UW20 Courses - Spring 2008

Last Updated: 12/14/07 | 9:30 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.


Nicholas Boggs - Gender, Sexuality, and Literature [click for description]
CRN 93515 Section M10 | TR 1000 - 1115 (ACAD 302) & F 1000 - 1050 (ACAD 302)
This course is being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Ashley Busse The Great Outdoors: Writing About the Natural World [click for description]
CRN 93827 Section 58 | TR 0935 - 1050 (1957 E 601K) & F 0935 - 1025 (PHIL 110)
Section 58 Restricted to students who took TRDA/ENG 801.80 in Fall 07
CRN 94351 Section 66 | TR 1245 - 1400 (2020 K 6) & F 1245 - 1335 (PHIL 108)

Jennifer Cho - Atomania! Remembering the A-Bomb in Literature & Film [click for description]
CRN 93077 Section 16 | WF 0935 - 1050 (TOMP 203) & M 0935 - 1025 (PHIL 413)
CRN 93077 Section 16 | WF 0935 - 1050 (TOMP 203) & M 0935 - 1025 (PHIL 413)

Eric Drown - Conspiracy : Theory [click for description]
CRN 93833 Section 52 | TF 0800 - 0940 (DUQUES 358)
CRN 93834 Section 53 | TF 1110 - 1250 ( ROME 201)
CRN 93835 Section 54 | TF 1420 - 1600 (PHIL 414B)

Charity Fox - Race, Gender and the History of Cool [click for description]
CRN 93081 Section 20 | WF 0935 - 1050 (MPA 302) & M 0935 - 1025 (ON LINE)
NOTE: This course is hybrid; classroom and online instruction.

Sandie Friedman - Write Lola Write: Critiquing the Postmodern Film [click for description]
CRN 93491 Section 37 | WF 1420 - 1535 (MON 351) & M 1420 - 1510 (MON B37)
CRN 93495 Section 43 | MW 1245 - 1400 (1776 G 106) & F 1245 - 1335 (PHIL 414A)

Joseph Fruscione - Stage, Page, and Screen[click for description]
CRN 93080 Section 19 | M 1420 - 1510 (GELM 609) & WF 1420 - 1535 (GOV 101)
CRN 93493 Section 41 | MF 11:10AM-12:25PM (MON 351) & W 11:10AM-12:00PM (1957 E 315)

Cayo Gamber - Legacies of the Holocaust [click for description]
CRN 93072 Section 11 | TR 1110 - 1225 (2020 K 8) & F 1110 - 1200 (ON LINE)
CRN 93572 Section 57 | TR 0935 - 1050 (2020 K 21) & F 0935 - 1025 (ON LINE)
These courses are hybrid; classroom and on-line instruction.

Gustavo Guerra - The Latin American Sensibility [click for description]
CRN 94349 Section 36 | TR 0800 - 0915 (PHIL 414B) & F 0800 - 0850 ( ROME 201)
CRN 93507 Section 55 | TR 0935 - 1050 (1957 E 314) & F 0935 - 1025 (PHIL 108)

Sharon Hamilton- Images of Italy [click for description]
CRN 96984   Section 34 | WF 02:20PM-03:35PM (1957 E 311) & M 02:20PM-03:10PM (1957 E 311)

Stephanie Hartman - Trash Talk [click for description]
CRN 93836 Section 64 | MF 1110 - 1225 (1776 G 102) & W 1110 - 1200 (ON LINE)
This course is a hybrid; classroom and on-line instruction.

Ryan Jerving - Uncommon Knowledge [click for description]
CRN 93073 Section 12 | TR 0800 - 0915 (PHIL 414A) & F 0800 - 0850 (PHIL 413)

David Johnson - How To Do Things With Words: Tracing Rhetoric, Hegemony, and Culture in America [click for description]
CRN 93494 Section 42 | MF 1110 - 1225 (MON 452) & W 1110 - 1200 (MON 352)

Jennifer Joyce Kissko - Homeless Chic? Poverty, Privilege, & Identity in Contemporary American Democracy [click for description]
CRN 94353 Section 61 | TR 0935 - 1050 (2020 K 16) & F 0935 - 1025 (GELM 402)

Randi Gray Kristensen - Poets of the Underdog [click for description]
CRN 93084 Section 23 | MW 1110 - 1225 (MON B35) & F 1110 - 1200 (ONLINE)
CRN 93839 Section 28 | MW 1245 - 1400 (1776 G 169) & F 1245 - 1335 (ONLINE)
CRN 93091 Section 30 | MW 09:35-10:50 (2020 K 6) & F 09:35-10:25 (ONLINE)
These courses are hybrid; classroom and on-line instruction.

