UW20 Courses - Spring 2005
| Last Updated: 6/28/05 |
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
(click on title for full course
Ideology Critique: An Approach to Writing and Power
CRN: 66544 Section 45 MF 3:55- 5:10 W 3:55-4:45
Madison - Controlling
Content: Censorship in American Film
CRN: 66536 Section 37 MW 8:00-9:15 and F 8:00 - 8:50
Mullen - I’m
Game! Exploring the Art, Science and Economics of Electronic
CRN: 66561 Section M8 MW 2:30-3:45 and F 1:00-1:50 [open to WLP only]
CRN: 66562 Section M9 TR 11:30 12:45 and F 11:30 12:20
Riedner - Revolutionary
Writing, Democratic Visions, Border Identities:
Auroras of the Zapatistas
CRN: 66560 Section M7 MW 10:00-11:15 and F 10:00-10:50 [open to WLP only]
CRN: 65180 Section M1 MW 1:00-2:15 and F 1:00-1:50
Full Spectrum Dominance: American Foreign Policy in a Time
CRN: 65151 Section M3 F 10:00-10:50 and TR 2:30-3:45 [only open to WLP]
CRN: 66559 Section M6 F 1:00-1:50 and TR 4:10-5:25 [only open to WLP]
Amid the recent debate over welfare reform, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich joined the legions of working poor as an undercover reporter. For several months, she toiled at multiple low-wage jobs across America and documented the anxiety, the indignity, and the constant scramble to pay rent and buy food. She documented her experiences in her best-selling expose Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America? a book through which the middle- and upper-classes could gaze into the foreign world of the American underclass from the comfort of their living rooms.
Ehrenreich is part of the American free press’ century-long tradition of publicizing the living conditions of what any given era deems to be the underclass. This group, with its changing demographic composition, has included factory workers, the rural poor, the urban poor, women, racial minorities, and immigrants. But what is a social underclass and what is a free press? How does each inform and shape the definition of the other? We tend to laud muckrakers—new and old—for their work, but are we praising these journalists for simply fulfilling their obligation to society, or is their work truly a service that extends beyond duty? To what extent is it appropriate for the press to aspire to activism or to overtly effect social change? Are journalists obligated to their newspapers, the public, or their subjects, and what happens if an article hurts an individual but serves a greater good? How should journalists balance the seemingly opposite but often simultaneous roles of witness and actor? In what ways does a social underclass benefit and suffer from journalistic coverage? Can journalists, who tend to be white and middle-class, adequately understand and portray the lives of those from other racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups? In this research- and writing-intensive class, we will explore these questions through relevant newspaper, magazine, and book journalism from the past century, as well as companion media and cultural criticism.
Through diverse writing assignments, peer review sessions, and dynamic class discussions, we will develop and hone the critical thinking and analytical writing skills that are essential to academic and professional success. Assignments will include critical reviews of recent journalism, analytical responses to current media criticism, and craft evaluations of both journalistic and academic writing. Students will also choose one seminal piece of journalistic reporting and then research and write a 12-page analytical paper that addresses the ethics and circumstances of the article’s production, as well as the social and political reverberations of its publication.
This writing-intensive course will examine how various colonies – including the United States, Haiti, India and Algeria – have historically responded to and challenged Western 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 including France and Britain to intervene in crises in the regions they once controlled. Texts to be consulted will include Thomas Jefferson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America, M.K. Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, among other works.
In the process of investigating these themes, we will focus on improving your writing and critical thinking skills. Assignments will include textual analyses, comparative essays and in-class presentations – all projects designed to familiarize you with the kinds of work you’ll be asked to pursue while an undergraduate at George Washington University. The course will culminate with an extensive research project on a topic of your choice (subject to the approval of the instructor).
Claycomb - Making a Scene: Spectacle as Persuasion
CRN: 65153 Section 16 M 9:35-10:25 and WF 9:35-10:50
CRN: 65156 Section 19 M 2:20-03:10 and WF 2:20-03:35
In a semester that kicks off with both the Super Bowl and a Presidential inauguration, it’s hard to imagine not talking about spectacle and its place in our society. In America, we like things BIG and flashy, so spectacle is something we value. But spectacle itself is not a neutral concept—big, bold visions are often potent vehicles to convince large groups of people to change their minds, take action, or sit back passively in astonishment. Indeed, some of the defining political moments in recent history—9/11, the “Shock and Awe” campaign in Iraq, and televised Presidential debates—were significant precisely because of the element of spectacle that they tapped into. What each of these has in common is that they each initially seem to be bigger than what writing captures, they often seem designed to cut off the reasoned discourse that writing engenders, and yet they ultimately generate copious amounts of writing in response. This course, then, will tackle the problem of how to write about, write towards, and sometimes write against the idea of spectacle. As an inquiry into the nature and power of spectacle, we will engage definitions by everyone from Greek philosophers to Tony-Award-winning playwrights, perform rhetorical analyses of spectacles we confront, read texts on live theatre, political protests and sporting events, and propose plans for our own spectacles with a purpose.
In this course we will read, think, and write critically about representations and constructions of oppressed and marginalized cultures, groups, and individuals. Our approach will rely on various types of texts including autobiography, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, music, hybrid writing, and film. The critical theory readings for this class will come from a wide variety of disciplines including critical race theory, feminist theory, queer theory, women’s studies, philosophy, radical history, sociology, and psychology. Attention will be given not only to the current conditions of the oppressed but also to the historical conditions under which groups were or continue to be marginalized, with special attention to social justice movements and activism. We will consider the impact of cultural representations and constructions on identity formation, resistance, and resignification for individuals and groups with marginalized identities.
