UW20 Courses - Spring 2007

| Last Updated: 3/25/07 | 11:45 am

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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, 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 description)

M Lee. Alexander - Detective Fiction as Art and Social Commentary
NOTE: These courses are taught at the Mount Vernon campus
CRN 24051 Section M09 | TR 1000 - 1140 ( ACAD 304 )
CRN 24563 Section M15 | TR 1300 - 1440 ( ACAD 329)

Emily Bliss - Blacks and Whites in America
CRN 25525 Section 76 | F 1420 - 1510 ( GELM 609 ) & TR 1420 - 1535 ( 2020 K 25 )
CRN 26061 Section 82 | F 1555 - 1645 ( ROME 202 ) & TR 1545 - 1700 ( 2020 K 16 )

Nicholas Boggs - Gender, Sexuality, and Literature
NOTE: This course is taught at the Mount Vernon campus
CRN 24043 Section M11 | F 0900 - 0950 ( ACAD 329 ) & MW 1000 - 1115 ( ACAD 329 )

Ashley Busse The Great Outdoors: Writing About the Natural World
CRN 25528 Section 77 | F 0800 – 0850 (PHIL 110) & MW 0800 – 0915 ( TOMP 203)

Jennifer Cho Atomania! Remembering the A-Bomb in Literature & Film
CRN 26060 Section 81 | M 1420 – 1510 ( BELL 105) & WF 1420 – 1535 (2020K 23)

Christine Choy - A Subversive Look at Fairy Tales: Reading Below the Surface
CRN 24035 Section 46 | MF 1545 - 1700 ( DUQUES 250 ) & W 1555 - 1645 ( 1957 E #B16 )

Eric Drown - Conspiracy : Theory
CRN 23513 Section 10 | F 0935 - 1025 ( ROME 202 ) & TR 0935 - 1050 ( 1957 B14 )
CRN 23530 Section 26 | F 1245 - 1335 ( ROME 459 ) & TR 1245 - 1400 ( 1776 G #101 )

Brian Flota - Is The Louvre In Your Room?: The Artistry Of The Album
CRN 24581 Section 28 | M 1420 - 1510 ( 2020 K 24 ) & WF 1420 - 1535 ( 2020 K 7 )
CRN 23541 Section 83 | M 0935 - 1025 ( 2020 K #27 ) & WF 0935 - 1050 ( 2020 K #27 )

Sandie Friedman - Shifting Grounds: Meaning, Monuments, and the Mall
CRN 24032 Section 43 | MF 1110 - 1225 (1776 G 106) & W 1110 - 1200 (BELL 108)
CRN 24033 Section 44 | MF 1545 - 1700 ( PHIL 110 ) & W 1545 - 1700 ( 1957 E 601J )

Joseph Fruscione - Stage, Page, and Screen: Drama on Film
CRN 25518 Section 69 | TR 0800 - 0915 (TOMP 202 ) & F 0800 - 0850 ( PHIL 108)
CRN 25524 Section 75 | F 0935 - 1025 (MPA 302 ) & TR 0935 - 1050 ( 1776 G #168 )

Cayo Gamber - Legacies of the Holocaust
CRN 24136 Section 57 | TR 0935 - 1050 ( 1957 E #601J ) & F 0935 - 1025 (DUQUES 254)
CRN 23514 Section 11 | TR 1110 - 1225 ( 2020 K 10 ) & F 1110 - 1200 (ROME 459)

Gustavo Guerra - On the Lyric Essay
CRN 24572 Section 61 | MR 0800 - 0940 (1957 E #316)
CRN 24573 Section 62 | M 1110 - 1250 ( DUQUES 360 ) & R 1110 - 1250 ( 1957 E #111)
CRN 24574 Section 63 | MR 1420 - 1600 ( PHIL 217 )

Stephanie Hartman - Food Fights
NOTE: These are hybrid courses
CRN 23539 Section 35 | M 0935 - 1025 ( PHIL 108 ) & WF 0935 - 1050 ( 1957 E 601J )
CRN 24578 Section 67 | W 1110 – 1200 (MPA 305) & MF 1110 – 1225 (2020 K #22)
CRN 23538 Section 34 | M 1420 - 1510 (TOMP 202) & WF 1420 – 1535 ( 1776 G 106 )

Carol Hayes - New York, New York
CRN 23536 Section 32 | MF 1110 - 1225 ( MPA 302 ) & W 1110 - 1200 ( BELL 105 )

Ryan Jerving - Uncommon Knowledge: Intellectual Property and Public Culture
CRN 24037 Section 48 | M 1420 - 1510 ( 2020 K #11 ) & WF 1420 - 1535 (2020 K #11)

Ryan Jerving - U Are Here: Higher Learning Meets the 21st Century
CRN 24579 Section 54 | M 0935 - 1025 ( ROME 206 ) & WF 0935 - 1050 ( 1776 G 105 )

David Johnson - Names for Themselves: The Making of Abraham(s),Madonna(s), Mohammad (s), and Martin Luther(s)
CRN 24029 Section 40 | F 0935 - 1025 ( GELM 610 ) & MW 0935 - 1050 ( 1776 G 170 )
CRN 24031 Section 42 | W 1110 - 1200 ( COR 205 ) & MF 1110 - 1225 ( MPA 305 )

Jennifer Joyce Kissko - Homeless Chic? Poverty, Privilege, & Identity in Contemporary American Democracy
CRN 25521 Section 72 | M 0800 - 0850 ( 2020 K 27 ) & WF 0800 0915 ( GELM 609 )
CRN 26057 Section 78 | M 0935 - 1025 (ROME 352) & WF 0935 - 1050 (1957 E #315)

Randi Gray Kristensen - Poets of the Underdog
CRN 24040 Section 52 | F 1420 - 1510 ( ROME 202 ) & TR 1420 - 1535 ( 2020 K 23 )
CRN 24570 Section 59 | F 1245 - 1335 ( ROME 351 ) & TR 1245 - 1400 ( 1776 G #107 )

Kathy Larsen - The Real Thing
CRN 24041 Section 53 | F 0800 - 0850 ( ROME 459 ) & TR 0800 - 0915 ( PHIL 416 )
CRN 24044 Section 55 | F 0935 - 1025 ( DUQUES 360 ) & TR 0935 - 1050 ( 1776 G 107 )

Andrea Levine Writing the American Family
NOTE: This course is open to WLP only
This course is taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
CRN 24052 Section M10 | TR 1300 – 1440 (ACAD 304)

Jeannine Love - Poverty: Perceptions and Policy in the United States
CRN 23524 Section 21 | M 0935 - 1025 ( PHIL 415 ) & WF 0935 - 1050 ( 2020 k #21 )

Derek Malone-France - Philosophical Explanations of Religion
CRN 24030 Section 41 | W 1110 - 1200 ( BELL 106 ) & MF 1110 - 1225 (BELL 108)
CRN 24580 Section 39 | M 1420 - 1510 ( FNGR 210 ) & WF 1420 - 1535 ( 2020 K 21 )
CRN 24034 Section 45 | W 1555 - 1645 ( 1957 E #315 ) & MF 1545 - 1700 ( GELM 609 )

Diane Matlock - City Stories: Washington, DC-- Past, Present,and Future
CRN 24575 Section 64 | TF 0800 - 0940 ( 1776 G #170 )
CRN 24576 Section 65 | TF 1110 - 1250 ( 2020 K #9 )
CRN 24577 Section 66 | TF 1420 - 1600 ( PHIL 414B )

Jessica Maxwell - Word Wars
This course will be taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
CRN 24567 Section M19 | TR 02:30 - 03:45 (TBA) & F 02:30 - 03:20 (TBA)

Rachel McLaughlin - Is Another World Possible?: Ecology, Feminism, and Postmodernity
CRN 23534 Section 30 | F 0935 - 1025 ( GELM 502 ) & MW 0935 - 1050 ( COR 106 )
CRN 23527 Section 23 | F 1110 - 1200 ( 1957 E #B16 ) & MW 1110 - 1225 (1957 E #B16)

Meghan Mercier - Writing the Dead for the Living: Children's Historical Fiction
CRN 24036 Section 47 | MF 1545 - 1700 (MPA 302) & W 1555 - 1645 ( 2020 K #12 )

Duc Nguyen - Imagining Acts of Self-determination, Acts of Sedition
CRN 23515 Section 12 | TR 0800-0915 (PHIL 413) & F 0800-0850 (PHIL 413)

Pam Presser - Firing the American Canon: Symbolic Struggle and Cultural Wars
CRN 24039 Section 50 | M 1420 - 1510 ( DUQUES 258 ) & WF 1420 - 1535 ( 1957 E 601L )

Rachel Riedner - Writing from the Margins: BORF and Zapatistas in the Context of Empire
CRN 23520 Section 17 | F 0935 - 1025 ROME 204 ) & TR 0935 - 1050 ( 1957 E #311 )
CRN 23537 Section 33 | F 1110 - 1200 ( GELM 402 ) & TR 1110-1225 ( 2020 K #13 )

Matt Riley - The Loss of Contact
NOTE: These courses will be taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
CRN 23517 Section M03 | F 1430 - 1520 ( ACAD 301 ) & TR 1430 - 1545 ( ACAD 301 )
CRN 24048 Section M06 | F 1610 - 1700 ( ACAD 301 ) & TR 1610 - 1725 ( ACAD 301 )

Robert Rubin - On Pilgrimage
NOTE: These courses are taught at the Mount Vernon campus
CRN 24566 Section M18 | F 1130 - 1220 ( ACAD 331 ) & TR 1130 1245 ( ACAD 331 )
CRN 23532 Section M14 | F 1300 - 1350 ( ACAD 331 ) & TR 1300 - 1415 ( ACAD 331 )