Kathy Larsen - The Real Thing: Fame, Celebrity and Fandom[click for description]
CRN 94348 Section 38 | MW 0800 - 0915 (PHIL 510) & F 0800 - 0850 (PHIL 417)
CRN 93096 Section 35 | WF 0935 - 1050 (MPA 302) &amp; M 0935 - 1025 ( ROME 352)<br>

Andrea Levine- Writing in Public and Private [click for description]
CRN 93074 Section M12 | MW 1430 - 1545 (ACAD 331) & F 1430 - 1520 (ACAD 331)
CRN 95732 Section M24 | MW 1610 - 1725 (ACAD 331) & F 1610 - 1700 (ACAD 331)
NOTE: These sections are open only to students in the WLP. These courses are being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Clara Lewis - Writing Workshop on Campus Life [click for description]
CRN 93076 Section 15 | TR 1420 - 1535 (1957 E 313) & F 1420 - 1510 (ON LINE)
This course is a hybrid; classroom and on-line instruction.

Jeannine Love - Poverty: Perceptions and Policy in the United States [click for description]
CRN 93841 Section 13 | TR 1245 - 1400 (1957 E 311) & F 1245 - 1335 (ON LINE)
This course is a hybrid; classroom and online instruction.

Derek Malone-France - Philosophical Explanations of Religion [click for description]
CRN 93838 Section 39 | WF 1420 - 1535 (MON 451) & M 1420 - 1510 (MON B38)
CRN 93497 Section 45 | MF 1545 - 1700 (GELM 502) & W 1555 - 1645 (MON 451)

Diane Matlock - Writing Washington , D.C. [click for description]
CRN 93087 Section 26 | TR 1245 - 1400 (1776 G 169) & F 1245 - 1335 (PHIL 217)
CRN 93829 Section 59 | TR 1420 - 1535 (MON 451) & F 1420 - 1510 (PHIL 417)

Mark Mullen - Covering Chaos [click for description]
CRN 93097 Section M01 | MW 1300 - 1415 (ACAD 329) & F 1300 - 1350 (ON LINE)
CRN 93506 Section M11 | MW 1000 - 1115 (ACAD 329) & F 1000 - 1050 (ON LINE)
CRN 93821 Section M15 | MW 1130 - 1245 (ACAD 329) & F 1130 - 1220 (ON LINE)
Thess course are hybrid; classroom and on-line instruction. These courses are being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Danika Myers - Poetry and Language Games[click for description]
CRN 93082 Section 21 | M 0935 - 1025 (PHIL 414B) & WF 0935 - 1050 (MPA 208)

Duc Nguyen - Reimagining the Idea of Self-Determination [click for description]
CRN 93093 Section 32 | W 1110 - 1200 (MON 115) & MF 1110 - 1225 (MON 252)

Pam Presser - Firing the American Canon: Symbolic Struggle and Cultural Wars [click for description]
CRN 94670 Section 48 | TR 1545 - 1700 (MON 450) & F 1555 - 1645 ( ROME 201)

Rachel Riedner - Writing Activism/Activist Writing [click for description]
CRN 93078 Section 17 | TR 0935 - 1050 (1957 E 313) & F 0935 - 1025 (PHIL 109)
CRN 93094 Section 33 | TR 1110 - 1225 (1957 E 601J) & F 1110 - 1200 ( ROME 351)

Matt Riley - Caught in the Web: Technology and Freedom [click for description]
CRN 95733 Section M25 | MW 1610 - 1725 (ACAD 302) & F 1610 - 1700 (ACAD 302)
This course is being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Robert Rubin - Spin: A Consumer's Guide [click for description]
CRN 95736 Section M28 | TR 1130 - 1245 (ACAD 329) & F 1130 - 1220 (ACAD 329)
This course is being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Phyllis Ryder - Writing for Social Change: Writing with DC Community Organizations[click for description]
CRN 95734 Section M26 | TR 1300 - 1415 (ACAD 302) & F 1300 - 1350 (ON LINE)
These courses are hybrid; classroom and on-line instruction. These courses are being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Steve Salchak - Academic Literacy in an Age of BS [click for description]
CRN 93075 Section M03 | TR 1430 - 1545 (ACAD 304) & F 1430 - 1520 (ACAD 304)
NOTE: Open only to students in the WLP. This course is being taught at the Mount Vernon Campus.