This course will give you the opportunity to think and write about representations of marginalized groups within Western culture from several disciplines and perspectives. Assignments for this course will include: oral presentations, book reviews, film analysis, peer reviews, a paper proposal, an annotated bibliography, and the development of an individual research project that draws on course materials and outside research.
Drown - Think Tank: The Production of Public
CRN: 65158 Section 21 M 9:35-10:25 and WF 9:35-10:50
CRN: 65165 Section 22 MW 12:45-2:00 and F 12:45-1:35
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 organization tools. This section of UW20 meets these goals by asking you to function as members of a think tank hired by a public agency to produce knowledge of interest and use to an identifiable constituent. Unlike other UW20 courses, where the course theme is set by the professor, students in this section choose the theme and participate in the design of the course. Together, we’ll select a topic of current interest, design a wide range of research projects, choose relevant readings from a variety of sources, and investigate the topic in depth. Besides serving as principle investigators, students will function as project managers, peer reviewers and editors, and present their results in a conference or committee-style set of meetings at the end of the course. In this course, you’ll write to discover, develop, and elaborate ideas as well as to report and defend them. Accordingly, you’ll be drafting, revising, and rewriting often. You can expect to keep a writer’s journal of notes, readings, drafts, and reflection. In addition you’ll submit a portfolio of finished writing for final assessment at the end of the course. Students who have taken this course in the past report feeling highly motivated and enjoying a very dynamic classroom environment (see Student Comments at http://home.gwu.edu/~edrown). One result of this high level of engagement is that they take greater responsibility for their own learning.
This seminar-style class is aimed at facilitating conversations about how writing that is engaged in ideology critique challenges regimes of power, hegemony, and oppression. We will theorize the concept of ideology by way of exploring aspects of its intellectual genealogy; we will discuss the role of critique in a selection of historical texts, whose authors are writing against racism, colonialism, and sexism; and we will reflect on how our own work as writers can effectively unmask systems of symbolic and material mystification, resist structures of violence, and produce empowering prose.
A reading and writing intensive course such as this one is designed to enhance your abilities as a critical thinker. You will learn how to become more competent in studying complex texts, in analyzing the ideas these texts put forth (as well as the assumptions, the logic, and the implications of those ideas), and in presenting your own reflections and arguments effectively. You will also produce your own paper, in which you will get to systematically pursue a topic of your choosing and ask questions that are of particular interest to you. This class will provide you with an opportunity to develop the skills you need to succeed in your other classes, especially the humanities and the social sciences.
Fullerty - Lost in the Academy: The Academic
Novel in Britain and America
CRN: 65172 Section 29 MW 8:00-9:15 and F 8:00-8:50
Are you lost in the academy - yet? This course is designed to help students develop skills needed in university-level writing and research through the lens of academic fiction. Written and read by both academics and non-academics, the so called 'academic novel' - loosely termed as a novel set on campus - unpacks the ups and downs, the foibles and successes, of life on campus.
We will explore the overlap of these texts with postmodern culture and the notion of the subjective self. Is it surprising the books are packed with as much moral complacency, elitism, political-flagwaving and bed-hopping as takes place in 'the real world'? Or is academia somehow untouched by national consciousness - is the secluded campus a separate place? The course readings range from the origins of the academic novel in Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim (1954) and the more sardonic vision created by Richard Russo in Straight Man (1997) to darker visions such as J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace (1999). These novels allow us to question 'the writing life', the interaction of writing with language and the construction of meaning. You'll center your writing on aspects of the texts that grip you and develop your own research. You will also develop ideas about establishing yourself as writer, positioning your audience, and judging the relevance of political considerations such as race, class, gender and nationality. The goal of this course is not only to introduce you to university-level writing and research, but to deal with wider questions such as "what does it mean to write like an academic and why would you want to anyway?"
Gamber - Legacies of the Holocaust
CRN: 65167 Section 24 TR 9:35-10:50 and F 9:35-10:25
CRN: 65168 Section 25 TR 11:10-12:25 and F 11:10-12:00
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.
Geller - Feminist Aesthetics
CRN: 66556 Section 56 TR 11:10-12:25 and F 11:10-12:00
The notion of patriarchy, according to its critics, suggests not only that there is something wrong with the family structure, but that the relations of the family reappear endlessly in the forming of institutional, national and social situations. The idea of ‘patriarchy’ itself suggests that gender violence is foundational to power and social relations. This writing intensive course looks especially at feminist theorists who engage aesthetic and transformative political ideas through critical writing, poetry, painting and other media. We will look at the question of how, when or whether aesthetics fit into a feminist social or political project and the qualities of the scopic, aural, tactile, or otherwise iterative aspects of the critique of power invoked by different thinkers. We will read feminist theorists such as Maria Mies, Monique Wittig, Gayatri Spivak, Adrienne Rich, as well as works by John Berger and Paolo Freire and others. Students will be asked to compare conceptual differences, and learn how to engage the specific vocabularies of discrete ideas using an investigation of problems related to power, knowledge, patriarchy, and alternative feminist discourses in drafts of critical essays and in online discussions. Students will also be required to lead discussions by reading their writing aloud.
Guerra - Mucho Macho: Latin American Sexualities
CRN: 66553 Section 14 TR 12:45-2:00 and F 12:45-1:35
CRN: 65152 Section 15 TR 2:20-3:35 and F 2:20-3:10
In this writing intensive course we will explore and write about issues and themes surrounding sexuality and identity 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 sexuality and identity? We will read essays from two collections of contemporary essays , view a couple of contemporary films and discuss a couple of short stories by contemporary writers.