Phyllis Ryder - Writing Matters: On Public Writing and Writing Publics
NOTE: These are hybrid courses
These courses will be taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
CRN 23540 Section M01 | MW 1300 - 1415 ( ACAD 301 ) & F 1300 - 1350 (ONLINE)
CRN 23516 Section M12 | MW 1430 - 1545 ( ACAD 329 ) & F 1430 - 1520 ( ONLINE)

Steven Salchak Critical Reading and Writing in an Age of BS
NOTE: This course is open to WLP only
This course is taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
CRN 24047 Section M05 | F 1300 – 1350 (ACAD 101) & MW 1300 – 1415 (ACAD 101)

Steven Salchak Women's Leadership in a Global Context: Women Making a Difference Though Writing
NOTE: This course is open to WLP only
This course is taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
CRN 24049 Section M07 | F 1430 – 1520 (ACAD 101) & MW 1430 – 1545 (ACAD 101)

Lauren Sallinger - Walking, Marching and Writing: Social Reflection and the Politics of Place
CRN 26058 Section 79 | M 0935 - 1025 (DUQUES 359) & WF 0935 - 1050 (2020 K 23)
CRN 26059 Section 80 | M 1420 - 1510 ( MPA 208 ) & WF 1420 - 1535 ( 1957 E 601J )

Heather Schell - Bats in the Belfry: The Appeal of Monsters to Our Cultural Imagination
CRN 24583 Section 13 | TR 1245-1400 ( 1957 E 601J ) & F 1245-1335 ( ROME 352 )
CRN 23518 Section 15 | TR 1420-1535 ( 2020 K 16 ) & F 1420-1510 ( PHIL 417 )

Sylvie Shapero - Working-Class Texts and Class-Conscious Performance
CRN 24569 Section 58 | F 0935 - 1025 ( GELM 608 ) & TR 0935 - 1050 ( 1776 G #105 )
CRN 24571 Section 60 | F 1420 - 1510 ( ROME 351 ) & TR 1420 - 1535 ( 2020 K 24 )
CRN 25523 Section 74 | F 1555 - 1645 (ROME 201 ) & TR 1545 & 1700 (2020 K 6)

Caroline Smith - ‘I Am Me': Writing about Women's Autobiography
These courses will be taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
CRN 24564 Section M16 | MR 1130 - 1310 ( ACAD 312 )
CRN 24565 Section M17 | MR 1430 - 1610 ( ACAD 331 ) - Open to WLP only

Michael Svoboda - Global Warming, American Politics*; Writing (and Righting) Nature**
These courses will be taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
CRN 26557 Section M2 | MR 1000 - 1140 ( ACAD 306 )*
CRN 23521 Section M13 | MR 1300 - 1440 (ACAD 306)**

Alison Thomas - What's So Funny? Examining and Employing the Humorous Persuasion
CRN 23519 Section 16 | MW 0935 - 1050 (1776 G 169 ) & F 0935 - 1025 ( PHIL 414A )
CRN 23533 Section 29 | MW 0800 - 0915 (GELM 502 ) & F 0800 - 0850 ( ROME 201 )

Phillip Troutman - Serious Comix: Graphic Novels and Manga as Visual Argument
CRN 23523 Section 20 | M 0935 - 1025 ( PHIL 414B ) & WF 0935 - 1050 ( 1957 E #311 )
CRN 24045 Section 56 | F 1245 – 1335 (2020 K #20) & TR 1245 – 1400 (2020 K #20)
CRN 23522 Section 19 | M 1420 - 1510 ( DUQUES 361 ) & WF 1420 - 1535 ( 2020 K #6 )

David Truncellito - The Sixties
These courses will be taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
NOTE: These are hybrid courses
CRN 24046 Section M04 | MW 1000 - 1115 ( ACAD 304 ) & F 1000 - 1050 (ONLINE)
CRN 25259 Section M21 | MW 1300 – 1415 (ACAD 304 ) & F 1300 – 1350 (ONLINE)
CRN 24050 Section M08 | MW 1430 - 1545 ( ACAD 304 ) & F 1430 - 1520 ( ONLINE )

Belinda Wallace - Reading the Black Female Body: Race, Gender, and Representation
CRN 23531 Section 27 | M 0935 - 1025 ( 2020 K 12) & WF 0935 - 1050 ( 2020 K 7 )
CRN 24028 Section 37 | M 1420 - 1510 ( 2020 K 26 ) & WF 1420 - 1535 ( 2020 K 26 )

Aimee Weinstein - Language and Society
CRN 23535 Section 31 | F 1420 - 1510 ( ROME 201 ) & TR 1420 - 1535 ( 2020 K #9 )
CRN 25522 Section 73 | F 1245 - 1335 ( GELM 609 ) & TR 1245 - 1400 ( 2020 K #24 )

Aliya Weise - Beasts Within: Animals, Ethic, & Literature
CRN 25517 Section 68 | MW 0800 - 0910 ( DUQUES 361 ) & F 0800 - 0850 (PHIL 109)

Abby Wilkerson - The Food Voice
CRN 23528 Section 24 | F 0935 - 1025 ( GELM 609 ) & TR 0935 - 1050 ( 2020 K #21 )
CRN 23529 Section 25 | F 1110 - 1200 ( PHIL 111 ) & TR 1110 - 1225 (2020 K 11)

Zachary Wolfe - Law as a Force for Social Change
CRN 23526 Section 22 | F 1110 - 1200 (OM 305) & MW 1110 - 1225 (OM 305)
CRN 24038 Section 49 | M 1420 – 1510 (DUQUES 255 ) & WF 1420 – 1535 ( 2020 K 22)

Robbin Zeff - Political Junkie: Writing About Politics in the Nation's Capital
This course will be taught at the Mount Vernon Campus
NOTE: This is a hybrid course
CRN 24568 Section M20 | TR 1610 - 1725 ( SCIE 101 )& F 1610 - 1700 ( ONLINE )

Christy Zink - The Illuminated City: Artists and Intellectuals on the Urban Experience
NOTE: These are hybrid courses
CRN 24582 Section 18 | TR 0935 - 1050 ( 2020 K 25 ) & F 0935 - 1025 (2020 K 26 )
CRN 24042 Section 14 | TR 1245 - 1400 ( 2020 K 21 ) & F 1245 - 1335 ( PHIL 111 )

COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

M. Lee Alexander - Detective Fiction as Art and Social Commentary

Detective fiction makes a worthy study for analysis because of its broad appeal, literary merit, and role as a reflection on society. Its authors have branched out into a myriad of subgenres & created unique and ingenious sleuths who keep the reader guessing, and also thinking. Studying detective fiction lays a solid foundation for building writing skills as we draw from the progression of thought, logic, and deduction in the narratives to create papers that build to a convincing conclusion through compelling argument and reason.

Emily Bliss - Blacks and Whites in America

Last year comedian Dave Chappelle walked away -- abruptly and without any prior explanation -- from a $50 million contract and a hit television show. His reasons, he later articulated to Oprah, included a concern he had become “socially irresponsible” in his portrayals of black people – and that some white members of his audience were laughing at him, not with him. In 2002 Cornel West, an African-American scholar and author, left his black studies professorship at Harvard after a series of conflicts with white Harvard president Lawrence Summers. West charged Summers with showing inadequate support for affirmative action and with rebuking West for his release of a rap album.

These two highly publicized events provoke important questions about tensions between whites and blacks in our culture, in the mass media, and in our personal lives. Despite the way news outlets covered these events and others like them – as discrete occurrences – these incidents are not free agents in human chronology, unattached from historical narrative and unweighted by the freight of our social and cultural pasts. In this intensive writing and researching course we will contextualize black-white relations in contemporary society by connecting the present to the past.

Drawing from two centuries of literature – including the work of James Baldwin, W.E.B. DuBois, John Howard Griffin, Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Jacobs, Toni Morrison, Booker T. Washingon and Cornel West – we will confront what seem to be modern questions: What is race, and how does it function in our society? In our public and private conversations about race, what is the role of humor? Of political correctness? Why does de facto segregation exist within integrated American high schools and universities? Should we have affirmative action? Do race-based categorizations and labels – e.g., African-American studies programs, African-American literature and perhaps even this course – help or harm us? How are blacks and whites represented on our computer, television, and movie screens, and how do those depictions affect us?

This course will challenge your ability to analyze information, connect superficially unrelated concepts, and sever ties among seemingly related ideas. As we study argument, narrative, evidence and language, we will come to view our daily world as an exciting realm of imbedded questions and implications. Part of this substantial work will entail a 20-page research paper that analyzes race in either a historical, literary or cultural context. In addition to your project, you will write several smaller creative papers.

Nicholas Boggs - Gender, Sexuality, and Literature

Gender, according to conventional wisdom, is one of the most natural of all phenomena. The categories of man and woman define who we are, the roles we play in society, the way we look, and how we think of ourselves. Similarly, sexual orientation is often considered as fixed as either heterosexual or homosexual. Literature, however, often tells a different story. This writing-intensive seminar explores a selection of novels, short stories, and critical essays that complicate traditional categories of gender and sexuality. In doing so, we will be particularly concerned with understanding what literary representation can teach us about the social construction of gender and sexuality, and how these identities are formed in a dynamic relation to other categories of difference such as race, nation, and class. We will study literary works by authors such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jamaica Kincaid, Honore de Balzac, James Baldwin, Dorothy Baker, Nella Larsen, and Leslie Feinberg. Through a series of analytical papers and a final research paper, students will acquire skills for academic writing that will allow them to engage some of the central scholarly texts from gender and sexuality studies by authors such as Roland Barthes, Judith Butler, and Eve Sedgwick.