Steve Salchak - Women's Leadership in a Global Context: Women Making a Difference through Writing[click for description]
CRN 95735 Section M27 | TR 1300 - 1415 (ACAD 306) & F 1300 - 1350 (ACAD 306)
NOTE: Open only to students in the WLP. This course is being taught at the Mount Vernon Campus.

Lauren Sallinger - Imagining America: Social Reflection and the Politics of Place [click for description]
CRN 94668 Section 49 | MW 1245 - 1400 (1957 E 311) & F 1245 - 1335 (PHIL 416)

Heather Schell - American Horror Film [click for description]
CRN 93504 Section 60 | TR 0800 - 0915 (PHIL 415) & F 0800 - 0850 (PHIL 510)

Sylvie Shapero - Working-Class Texts and Class-Conscious Performance [click for description]
CRN 93071 Section 10 | TR 0935 - 1050 (1957 E B14) & F 0935 - 1025 ( ROME 352)

Caroline Smith - Fight Club: Writing about Violence in American Culture [click for description]
CRN 93822 Section M16 | MW 1000 - 1115 (ACAD 331) & F 1000 - 1050 (ACAD 331)
CRN 93823 Section M17 | MW 1130 - 1245 (ACAD 331) & F 1130 - 1220 (ACAD 331)
These courses are being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Kimberly Stern - The Nineteenth-Century Body [click for description]
CRN 93514 Section M09 | TR 1130 - 1245 (ACAD 331) & F 1130 - 1220 (ACAD 331)
CRN 93089 Section M14 | TR 1300 - 1415 (ACAD 331) & F 1300 - 1350 (ACAD 331)
These courses are being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Michael Svoboda - Global Warming & the Problem of Global Governance [click for description]
CRN 94352 Section 50 | TR 1545 - 1700 (MON B35) & F 1555 - 1645 (PHIL 217)
CRN 93079 Section M13 | TR 1130 - 1245 (ACAD 304) & F 1130 - 1220 (LIBR 142)
Section M13 is taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Niles Tomlinson - Animal/Human [click for description]
CRN 93498 Section 46 | MF 1545 - 1700 (MON 452) & W 1555 - 1645 (MON B38)

Phillip Troutman - Serious Comix: Graphic Novels and Manga as Visual Argument [click for description]
CRN 94222 Section M21 | MW 1300 - 1415 (ACAD 304) & F 1300 - 1350 (ACAD 304)
CRN 95731 Section M23 | MW 1130 - 1245 (ACAD 304) & F 1130 - 1220 (ACAD 304)
These courses are being taught at the Mount Vernon Campus.

David Truncellito - Issues in College Athletics [click for description]
CRN 93513 Section M08 | MW 1430 - 1545 (ACAD 302) & F 1430 - 1520 (ON LINE)
CRN 95730 Section M22 | MW 1130 - 1245 (ACAD 302) & F 1130 - 1220 (ON LINE)
These courses are hybrid; classroom and on-line instruction. These courses are being taught at the Mount Vernon campus.

Abby Wilkerson - Food and Social Change[click for description]
CRN 93085 Section 24 | TR 0935 - 1050 (1776 G 102) & F 0935 - 1025 (GELM 609)
CRN 93086 Section 25 | TR 1110 - 1225 (2020 K 21) & F 1110 - 1200 (PHIL 110)

Zachary Wolfe - Progressive Movements: (Re)writing History[click for description]
CRN 93092 Section 31 | TR 1420 - 1535 (2020 K 16) & F 1420 - 1510 ( ROME 201)

Zachary Wolfe - Law as a Force for Social Change
CRN 93505 Section 14 | TR 1545 - 1700 (MON 252) & F 1555 - 1645 (PHIL 417)
CRN 93508 Section 56 | TR 1110 - 1225 (1776 G 107) & F 1110 - 1200 (PHIL 111)

Christy Zink - La Vie Boheme: Artists, Counterculture, and City Life[click for description]
CRN 93840 Section 18 | MW 1420 - 1535 (1957 E 310) & F 1420 - 1510 (ON LINE)
CRN 93083 Section 22 | MW 1110 - 1225 (1776 G 101) & F 1110 - 1200 (ON LINE)
CRN 93492 Section 40 | MW 0935 - 1050 (1776 G 102) & F 0935 - 1025 (ON LINE)
These courses are hybrid; classroom and on-line instruction.