Harlan - True Crime?: Real & Fictionalized Mysteries
& Society's Reactions to Them
CRN: 66548 Section 49 M 2:20-3:10 and WF 2:20-3:35
All around us, mysteries are used as a form of entertainment. In newspapers, magazines, books, and movies, true crime stories are quite popular. The TV lineup is fraught with documentaries of cold cases, trials, and forensics, as well as “ripped from the headlines” episodes of prime time dramas. This course will examine why our society is so fascinated with mysteries and where the line is drawn between when people are saddened, horrified, or afraid due to the crimes we hear or read about, and when we are more detached and are able to see a real crime (or a representation of one) simply as entertainment. Additionally, newspaper accounts of historical and modern mysteries will be analyzed to discover how media coverage and public reactions have changed. Readings will likely include Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men, journalistic accounts of mysteries, and scientific and psychological articles relating to mysteries; movies and TV shows will be analyzed as well. Assignments will include both group and individual projects, such as reviews, summaries of scholarly articles, and a research project.
Hayes - From Main Street to Times Square: Exploring
America's Public Spaces
CRN: 66540 Section 41 MF 11:10-12:45 and W 11:10-12:00
This writing and research course is focused on the theme of public spaces in America. You'll write two short papers at the beginning of the semester, each exploring a different city space (beginning with a home space and then moving to any city in the U.S. that interests you, including Washington, DC). By the end of the semester, you'll select one of those initial two papers to expand upon (or a few of you might choose to start working on a new topic), and you'll write a 12-16 page research paper on that topic. To help you shape your analysis of these public spaces, we'll be discussing a number of texts that model different ways to think about city spaces. With the help of authors like Jeff Ferrell, who celebrates graffiti artists and street musicians, and authors like Samuel Delany, who criticizes the "Disneyfication" of places like Times Square in New York City, we'll be exploring such questions as what we value in urban spaces, what we fear, and who has the right to access public spaces like malls, parks, streets, sidewalks, and downtown areas (the homeless? skateboarders? political and social activists? consumers?).
Michelle Beissel Heath - Dear
Diary - You've Been Blogged: Journaling, Journalism, and
Politics in the 21 st Century
CRN: 65178 Section 34 M 2:20-3:10 and WF 2:20-3:35
Merriam-Webster recently announced its 2004 word of the year, based on frequency of online "lookups." Perhaps surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) for those not technically savvy, that most frequently looked up word is "blog," short for "weblog," a noun introduced in 1999 that means "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer" (Merriam-webster.com).
But who writes - or keeps-a blog, and why? Are blogs just publicity pleas by celebrities? Modes of communication for the socially-inept? Cries of help by depressed and suicidal teens? Forums for radical activists? In this writing-intensive course we will investigate and write on this new and growing phenomenon of blogging. We will look at a number of different types of blogs (personal, travel, political, journalistic, authorial, special-interest) and compare such blogs to their more traditional paper forms from yester-year (or perhaps yester-day). We will look at the blogs of or initiated by celebrities (Howard Dean, Martha Stewart, Zach Braff, Sheryl Crow, and Neil Gaiman are among the possibilities), respectable media sources ( The Washington Post , The Guardian, etc.), and, of course, blogs by the "average" person. In the process, we will ask ourselves questions about the forms and purposes of blogs and journals, about the sudden popularity of blogging (livejournal.com alone lists 2,371,924 "active" users), and about who uses - reads, writes - blogs (Women? Men? The upper classes? The young? Americans?). We will consider how and if blogging - and modern technology in general - is changing the way we look at the world (and, importantly, how we write). We will read essays on blogging, on changes in the media and technology, and on how such changes intersect with our modern conceptions of democracy, and use cultural criticism to help ground our discussions and writing with a further awareness of identity, language, and power. Above all, we will use our readings, discussions, and writing assignments to further the critical thinking, analytical, and research skills imperative to success during and after your time at GW. Assignments will include analytic responses to class texts, a comparative essay, an online journal, an oral presentation, and a lengthy research project (with a proposal and annotated bibliography).
Jerving - "Uncommon Knowledge": Intellectual
Property and Public Culture
CRN: 65170 Section 27 MW 8:00 9:15 and F 8:00-8:50
CRN: 65173 Section 30 MW 12:45-2:00 and F 12:45-1:35
You might think your thoughts are your own, but you’d be wrong. That melody stuck in your head, that clever turn of a phrase, that elaborate critique of the global military-industrial-media complex that you’ve built for yourself—all of them, in part or in whole, came from some place else within the common cultural storehouse of ideas and expressions. Increasingly, they are likely to belong some place else too: legally at least as copyrights, trademarks, and patents come to enclose much of what you might otherwise safely call “yours.” In this UW20 course, we’ll consider the implications of 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 the class will tackle concerning issues such as file sharing, sampling, open source, classified documents, internet fan fiction, or the role of patents in the world-wide AIDS crisis. We’ll frame our discussion within somewhat broader questions of the public sphere, the theory 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 appropriated and re-imagined in everyday televised satire and in far-flung fundamentalist regimes, in serious “what if” novels and in (equally serious) “what if” comic books. And finally, as we learn to conduct, cite, and document primary and secondary research, enter into scholarly “conversations,” develop arguments that incorporate and rework the ideas and language of others, engage in academic “fair use,” use 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.
