as the socio-cultural contexts from which such thought emerges. Though most of the literature in this field emerges out of a Christian context, other religious responses will be studied, especially in student research projects.

Due to the nature of the course, the exploration will be confined to mostly contemporary texts, especially texts written since the 1950s. However, the course will also employ contemporary films in order to explore the environmental question in the popular context. In the process students will also have the opportunity to reflect upon their own experiences concerning environmentalism, ecology, and religion. 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: environmentalism and religion.

Bliss, Emily - Race and Education

In this intensive writing course we will closely consider issues pertaining to race in American education. Together we will participate in academic conversations that examine the following questions: What is race, and what is white privilege? How does race function in contemporary American society? What role do educational systems have in reflecting, challenging, and continuing the many facets of American racial dynamics? What responsibilities do we have to confront and fight against race-based inequities, and what might the role of writing be in this type of activism?

Through frequent short writing assignments, in-class and small-group workshops, and three analytical papers of increasing length and complexity, we will engage with the work of contemporary scholars, activists, and creative writers. As we write and rewrite, reconsider and revise, draft and redraft, students will develop the ability to analyze information, connect seemingly unrelated concepts, and apply theory to their lived experiences. As we study argument, evidence, and language, we will come to view our daily world as an exciting realm of imbedded questions and implications, nearly all subject to academic written exploration and inquiry.

Boles, Richard - African American Life & Culture before the Civil War

This writing course addresses the diverse lives and myriad cultures of African Americans before the Civil War. We will explore facets of African American life and culture by reading, discussing, and writing together as a community of scholars. We will read and discuss three types of literature: the work of published historians, the private and public writings of persons of African descent from 1760 to 1860, and the scholarly work that each student will produce in this class. In order to develop as academic writers, we must also develop critical thinking and analytical skills. In this class, therefore, we will learn to write as scholars by writing about African American life and culture and by discussing a variety of interesting and challenging texts. The poems, petitions, sermons, biographies, and letters of black Americans provide the content for our writing, but we will also improve the analytical skills necessary for writing by identifying the arguments, evidence, audience, genre, and style of each text.

Callahan, Joe - America's Pastime: The Cultural History of Baseball

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game.” – Walt Whitman

As Whitman says, baseball is an American game. It is a game that reflects America, and who we are as Americans – both the good and bad, whether it be national unity or the divisiveness of race relations. This writing course will explore baseball as an evolving subculture in the fabric of America, and by doing so, students will view baseball through a variety of lens: anthropology, pop-culture, business, economics, science, psychology, history, and literature.

Drawing upon a breadth of narratives – histories, scholarly articles, memoirs, films, investigative reporting, profiles, biographies, and humor – students will learn to craft their own effective prose. We will, as a community of scholars, analyze the voices of the authors we read, and we will strive to find our own voice. We will develop the analytical skills necessary for writing by identifying arguments, evidence, audience, genre, and style of each text. In this class, therefore, we will learn to write as scholars by writing about and discussing baseball, as well as mastering the insatiable research and revision process that writing requires.

Students will develop skills – critical reading, researching, and writing at the college level – that will enable them to be successful participants within the academic community. Assignments will include short analytical papers, and both longer informal and scholarly essays, as well as extensive revision.

Fawaz, Ramzi - Three Hollywood Stars: Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe

This course will take as its focus three of the most popular female actresses of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood – the period between the Great Depression and the early Cold War. Spanning more than three decades of Hollywood movie-making, the careers of Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Marilyn Monroe offer three critical perspectives on the political struggles, artistic innovations, and popular culture that came to define America in the post-WWII period. Their careers highlight concerns about female celebrity, tensions over the representation of girls and women in popular film, and the competing ways in which bodies, personalities, and lives have been sold by the Hollywood film industry. The primary goal of this seminar is to build writing skills through the analysis of variety of visual and verbal texts that will include film, original magazine and newspaper articles, photographs, documentaries, novels, popular music, biographies, and contemporary academic scholarship.

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 graphic novels, advertisements and product packaging, and photography and visual art, as well as essays and criticism, in an effort to better understand the role of visual mediums in our lives. Students will build their reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills through journaling, group work and short “visual projects,” all leading into three essay assignments of increasing complexity, each focusing on a particular image.