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 intensive writing class explores a selection of novels, short stories, and critical essays by a wide range of authors--including Mark Twain, James Baldwin, J.M. Coetzee, Susan Minot, Judith Butler, and Eve Sedgwick--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.  Students will acquire skills for academic argument by writing and revising three papers in this class. Among those will be a close reading of one of the literary works on the syllabus, while another will be a research paper (including an annotated bibliography) that will give students the opportunity to employ the insights of literary analysis in order to provide fresh interpretations of gender and sexuality in other mediums, such as film, popular culture, mass media, history, and the social sciences. 

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

Delving into some of the literary and filmic "fallout" that followed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we will explore how cultural memory of the atomic bomb has been reconstructed in the global imagination –all done vis-à-vis your own writing. 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, but to understand how artistic and cultural productions have the lasting power to shape public consciousness and collective memory. A shortlist of texts/films we will be using: Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills, Marguerite Duras’s Hiroshima Mon Amour (also the film version by Alain Resnais), Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, Gojira, Atomic Café, and Dr. Strangelove. As this is an intensive writing seminar, you will produce smaller pieces (anywhere from 3-7 pgs.) that will closely analyze certain themes of the course and help push you towards the larger individual research project on representations of the a-bomb (10-12 pgs.). You will also be expected to contribute to a public reading (or course blog, depending on student interest). 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.

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. 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.

Charity Fox - Race, Gender and the History of Cool

“Cool” is a largely undefined term in our culture, even though it possesses powerful social and economic implications. This course will examine the way that defining “cool” changed 20 th century American society by affecting popular perceptions of difficult, undefined, and complex aspects of culture like power, gender, race, and class. We will examine popular films, documentaries, and other cultural texts to determine the “cultural work” that these texts perform in defining, controlling, and profiting from the label “cool.”

Case studies of “cool” 20 th century trends will focus on the politics of fashion and race in the 1940s, the specter of teenage rebellion in the 1950s, and the social price of greed in the 1980s. In our discussions and writing, we will consider: power relationships involved in being “cool”; contemporary national and international events; displaying “cool” as a purchasable commodity; and the power of groupthink and the pressures of conformity (through both “normal” paths and “rebellion”).

The case studies will outline different analytical approaches, including race, gender, and class analyses, examining historical context, exploring the role(s) of iconic people, and detailing complex power structures. Students will produce several essays based on the case studies (5-7 pages each), an independent research paper (10-12 pages), and a digital in-class research presentation using these categories of analysis. Students will also participate in frequent writing workshops and weekly online discussions, activities that will serve as a model for approaching both the final project and future academic pursuits. Focusing on the complex ways that products of a privileged (or hated) trend can perform cultural work, this course seeks to expand students' capacity for critically reading, thinking, and writing, resisting the use of simple generalizations and rhetoric in writing in favor of more complex historical and cultural analysis.

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 Fox at cyfox@gwu.edu

Sandie Friedman - Write Lola Write: Critiquing the Postmodern Film

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

Joseph Fruscione - Stage, Page, and Screen

We have all seen—and reacted to—plays and films, either with praise or 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 a writer exploring (and researching) broader issues, such as race, gender, constructions of truth, memory, trauma, and the “American Dream.”

This course will examine several play-film pairings that will enable you to expand your 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.

Drama and film can provide you with lenses for examining and writing about other works, allowing you to “bounce” ideas and arguments off each other to present your own case. How, for instance, can Shakespeare's depiction of Mercutio 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 can “talk” to each other to expand your critical reading, thinking, and writing skills while working with familiar, enjoyable genres.

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 survivours (in Yale's Fortunoff Video Archive). In addition, we will question the ways in which the Holocaust has been "interpreted" in documentary film (for instance, 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). Over the course of the semester, you will choose an approved 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 scholars; thoughtfully and accura tely incorporating those scholars' ideas into your own writing; and using their research findings in order to shape your own engaged and engaging arguments. One-on-one conferences, peer review, drafting, and revision will aid you as you develop your 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 - The Latin American Sensibility

In this writing intensive course we will explore and write about issues and themes surrounding identity and sensibility within Latin American and Latino/ Latina studies. Students will be asked to write a number of short position papers, an annotated bibliography, a research proposal, and to integrate all this writing in a final research paper. The course explores the significance and multiplicity of meanings of identity as a tool of analysis in literature, history, and politics. Some of the questions we will pursue are: How does identity and sexuality interact in Latino and Latina contemporary writing? How do issues of class, or national origin circumscribe the possible meanings attached to sensibility and identity? We will read essays from collections of contemporary essays , view a couple of films and read whatever else helps us understand and write about these issues better.