Gray Kristensen - Writing Cultures in Africa
and the African Diaspora
CRN: 65181 Section M2 TR 10:00-11:15 and F 10:00-10:50
CRN: 66563 Section M10 TR 1:00-2:15 and F 1:00-1:50
This course in critical reading, thinking and writing focuses on representations of African and African Diaspora cultures in writing. Africa itself occupies a special place in Western history and ideology, so part of this work involves a critical examination of Western discourses of "Africa." We also read and view contemporary representations and self-reflexive investigations by scholars of African and African Diaspora cultures, and write critical responses to those materials. A central theme of the course is the question of what happens in a contact zone, defined by Mary Louise Pratt as a space in which cultures engage with one another, often in relations characterized by unequal power. Thus, we also critically examine the processes and effects of intercultural contact, between African peoples and with Western colonialism and imperialism, and the impact of “race,” gender, class and other identities on that contact.
Writing assignments include an autoethnography, a contact zone ethnography, and a major original research paper, in addition to short responses designed to develop analytical and writing skills. Assignments are described in detail in class, and students participate in small group peer review conferences and individual conferences to practice the arts of critique and revision. As readers, writers, and thinkers, we develop our skills in recognizing and articulating complexity, and produce original, self-reflexive, and effective writing that reflects our close attention to class texts and contexts. Possible class texts include Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; Beverly Bell’s Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance, and Johnetta Cole and Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality in African American Communities. Films may include "Keita: The Heritage of the Griot," and "Life and Debt," on the effects of globalization in Jamaica.
Larsen - Teens in America
CRN: 66552 Section 53 TR 8:00-9:15 and F 8:00-8:50
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. 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?
In addition to the films named above, we can expect to read Catcher in the Rye and selections from the original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series among others, in addition to examining newspaper coverage of such relatively recent incidents as the Columbine shootings. We will view a variety of films including Teenagers from Outer Space, Wild in the Streets, and the recently released Elephant. We will also be examining the impact of music on both shaping youth culture and simultaneously shaping a negative image of that culture, looking at both lyrics (from "Teen Angel" to "Teenage Dirtbag") and films such as Quadrophenia, Woodstock, and Altamont.
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.
In this course, we will examine contemporary consumer culture from a number of competing theoretical and ideological perspectives. We will ask why corporate power has lately become a particularly visible site of political activism (in demonstrations such as those that attended the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999), and we will explore the effects of “branding” on our individual autonomy and on our conceptions of public space. Throughout the course, we will consider consumer culture as a potential source of real and important pleasures as well as examining the forms of anxiety and exploitation it can produce. This course, then, is not designed to “ruin” the pleasures you may take in shopping; rather, it asks you to become more sophisticated and adept readers of the discourses that shape your everyday lives.
In giving you the opportunity to look at your own consumer environment and practices through a series of new perspectives, this course will also ask you to do some new kinds of writing and critical thinking. As you work on your ambitious, original, semester-long research project, you will need to redefine your own conceptions of the “research” process. Examining and assessing the ways in which other writers claim authority will help you to become another authoritative voice in a critical conversation about your chosen research topic.
Since the US film industry began in the beginning of the 20th Century, there have been attempts to control and regulate the content of film. The Motion Picture Production Code and the current ratings system are ways that the film industry has responded to outside pressure from grassroots religious organizations and the US government. The critical inquiry in this course will center on the ways in which varying degrees of regulation and censorship have influenced the content and distribution of films in the US. One of the reasons why censorship efforts are so pervasive is because films are an important source of cultural knowledge and influential texts within the fabric of society. The critical inquiry in this class will also grapple with the issues raised by that influence.
The writing in this class will focus on personal experience with film as well as rhetorical persuasion and critical inquiry into the issues surrounding censorship in film. Film screenings and relevant readings on censorship and film will also be a part of the course.
Students will write 3 papers of increasing length and difficulty. The first will focus on a personal experience with a particular film and how it influenced the student’s thinking. Special attention will be paid to how that experience might have been different with more or less censorship. The second will be an opinion/persuasion paper on some aspect of censorship in US film, either historic or current. The third will be a research paper, with bibliography and footnotes, on a social issue related to film and censorship. In addition to the three major assignments, students will engage in written peer review and online postings to discussion questions.
Ann Matteo - The Classical Grand Tour: Travel
and a Liberal Education
CRN: 65155 Section M13 TR 11:30-12:45 and F 11:30-12:20
CRN: 65171 Section M14 TR 1:00-2:15 and F 1:00-1:50
Why do we leave home for college? Making a pilgrimage has always appealed to seekers of wisdom, whether that is to a secluded wilderness retreat or a bustling urban university. This course will introduce you to just one way that this journey was made in Enlightenment Europe, namely, in the Grand Tour of sites of antiquity and the "Oxbridge" mode of higher learning. The dramatic differences between then and now beg us to reexamine our own educational orientation. In our wanderings, you will compare word and image, because much of the experience of the Tour was in response to the landscape, ruins and masterworks of art. Observing its distinctly literary character, you will sample in translation a few of the ancient writers that the Grand Tourists would know well - Ovid, Horace, Plato - and you will also read poetry and fiction where the main character records and reflects on this journey. We will question how gender, class, education and nationality determine who may appreciate, or even apprehend, the classical tradition. Non-fiction essays and multimedia will raise the question of the tasks of a liberal education and of being an intellectual in the world. Many kinds of writing and imagined audiences for your reasoned opinions will be exercised, including journaling, interviewing, writing the documented scholarly essay (which has passed through several revisions) and writing multimedia for educators and the general public.
Miller - Captivity, Slavery, and Imprisonment
in Europe and the U.S.