Friedman, Sandie - Write Lola Write: Critiquing the Postmodern Film

With twenty minutes to raise $100,000 to pay off a drug dealer who’s going to kill her boyfriend, the heroine of Run Lola Run does what any postmodern punked-out redhead would do: she re-writes the film she’s in; she re-writes her fate.  Postmodern films like Run Lola Run confront viewers with unconventional modes of storytelling; they demand interpretation, and so offer an ideal field for honing the skills of academic writing.   In this course, we consider questions raised by the experimental forms of postmodern film:  do these disordered narratives reflect upheavals in culture?  Do they mirror a chaotic postmodern consciousness?  Why have such challenging, self-referential forms moved into the mainstream of American film?  As part of our inquiry, students write three types of critical essay that prepare them for future academic work: a theoretical analysis, an analytical research essay, and a film review.  For the research essay, students select a film to interpret in the context of its genre, the director’s work, or its historical moment.  Suggested films include:  Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Memento, and Pulp Fiction.  Lola runs, we write—and re-write. 

Fruscione, Joe -Repeating and Telling the Past: Imagination and Storytelling, and Adaptation in Literature and Film

We have all seen—and reacted to—books and films, either with high praise or harsh criticism. Thinking and writing about both genres will allow you to verbalize your own reactions from different perspectives: a reviewer examining narrative, dialogue, and acting; or, an academic writer exploring (and researching) broader issues: race, class, and gender; constructions of truth, memory, criminality, and the past; and, the mythology, attainment, and failure of “American Dream.”

This course will examine several works, all of which will enable you to self-reflect on your own critical reading, thinking, and writing processes: John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie’s The Usual Suspects. As well, we will examine some works of Adaptation and Narrative Theory, in order to expand our discussion of these primary works.

Literature, film, and academic writing are not distinct; rather, you can have these genres “talk” to each other to expand your critical reading, thinking, and writing skills while working with familiar, enjoyable genres.
Writing Assignments: Analysis papers about each book and film; review essays; peer workshopping and evaluation; and a final research 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

Harewood, Gia - Man Up! Comparative Masculinities in the US

I could settle for being a man, or I could struggle to become a human being.
- Robert Jensen

Why does Jensen associate being a man with something other than being human? Do the expectations of being a "real" man somehow jeopardize one's humanity? Are the expectations different across race, class, geography, age or even time? And what are the underlying assumptions invoked when someone demands that an individual "Man Up!?" Gary Barker points out that this is not always a healthy directive: "In much of the world, young men die earlier than young women and die more often than older men largely because they are trying to live up to certain models of manhood – they are dying to prove that they are 'real men'." When maleness is attached to dominance, control, aggression and violence, it is often seen as a natural way for boys and men to be in many Western countries. When boys and men step outside of this narrow box of manhood, they are given swift correction: "Man Up!"

We will dig into the expectations behind that command and deconstruct the layers of meaning wrapped up in maleness by examining various representations of masculinity circulating in the US that both support and challenge the definitions. In effort to search for deeper cultural definitions of manhood, we will use our own lives as a way to jump into these constructions as seen in a range of multidisciplinary texts including film, literature, visual art and music. Your responses to these texts will become the basis for developing analytical skills through close readings, critical thinking, vigorous writing and multiple revisions. Assignments will include regular in-class journaling, short response essays and a final 15-page research paper with annotated bibliography on a topic that you choose early in the semester.

Howell, Katherine - Looking Forward, Looking Back: The Purpose and Place of Contemporary Poetry

What sets American Poetry apart from other poetic traditions? What kinds of works are American poets writing today? How do we define poetry? What role does poetry play in society? These are the kinds of questions this writing intensive course will explore using essays, poems, and one book of poetry. Students will be asked to write several journals or blogs, reviews of poetic and scholarly works, as well as three major assignments, including a paper exploring past and present connections in poetry, a paper using a scholarly lens, and a research project that will include a proposal and an annotated bibliography.