Ashley Denham Busse - The Great Outdoors: Writing About the Natural World

Ever since humankind could record thoughts and observations, we have written about the natural world—our relationship to it, our interactions with it, what it means to us and what we mean to it. This course will use the long tradition of writing about nature as a springboard for larger discussions of language, writing, rhetoric, philosophy, and pretty much anything that has to do with the ways we make meaning from the world as we experience it. We will read various samples of nature writing to help us analyze the ways writers and readers make use of the natural world, and what nature writing can teach us about communicating, writing, and learning in general. We will produce nature writing of our own, writing about nature writing, and participate in our own retreats into the “natural world”, both artificial and real, as we visit a museum that attempts to recreate the natural world, as well as visiting parks and other outdoor spaces. By the end of this course you will be s killed at identifying and analyzing rhetorical strategies, implementing them in your own writing, and in general employing a critical eye in your interactions with the world around you.

Jennifer Cho - Atomania! Remembering the A-Bomb in Literature & Film

This course rewinds us to the birth of the atomic age, and examines the literary and filmic "fallout" that influenced past and present perceptions of nuclear weapons. Designed to explore how memory of the atomic bomb is reconstructed in both Japanese and American imaginations, this course confronts the ways in which anxieties, fears and losses are translated in literature and film, and how they perpetuate or disrupt larger narratives of atomic culture. The purpose of this course is not to locate complicity on either the Japanese or American side for the events leading up to and including the detonation of the a-bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but to understand how artistic and cultural productions have the lasting power to shape public consciousness and collective memory regarding the events. These include (but are not limited to) the novels, Hiroshima by John Hersey, Hiroshima Notes by Kenzaburo Oe, and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, a Japanese comic series called Bare Foot Gen, and poetry, as well as the films, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Grave of the Fireflies, Godzilla, Atomic Café, Dr. Strangelove, and Rhapsody in August. Other cultural artifacts such as historical documents, PSA's, photography, and music will also be considered. As this is a writing-intensive course, expect to react and respond to texts covered in this course through writing. In addition to smaller pieces that will closely analyze certain themes of the course, you will engage in a larger individual research project on representations of the a-bomb AND a class production of a public reading that weaves together past and present, the classroom and the world beyond it. Not only will you be able to develop transferable rhetorical and critical skills suited for different audiences and purposes, you may hope to cultivate a personal awareness of your own reading and writing processes within the parameters of this course.

Christine Choy - A Subversive Look at Fairy Tales: Reading Below the Surface

Fairytales and folklore have existed in all cultures as stories with
seemingly uncomplicated messages of good versus evil, and justice
prevails; messages so simple that they can be related and remembered
for generation upon generation.  Yet such tales do more than relate
simple messages of good and evil; they are often great description of
the social norms of a given time period or culture.  And more than
that, they also offer very complex commentaries and analyses of those
periods, on gender, race, and class issues, beyond what might be seen
from a mere surface reading of these stories.

In this writing intensive course, we will be doing very close readings
of a variety of fairy and folktales and their different permutations
throughout different cultures and ages: traditional fairytales such as
Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel, and their
non-traditional counterparts, such as Cimbella, The Waking of the
Prince, and Lon Po Po.  In addition we will also be reading various
critical texts and scholarly articles that will help frame our
understanding of these stories and their construction, as well as on
writing in general. Through our reading and research, we will ask
these questions about culture and history:  What does analytical
readings of fairytales tells us about the cultural norms of their
times?  How do such specialized readings influence our own ways of
thinking about culture and history?  How have fairytales as a genre
been an influence or even a site of subversion for writers?

Eric Drown - Conspiracy : Theory

University Writing 20 aims to enhance first-year students' abilities to read, think, and write critically, as well as to equip them with university-level research and project-management tools. In these sections, we'll meet these goals by studying conspiracy theories and the people who create them. On first glance conspiracy theory hardly seems worth studying. What, after all, can be learned from reading the writings of paranoid crackpots given to delusional accounts of the world? But, as you will see, conspiracy theory is a form of thinking to which most Americans subscribe at one time or another to explain some aspects of their lives. Moreover, it is a form of writing with some significant parallels to university writing. Both academics and conspiracy theorists conduct extensive research, use elaborated arguments to convince others to see things their way, and circulate their work in highly critical public arenas. By developing sophisticated analytical methods and conducting first-hand research in conspiracy communities, you'll learn to see conspiracy theorists as astute, if eccentric, observers of society. More importantly, you'll learn how to use academic research and writing to formulate and answer questions that are more than merely academic. Writing assignments may include critical interpretations of select conspiracy theories, an original synthesis of primary sources, and a research-based essay, as well as participation in an online discussion group. Other assignments as necessary.

Brian Flota - Is The Louvre In Your Room?: The Artistry Of The Album

Just as people cherish Picasso's Guernica , the Taj Mahal, Shakespeare's King Lear , Welles' Citizen Kane , Michelangelo's David or Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the album has produced its share of masterpieces. Certain albums—such as The Beatles' Abbey Road , Nirvana's Nevermind or NaS' Illmatic —are pieces of artistic expression that often make people reflect back to a specific moment in time in their lives. They also have the ability to move them to pursue areas of experience or intellectual curiosity that might not have otherwise seemed intriguing. In this class, we will examine the ways the sequential ordering of music—the songs and sounds on an album—into a single package can serve to increase our attentiveness to details as writers, analysts and researchers. What are the unwritten rules of “album-making”? What is the role of cover art and liner notes in the listening experience? How are artists marketed? What makes “great” or “horrible” albums? Is it musicality, anti-musicality, the importance of sales figures or the political content of the lyrics and music? How does the powerful critical apparatus that has formed the various lists of “essential” albums shape our assessment of them? What are some of the legends behind the “classics” and how do they shape our reception of them? We will also reconsider the relevance of the album in the age of compact discs, online downloading and iPods. Can the album help us to develop some of the critical, analytical, theoretical and structural skills needed to approach writing in both the university and in the professional marketplace? To explore some of these questions, we will reading various record reviews, Nick Hornby's High Fidelity , Ashley Kahn's A Love Supreme: the Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album , John Harris' The Dark Side of the Moon: the Making of the Pink Floyd Masterpiece and Domenic Priore's Smile: the Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece . Course requirements will include in-class presentations, many short writing assignments and three essays, with revisions. This class is writing intensive and will culminate with a twelve to fifteen-page research paper.

Sandie Friedman - Shifting Grounds: Meaning, Monuments, and the Mall

Shifting Grounds: Meaning, Monuments, and the Mall

How has the Mall helped to create a national identity? Has this identity shifted as we've constructed new monuments? What ideals are reflected there? In this course, we analyze how the Mall has evolved over time, what it reflects about us as a nation, and why monuments continue to be sources of bitter controversy. Our first week of class involves an examination of Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which an opponent once called an insult to veterans and a “black scar” on the Mall. In the years since, however, the Vietnam Memorial has become a vital pilgrimage site, as well as a renowned work of art. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum serves as the focus of the first essay, and students consider why the Holocaust has become a vital collective memory and even a moral touchstone for Americans. In this unit, students draw from writings on the Holocaust in order to craft a “lens” essay: an analysis of the museum informed by a theoretical perspective. For the research project, students choose a memorial site on the Mall and research its history, developing an argument about how its shape reflects not just what it commemorates, but the values of those who built it. Finally, students write a letter to the United States Commission for Fine Arts, proposing a new monument to commemorate a previously forgotten event. In proposing a new memorial, students also make an argument for how the meaning of the Mall should shift, change, or expand. I have chosen monuments as our focus because they offer students a complex text for analysis: an embodiment of aesthetic ideas, a representation of a historical moment or figure, a locus of public life, a place for individual reflection and mourning. Monuments are often controversial, so writing about them also gives you the opportunity to practice incorporating multiple voices into your essays, while at the same time developing your own original ideas.

Joseph Fruscione - Stage, Page, and Screen: Drama on Film

In the same way that playwrights and screenwriters embark on a long process when writing for their respective genres, academic, university-level writing is likewise a process: critical reading yields ideas and arguments, which you research, draft, workshop, and revise numerous times before you complete your work. Correspondingly, your own arguments in academic writing are similar to the artistic visions that playwrights and screenwriters realize in their works—a screenwriter may support a broader vision with acting and dialogue, while you can support your argument with analysis, close reading, and research.

We have all seen—and reacted to—plays and films, either with high praise or harsh criticism. Thinking and writing about both genres will allow you to verbalize your own reactions, not only as a reviewer examining narrative, dialogue, and acting, but also as an academic writer exploring (and researching) broader issues, such as race, gender, constructions of truth, memory, trauma, and the “American Dream.”

Reading a text will give you a set of ideas and interpretations, which its companion film adaptation will either complement or contradict. This course will examine several play-film pairings, all of which will enable you to self-reflect on your own critical reading, thinking, and writing processes: Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden ; John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation ; David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross ; William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Richard III .

Throughout the semester, your ways of reading, writing, and thinking will progress. You will not only explore what it takes to make a good play, film, or adaptation but also what it takes to write about and research drama and film in an academic context. Drama, film, and scholarly works on them can provide you with lenses for examining and writing about other plays and films, allowing you to “bounce” ideas and arguments off each other to present your own case. How, for instance, can Shakespeare's depiction of King Richard III help you interpret Guare's portrayal of his protagonist, Paul? Likewise, how can a review of acting and music in Death and the Maiden support an argument about a film of Romeo and Juliet ? Drama, 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, all the while working with familiar, enjoyable genres.

Your writing assignments are as follows: Adaptation reviews (4–5 pages); in-class essays and projects; peer workshopping; and a final research project (10–12 pages).

Cayo Gamber - Legacies of the Holocaust

One of the primary legacies of the Holocaust has been the call to remember. In this course, we will discuss the various ways in which the Holocaust is remembered.  We will bear witness to first-hand testimonies of memoirists (for example, in oral histories collected at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) and the video testimony of survivors (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.