Sharon Hamilton - Images of Italy

Italy has inspired some of the world's greatest writing: poetry,  travel writing, songs, biographies, and academic studies of everything  from art, architecture, military history, economics, crime, and  political studies to cooking and wine. Little wonder that so much  great writing has been produced in or about Italy, a beautiful, richly  blessed country with a long, fascinating history. The Italians, too,  have inspired great writing by being great writers. In this class, we  will explore the arts of persuasion, critical thinking, and skilled  academic writing by looking at writing about, or from, Italy. We will  practice close reading skills by examining poetry set in Italy;  investigate the ways in which writers consciously shape their writing  to suit different audiences by looking at contemporary travel writing;  and learn how to convince our readers by exploring the writings of  Cicero, one of the most talented defense lawyers of all time. The semester will end with a detailed independent research project in which students will be asked to research and develop a topic about  Italy, a project intended to aid students in acquiring the specific skills needed for university-level writing and research.

Stephanie Hartman - Trash Talk: The Meaning of Garbage

Trash, by definition, might seem to be without value, beneath notice. But in fact the waste generated by our society is tremendously revealing: the plastic packaging, fast food wrappers, and outmoded computers in our landfills form a record of how we live and what we value, ready to be excavated by archeologists of the future. Trash also suggests a social order in which some avidly consume, while others pick trash to survive, and may even be deemed trash themselves. In this course, we'll investigate what social historian Susan Strasser calls “the categorizing process that defines trash.” Recognizing that “trash” is a socially constructed category, we will examine how theorists in different disciplines have made sense of what we throw away.

We will also use our work on trash-picking, recycling, and discarding to think about the processes of researching and revision, and more generally about the production of knowledge. Some artists use others' trash as a resource to make art; in a similar way, you will “repurpose” others' words, gleaning ideas and terms from your sources to construct an original argument. Turning your critical attention your own work, you'll revise multiple drafts by salvaging your best ideas and discarding what you determine to be extraneous to your project as it evolves.

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 Harman at shartman@gwu.edu

Ryan Jerving - Uncommon Knowledge

You might think your thoughts are your own, but you'd be wrong. That melody stuck in your head, that catchphrase, that elaborate critique of the global military-industrial-media complex you've devised — all of it, in part or whole, comes from some other place within the shared cultural storehouse of ideas and expressions, our knowledge "commons." But increasingly — paradoxically — that material is likely also to be claimed by another as their uncommon knowledge, with carefully guarded copyrights, trademarks, and patents enclosing much of what you might consider to be "yours" for the taking. 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 it all means for you as a 21st-century citizen, consumer, and writer.

You will propose, design, and lead class through our specific case studies into issues such as identity theft, sampling, fan fiction, lifestyle branding, freedom of/from information, indigenous cultural property, scriptural authority, the oral tradition, or local experience in a global world. We'll frame such discussion within somewhat broader questions of cultural authority, intellectual autonomy, and mental labor in an age of digital dissemination. (For a glimpse at this work, see the Uncommon Knowledge wiki site on which we publish work singly and collaboratively.) And, as we learn to conduct, cite, and document primary and secondary research; to develop arguments that incorporate and rework the ideas and language of others; to engage in academic "fair use"; to tinker with established writing genres; and to revise in collaborative peer review — as we do all that, we’ll explore the particularly murky waters of intellectual ownership to which acts of scholarly writing and research inevitably lead.

David Johnson - How To Do Things With Words: Tracing Rhetoric, Hegemony, and Culture in America

In 1926, Antonio Gramsci began writing Notes From Prison , a formative and challenging collection of philosophical ideas about culture, power, and intellectualism. These writings, influenced by Marx, provided the theoretical groundwork for more leftist and controversial philosophies. By redefining culture, Gramsci showed the possible links between class and power, intellectual language and the production of ideologies, and oppression and freedom. Essentially, Gramsci opened new and provocative ways of apprehending the nature and idiosyncrasies of language, power, and culture.

In this course, we'll engage in close readings of various texts that speak about rhetoric, hegemony, and culture so that we can judge both the accuracy of their respective theories and the reasonableness of their particular arguments. In brief, we'll reveal the rhetorical ways people invent powerful places for themselves—often at the expense of others—within their respective cultures.

The objective of this course is for you to enhance your judgments by constructing weekly response essays, developing valuable research questions, and finally producing an independent research paper (12-15 pages) that logically argues a stance concerning the possible relationship between words and deeds. When all is said and done, as it were, you'll have gained the essential academic tools—close reading, stasis development, primary and secondary source acquisition, and framing—to assemble a scholarly writing artifact.