Kristensen, Randi - Radically Rewriting America

Mumia Abu-Jamal, Hunter S. Thompson, James Baldwin, Naomi Wolf, Martin Luther King Jr., Aurora Levins-Morales, Patricia J. Williams, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Howard Zinn, and many, many more have expressed a radical vision of “America,” in multiple non-fiction genres: journalism, travel writing, memoir, essay. This course is designed as a writing workshop for our own research-based radical rewrites of “America.” From their basis in anti-capitalist critique, we will consider the multiple meanings and effects of radical ideas and activism. 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, chosen by the writer, on a public issue that remains unresolved and has the potential for radical revision. Finally, we will seek ways to share our research and writing with audiences beyond our classroom.

Larrison, Jessica - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of International Humanitarianism

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. The course approaches writing as a dynamic and multi-faceted process through which we will examine the varying perspectives on humanitarianism.

Larsen, Kathy - Fame, Celebrity and Fandom in Contemporary Culture

How we see our celebrities speaks volumes about who we are as a culture.  We are fascinated by the famous, the infamous and, increasingly, by our own fascination with them.  This course examines our often conflicted attitudes toward celebrities and the mechanisms through which we express these attitudes.

Students are asked to investigate what seems, on the face of it, to be a rather superficial topic – fame and celebrity in contemporary American culture.  After all, isn’t our obsession with celebrities one of the things that pundits frequently point a chastising finger at whenever they decry the dumbing down of culture, the increasing inability of current generations to think and write critically, and the unwillingness  to take anything seriously that does not come packaged in sound bites of 7.8 seconds or less?

All the more reason to take a critical look at both the ways we receive the information and what we do with it. Since, of necessity, many of the resources students are asked to consult fall into the category of pop culture – web sites and blogs, YouTube videos, supermarket tabloids – they must learn to consider these not as entertainment but as texts to be decoded using the same critical skills they have  been taught to use when approaching more traditional texts.  All writing assignments require students to think carefully about audience and approach.  Students are asked to examine and then engage in several different writing styles and genres (this may include writing for tabloids, both print and online, the mainstream press, or fan publications).  In addition, students will undertake a substantial research-driven writing project.  

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 - Morality and Art: The Good and the Not So Good

Who’s to say what art ought to do, and what it ought to look like?  How do we begin to separate “important” art from the merely entertaining?  What criteria do we use to differentiate the quirky, clever, and transient, from the truly substantive, valuable, and enduring?

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 art (especially fiction).  Believing that the goal of art 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.

The aim of the course is to examine what stands as true, moral art, and to allow you to develop your own explanation of what the purposes and characteristics of moral art should be.  We will use essays, short stories, and films, to explore a range of works both “moral” and “immoral.”

You will be asked to analyze written works (primarily), comparing and contrasting their merits and weakness.  The semester will culminate in a final paper that will serve as your own treatise on what art is, what it should be, and what it should never be.

Malone-France, Derek C - Scriptures and Constitutions

Religious and political communities face a similar challenge as they navigate the vicissitudes of history.  The fundamental identity of a community must be preserved through the consistent transmission of its core principles and practices.  Yet, these principles and practices must also remain relevant to the changing circumstances of each generation.  Both religious and political communities depend upon the authority of foundational texts to meet this challenge: religious communities have scriptures and creeds; political communities have constitutional documents and bodies of law.  However, such texts require interpretation for their meaning to be ascertained and applied.  And the question of what constitutes the “proper” method for such interpretation is necessarily connected to fundamental disagreements about the nature of the community itself and the rights and obligations of its members.

Our examination of the various ways in which theologians, philosophers, legal scholars, and others have approached the issue of interpretation will provide us with a rich conceptual context in which to explore basic intellectual issues such as: How does the ‘meaning’ of a claim get constructed in the relationship between author and audience?; What justifies me in interpreting a text in this way, rather than that?; How can I establish the correctness (or at least legitimacy) of my perspective on a matter of controversy?; Etc.  Students will proceed through a succession of reading and writing assignments intended to introduce them to the skills and sensibilities necessary for quality academic writing in general. These assignments will build upon one another, so that as the students' capacity for sophisticated written argumentation grows they will be asked to formulate increasingly more complex positions.  Most importantly, students will learn to incorporate active drafting, revising, editing, and researching practices into their writing throughout their university experiences.

Marcus, Robin - Birthed by a Nation – The Language of Black Americans.