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

Gustavo Guerra - On the Lyric Essay

This is a course in experimental critical writing that hopes to help writers develop their own voice and to uncover the rhetorical possibilities available under the rubric “lyric essay.” Recent developments in writing theory have focused on this particular genre as a highly desirable way to address a number of contemporary social problems. A lyric essay tends towards hybridity, often combining and borrowing freely from art, rant, manifestos, poetry, and drama. Often highly idiosyncratic, the lyric essay reveals a neurotic personality that obsessively attends to its own process of creation. This class will read a wide sample of authors and of topics. Because this is NOT a “topics” class as such, students will be given the opportunity to develop their own research topic as the semester progresses. Authors discussed may include Walter Benjamin, Severo Sarduy, Amitava Kumar, Joan Didion, Eve Kosovsky Sedgwick, Antonio Gramsci, Jose Lezama Lima, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Judith Butler, Sigmund Freud, Eduardo Galeano, Christopher Bollas, Adam Phillips, and others

Stephanie Hartman - Food Fights

You engage in a political act every time you eat. This course requires you to take a hard look at where your food comes from, and at the larger impact of your spending and dietary habits. If you want to chow down without a thought about such matters, maybe this isn't the course for you; it just might spoil your appetite. If, however, you'd like to think further about your place in the world, and to what extent you really are what you eat, then read on.

The interdisciplinary subject of food can offer concrete, grounded ways to think about politics, culture, science, and economics, and the connections among them. How do corn subsidies affect beef and soda consumption? Why do Hawaiians assert their identity by eating Spam? What is the impact of Starbucks upon local communities? Many readings for this course, including Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma , will give you some ways of understanding the forces behind how food is produced and distributed; others will explore the meaning of food in a particular context. We will begin the semester on a more explicitly personal note, by creating an edited collection of food memoirs written by everyone in the class. As well as exploring the relationship between identity and consumption, this project will establish the collaborative practices of the course, including a strong emphasis on peer feedback and revision. Other assignments will build toward the final critical research paper, in which you will develop an argument that makes an original contribution to the scholarly conversation around your topic. As well as preparing you for the challenges of college writing and research, this course should make you more aware of how we think and write about food, and why this matters.

Carol Hayes - New York, New York

Times Square, Central Park, Greenwich Village, the Bronx. New York City thrives on crowds, controversy, and contrasts. We'll begin the semester by exploring New York-centered Hip-Hop and rap, analyzing the lyrics – and the harmonic/rhythmic structures – of these musical styles to help us explore the place of these musical genres in New York's social, political, gendered, and racial landscapes. You'll then build on these close reading skills by developing an independent research project (12-15 pages in length), focused on any aspect of New York that interests you. As you develop this independent project, we'll be using our readings about New York to model a number of the research and writing skills that you'll be incorporating into your paper. For instance, we'll read several accounts of the 1984 subway shootings where Bernhard Goetz – a white man – shot four black youths. These readings will model not only the variety of perspectives you'll be expected to bring into your own research and writing – there are almost always more than two sides to a story! – but also the importance of context: Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point argues that the Goetz shootings could only have taken place on the graffiti-laden subway. Finally, we'll use our readings throughout the semester to model how scholars writing at the university level frame their work within academic discourses – discussions of race, gender, politics, religion, and sexuality, among others – and you'll learn to frame your own writing in these ways, so that by the end of the semester you'll not simply be reporting on what other scholars have said, but actively engaging as participants in university-level writing and research.

Ryan Jerving - Uncommon Knowledge: Intellectual Property and Public Culture

You might think your thoughts are your own, but you'd be wrong. That melody stuck in your head, that clever putdown, that elaborate critique of the global military-industrial-media complex that you've devised — all of it, in part or whole, comes from some other place within the common cultural storehouse of ideas and expressions. And increasingly — paradoxically — that material is likely to belong to someone else too, as copyrights, trademarks, and patents work to enclose much of what you might otherwise safely consider "yours."  In this 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 these implications might 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 sampling, fan fiction, identity theft, indigenous cultural property claims, freedom of/from information, folklore, scriptural authority, or the patents/patients divide. You'll take some of this work public as you contribute to the evolving, student-authored <em>I-Prop</em> web site (at http://www.gwu.edu/~uw20ip/i-prop.htm). We'll frame our discussions within the broader questions that concern us as writers: of cultural authority, intellectual autonomy, language communities, and the work of art in the age of mechanical (and now digital) reproduction. And, as we learn to conduct, cite, and document primary and secondary research; develop arguments that incorporate and rework the ideas and language of others; engage in academic "fair use"; invoke and tinker with established writing genres; and revise in collaboration with our peers — as we do all that, we'll explore the  particularly murk
y waters of intellectual ownership to which the act of writing inevitably leads.

Ryan Jerving - U Are Here: Higher Learning Meets the 21st Century

For at least the next four years, the university will be a site in which you develop as a researcher, writer, and thinker. It will also be a site in which, in however small a way, you make and remake history — as we all do, though never in conditions of our own making. And as we reshape those conditions, they reshape us as people and as scholars: encouraging us to regard some kinds of research as more legitimate than others; disciplining us to write in voices that would be unrecognizable to our younger selves; not necessarily telling us what to think, but certainly nudging us toward a sense of what we should be thinking about. So in this course we ask: What kind of place is this, anyway? How might its structure, culture, and particular crises at this historical moment shape us? And how do we push back?

In training our research and writing on the institution that aspires to train us, we'll read widely in academic scholarship, news sources, and less traditional venues that address key issues facing higher learning. Our particular focal issues — whether tuition trends, dorm culture, neighborhood relations, intellectual property and privacy, political organizing, the place of scholar/athletes, or national ranking systems — will come from you: in working groups you will design, prepare, and lead a major course unit on an issue of your choice. We will write in a range of academic and professional genres to include proposals, bibliographies, lesson plans, web sites, reference works, and critical research essays. And we'll have the chance to think about how the recent emergence of collaborative, non-institutional forms of research and writing such as blogs and public wikis threaten or extend what we do as university writers (the answers may surprise you).

David Johnson - Names for Themselves: The Making of Abraham(s), Madonna(s), Mohammad (s), and Martin Luther(s)

While it is unarguable that Abraham the Patriarch, Madonna the Mother of Jesus, The Prophet Muhammad, and Martin Luther significantly impacted their respective societies as leaders of religious movements, it is perhaps also certain that their namesakes—Abraham Lincoln, Madonna, Muhammad Ali, and Martin Luther King—ambitiously sought to influence their own cultures as reinvented leaders of socio-political movements. In each case, the new principal players on the cultural stage made names for themselves either by reworking customary beliefs or by embodying rather strange and uneasy behavior. These second-comers harked back to their influential lineage for support, but moved uniquely ahead to forge more progressive environments.

This course will pair these important individuals by name, will identify appropriate cultural contexts, will discern rhetorical practices, and will detect common methodological patterns for producing change within any social order. In sum, this course will reveal the ways people invent names for themselves.

The upshot of this course is for you to study these lives through history, autobiography, writing, film, and video, so that you can arrange your discoveries in several informed and organized essays, and so that you can apprehend your own lineage and begin to invent a name for yourself.

Jennifer Joyce Kissko - Homeless Chic? Poverty, Privilege, & Identity in Contemporary American Democracy

Lately, actress Mary-Kate Olsen, among other celebrities, has been captured in the tabloids sporting a fashion style dubbed “homeless chic.” This highly coveted current trend in Hollywood often entails wearing dirty rags, mismatched items, and even fingerless gloves.

Meanwhile, there exists another growing movement in the United States in recent years. Legislation from city to city across the nation aims to remove the presence of visible homelessness in an effort to clean up the streets and provide a feeling of security for others to enjoy. These criminal acts targeted by local ordinances include cutting across or loitering in parking lots, urinating in public, sleeping in or near subways or on public benches and tables, and panhandling.

What might be at stake for the face of an American culture that salutes mass media images which reflect the very identity the legal system works to hide? In this course, through careful analysis of contemporary works of literature, film, essays, sociological studies, and news accounts, we will read, discuss, and write about the connections between class, identity, nation, and power. What does examining homelessness tell us about the meaning of democracy? How is “homelessness” defined? Why and how do homeless subjects, arguably the least powerful class within this country, have such an impact on so many fundamental institutions?

Throughout the semester, you will use our readings on class to model how writers frame their work in accordance with their academic and professional genres. Then you'll incorporate some of these techniques into the expansion of your own writing voice, as demonstrated through a range of smaller, creative assignments. For your final assignment, you will develop an original research proposal and project that analyzes a particular aspect of poverty or privilege that interests you, challenging you to insert your own voice (armed with support) into the current conversation about class in America. Extensive collaborative sharing and revision of work will also be required. Writing about homelessness will provide you with the unique opportunity to make connections between how, why, and by whom accounts get told and to acknowledge and consider the material consequences of those accounts. By confronting your own predetermined beliefs about class and about writing, this course should enable you to become a more nuanced and empowered voice.

Randi Gray Kristensen - Poets of the Underdog

Poet Audre Lorde claims that poetry “forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” This is a course in critical reading, thinking and writing that focuses on student writer/researchers becoming poets of the underdog themselves . Writing assignments include an autoethnography, in which students reflect on their own relationship to language and social concerns; a major, collaborative, community-based research paper in which student writer/researchers attempt the process described by Lorde, whereby hopes and dreams become action, in the DC community; and a hybrid creative/analytical assignment. Texts include Beverly Bell's Walking on Fire: Testimonies of Haitian Women, and others selected and introduced by students.

Kathy Larsen - The Real Thing

A quick quiz:

  1. What do Chaucer, Andy Warhol, Courtney Love and The Backstreet Boys all have in common?
  2. What do Byron and Aerosmith have in common?
  3. What do Cleavland, Ohio, Senecca Falls, New York, Bonner Springs, Kansas and Newport, Rhode Island have in common?

The answers in a moment.