CRN: 66542 Section 43 MW 11:10-12:25 and F 11:10-12:00
CRN: 66543 Section 44 MW 3:55-5:10 and F 3:55-4:45
"History is but the record of crimes and misfortunes." --Voltaire, L'Ingénu
In this course we will reverse Voltaire's dictum and consider how "crimes and misfortunes" are themselves records of history. We will study various aspects of captivity, punishment and criminality to see what they can tell us about our history, our society, and ourselves. Topics we will consider include the social value of punishment, the creation of the criminal body, the extension of techniques of imprisonment into everyday life, the gendering of punishment and social control, and the production of deviant identities. Course materials are eclectic. They may include Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Gayl Jones's Corregidora and Franz Kafka's The Trial, as well as many excerpts or shorter pieces, including Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative, linguistic theory, Alcatraz prison regulations, historian Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish, Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves, and other documents.
You and your classmates will select many of the course readings as part of a collaborative project. Your work on your collaborative project will directly contribute to your final research project. Some of these texts are written in a style that may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable. We can make use of this discomfort by considering how and why certain styles of writing affect us in different ways and how our own expectations of writing have been shaped by and against certain standards or norms. Over the course of the semester you will augment your capacity for critical thinking, writing and research by approaching these 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.
Mullen - I’m Game! Exploring the Art, Science
and Economics of Electronic Games
CRN: 66561 Section M8 MW 2:30-3:45 and F 1:00-1:50 [open to WLP only]
CRN: 66562 Section M9 TR 11:30 12:45 and F 11:30 12:20
Playing games is one way through which we humans refine our skills, test our limits and define our potential. In Western culture, however, two mutually contradictory discourses about games exist side-by-side. On the one hand, games are supposed to be purely recreational, and game-players are merely people seeking a little escape from other aspects of their lives. On the other hand, games are held to be capable of powerfully influencing those supposedly separate aspects of our lives. Usually the influence of games, particularly electronic games, is considered to be a negative one (you are probably all familiar with the news media's attempts to link electronic games with outbreaks of violent behavior such as school shootings). Our course, then, will begin to construct more sophisticated ways of exploring electronic games as an emerging artistic, technological and economic force in our culture.
This course will challenge you to develop your writing skills in new directions. If you have an interest in art, technology, or economics, you will find that exploring electronic games will yield much that speaks to those interests. You will also find that new media require very different analytical approaches to those to which you may be accustomed. Tackling these writing assignments will force you to re-think some of your own preconceptions about both games (gender stereotypes concerning players, for example) and writing (some of the assignments may strike you as a little unorthodox!). You’ll be formulating truly investigative research projects with little pre-existing research to guide you and will need to develop a sophisticated balance of descriptive and analytical modes, and a mastery of both aesthetic and technical vocabularies. If you have an open mind and are interested in exploring the connections between diverse areas of experience, you will have a lot of fun in this course. If you are open to developing your writing in new and unexpected directions you will also learn a lot of very useful skills.
Note: While most of the assignments in the course will allow you to choose the game and platform (Playstation, PC, Mac, etc.), our first assignment will involve a game that the entire class will be exploring. Of necessity this will be a PC/Mac game. It will not be a “bleeding edge” game, but you should be reasonably sure that your computer will provide you with a suitable game-playing platform (laptops in general can work, for example, but some, particularly those with small keyboards, can be physically uncomfortable to use).
If you have any questions about this course, I’m more than happy to talk with you further. Please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Nguyen - The OverReacher
CRN: 66537 Section 38 MW 8:00-9:15 and F 8:00-8:50
Writers use the trope of the overreacher to entertain us with stories, to tell and explain personal and social history, and to justify or demonize an especially dominant personality. The number of variations of the familiar story of Dedaelus and Icarus should remind us how rich the trope can be. The overreacher is usually conceived as one who seeks status and accomplishment somehow beyond what is appropriate, thus disrupting a natural order. One way or another, to restore order, he is brought low. After all, if he succeeds, would he have overreached? In the case of lofty Icarus, who aimed to soar as high as the gods, the sun dashed his hubris by melting his waxwings. Brueghel painted the scene after his fall. In Brueghel's painting, Icarus's story is but a small part of a large vista of the world undeterred or unaffected by the splash of a man falling from the sky. W.H. Auden wrote a poem about the painting. Other examples of an overreacher include the zealously ambitious, the mad genius, tragic heroes, conniving henchmen and destroyed demagogues.
I have made the overreacher the theme of this writing class. We will look at it as part of larger vistas. We will discuss it as it manifests across different disciplines. Although most familiar as a literary strategy, the trope is not restricted to works of fiction and myth. Biographies, non-fictional studies of a historical era, and contemporary press and media also construct personalities using similar schemas. Imagine Stone Phillips teasing the audience with Icarus as his lead story. We will analyze what effects the trope has on how we understand not just the arts but the world. You will be responsible for researching an instance outside the assigned texts where you see the overreacher archetype being constructed and for creating a variation yourself.
Because this is a writing class, it is my hope that by examining how writers deploy a particular convention to their advantage, the student will be in a position to better analyze language and to use it to his advantage. We will slow writing down, take it apart, and develop it as a process to make ourselves more masterful writers. Responsibilities include: 35 pages of original writing, with drafts and reading responses; research; annotated bibliography; Blackboard postings; and participation in class discussions and exercises.
Ozdek - Dystopic Societies: Rhetoric of Apocalypse
in Today's Culture
CRN: 65166 Section 23 MW 12:45-2:00 and 12:45-1:35
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 utopic 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 utopic but dystopic 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 (Blade Runner, Truman Show) to novel (Lord of the Flies, 1984 ) to non-fiction. 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.
Presser - Firing the American Canon: Symbolic
Struggle and Cultural Wars
CRN: 66545 Section 46 MF 3:55-5:10 and W 3:55-4:45
Classrooms are contested spaces. Instructors don't agree about how best to choose texts to teach, and how to study the texts once they are selected. This class will raise questions and write about pedagogical issues such as: Is popular culture a suitable academic subject? What constitutes American literature? What can comics, movies and children's books reveal about the culture which produced them?