Birthed by a Nation – The Language of Black Americans. Langauge or dialect? What are the origins of Black Vernacular Speech in the United States? What is its linguistic, political and cultural nature? These and other questions will be examined in this UW20 course which will expose students to the arguments made by and made on behalf of what is variably called African American Vernacular English, Black English or Ebonic language, the language created by African slaves in the 1600s. This language has endured into the 21st century and fueled arguments among principles along the way including becoming the subject of the Ebonics controversy ignited by the Oakland School Board in 1997. The language has conveyed hidden and overt messages and perpetuated racist stereotypes of Blacks. The film “Birth of a Nation” will serve as the point of departure for the course. Students will write two reflective papers, one comparison/contrast paper and one 25-30 page group generated research paper as requirements of the course. Students will also be required to attend at least two off campus events assigned by the instructor and produce response papers subsequently. In addition, students will be exposed to a variety of texts (including cartoons) and research that will introduce them to the conversation so that they develop the capacity to engage and contribute to the conversations as scholars.

McKenzie, Shelly - Contemporary Issues in American Foodways

“What’s for dinner?” Perhaps at no other time in American history has this simple question been fraught with such angst. Worries about food safety, concerns about federal regulation and subsidies, health issues, and the impact of food production on climate change are just some of the topics that have made front-page news in the past few years. This course examines these food-related controversies, as well as the wider world of academic food studies, to investigate how eating has become a very political act. Course assignments will ask students to hone their skills of critical reading and analysis using recent non- fiction, scientific reports, documentaries, and academic scholarship to produce 25-30 pages of finished text, including a final research paper.

Mullen, Mark - Location, Location, Location

The advent of new media tools (cellphones, the Web, etc.) has changed the way we think of space, time, privacy, and knowledge.  Many of these changes collide in the transformation of an institution that has been central to research and writing in Western culture: the library.  Is the library dying or in the process of being reborn?

Myers, Danika - Your Body, Their Words: Intersections of Health, Culture, and Rhetoric

A policy writer for the World Health Organization, a doctor trained in both Western and Eastern medicine, a twenty-two year old suffering from anorexia, and the parent of a diabetic child will all have different ideas about what it means to be healthy and who should control access to an individual’s body.  Each will express her views in different language.  This class will ask you to consider the language used by various cultures and subcultures to talk about health and health issues, and to analyze how that language conceptualizes health.  As a class we will study how metaphor shapes meaning and then apply that knowledge to language collected from blogs and online discussion boards, using linguistic theory to analyze the metaphorical models used to understand what it means to be “healthy”.

Whether you are interested in these various models as a future health professional, a policy wonk, a patient, or a political junkie tracking health care reform, an ability to decipher the rhetoric surrounding these issues will serve you.  As a person, you may be interested in the topic of this class, but as a student and a writer, you will also obtain essential tools of academic writing—tools for analyzing both text and topic, for arriving at answers by starting with questions, for attending to detail and engaging critically—that you will take with you to other topics, texts, and writing throughout your academic career. This class will take the intersections of health, culture, and language as a subject, but we will use our subject in service of rigorous practice in rhetorical strategies and development of a successful writing process.

Assignments include a personal essay, several short analytical papers, and a research project that will ask you to analyze an online health community.

Myers, Danika - Poetry, Language, and Language Games

This course will approach poems and poetry as language artifacts, using linguistics as a tool for analyzing poetry as an instance of language.  Critical readings will include Wittgenstein’s concept of the Language Game; and de Saussure’s explanation of signifier, signified, and sign.  As we build a critical framework for understanding how language is learned, applied, and understood, we will use it to analyze works of poetry starting at the most basic level of language:  the words chosen by the writer and the syntax into which those words are placed.

Our readings in poetry will focus on modern and contemporary poets including Gertrude Stein, Harryette Mullen, and Bridget Pegeen Kelly—poets who break language apart, subvert traditional grammar, or display a unique understanding of how the English language can be assembled and create meaning.  We will look at experimental poetry and at the word replacement exercises used by the French Oulipo group as a tool for learning what happens to language when a writer radically departs from linguistic norms by inverting or otherwise altering syntax, or by using the “wrong” parts of speech or inventing words.

Assignments include several short, analytical response papers; a research paper analyzing a poet from an applied linguistics standpoint; and a final portfolio of revised writing.  The research paper will require both an understanding of the critical readings used throughout the course and additional research.