We have always been fascinated by the famous, those people who seem somehow larger than life no matter what their fields of endeavor . We’ve also been interested in the infamous, insane monarchs, serial killers, playboy spies, bank robber folk heroes. Recently, it would seem, we have also become fascinated with our fascination.

In this course we will investigate what we value as a culture (substance over sound bites?) our relationship with authenticity, our paradoxical encouragement of the inauthentic (The Real World) and shock when the fabrication is revealed (James Frey), and how concepts of fame shape our everyday reality. You will be undertaking a variety of writing assignments (letter, review, personal reflection) but the emphasis will be placed on the development and execution of a research project that questions some aspect of celebrity past or present. Readings and viewings will, in part, be decided upon by the class itself.

And now, how well did you do on the quiz?

  1. They all commented on the effects of fame. The first in a poem, The House of Fame, the second in a famously misquoted quip, and the last two in songs lamenting the price of fame.
  2. Both had groupies.
  3. All are sites of Halls of Fame (Rock and Roll, Women, Agriculture and Tennis respectively).

Andrea Levine - Writing the American Family

Family values, Nascar dads, gay parenting, and Cindy Sheehan: each of these phrases, issues, and icons makes clear how profoundly conceptions of the American family shape our contemporary political landscape. Conversely, political appropriations of language about the family also influence cultural norms. For instance, an event like the “Million Mom March” (the 2000 march to support gun control regulations) arguably helps to create our ideas about who is a “natural” or “good” mother and about appropriate public roles for mothers—questions that often appear to turn on matters of race and class. This course, then, will begin with the supposition that the way we talk and write about the role of the family matters a great deal, even working to locate particular people within and outside of the category of “American” citizenship itself.

We will start the semester by exploring ideas about the “public” and “private” spheres put forth by cultural critics, philosophers, and historians. We will then turn to the diverse ways in which the American family has been represented within the popular imagination, studying phenomena ranging from the creation of the supposedly typical American family of the 1950s, to the child-raising practices advocated on television shows like “Nanny 911” and “Supernanny,” to the rash of recent debates within the popular press about mothers who work outside the home and the people who care for their children. As we examine this eclectic group of academic and popular texts, (which will also include fiction and Hollywood films). we will pay particular attention to the ways in which generic and disciplinary expectations shape their rhetorical strategies and effectiveness. These close reading practices will inform all of our writing projects this semester, as we make choices about genre, voice, audience, and authorial “authority. Please be prepared to encounter challenging and often lengthy reading assignments as well as essentially continuous writing assignments.

Jeannine Love - Poverty: Perceptions and Policy in the United States

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, poverty in the United States became a prominent issue in the media. Unfortunately, tragedies such as Katrina often only momentarily focus our attention on issues of poverty, class, race and wealth inequality; however, our ideas about these social phenomena are constantly being shaped, consciously and unconsciously, by our everyday experiences. This course explores the ways images, language and power often affect our understanding of poverty and wealth inequality in the United States.

Throughout the semester we will explore how poverty is defined, consider the ways in which poverty has been portrayed in mainstream media (e.g. news outlets, fiction, film, photography, music), read personal testimonies and social analyses, participate in community service and discuss government programs designed to fight “the war on poverty.” This course will push you to engage in cultural criticism through critical analysis and personal inquiry. Academic writing abilities will be developed and honed through a variety of short writing assignments and one longer research paper. The assignments will be designed to help you define your own perspective on important social issues through the development of critical thinking and writing skills.

Derek Malone-France - Philosophical Explanations of Religion

The religious impulse, the desire to formulate some understanding of “reality” and the significance of human existence, has—in one form or another—characterized every human society. In the modern world, however, the status of religious belief has been complicated by a greater appreciation of the psychological and sociological dimensions of “faith” and the cultural influence on (and impact of) religious doctrines, leading more and more people to question the reasonableness of their inherited beliefs and practices. The erosion of the absolute authority wielded by “the Church” in Europe and America that occurred during “the Enlightenment” precipitated an era of tremendous philosophical interest in religion as an object of study and reflection, with some thinkers seeking to defend and others seeking to discredit it. Moreover, philosophers on both sides of the “question of religion” began to incorporate developments in science, psychology, anthropology, historical criticism, etc. to develop novel interpretations of religion itself, interpretations that, in some cases, exercised a powerful influence on the evolution of popular religion and spirituality.

In this course, we will study some of the central developments in philosophy of religion in Europe and America during the late-modern period (roughly from 1700 to the Second World War). The wealth of perspectives on religion—ranging from the skeptical, to the faith-based, to the transformative—produced during this period will provide us with a rich intellectual context in which to explore basic intellectual issues such as: What constitutes a ‘rational claim'?; What sorts of ‘evidence' count in establishing such a claim?; Who decides what sort of evidence counts? How does the ‘meaning' of a claim get constructed in the relationship between author and audience?; Etc. As we shall see, the array of possible positions in the various debates over religion and its place in society is vastly more complex than the simple polemic between religion and ‘secularism' that dominates many current discussions of these topics.

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 and nuanced positions in relation to their own views on the legitimacy of religious belief and what is the proper role of such belief, if any, in modern life. Most importantly, students will learn to incorporate active drafting, revising, editing, and researching practices into their writing throughout their university experiences.

Diane Matlock - City Stories: Washington, DC-- Past, Present, and Future

The “official” tourist website for Washington, D.C., claims that “the District of Columbia's neighborhoods, people, history, and culture truly embody the American experience--from Duke Ellington to John Phillip Sousa and from the Civil War to civil rights.” Produced by the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corporation, the website also offers visitors the opportunity to discover the capital as “more than just a tourist.” To do so, we must experience the diversity of Washington, D.C.—one of the few cities in the world designed specifically as a national capital. Built to embody the new Republic's aspirations, the city has come to represent what it means to be an American. In this course, we will explore Washington, D.C., as a site, space, and symbol of the American experience. We will therefore examine texts, images, objects, and places as we interrogate the interplay between material practices and the realm of ideas, and show that we can, and need to, analyze everything about the places we inhabit. To investigate what different types of evidence reveal about the District of Columbia's role in the creation of the American nation and American identity, we will employ a variety of approaches—including such disciplines as art and architecture, cultural studies, environmental studies, urban studies, history, literature, political science, and tourism.

As we explore Washington, D.C., both intellectually and physically, we will engage in a series of interconnected reading and writing assignments that will develop our analytical skills and culminate in a major research project using primary sources from the special collections of local libraries and museums. We will also engage in activities analyzing “our” Washington, D.C., and what we uncover during our semester of investigating the capital as day-trippers and scholars.

Jessica Maxwell - Word Wars

In this course we will examine the ways in which American wars have been narrated in the twentieth century. You will be asked to critically engage with not only literary representations of war, but also pieces of journalism, historical accounts, films, documentaries, photographic images, and memorials. As a class we will ask how an understanding of war is shaped through these mediums and how, in turn, cultural consciousness is shaped through our understanding of a particular war. In other words, what “work” do these representations do? Do they re-write certain wars as part of a nation-building exercise or, conversely, do they complicate and dismantle previous assumptions regarding a particular war? For this course, you will be required to, regularly engage in classroom discussions, participate in small group workshops, write weekly response papers, and submit a research paper on a topic of your choosing related to twentieth century American representations of war as your final project. This class is designed to develop your ability to write clear and effective argumentative prose. We will approach writing not as a product, but as a process that involves recognizing, developing, and effectively expressing our most interesting questions as compelling arguments. Requiring the analysis of not only assigned texts, but also each other's writing, this class emphasizes revision as an indispensable part of the critical-thinking process.

Rachel McLaughlin - Is Another World Possible? Ecology, Feminism, and Postmodernity

How acceptable is it to modify the genome of a potato? How about that of a mouse? Who has a right to clean air and water? Should animals be raised solely for the purpose of being eaten? Do the disabled automatically deserve access to the same services as the able? Is deforestation acceptable if the profits provide food and medicine to human beings? Should corporations provide restitution for the presence of industrial chemicals in breastmilk?

This course will investigate the philosophical and activist ideas behind social movements that aim to recast the distribution of power among the different forms of life on earth. Ecofeminists believe that humankind's domination of the natural world is causally linked to other forms of social injustice and oppression such as racism, poverty, and violence against women and children. Ecofeminism asserts that both forms of oppression draw from systems of meaning, emerging out of “modernity,” that legitimate unequal distributions of power. The grand narratives of modernity relied upon ideas such as hierarchy, struggle, anthropomorphism, dualism, and progress. Postmodernity, however, represents a shift in thought that can allow for a successful ecofeminist intervention. In contrast with the themes of modernity, themes of postmodern life include destabilization, multiplicity, pluralism, randomness, and fragmentation. We will explore how postmodern thinking helps us think about alternative ways of living and co-existing on earth.

While we will spend the first half of the course analyzing the central themes of ecofeminist and postmodern theory, the latter half of the course will focus on one central question: “Is another world possible?” Students will write a substantial research paper on a topic of their choosing that makes use of the conceptual framework explored in the first half of the course. Possible topics include preservation of biodiversity; genetic engineering; globalization and development; environmental racism; disability rights; animal rights; overpopulation; agribusiness; conservation movements; and water rights.

Meghan Mercier - Writing the Dead for the Living: Children's Historical Fiction

History is full of grim realities.  Death, disease, oppression, war, dirt,
how can responsible adults give children more-or-less truthful accounts of
the past without traumatizing them?  One popular method has always been the
memorization of important dates.  Yet dusty facts can never give children a
sense of the past, of what it was like to live in another time.  In this
class we will take on several approaches to historical fiction for children,
concentrating on that of  late nineteenth and early twentieth century
Britain.  Students will write several short response papers, a rhetorical
analysis, and two longer research projects.