David Johnson - Names for Themselves: Tracing Rhetoric and Culture in America

It is inarguable that Madonna the Mother of Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad significantly impacted their respective societies as leaders of religious movements, and it is also fairly certain that Dylan Thomas substantially influenced his particular social order as a literary figure. Interestingly, what is perhaps equally clear is that their namesakes—Madonna, Muhammad Ali, and Bob Dylan—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 also moved uniquely ahead to forge more progressive environments.

In this course, we'll pair these and other important individuals by name—including Cornel West and Kanye West, and Spike Lee and Bruce Lee— identify appropriate cultural contexts, discern rhetorical practices, and detect common methodological patterns for producing change within any social order. In sum, we'll discover the ways people discursively invent names for themselves.

The upshot of this course is for you to build on these discoveries by developing weekly response essays, advancing worthy research questions, and ultimately producing an independent research project (12-15 pages) that reasonably argues a position regarding inventive discourses. By the end of the day, you'll have acquired the necessary academic skills—close reading, stasis development, resource acquisition, and contextual framing—to construct a scholarly writing product.

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

Legislation from city to city across the U.S. 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 parking lots, urinating in public, sleeping near subways or on public benches, and panhandling. Meanwhile, a current trend among celebrities is “homeless chic”. This involves wearing dirty rags, disproportionately-sized apparel, and fingerless gloves. Is this trend reflective of something deeper than an aesthetic choice? What might be at stake for an American culture that fetishizes mass media images that reflect the very identity the legal system works to hide? This contemporary juxtaposition of poverty and privilege offers tremendous occasion for critical thinking and writing about the intersections of class, citizenship, and power in America. This course seeks to examine our ideas regarding nationhood and democracy by uncovering America’s fears about homelessness through careful analysis of contemporary literature, film, essays, music, sociological studies, and news accounts. Throughout the semester, you'll develop your own academic writing voice through a variety of assignments that challenge you to insert your own voice into the current conversation about class in America.

Randi Gray Kristensen - Poets of the Underdog

This is a course in critical reading, thinking and writing that focuses on student writer/researchers using their access to GW resources and Washington DC to become "poets of the underdog" themselves.

"Poet" here is understood as the bard of a community, drawing on the history of the community's self-knowledge to advance the community's, and its outsiders, understanding of itself and its ability to affect its circumstances.

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 collaborate both with each other and with a group outside the classroom affected by their research; and a final hybrid creative/analytical assignment. The course includes a hybrid (online) section during the writing of the research paper. Texts include Beverly Bell's Walking on Fire: Testimonies of Haitian Women , and others selected and introduced by students.

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 Kristensen at rkris@gwu.edu

Kathy Larsen - The Real Thing: Fame, Celebrity and Fandom

Why was the death of Anna Nicole Smith the top story on CNN? How did she become famous? How does anyone? What do we want from our celebrities? What place do they fill in our cultural imagination?

We have always been fascinated by the famous, those people who seem somehow larger than life no matter what their fields of endeavor. We write obsessively about them, devote hours of television programming to them and construct websites in their honor. Lately even the famous have become interested in the phenomenon of their own fame, exploring their situation in films, novels, and songs. The interest in celebrity status is not limited to popular culture venues. It has also become the subject of scholarly investigation.

Why have we become fascinated by our own fascination? Together we will try to answer this question, as well as the ones posed above, through a variety of readings, viewings and writing assignments. However, the emphasis will be on the development and execution of a research project that questions some aspect of fandom or celebrity, past or present.

Andrea Levine - Writing in Public and Private

One has only to consider the much-discussed rise of the “confessional” memoir to recognize how central notions of “public” and “private” are to the way we understand the acts of and motivations for writing. At least since the 1997 publication of Kathryn Harrison’s transgressive family memoir The Kiss, for instance, critics have debated the propriety of making public intensely “private” matters. Discourses about public and private writing perhaps most vividly intersect today around Facebook and other such internet sites; parents, professors and administrators love to hate Facebook, in part because of the anxieties it generates about the relation of ostensibly private individual pages to the public realm of the corporation and the government. Focusing on questions of genre, audience, and reception, we will examine and practice a range of types of writing typically intended for either private or public audiences—diaries, blogs, letters to newspaper editors, and even UW20 Symposium presentations. We will consider critical theories that complicate the distinctions between public and private writing, as students work on a semester-long academic research and writing project that speaks to the themes of the course.