Oliver, Martyn - Reading Islam

Understanding religion—either one’s own, or another “foreign” religion—requires navigating a complex field of texts, traditions, and interpretations. How does a religious tradition understand itself? How do scholars of religion engage and critique religion? How is religion depicted in popular culture?

This course asks these questions specifically about Islam. In the context of American interest in Islam since September 11, there is an opportunity for critical reflection on what it means to depict and understand a religious tradition. Beginning with the textual origins of Islam—the Qur’an—and proceeding through a selection of prominent theological, poetic, literary, and philosophical exemplars, we will explore the many competing claims about the nature of Islam.

And we will write about Islam ourselves, confronting the challenges of knowledge, representation, and authenticity. By engaging a variety of texts in our reading, research, and writing, we will also confront the broader challenge of scholarly analysis. We will work to develop your own voice, equipped with the critical skills necessary for academic success. The aim of the course is to combine our evolution as writers with a growing understanding of the role of religion in our society.

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 three polished catalogue entries (1 page each) of works from the National Gallery collection, a short exhibition review (3-5 pages), and a larger research project (15-20 pages). Artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Judith Leyster 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? What was the role of women artists in the 17th Century? Together we will read a selection of scholarly articles related to each artist, 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

Have you ever had a surprising thought, blanked while writing an exam question, or wondered what a particular dream might mean? Such events have long been puzzling those who are interested in the way brains function. Freud believed that unconscious, infantile wishes and repressed memories continuously controlled us, regulating what we thought during the day and what we dreamed at night During the mid-twentieth century, scientists began to discuss the chemical transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. Increasingly, physicians began rejecting Freud's model of the mind and 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, among others, are collaborating to analyze discoveries made possible by recent technologies, such as brain imaging, 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.


Richardson, Mark - U.S. Policy in the Middle East

The humorist Dave Barry once wrote, “They can hold all the peace talks they want, but there will never be peace in the Middle East. Billions of years from now, when Earth is hurtling toward the Sun and there is nothing left alive on the planet except a few microorganisms, the microorgan-isms living in the Middle East will be bitter enemies.”

Why is this region such a hotbed of animosity? And given such long-established and bitter enmity, what could American foreign policy possibly hope to achieve? Considering that Israel and Pakistan are nuclear states and that Iran will soon be one also, can American policy afford to fail in searching for a reconciliation among the peoples of the three Abrahamic faiths?

In this course, we will read and write in search of answers to these or related questions as we also read about and discuss the essentials of rhetoric and composition. Students will identify focused concerns important to them, such as policy on Iran, or Iraq, or the two-state solution, and will join research groups with like minded-peers, reading and writing about policy issues in light of their common interests.

Students will write three main projects and several shorter papers. The three main projects will be drafted and revised during the semester for potential inclusion in a final portfolio, the major grade in the course, and will build on each other, starting with a summary/response opinion piece, followed either by a rhetorically-based chronology of Middle East history (explained in an ancillary document) or a multimedia document (also with an accompanying explanation), followed by a research-based white paper on American policy. The shorter writings will involve summarizing and responding to weekly readings, culminating in an annotated bibliography.

Richardson, Mark - Latin American Sensibility

In this writing intensive course  we will explore and write about  issues and themes surrounding identity  and sensibility within Latin American and Latino/ Latina studies. Students will be asked to write a number of short position papers,  an annotated bibliography, a research proposal, and to integrate all this writing in a final research paper. 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 sensibility and identity? We will read essays from collections of contemporary essays , view  a couple of films and read whatever else helps us understand and write about these issues better.