Duc Nguyen - Imagining Acts of Self-determination, Acts of Sedition

Observing that various interests in Iraq are at this moment are engaged in conflict to determine their future, we should take time to reexamine the idea of political self-determination. And after all, it is an idea indissoluble from the American identity, if we believe that the American identity originates in that famous declaration Thomas Jefferson drafted well over two centuries ago, and that the American political ethos is to let people choose their future as much as possible. The Nineteenth century tested that idea; the idea endures as the union we have now.

But suppose that history took a different course, the second attempt of these united states to dissolve the bonds of government was as justified and successful as the first, and what we know as the Civil War was the origin of another nation-state. How different might the official stories of America be? Now imagine other locations of conflict also manifesting different destinies, in which those that would have been branded separatists had actually become fathers of nations instead, and vice versa. What (new) stories of the development of a people or nation might we be reading?

Yes, such acts of imagination lead us to speculate alternative timelines that are usually the province of fiction. At the same time, they reveal that, in the struggle for self-determination—or against sedition—only a few of the ideas circulating during critical moments will pass into the future as the ones used to look back. So much depends on who “wins”. Furthermore, as stories of origin, these ideas form our present conception of ourselves. How we treat the historical moments, then, is an important aspect of how we conceive our present world; and how we want to proceed forward from here. This class explores some of the many attempts by writers to complicate an idea that is so often at the heart of stories of national origin and that is still being “tested” as we speak. While we will engage in the inevitable debate of whether a desire should be interpreted as seditious or self-determining, I want us to also grapple with how an historical event or political action that could be either one or the other is imagined more ambivalently.

Nostromo is Joseph Conrad's novel on the founding of a fictional separatist Central/South American republic; The Shadow Lines is Amitav Ghosh's narrative of the trauma of partition; and Lawrence of Arabia is David Lean's movie about the dream of Arabic unity, and the repercussions and disappointment of that dream. These will be the starting points for our discussions. I choose them for the diversity of locations they represent. (It is not coincidental that all of the texts deal with moments in the waning British Empire, when colonials were trying to gain independence and assert independent identities).

You are also being asked to decide as a class which other locations we study, discuss, and write on. While the locations from which we start, Panama, India/Pakistan/Bangladesh, and the Middle East, deserve to be studied in depth and with greater complexity, I encourage you to range farther, too. In groups, you will present to the class knowledge about a place and time you think merit reexamination through the theme of self-determination/sedition. You will research short texts for the whole class to read in preparation for discussions that you lead. You must decide how we are to analyze the subject that day. And you will focus on a specific aspect of your chosen topic for your individual final writing project.

Pam Presser - Firing the American Canon: Symbolic Struggle and Cultural Wars

The writing classroom is a site of intense symbolic struggle. What exactly is good writing? How important is emphasis on aspects associated with traditional writing instruction, such as punctuation, word choice, or sentence structure? What set of ideas should be developed and promoted in the classroom? What are the connections between writing and knowledge production? What constitutes rigorous research? Questions like these provoke heated debate in the academy.

This course will start with the assumption that classrooms are contested spaces, and instructors don't agree how best to choose classes to teach, or how to study the texts once they are selected. These debates are often referred to as "culture wars." As a student, you are well-equipped to participate in this conversation, since you have expertise about which pedagogical strategies work best for you, encouraging you to become engaged with the subject you are studying, and you also know what methods fail to inspire you.

The course title is intended to invite inquiry about key terms such as "American canon" and "culture." As a class we will discuss and write about pedagogical issues such as: Do critical theories have practical applications? 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? How does time/culture/location/identity/ impact on our literacy, language use, rhetoric and consciousness? 

Class members will participate in the selection of course readings and the design of writing and oral presentation assignments. Writing assignments may include a reflective essay on educational experiences and a collaborative research project involving the construction of a syllabus.    

Rachel Riedner - Writing from the Margins: BORF and Zapatistas in the Context of Empire

This course will use graffiti writing from DC and New York, Zapatista writing from Chiapas, Mexcio, and other contemporary examples of counter cultural productions as a means to consider writing as a site of intervention directly into global capitalism. We will the following questions as a means of exploring the interventions that these writers make into the cultures of global capitalism: What does writing do? What is its purpose? Who is writing? Why are they writing? What are the contexts for writing and why do these contexts matter? How is writing turned into a crisis and what political purposes does this crisis serve? How does writing transform, or fail to transform, public spaces? What is it that this writing wants to do? How do we listen to voices from counter cultural/political spaces? What would it mean to develop a politics of listening to writers who come from counter cultural spaces?

As we read, we'll think specifically about our own writing. We will ask ourselves what we can learn about our own writing by reading and researching writers and artists who advocate for social and political change. Because activist writing encourages us to recognize voices who have not been represented in the public sphere, and encourages us to speak and to act, we'll consider how our own writing has meaning within and beyond the classroom. All students will complete a major research paper as well as several shorter papers. Students will be asked to use different rhetorical strategies in their writing assignments and to think carefully, consciously, and creatively about language.

In addition to readings by and about graffiti writers and Zapatista writers, other course texts include Mary Louise Pratt's “Arts of the Contact Zone, and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire.

Matt Riley - The Loss of Contact

Is our civilization losing contact with nature? Surely, in a physical sense, we have steadily moved from a natural environment to an artificial one. We wear synthetic clothes, eat processed food, build with plastic wood, and have little contact with the wild. But are we losing contact in a more fundamental sense? Are we forsaking the belief that there is something inherently right about the natural order of things? After all, we hardly notice hormone-enhanced athletes, senior citizens without wrinkles, and cloned cattle—and we’re just around the corner from genetically altering babies for greater intelligence, powers of concentration, and beauty. So, why not give people four arms and two sets of eyes? Now, that would be multi-tasking. And if the polar ice caps melt and the polar bears die, then at least Canadians won’t have to winter in Florida.

In this intensive reading and writing course, students will critically examine what is at the heart of modern civilization that allows us to think we know better than nature. Readings will include Jack Turner’s The Abstract Wild, Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America, and essays on genetics and ethics. Students will complete a research project that investigates how we should respond to this situation.

Robert Rubin - On Pilgrimage

From Egyptians rowing up the Nile to Abydos, seeking Osiris’s tomb 3,500 years ago, to Rascal Flatts proclaiming that “Life is a highway/ I want to ride it all night long” this summer in Disney’s CARS, pilgrimage has offered an enduring metaphor for the human experience. But what does it really mean to be a pilgrim? What did it mean in ancient times, when divinity dwelt in temples and burned on mountaintops? What might it mean today, when wisdom seems just a Google-click away, and enlightenment comes packaged in glossy cases? Who are today’s pilgrims? Where are they going?

This class will explore ways in which the yearning to journey in search of understanding has manifested itself in history, literature, mythology, politics, and scientific inquiry. We’ll read accounts of different kinds of pilgrims and pilgrimages, ranging from medieval visionaries before the Reformation to American Muslims taking the hajj to Mecca shortly after the September 11 attacks. In the process, we’ll also look at what it means to search for knowledge at a major university such as George Washington, and the conventions and standards of writing and research by which that inquiry is conducted. As we investigate the ways in which an idea such as pilgrimage extends across a range of academic disciplines, we’ll also be focusing on the writing techniques you’ll need to make yourself heard here, whatever your major. Requirements will include in-class presentations, short writing assignments, longer critical essays, intensive revision work, and a substantial researched argument.

Phyllis Ryder - Writing Matters: On Public Writing and Writing Publics

Hundreds of thousands of Americans at the Lincoln Memorial sing “We Shall Overcome,” clapping and supporting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and each other during the first major March on Washington. Outside the White House, peace activists stage a die-in, dropping onto the sidewalk while their companions trace their outlines in white chalk. A young man ladles soup and offers the bowl to a hungry citizen. A GW student meets with a young girl from a DC charter school to talk about books and college.

All of these events—whether groups staging national protests or students helping others in their neighborhood—are integral to American civic society. Community organizations work through their assertions that they are the public, that social entity that is authorized to direct the government. But how does this public life work? What does it take to develop strong, powerful organizations? What kinds of research and rhetorical skills does one need to provoke this public to care about one's cause?

As part of our study of community organizations, we will explore theories of social change, democracy, and the nature of “publics.” You will test these theories by working with and observing community organizations in DC. And, finally, you will write about your findings for public audiences. Through this process, you will learn the power of writing and the ethical demands of writing about real issues for real people.

This UW20 section includes a service learning component: as part of your course work, you will work each week in DC community organizations. This section is also a hybrid course: significant portions of the class will be conducted on-line.

Steve Salchak - Critical Reading and Writing in an Age of BS

“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.” So begins On Bullshit , a serious piece of analysis by distinguished Princeton philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt, and so begins our course. In this course, we will begin by exploring the concept of bullshit as developed by Frankfurt, other professional scholars, and ourselves and then use that concept to inform our own practices as writers and readers. In an effort to avoid the production of bullshit in your writing, you will develop a sustained research project of your own choosing and design that culminates through a series of assignments in a 10 – 12 page well-reasoned, well-sourced, and well-framed argument.

Steve Salchak - Women’s Leadership in a Global Context: Women Making a Difference Though Writing

Young women around the world live in many different contexts – cultural, political, economic, personal, etc. -- and these contexts each bring with them a different set of challenges and opportunities for developing and exerting leadership. Taking special care to question our own cultural assumptions about the experiences of young women around the world, we will begin this course by discovering the leadership and writing of women from a variety of settings. Looking into the role that writing has played in giving women voice and the role that writing can play in your own process of developing effective leadership, as you study the examples of others you will also critically examine your own context to identify the opportunities and challenges if provides for developing and exerting leadership through writing. In addition to studying the literacy practices and leadership styles of women in a variety of historical and cultural settings, you will develop a sustained research project of your own choosing and design that culminates through a series of assignments in a 10 – 12 page well-reasoned, well-sourced, and well-framed argument.