Class members will participate in the selection of course readings and the design of writing and oral presentation assignments. Writing assignments will include, but will not be limited to, a reflective essay on educational experiences and a research project involving the construction of a syllabus.
Riedner - Revolutionary Writing, Democratic Visions,
Border Identities: Auroras of the Zapatistas
CRN: 66560 Section M7 MW 10:00-11:15 and F 10:00-10:50 [open to WLP only]
CRN: 65180 Section M1 MW 1:00-2:15 and F 1:00-1:50
In this course, we will read writing whose intention is to encourage us to re-imagine democracy and identity and thus inspire social, cultural, and political change. Such writing challenges normal ideas that shape our everyday lives, challenges the authority of the state and institutions of civil society, and draws attention to the links between economic structures, political institutions, and cultural practices, and encourages us to rethink everyday, commonsense ideas (Marx and Engles and Subcomandante Marcos). Not unexpectedly, it jeopardizes the safety of its authors. Writers are exiled (Ngugi), are outlaws within their own nation (Marcos), have prices put on their heads (Rushdie), or, in some extreme cases, are executed or murdered for their writing.
We will read a series of common texts that establish a series of questions, problems, issues, and ideas to guide our reading, writing, and thinking. We’ll begin with the most famous text that has theorized democracy and social change – The Communist Manifesto – and compare it to writings of the contemporary Zapatista movement in Mexico. Through this comparison, we will ask: What does it mean to be in struggle to change the world? How do writers use writing as a means of social and political struggle? How does writing intervene into public discourse? How does writing represent and engage identity? How do writers shape publics and counter-publics?
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 who advocate for radical social and political change. We’ll look closely not only at what writers theorize and argue but how they use language (Williams, Powell). We’ll ask ourselves why writing is chosen a means of social and political protest (Ngugi). Because writing encourages us to find voice to speak and to act, in each writing assignment we’ll consider how our writing has public meaning (Fraser). All students will complete a major research paper as well as a communiqué and a short essay on identity.
Riley - Science and Our Place in the World
CRN: 66549 Section 50 M 2:20-3:10 and WF 2:20-3:35
Although science increasingly warns that our future depends on how we come to terms with the earth’s limitations, public policy often ignores these warnings, encouraging ever greater production and consumption. What allows people to stare into a potentially disastrous future and risk it all, however, has more to do with their underlying beliefs about our place in the world than the predictions of science. Thus, anyone who hopes to change how we manage our resources must first address these fundamental beliefs.
In this course, students will write a position paper on who they think is in charge of the planet--nature, humans, or a divine intelligence? From there, we will examine how these paradigms affect the way we see ourselves and our earthly obligations. Then we will examine how the underlying paradigms determine how some issues are framed in public discourse. Finally, each student will choose a topic that relates to science and public policy and examine it thoroughly, producing an extended analytical essay that explains the issue, examines both sides, and takes a position on it.
Ryder - Crossfire, Democracy, and Public Discourse
CRN: 66539 Section 40 MW 12:45-2:00 and F 12:45-1:35
Every weeknight, Crossfire shoots across the airwaves from GW campus. A show full of zingers and sound bites, it draws plenty of viewers into the political arena. However, the show has been decried by sociolinguists and rhetorical theorists as demonstrating the worst of our culture: a battle ground where truth is sacrificed in a display of ego. What is the ideal space for examining and discovering truth in a democracy? What role do media play in this process? What is the role of institutions of higher learning, such as GWU? How do academics battle about knowledge, and how do university’s prepare students to participate in democratic societies? We'll visit Crossfire, read books about the role of the media in democracy, study the arguing styles of various academic disciplines, and write our own theories about proper methods of discovering truth. This course includes an in-depth research analysis of a particular kind of public discourse (such as a talk show, a town meeting, a cyber-meeting room, a senate hearing). We'll use Intensive writing and revision as a method of finding knowledge.
Salchak - Full Spectrum Dominance: American Foreign
Policy in a Time of War
CRN: 65151 Section M3 F 10:00-10:50 and TR 2:30-3:45 [open to WLP only]
CRN: 66559 Section M6 F 1:00-1:50 and TR 4:10-5:25 [open to WLP only]
This course will create a research community around questions derived from current American foreign policy. Specifically, we will explore the goal of “full spectrum dominance” by examining the doctrines of preemption and American exceptionalism. We will begin the course by examining some primary texts that articulate the policies of full spectrum dominance, preemption, and American exceptionalism. We will then conduct an analysis of these texts in order to articulate their primary assumptions, arguments, and evidence. From this analysis we will derive research questions that test these assumptions, arguments, and evidence. Modeled after the literacy practices of many DC policy groups and think tanks, self-selected small groups will then pursue these questions and produce mini reports on them. At the end of the course, we will attempt to compile these mini-reports into a final report summarizing our collective findings. This collective project is open ended and student driven. We will go where the work takes us, exploring a variety of viewpoints related to our field of inquiry.
In addition to working together as a research community exploring core questions relevant to contemporary American foreign policy, each student in this course will pursue through a series of individually written revised papers an individual research agenda that results in producing a significant academic research paper. When writing these research papers students will be asked to develop topics and approaches of their own choosing. Students are free, for example, to develop research projects related to the core themes of the course; but they are also free to use the process rather than the content of our group research as a methodological model that they apply to any topic they wish. Either way, students will develop research projects in close consultation with the instructor. In addition to doing lots of hard but hopefully rewarding work, students in this course will be encouraged to seek out venues for making their work public, including but not limited to participation in the UW20 Symposium. Paper assignments and page total requirements will conform to the parameters established by the UW20 Template.