Riley, Matt - The Pattern of Technology

There is little question that modern society has changed dramatically as a result of technological development.  Even in your lifetime, technology has enabled us to radically alter how we live, travel, communicate, and even love.  Yet, has technology merely enabled us to make these changes or has something fundamental to its nature shaped our decisions in the process?
Careful analysis shows that there is a pattern to technological development.  The Industrial Revolution brought wondrous machines and a bounty of goods that freed us from the burdens of cold, hunger, disease, and poverty.  However, with all this new freedom and power, we cannot stop polluting the environment, homogenizing our landscape, and driving whatever animals we can’t use toward extinction.  Meanwhile, in our homes, relationships grow ever more strained and congested with new devices and demands on our attention. 
In his book, Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life, the philosopher Albert Borgmann argues that this increasing fragmentation of our ways of life is more than just circumstantial.  On the contrary, there is something fundamental to our relationship with technology that all but programs it, which we must learn to manage more carefully.
In this course, students will explore this pattern of technology through Borgmann’s theoretical framework and then propose new perspectives on current problems with technology. Your work will contribute to an ongoing, accumulative project begun in the fall of 2007 in which each class builds on the contributions of previous classes. We will use all the tools of analysis, argument, research, and well-written prose to develop and articulate an understanding of this pattern.  Like most works of philosophy, Borgmann is not an easy read; however, it is an eye-opener, and a well-developed structure of support materials allows us to take what we need from the philosophy and apply it to a real-world context.

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

Sallinger, Lauren - Voices of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are an array of deeply conflicting and competing historical narratives.  For the cultures of this region, seeped in faith and engaged in a long-term political struggle, there is an exceptional amount at stake in constructing their national histories.  In this class, we will look at versions of the regional history told through a diverse set of voices from within the conflict.  We will compare a wide range of Israeli, Palestinian and American perspectives in sources including memoirs, history textbooks, and international observers’ reports.  Each of these genres combines varied measures of historical understanding, faith, or individual experience to construct a coherent story from a deeply complicated situation.  We will take apart these narratives to examine how each writer collects information and stakes a claim.  For each piece of writing, we will ask how collective memory impacts personal accounts.  We will scrutinize what cultural or historical assumptions shape their understanding and determine their actions.  These discussions will anticipate the sorts of questions students will need to ask in their own writing: What are their sources of information?  What constitutes evidence for each?   What are their claims and how do they convince their audiences?  Students will keep all of these questions at play as they write (or rewrite) a piece of the history of the region.

Schell, Heather - Revising Dracula

Our popular idea of Dracula imagines a monster who drives people to death or madness.  In fact, however, he’s just as likely to drive people to write.  These victims include not just fictional characters but also novelists, poets, choreographers, playwrights, musicians, graphic novelists, historians, psychologists, and screenplay writers.  And they don’t want to kill him—they want to revise him.  For example, Dracula has been filmed more than two hundred times.  What makes this fiend so compelling?  Why has his popularity endured for more than a century?  And what drives all those writers and film-makers to continue tinkering with his story?  In this course, we will research and write about the undying appeal of Bram Stoker's creation.  First, we'll focus on the novel and what scholars have said about it.  Next comes a collaborative project, for which you will produce a DVD commentary for a feature-length film adaptation.   Following that, you will write a substantial research paper on a vampire film.  You should be prepared to screen numerous horror movies, to master basic audio editing technology, and to be afraid—very afraid... 

Showalter, Anne - Documenting Cultural Identity: Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality in Reel Life

What’s hanging in The Celluloid Closet? Should the Dixie Chicks just Shut Up and Sing? What happened in New Orleans When the Levees Broke?  Got (The Times of Harvey) Milk? What’s so ‘badass’ about Baadasssss Cinema? What’s Girlhood like in a Baltimore prison? Who’s fighting the American Drug War? Does The Education of Shelby Knox include sex ed.? Who are the 4 Little Girls? Could Tupac[‘s]: Resurrection change society?

We will begin by discussing the genre of documentaries (do they depict the “truth”?) and the intersecting categories of race, gender, class, and sexuality.  Throughout the semester, we will examine the messages these documentaries may be trying to convey, how they are attempting to do so, and to whom they might be trying to speak.  In short, we’ll be looking at issues such as argumentation, evidence, tone, audience, and structure –- key elements to develop in our own writing. Frequent writing assignments, including reaction posts, two short essays, and a research paper, will allow us to identify our writing as part of an ongoing dialogue about the society in which discourse is created and, in turn, creates. We will make use of multiple revisions, peer review, and regular in-class writing assignments.