Clara Lewis - Writing Workshop on Campus Life

Are American universities avenues of opportunity, testing grounds for talent, or markers of status and privilege? What can we learn about our society's values, norms and expectations from observing the Marvin Center, a fraternity party or the gym? This intensive writing seminar will explore the American university system's relationship to social stratification and observe the dynamics of student life at GWU. Students will conduct original research on an aspect of campus life of their choosing that will grow out of readings on contemporary issues in higher education. Using writing as a practice of critical thinking and tool for investigative learning, students will locate their individual educational histories within a broader social context. The course ultimately aims to familiarize students with the discipline of university writing, including the skills necessary to frame a sound research question, work analytically with multiple sources of evidence, and develop strategies to draft and revise in different prose styles.

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 Lewis at cslewis@gwu.edu

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 in the United States ; 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.

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 Love at j9love@gwu.edu

Derek Malone-France - Philosophical Explanations of Religion

We will study some of the central developments in philosophy of religion in Europe and America during the late-modern period (roughly 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 conceptual 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 sorts of evidence count? 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 - Writing Washington, D.C.

UW20 is a course designed to develop your critical reading, thinking, writing, and researching skills. Its purpose is to strengthen every GW students' ability to write clearly and effectively at the university and in other arenas, and to emphasize the importance of writing for success in all academic, public, and professional enterprises that require critical thought and communication. To help you achieve these goals, we will explore Washington , D.C. , as a site, space, and symbol of the American experience. Because Washington , D.C. , was one of the few cities in the world designed specifically as a national capital, it offers us a striking opportunity to explore the interrelationship between building and writing the nation. Built to embody the new Republic's aspirations, the city has come to represent what it means to be an American. We will subsequently examine Washington , D.C. , from a variety of perspectives and disciplines as we interrogate and practice the processes of academic writing. As a class, we will be building our own stories of Washington , D.C. , investigating the interplay between political vision and built environment, and experiencing the unique opportunity of writing about and researching in the nation's capital.


Rachel McLaughlin - Postmodern, Posthuman

Are you a robot? A cyborg? A human? Believe it or not, the answers to such basic questions are no longer obvious. Information and medical technologies have radically re-written the script of life in the early days of the 21st century. In our course, we will examine conceptualizations about living beings through a series of readings that engage the themes of genetic engineering, evolution, ecology, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Since the critical conversation about these topics is far from uniform, the course will consider a range of ideas (and writing strategies) with the aim of producing original argument, analysis, and research.

Theorists of contemporary culture such as Jean Baudrillard and Frederic Jameson describe postmodernity as a state of being saturated with media, information, technology and capital. One fundamental question we will consider, in our exploration of categories such as “human” and “machine,” is how Enlightenment ideas that we have inherited about science, reason, and progress (as espoused quintessentially in Francis Bacon's writings in the late 16th century) fare when they contend with and are transformed by the postmodern present.

We will spend the first half of the course exploring ideas about posthumanity through discussion, reading and writing. I will ask you to build your own arguments in short essays that engage with the theoretical selections that we will read closely together. In addition to the authors noted above, we will consider contributions from feminists (Donna Haraway), inventors (Ray Kurzweil), historians (Carolyn Merchant), and science journalists (Michael Pollan), among others. Later, 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.

Mark Mullen - Covering Chaos

Nowadays even the most respectable news outlets seem to diminish the magnitude of their daily stories of war, disaster, torture, and terror by granting equal time and status to the drunken exploits of pampered celebutantes, sensationalized crime stories, and jokes of the day. Yet regular access to news remains a high priority for a majority of people in the US. While viewership for the traditional “Big Three” television network news shows continues to decline, this has been more than made up for in the proliferation of new forms of news coverage, ranging from 24-hour cable news networks, magazine shows, and, more recently, the rise of blogs and podcasting.

We will spend the semester examining the ways in which the news media cover international events, with a special focus on war reporting and coverage of disasters (famine, earthquakes, etc.). Starting with an exploration of the history of war reporting, we will also consider the development of the mainstream vs. the alternative press, the role of objective journalism, the impact of military, governmental and civilian censorship, the ethics of using disturbing and/or offensive images, and the influence of changing patterns of media ownership. As a specialized form of communication, news coverage throws many of the challenges inherent in writing in general into sharp relief (tailoring your work to a specific audience, for example, or maintaining credibility) and we will be using examples of war and disaster journalism to help hone our writing skills in these areas. This course will also challenge you to develop sophisticated research projects comparing US and International jour nalistic coverage of events, and formulate a critical analysis of specific instances of war and disaster reporting, and learn to write effectively about multimedia formats.