Schell - Get a Life! Fans, Boosters, and Zealots
CRN: 85595 Section 21 TR 0800-0915 and F 800-850
CRN: 86408 Section 31 TR 0935-1050 and F 935-1025
In 1987, William Shatner, still famous for his role as Kirk on Star Trek, appeared on Saturday Night Live. During a skit, in which he was playing himself at a Star Trek convention, fans asked Shatner 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 fandom. For example, what ideas or texts or people are sufficiently important to deserve fans? (Football? Elvis? America?) How devoted can fans be to their chosen idol, without provoking concern or contempt? What's the difference between a fan and a fanatic, or a disciple, or a zealot? Why do people care so much about something that is, in almost every case, so remote from their personal lives as to appear to have absolutely no personal relevance to them? And there are times when fans, by their enduring enthusiasm, manage to make a cultural icon out of something absolutely undeserving, such as Rocky Horror or the Chicago Cubs. Are fans actually part of the creative process? Or are tribute bands and fan fiction writers merely parasites of other people's artistic creations? This semester, we will read and write about fans, enthusiasts, and zealots. We will examine theories about what motivates fans, and we will collect ethnographic data. In addition, every student will select an internet fandom (e.g., Dawson's Creek or Lord of the Rings) and participate in an online writing community devoted to that series.
Shemak - Testimony, Truth, Justice and the Nation
CRN: 85587 Section 13 MW 0800-0915 and F 800-850
CRN: 86438 Section 41 M 0935-1025 and WF 935-1050
One of the defining features of many contemporary societies is the phenomenon of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other mass human rights violations that have been inflicted by regimes, states and other players on groups of people in places like Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cambodia, South Africa, Bosnia, and Rwanda. The primary focus of the class is on questions of testimony, truth and justice as these nations/peoples attempt to come to terms with the past. Through critical reading, thinking and writing we will examine such questions as how “truth” and “justice” are defined. What are the emotional, historical and juridical implications of these terms? How are recent events reflections of colonial histories? What are the implications of laying bare the “truth” of events that have occurred in the past--as part of ongoing nation-building processes? We will read and write on the “Gacaca” process in Rwanda and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Texts we will be reading include: Martha Minnow’s Between Vengeance and Forgiveness, Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull and Mahmood Mamdani’s When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and Genocide in Rwanda.
UW20 is a writing course based on the assumption that writing is a skill and that any skill can be improved through guided practice. This course is designed to give you that guidance and practice so that you can improve the writing ability you already have and become a better, more confident writer. UW20 will help you prepare for the kinds of writing you will be asked to do throughout your college career: the identification, construction and investigation of an issue, crafted with the best possible means of support and expression, given your audience and purpose. You will write a variety of formal papers including: a paper proposal, annotated bibliography, and final research paper. You will also write a variety of short papers including: a book review and a film analysis.
Thomas - Problems in Human Rights
CRN: 65157 Section 20 M 9:35-10:25 and WF 9:35-10:50
CRN: 66547 Section 48 M 2:20-3:10 and WF 2:20-3:35
We most often think of a right as a protection or a privilege that applies within a political and civil order. (For instance, gays might have a right to marry in one state but not in another.) But that view of rights clashes with our usual rhetoric of human rights, in so far as human rights are supposed to apply to all humans rather than only to those within a specific civil order. Human rights can therefore seem like a puzzling value. Must human rights advocacy, for instance, proceed from some kind of faith in a unified human civil order. If so, that would seem a problematic prerequisite, given the diverse and sometimes chaotic relations of various cultures and value systems. In fact, although human rights seem like a progressive-minded ideal, human rights have also been understood to rely upon--or to sustain--characteristically western ideological values such as individualism, capitalism and globalization. Many politically progressive sensibilities will regard any such reliance with suspicion. In this course, then, we survey major statements about rights to acquire some footing in the practical and conceptual challenges attending the theme of human rights in particular.
Students will undertake a variety of writing assignments, including in-class position papers, a reading journal, topic refinement exercises, an annotated bibliography, and a term paper. Throughout, the course goal will be to acquaint students with a specifically academic mode of research-based argumentation. Success in this goal is a subtler task (and perhaps a less natural one) than speaking your mind clearly and correctly. You will need to put audience front and center in your writing process. Academic writing, in this sense, moves beyond a value of expressing yourself and moves into a value of using critical thought and research to help an audience work through issues of concern to many people.
Tomlinson - Haunting America
CRN: 66541 Section 42 MF 11:10-12:25 and W 11:10-12:00
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)appearance 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? And why does haunting occur? This course will examine the phenomenon of haunting in America as it applies 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).
Troutman - History, Art, Authenticity
CRN: 65147 Section 10 TR 9:35-10:50 and F 9:35-10:25
CRN: 65175 Section 31 TR 2:20-3:35 and F 2:20-3:10
History and art intertwine in museums, films, graphic novels, historical sites and monuments, "living history" performances historical reality shows. Public discussion about these artful manifestations of history (or historically minded manifestations of art ) often hinge on notions of authenticity-the sense that the representation feels true to the past reality. Does historical truth lie in the details, or does it transcend antiquarian minutia? Can artifacts from the past really "speak for themselves"? Can modern creations ever be authentic if they are always artificial? Can we really "step back in time" and "experience" the past? What role does art have in our interpretations of the past and its relation to the present? This course is staged to carry students through the process of writing a major research paper exploring these questions. U.S. Slavery and the Nazi Holocaust provide rich case studies we will explore in particular. For example, is Art Spiegelman's Maus more authentic or truthful than Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful? Could "living history" performers at Colonial Williamsburg accurately recreate a slave whipping or a slave sale-and would we want them to? Are any of Mel Gibson's films historical? Other possible topics and art forms include recent graphic novels about the September 11 attacks and the Palestine/Israel conflict, or even certain fictional histories like those in The Animatrix. Students will have assignments due almost every class meeting; these include exercises in analytical note-taking, close reading of academic arguments, writing sketches and multiple drafts of essays, performing library and field research for primary and secondary sources, working collaboratively with peers, and reading and responding to peers' work. Field trips to sites in DC are required.