Smith, Caroline - The Personal Is Political: Writing about Women’s Autobiographies

How many times have you been told, as a writer, to eliminate the word “I” in an essay? Personal writing can often seem biased, opinionated, far removed from objective analysis.  It’s a common misconception, however, that writing about the self is vastly different from research-based, academic writing.  Actually, it’s not that uncommon for professional writers to incorporate their own experiences into their work as a way of commenting on larger, social issues.  In this class, we will focus specifically on the autobiographies of women writers, noting the ways in which these writers often make the personal, political. For instance, what does Anne Moody’s account of her participation in a Mississippi lunch counter sit-in reveal about the historical time period of the 1960s? What can we learn from Le Ly Hayslip’s depiction of her life as a Vietnam villager during the Vietnam War? And, can seemingly intimate stories, such as those recorded by filmmaker Yuka Sekiguchi (Fat Chance) about her recent weight gain, actually speak to larger, pressing issues about the female body? Throughout the semester, we will examine various forms of life-writing (traditional autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, documentaries, and blogs), exploring the writing and research challenges that one faces when recording stories of the self.

UW20 serves as the training ground for three important abilities – critical reading, researching, and writing at the college level. My intention in this class is to expose students to the thoughtful consideration of how writers effectively (or sometimes ineffectively) convince us of their points. Additionally, we will consider how we, as writers, best express ourselves. How can we make our own writing stronger? The autobiographical texts that we will read throughout the semester will serve as the starting point for our own writing assignments, which will be as varied as the texts that we will consider. Students will write response papers and short essays, and they will pursue an independent research project on the topic of their choice. These writing assignments will help students to develop a variety of reading, researching, and writing skills applicable to the remainder of their college career.

Streitfield, Jeremy -Writing Workshop on Trade and Development

We live in a diverging and converging world. On the one hand, communications improve and internet reaches even the smallest remotest villages allowing us to converge and feel a part of areas once alien to us. On the other hand, however, many of these remote regions are becoming increasingly poor while parts of the world enjoy historically high growth rates. Many economists think rich countries are racing away and that poor countries are being left behind.

This course will start off by looking at some of the key problems in economic under-development to understand their nature as well as some of the causes. We will then explore some of the factors often cited for this regional poverty and discuss ways in which economists and political scientists have tried to help understand them.

UW20 courses make use of a wide variety of topics, approaches, and assignment designs to meet a common set of goals. To prepare students for rigorous academic writing across the range of disciplines offered at GW, the course strives to develop or extend student writers' capacity for critical reading and analytic thinking; their ability to explore information resources; their grasp of rhetorical principles; their ability to frame sound questions or hypotheses; and their ability to edit and proofread carefully. You will be expected to speak, read, and write in this class as writing is an interactive and multi-dimensional process. I want the class to be interesting and even fun! Each student will have to give a brief presentation of a key course-related topic and most weeks will have some group activity such as a peer review of an essay draft or small discussions of the topics for that week. In addition, you will do a lot of commentary-writing to think critically about the ideas of the course. The course intends to teach you about important international issues but with the over-arching aim of providing you with essential writing skills to help you in your college career and beyond.

Svoboda, Michael - Global Warming & the Problem of Global Governance

This December, representatives from every nation and from countless NGOs will gather in Copenhagen to negotiate one of the most important agreements in world history: a global plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 60–90% over the next 40 years. Achieving this goal will require coordinated action and cooperation—between developed and developing nations, between old and emerging powers, and between former allies and new enemies—on a scale the world has never seen. How will this happen when our thinking—and our institutions of global governance—still reflect memories of frontier independence, of “good war” alliances and animosities, and of cold war suspicions?

Context, definition, perspective: these are both important prompts and important goals for writing. In this section of UW 20, you are invited to read and write about the changed climate our carbon emissions are creating for us and about the new world we must learn to govern together—through research, writing, and reflective revision.

Tomlinson, Niles - Ghosts of Washington

As a city located not only between north and south but also between the preserved past and the dynamic present, Washington DC is a unique kind of ghost town. To study Washington as a place of haunting is to explore how many of the greatest and most 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 whisperings that continue to haunt the American imagination.

To begin the course we will identify specific strains of haunting in some of the most powerful American speeches, short fiction, and short essays. We will then look at five specific haunted sites in Washington, from the Halcyon House to the White House, to discover how folklore and ghostly legends often serve a larger rhetorical purpose. We will also examine the national memorials in Washington as concentrated sites of haunting, and each student will have the opportunity to research, analyze and write about a specific memorial of their choice. In all, this course will make the larger point that not only does Washington have a haunting side rarely read about in history textbooks, but also this spectral history is crucial in continually deepening and revitalizing the American imagination.