Lauren Sallinger - Walking, Marching and Writing: Social Reflection and the Politics of Place

This course takes as its premise the idea that walking or marching through a public space can be an act embedded with messages. Walking can signify a group of people taking control of an emblematic place or a seat of power. It can contain a message about the future of a group of people or the piece of land being traveled. It can be the inspiration for creative and visionary thinking. In this course, we will look at how traversing land has been used to promote social justice in literature, history and politics.

We will examine how writers have used journeys by foot to parallel meditative journeys about gender equality, racial subjugation and struggles with personal or national histories. Writers may include Virginia Woolf, W.G. Sebald, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Henry David Thoreau, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Our investigation will then focus on the national stage of historic marches and debates within steps of our campus. We will explore how the streets of Washington D.C. have been used to reflect the national consciousness in such influential demonstrations as civil rights marches and Vietnam protests. Our discussions will be informed by GW's special collections materials, including journals written by a Supreme Court Justice and Washington Post editors as they hiked 190 miles to establish what has been called, "the first national park ever walked into existence," as well as the notes from the D.C. Coordinating Committee's discussions of the different messages embedded in various proposed routes for the 1963 "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." We will discuss how citizens have expressed their visions or demands for their nation by claiming spaces in such events as the 1968 Washington riots and Marian Anderson's famed 1939 concert, at which 75,000 people listened to an African-American woman denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall perform instead from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

By reporting on current demonstrations, the class will witness national issues being played out on the streets of Washington. Students will perform their own mapping and walking, culminating in a large research project either reporting on a current walk or demonstration or researching a historical one.

Heather Schell - Bats in the Belfry:  The Appeal of Monsters to Our Cultural Imagination

Witches and werewolves, vampires and ghouls, ghosts and demons haunted the imaginations of our superstitious ancestors.  In fact, less fortunate forebears may actually have been convicted of being one of these monsters and burnt at the stake; sometimes they were decapitated after death.  We like to think of ourselves as much more sophisticated nowadays.  We are no longer tormented by brownies, magyr, or tengu.  However, if we look at the realm of popular culture—film, video games, and fiction—monsters are thriving in their new home.  Why do they continue to fascinate us?  Do they unveil our unconscious fears and desires?  Do they help us cope with the stress of everyday life?  Are they a shared memory of our prehistoric role as prey?  The word “monster” itself, as cultural critic Donna Haraway points out, come from the same root as the word “demonstrate”— monsters are showing us something.  This semester, we'll try to figure out what exactly they are showing us.  We will use the character of Dracula as our starting point, exploring his many incarnations in film and his fascination for scholars. You will also undertake a semester-long research project on the cultural representations of some other kind of monster (e.g., mummies, swamp things, or zombies).  This research will form the basis of a number of essays and podcasts; later, you will combine efforts with several other students to produce a multimedia project on your monster.  Students who enroll for this class should be prepared to attend a weekly film screening and to master basic audio editing technology.

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 Schell at schellhm@gwu.edu

Sylvie Shapero - Working-Class Texts and Class-Conscious Performance

Class has a lot to do with economics, but even more to do with literature, history, and sociology. Class, after all, is a social construction. It is one of the ways in which we identify ourselves. We need to speak about class—just as we need to speak about race, gender, and sexuality—because class is an important category of difference, especially in the United States, where we are led to believe that society is largely egalitarian.

Yet, we don't speak about class. Why is it such a touchy subject? Do the rich feel guilty? Do the poor think that, eventually, they too can achieve the American Dream? What does “middle-class,” a category used by such a chunk of us that the dramatic stratification of classes has seemingly disappeared, truly mean?

According to the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University, “This erasure of class has denied individuals an important source of understanding of their experiences.” Class consciousness is necessary in order to overcome “powerful feelings of alienation and resentment both by and toward members of the working class.”

If writing is an artifact, then how do we, the class conscious, preserve the words of those who cannot speak for themselves? Do we speak for them? Beginning with The Communist Manifesto , we will discuss the conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as it relates to the written word. We will continue this discussion with Proletarian Literature from the Great Depression. (Why has much of this writing slipped through the cracks of the literary canon?) Contemporary issues of class that we'll be discussing include the migrant farm worker, Hurricane Katrina, and student loans.

Though we will increase our understanding of class, we will also have a lot of questions, which will give us the opportunity to conduct research. Since research, like writing, is, first of all, a process, exercises and activities will build on each other so that you will not feel overwhelmed. You will complete projects little by little, focusing on revision, which is substantially different from editing and, as a class, we will learn to articulate our thoughts and create class-conscious pieces of academic writing.

Because much of what we learn when we discuss class struggle demands that we take action, in this course, we will focus on performance, which will include music and theater. Your final project will be a short performance piece with a research-based critical introduction.

Caroline Smith - ‘I Am Me': Writing about Women's Autobiography

In 2004, singer/songwriter Ashlee Simpson debuted her first album Autobiography , which was followed only a year later by the release I Am Me . Love her or hate her, Simpson, like many women “writers” who came before her, chronicles her own life. While Simpson's medium is music, other women autobiographers have recorded the self in different ways, from prose to poetry. In this class, we will examine the genre of autobiography and its possible manifestations, including diaries, memoirs, and confessional poetry, and we will explore the challenges that one faces when writing the self. We will focus specifically on the work of women writers, looking at the choices they make as they craft the stories of their lives, and we will consider how one's memory shapes one's narrative. Possible texts may include Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face , the confessional poetry of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, songs by contemporary musicians like Liz Phair and Tori Amos, and ¡Yo! by Julia Alvarez. In turn, these texts will serve as the starting points for our writing assignments, which will be as varied as the texts 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. At the conclusion of the semester, students will produce their own autobiography, which will be based upon a series of short personal narratives that will be written throughout the semester. Through reading, researching, and writing, students will explore the complexities of women's autobiography and the numerous challenges faced when writing the self.

Michael Svoboda - Global Warming, American Politics

Our climate has already begun to change—the world is warming—even here in Washington, DC. Such is the consensus of the scientific establishment. But just what do we mean by “consensus”? And how does a scientific position become “established”? Skeptics still challenge the reality, the theories, the models, and the forecasts of global warming. But how should we read their skepticism? How can one distinguish legitimate questioning from the self-interested fabrication of doubt? (And is that doubt further promoted by misguided attempts at “balance”?)

In this section of UW 20, we will address these questions as we grapple with this critical issue of our time. Through the different readings and the diverse writing assignments you will complete on this topic, you will further develop the critical thinking, research, composition, and rhetorical skills effective—and self-challenging—college study requires.

But our work this semester will lead us beyond this one issue, compelling though it is, to broader questions about science and democracy. What role should science play in democratic decision-making? What role, if any, should democratic decision-making play in science? At the end of this course you will be a shining example of the “informed citizen,” at least with respect to global warming. Should you be able to vote on a national climate policy?

Michael Svoboda - Writing (and Righting) Nature

In 1962, Rachel Carson warned that our indiscriminate use of pesticides carried the risk of a “silent spring,” a world without songbirds. Forty-five years later, this winter's animated hit warns that our wasteful ways now endanger yet another group of feathered friends—penguins. Will Happy Feet avert a silent winter, a world without hard ice for tapping?

In this university writing course, we will explore the ways featherless bipeds—the biological label Aristotle applied to human beings—have described nature in order to prescribe human actions toward nature. More specifically, we will consider two different questions about writing and righting nature: First, how do human factors such as class, education, ethnicity, gender, and/or race influence human perceptions of nature? And second, what factors determine whether a given attempt to write/right nature succeeds?

Our semester-long effort to address these two questions will include a careful reading of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring , class discussions of more recent scholarship on the environmental issues her work raised, and in-depth research on a topic of your choice. Your own answers to these questions will be presented through several different forms of writing: a personal narrative, a book or movie review, weekly journal entries, a research paper, and an editorial or a radio script.

Whenever possible, our readings and discussions will be supplemented by critical conversations with writers and personal encounters with nature. Whether these events take place on campus or in the broader environs of DC, I hope you will join me in seizing these opportunities to write—and right—nature.

Alison Thomas - What's So Funny? Examining and Employing the Humorous Persuasion

"I want to make people laugh so they will begin to see things seriously"
William Zinsser

Nothing is funny just because it's funny – almost all humor has an ulterior motive.  In this course, students will examine the nature and character of humor, what it does to us, and why – how come some things make you laugh so hard that milk comes out your nose?  

We will look at how humor can be used, in writing and in other media, as a device of argument or persuasion.  Students will not only practice analytical skills, but will try their own hand at using humor convincingly – and that doesn't mean to tell a couple knock-knock jokes, but to make a point – as Zinsser suggests, to help an audience "see things seriously."  

This of course involves understanding the nature of writing and argumentation itself - the need to consider one's audience, purpose, style and organization as we contrast the "boring" essay with the "funny" one and as students craft their own rhetoric.  Students will develop their voice in writing, with emphasis on recognizing the choices available to them after practicing a variety of writing tools, and using research to deepen and solidify their understanding of topics of their choice. In doing so, students will engage in projects including writing a monologue a la Conan O'Brien or David Letterman, and preparing a satirical piece of writing about a current social or political issue.
 

Course texts will include Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," "The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil" by George Saunders, selections from Mark Twain's Collected Essays, fiction readings by Kurt Vonnegut, essays by David Sedaris, David Foster Wallace, Sarah Vowell, and a look at other comic forms - mock-news programs like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," personalities like Woody Allen and Groucho Marx, and stand-up comics, both old and new.