Wilkerson - Critical Conditions: Exploring, Writing,
Resisting Ascriptions of Illness
CRN: 65154 Section 17 TR 0935-1050 and F 935-1025
CRN: 65148 Section 11 TR 1110-1225 and F 1110-1200
Who has the power to decide that you are sick or crazy? Who decides
which bodies are considered normal, and which ones are considered
different? When is it advantageous to be considered ill or disabled,
and when is it against your interests? How are notions of illness and
disability, both medical and popular, influenced by social constructions
of gender, sexuality, race, and class? How do notions of illness
influence these and other forms of social group difference? How and why
have individuals and groups resisted ascriptions of illness or
disability? People deal with these questions through writing as a
process of meaning-making, in narrative and a variety of other forms.
We will use writing as a tool for meaning-making by (1) examining
published narratives (memoirs and other writings by people who have
struggled with these questions firsthand) and theoretical works which
provide critical frameworks for these readings, and (2) conducting
ethnographic-style research projects presenting and analyzing personal interviews. Through these projects, students will use writing to enter into ongoing academic conversations and will learn to integrate personal and scholarly knowledge.
Wolfe - Law & Rhetoric: Arguing for a Better World
CRN: 66551 Section 52 TR 2:20-3:35 and F 2:20-3:10
CRN: 66550 Section 51 TR 3:55-5:10 and F 3:55-4:45
For better or worse, law, and especially the language of rights, occupies a central place in our society. Our true beliefs as to the scope of our "rights" can never be defined in a meaningful way by the declarations of a court, yet this language and the court system itself plays a major role in social movements. In this course, we seek to understand how law and legal argument has been used by the powerful and why those seeking social change have so often looked for solutions within law. Although the instructor is a practicing public interest lawyer and students will receive some introductory legal education, the real goal of this course is to "understand 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, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail.")
This course will explore how we use legal arguments in social debate, looking at examples from ancient Greek stories of Antigone resisting her brother, the King, to Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," to the gay families who convinced the Massachusetts Courts that the state may not refuse to recognize their marriages. Readings will include biographies, advocacy pieces, and legal authorities.
Our exploration of these examples and ideas is aimed at helping students to become strong writers of persuasive argument. Students will write several papers identifying the principles that various groups have sought to see effected through law, and analyzing how well law has served those designs. In addition, students will select a contemporary public debate as a topic for a major paper that uses the law and structured legal analysis to advance a position, while simultaneously exploring whether law ultimately is a useful or hopelessly flawed method of resolving society's problems.
Zeff - State of the Union: Writing the Administration’s
First 100 Days
CRN: 65150 Section M12 TR 2:30-3:45 and F 11:00-11:50
CRN: 66554 Section M11 TR 4:10-5:25 and F 12:00-12:50
On January 20th, the next president of the United States will be inaugurated. This research and writing-intensive course will follow the new president from inauguration festivities through the first 100 days of the new term. We will begin the semester by studying inaugural addresses of other wartime presidents and then use the President’s inaugural speech as the basic text for the course. Class activities will range from taking part in the citywide celebration of the Inauguration to examining the transition of campaign rhetoric into administration policy. Course reading will cover the craft of research and writing as well as presidential rhetoric, the shaping of a presidential administration and domestic and foreign policy issues. Because we will be studying the daily activities of the new administration, students will also be required to read a daily Washington, DC newspaper as well as select political blogs and newsletters.
Zink - Cities of the Mind: Metropolis, Utopia,
and Other Urban Imaginings
CRN: 65176 Section 32 MF 11:10-12:25 and W 11:10-12:00
In the urban city dwell our best dreams and worst nightmares. The City never fails to engage the human imagination, and so we struggle, then, with how this world’s cities hold both the utopias and dystopias of our civilization. The artists among us—and here the word “artist” is used in the broad sense of the word for people creating city visions: writers, filmmakers, visual and performing artists and photographers, but also at times architects, planners, educators, and even politicians—constantly invent and reinvent just what the metropolis can mean and do and offer. They ask us to consider: What does living in the city require of our minds, and how does it alternately feed and test our human souls? How does a body both know and define itself by the urban landscape it occupies? What would a utopian city even look like? What, in turn, is our responsibility to the city and its very real problems?
This writing-intensive course will look through both American and international cities such as New York, DC, Venice, and Rio de Janeiro, among others, to examine how artists re-dream the contemporary city, for as the American urbanist Jane Jacobs tells us, “Designing a dream city is easy; rebuilding a living one takes imagination.” In this course, we’ll take up the charge that Jacobs sets forward, using our imaginations to reconceive the city through several projects: an initial paper examining an artist’s connections to his or her home city, a critical research argument that comes of your own essential questions raised by the course themes, and a resulting proposal for a reimagined city. Writing exercises will invite you further into Washington—an urban geography that you yourself have chosen as your new home—to interact with the city’s writers and artists; course readings and viewings may include Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, James Howard Kunstler’s Geography of Nowhere, and Fernando Meirelles’ and Katia Lund’s Cicade de Deus (City of God) among other critical, theoretical, and creative works.