Troutman, Phillip - Image-Text: The Comics Medium as Visual Argument

Can the comics medium (graphic novels, comic books, manga) do viable argumentative or interpretative work in history, literature, philosophy, psychology, journalism, politics, religion, education? By what criteria do we evaluate "sequential art" works like Maus, Persepolis, Palestine, or Pyongyang? Can these hybrid image-texts help us explore relevant issues in new ways? Taking the comics medium as an object of scholarly study allows you to develop key writing and research practices.  First, comics scholarship is the purview of no single discipline, so you can explore approaches of interest from any combination of fields, addressing almost any topic. And since comics scholarship is still nascent, your writing and research can make genuine intellectual contributions, perhaps via the course-derived online publication, ForComicsScholars.org.  But in order to write sensibly and precisely, you must acquire, practice, and work to refine a specialized analytical vocabulary that has crystalized around the study of comics. You must also discover, through scholarly secondary-source research, what the relevant and interesting questions and arguments to write about are. By researching, analyzing, and responding to the writing of scholars, artists, writers, fans, and critics, you will extend and develop your own analytical writing style and learn to anticipate the expectations of academic readers. You will write as academics do, through a recursive process of practices:  thinking, sketching, drafting, researching, and responding substantively to peers' work in progress. You will frame your writing in a series of authentic academic modes and genres that also hold applicability outside the university: a formal analysis, scholarly abstracts, a research proposal/bibliography, and an original research essay with visual presentation.

Truncellito, David -Issues in College Athletics

Myles Brand, the President of the NCAA, recently argued before Congress that the NCAA should be tax-exempt because it's an educational institution, but others have argued that college athletes should be paid salaries; which is it? Debates about Title IX (the federal law dictating equal opportunity for men and women to play college sports) have raged since its passage in 1972. Coaches are among the highest-paid university employees, often earning more than even the president of the university; do they deserve to be? Should admissions standards be lowered for athletes? In this course, we'll tackle these issues and others.

This course will help you to appreciate the value of working on a project in stages, making revisions in light of feedback and new research findings. It will also help you to develop your ability to articulate and defend your own views, both in your formal assignments and in online and in-class discussions, and to sharpen your critical thinking about your own work and that of others.

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 David Truncellito at truncell@gwu.edu

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.

Wolfe, Zachary - Progressive movements: rewriting history

As Dr. King tells us, “human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts” of social justice movements. Despite years of history courses and exposure to pop culture, most of us know only the broad-brush and sanitized version of social change efforts, with very little detail about the tireless efforts of the masses within those movements. Through critical reading, independent research, and scholarly writing, students will examine the significance of these radical movements, their place in history, and how we might better envision how change happens and evaluate ongoing struggles for social justice. Beyond advancing our understanding of "the people's history," the course will allow students to engage existing scholarship and pursue their own projects, using the writing process to explore and expose critical ideas and new ways of thinking. Much of the semester will revolve around research and writing concerning a movement of the student's choosing, critically examining that movement as well as exploring why some (or some parts of) movements make the history books while others are glossed-over or misrepresented.

Zink, Christy -La Vie Boheme: Artists, Counterculture, and City Life

Starve, brood, and be an outcast: those are the supposed requirements for being an artist. But the romantic myth of the rebel artist extends far beyond the Paris garret to inform the choices we believe are available in arenas as varied as politics, human relations, business, art, religion, and the intersection of intellect and identity. Bohemian subcultures from starving artists to firebrand activists have not just challenged, but changed, where and how we live, under what rules and terms through their works, lives, and documented words.

In this course, we'll look to city neighborhoods and to countercultural groups such as the Dadaists, Beatniks, Black Panthers, Weather Underground, and contemporary "nowtopians" to see how countercultural groups rewrite—often literally—the world around us. Because bohemians break established boundaries to create new forms, you'll study a range of innovative, hybrid texts—including scholarly and creative writing, visual and performing arts, cinema, photography, and new media—and experiment with authentic writing forms designed to upset the status quo. As major projects, you will critique a countercultural text, embark on inventive critical research to address the bohemian experience, and then explore the city to create a multimedia writing project that critically argues the territory of neo-bohemia right here in Washington, DC.

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 Christy Zink at czink@gwu.edu