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

Can "comix" (graphic novels, comic books, manga) do viable argumentative and interpretative work in history? literature? philosophy? psychology? biography? journalism? politics?  How do these image-based texts help us look at relevant issues in new ways?  How do we decide what criteria to use in evaluating "sequential art" works like Maus , Persepolis , Palestine , or Pyongyang ?  By researching, analyzing, and responding to the writing of artists, writers, fans, critics, and scholars, students will develop their own analytical writing styles and learn to anticipate the expectations of academic readers.  Students will work through a series of academic writing practices to develop a major research essay:  identifying analytical interests and topical problems; researching for arguments, interpretations, and examples; designing a research plan; annotating a bibliography; and developing viable claims through logic, evidence, and critical use of other scholars' work.  Special attention is given to sketching, drafting, revising, and editing; reviewing and commenting on peers' drafts; and revising responsively to readers' comments on drafts.  Writing projects will also include an acquisitions recommendation for the new Gelman Graphic Novels Collection and a visual argument poster for the annual UWP Symposium.

David Truncellito - The Sixties

The decade beginning on January 1, 1960 and ending on December 31, 1969 was a momentous, and tumultuous, period of American history, marked by the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War, and the moon landing. The era known as The Sixties is a time of protests, counterculture, and social movements, including Women's Liberation and the civil rights movement. (Although these two periods overlap, they are not identical; one of your assignments in this course will be to present your own argument as to when The Sixties began and ended.)

In this course, we'll examine the writings of The Sixties, with special attention to the arguments presented therein, the way they approach their audiences, their rhetorical style. In other words, while we will address The Sixties as a period of historical, political, and sociological interest, we will primarily be concerned with the writings of the time and their influence on it.

We'll draw most of our readings from The Sixties Papers, but some of our readings will be proposed by you and selected by your classmates. I imagine that these could include news articles, literature, song lyrics, or policy statements, to name just a few examples. Indeed, there will be lots of room for personal choice – not just in the readings that you select, in your assignments, in the topics that class discussion addresses, and in many aspects of the course.

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

Belinda Wallace - Reading the Black Female Body: Race, Gender, and Representation

The central question is: What does gender tell us about ourselves? This is a course in critical reading, thinking and writing that focuses on representations of race and gender in African American women’s literature. Ideologies about black femininity occupy a complex place in American history and culture. In order to explore this complexity, our work will involve an examination of the ways in which race intersects gender and influences our understandings of black women and culture in the US. A key part of our work will be the development of critical written responses to the course material. Through our use of interdisciplinary analysis and cross-cultural methodologies, we will investigate how we, as authors, can use writing as a way to construct and contest cultural, ideological, and political parameters of black womanhood.

Our guiding question will be: How does race intersect with gender and what role does this racialized gender play in our lived reality, our perceptions of the world and our understanding of US history? For example, the course will begin with an exploration of Audre Lorde’s biomythography, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, where we will examine the role of genre and form in writing. Thus, our first writing assignment requires students to investigate the meanings and histories of their given names. This assignment is designed to introduce students to the idea of viewing gender as a social construct (and how language and writing maintain or subvert this construct). In addition to “What’s In A Name,” another writing assignment, “The Impossible Gender,” requires students to reflect on their own relationship to race and gender. These are but two examples of several writing assignments. The final research paper will focus on an evaluation and critique of racialized gender in an aspect of contemporary African American women’s culture, as chosen by the student.

Aimee Weinstein - Language and Society

Imagine sitting with your friend and talking over a problem. Now think about discussing that same problem with your parents. Do you use the same words? Do you frame the issues in the same way? Now picture yourself sitting on a streetcorner in your hometown. Is the language of the passers-by the same as the language you hear in your dorm? What are the differences between the language you hear in your dorm, your hometown and on the street? And, most importantly, how do those differences affect the world in which you live? English is used differently in various countries across the globe - those differences are important in the way both the language and the society is constructed. Think about it: GOOGLE is a verb in the dictionary! In this class, we are going to consider the ways that language shapes society AND the ways that society shapes language. Via literature, film, and first-hand ethnographic research (think: street-corner!) we will consider the worlds in which we live as well as the roles that language - or LANGUAGES - play in those worlds.

Aliya Weise - Beasts Within: Animals, Ethic, & Literature

On one hand, our culture has become increasingly concerned with our treatment of animals, exemplified by the overwhelming support for the PETS Act, which will require local and state authorities to include domestic pets and service animal in their emergency evacuation plans.  However, while our ethical concern for certain animals has increased dramatically over the past few decades, so too has our production of animals for food and clothing, entertainment and sports, and medical and toxicological experimentation.  

This course aims to cultivate students' reading and writing abilities to prepare them for future academic and professional literacy tasks.  By working with the complicated and problematic topic of animal ethics we will have the opportunity to think critically, question rigorously, and write articulately.  Readings will include brief philosophical excerpts, contemporary fiction, and some recent public writings such as news articles.  Assignments will range from an Op-Ed piece to a research article.  Our focus will be to question and to respond responsibly and articulately in a variety of writing tasks. 

We will ask a number of questions throughout the course.  Some of the most central will be:  Do we have moral obligations to non-human animals?  What characterizes the humane treatment of an animal?  When is it permissible to treat an animal like an animal?  What line has been crossed when we treat a human like an animal?  What criteria do we use to differentiate animals from humans?  How do such criteria affect our conception of the human animal?  And, how are these questions, and the many answers we will examine, represented in contemporary cultural texts.
Lauren Weisholz - Feminist Utopias: Writing New Worlds

In this course we will examine the strategies by which feminist theories and feminist utopias seek to remake society by interrogating a broad array of gender assumptions, critiquing existing social structures, and imaging new social and cultural possibilities. As we do so, we will focus on the ways in which these texts ask us to examine critically our “common sense” notions about a variety of social constructions such as language, gender roles, education, labor, motherhood, and government. In examining these texts and the social constructions they address, we will be engaged in substantial reading, writing, and critical thinking. Class time will include several peer writing workshops, which will provide you with the opportunity to give and receive extensive feedback on your rough drafts. Writing assignments will include several shorter papers and a longer research paper that tackles a topic of your choosing that is related to the concerns of utopia, feminism, or feminist utopia. By engaging in a process of writing that requires critical thinking and critical imagination, you will have the opportunity to engage in a variety of writing tasks that will develop your academic writing skills and prepare you to participate in an ongoing dialogue with your peers, the academic community, and the world outside of academia.

Abby Wilkerson - The Food Voice

How does food speak for us? How does our talk of food reveal the literal and figurative places we occupy in the world? How are ways of life expressed and realized through particular foodways? How does food convey social dissent or social belonging? How are our identities and personal relationships shaped and expressed through food? How are our lives and communities shaped through relations of growers, producers, consumers, preparers, sellers, and servers? How do food practices reflect and reveal the norms and hierarchies that shape and are shaped by specific social worlds? How can we use the food voice as a means of critically evaluating these social norms and hierarchies?

This course considers food as a medium for human interaction, a point of contact between public and private worlds. We will explore how food and food writing serve as tools for meaning-making by (1) examining autobiographical narratives as well as scholarship which provides critical frameworks for these readings, (2) creating personal narratives and reflections, and (3) conducting ethnographic-style research projects presenting and analyzing personal interviews.

Zachary Wolfe - Law as a Force for Social Change

"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"

To be sure, concepts 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 court system and to new legislation to effect their demands.

This course will explore the language of law, as used by the legal system and by advocates for change. We examine changing conceptions of equality, competing ideas about the role of government, and most fundamentally, the seemingly incompatible ways in which movements for change both rely upon the law and strive to revolutionize it.

Class meetings typically consist of intense group discussion of the complexities of assigned readings, which include Dr. King, a civil rights lawyer's autobiography, judicial opinions, and contemporary human rights advocacy pieces. Students then explore these concepts even more thoroughly in their scholarly writing. In addition, students will produce a major final research paper on a self-selected topic, allowing them to apply the general principles we explore in class to advance contemporary social discourse.

Robbin Zeff - Political Junkie: Writing about Politics in the Nation's Capital

Washington, DC, is the ultimate political town-where national politics is local. This writing-intensive course will explore the exciting world of contemporary American politics by monitoring how political issues are debated and observing how national policy is made. Students will conduct original research on a topic of their choice that will have them digging deep into the inner-workings of the library's database holdings and doing fieldwork into the hallways of Congress. Both short and long writing assignments will be used to learn the rigors and expectations of academic writing. Course reading will cover the craft of research and writing as well as contemporary political issues and events. In addition, students will be required to monitor daily news sources to stay on top of the current political landscape. A significant amount of work for this course will be conducted online; students will participate in online class discussions, use content management software, and use digital technology to facilitate research, writing, and revision.

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 Robbin Zeff at rzeff@gwu.edu

Christy Zink - The Illuminated City: Artists and Intellectuals on the Urban Experience

From the first flips of the switch that overwhelmed the metropolis into electric light in the 19th century to recent discoveries of underground cities cast in darkness, writers, artists, and urban scholars around the world have struggled with just how to decipher and encapsulate the modern urban landscape. Now that the city is your home--or, at least, your adopted one--you belong to this urban experience, are responsible to it, create it, reinvent it by your very living within its borders and under its bright lights. You walk the sidewalks and take in the emotional life of the city in the grand tradition of writers and scholars such as Walter Benjamin, who brought together in his Arcades Project a blend of experience, critical reading, history, philosophy, poetry, photography, and his own inventive arguments, resulting in what he called a “magic encyclopedia” of the city.

This writing-intensive course examines how artists and intellectuals have illuminated and reimagined contemporary urban space and its experience in both American and international cities--in effect creating the city through their works. Here, you will creatively and critically engage with multiple genres and multimedia presentations of writing and work as part of a physical and virtual community of writers. Course readings themselves address hybrid and multidisciplinary sources--the scholarly, interdisciplinary work of urban studies; poems, stories, and creative nonfiction; works by visual artists; film; and web and multimedia projects. Writing assignments take you further into the city to delve into intensive research and then create a multimedia writing project involving your own illuminated city.

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