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 Mullen at ishmael@gwu.edu

Danika Myers - Poetry and Language Games

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

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

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


Duc Nguyen - Reimagining the Idea of Self-determination

The purpose of the first-year writing course is to improve academic writing. In addition to teaching the basic conventions of syntax and grammar, the course will encourage students to think critically about the writing they produce. Thus students will be asked to decide writing strategies based on purpose and audience, types of argument and the legitimacy of types of evidence. Students will also be required to research into various intellectual problems and situate their writings in the context of previous scholarship, properly acknowledging that which came before.

Discussions and papers for this section will be organized around the idea of self-determination. In the last several centuries, self-determination has meant different things and been used in various ways. The Declaration of Independence of what would eventually become the United States takes self-determination as a first principle that justifies the right of one “people” to “dissolve” political bond with another. In the still influential political thoughts of the Victorian writer John Mill, self-determination allowed individuals to make certain limited but unalienable demands of government. The idea was central to the arguments of decolonization. It remains an important component in language produced by international organizations like the United Nations. And one hears it repeatedly in outcries from disputed territories, where each party uses the idea to support its respective claims. As to be expected, the different versions of “self-determination” contrast with, compete against, and contradict one another. For instance, the discourse on self-determination produced in the present-day often conflates what had strictly been a principle of statehood and national sovereignty with universal individual rights. The many meanings of the idea of self-determination brings up the question: what makes the idea powerful enough that interested parties continue to organize their rhetoric around it? Additionally, what are some of the problems created by the different versions of the idea of self-determination? And more generally, what are the limits of the idea's authority? The over-determination of self-determination is the intellectual problem that will occupy us for the semester. All papers (between 5 – 10 pages) are topically related to the theme, although the final project may pursue issues independent of those brought up in class.

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

The writing classroom is a scene 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 about writing should be developed and promoted in the classroom? What are the connections between writing and knowledge production? What constitutes rigorous research? What do our ideas about writing enable or restrict?

This course will start with the assumption that classrooms are contested spaces, and instructors don't agree how best to choose texts to teach, or how to study the texts once they are selected. These debates are often referred to as "culture wars." As a student, you are well-equipped to participate in this conversation, since you have expertise about which pedagogical strategies work best for you 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 issues such as: Should classes be student or teacher centric? 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?

Students will complete at least three writing assignments of increasing complexity; these may include, but will not be limited to, an essay presenting a prescriptive argument, an analysis of a significant site in D.C., and a collaborative research paper.  

Rachel Riedner - Writing Activism/Activist Writing

Drawing upon contemporary examples, including graffiti, feminist writing, Zapatista writing, and ethnographic writing, this course will consider how, and under what circumstances, writing can challenge stable and accepted social ideas. To put it another way, we'll look at writing as action that has social, even political, consequences or action that takes places in and through writing. To begin our conversations about writing activism, we'll reflect upon the circumstances that call us to write, how we persuade, how we argue, how experiences and histories shape our writing, how we use and frame evidence, how we work with and incorporate into our own thinking the writing of others, and how we ethically represent our own knowledge claims. As part of these discussions, we'll think about why challenging, ground-breaking, provocative, critical work might, to some readers, seem incoherent, unintelligible, or just messy. While they might initially appear incoherent, such writings could challenge, even shift, our critical thinking and the limits of our own literacies. These shifts will become the basis for our focus on our own writing and revision processes. In an addition to an analytical and critical essay that develops ideas from course readings and course discussion, students will write an archival assignment that argues for connections between course texts. We'll finish up the semester with an initially messy, lengthy, nuanced, critical, self-reflexive, and in the end beautifully written, research project.

Matt Riley - Caught in the Web: Technology and Freedom

The modern era has been a story of technology freeing us from the burdens of reality— hunger, disease, oppression, and toil— and endowing us with prosperity the ancients might have called unnatural. In fact, few of us ever give a moment's thought to real survival anymore. But whether this is a good thing or not ultimately depends on whether we control technology or technology controls us. While freeing us to pursue the highest achievements of our species, sending people to the moon and redesigning the building blocks of life, technology has also made us ever more dependent on its drugs and devices, its speed and organization, all while slowly enveloping us in a matrix of excessive comfort and convenience. Yet, determining just who exactly is in control is no easy task. Much of what we believe about technology has been shaped by our cultural values and memory (or lack thereof), by competing political and economic theories, and by the forces of government and commerce, as expressed through the news and advertising. It therefore becomes crucial that we critically examine the sources of this influence—in literature, philosophy, the media, and scholarship— to see how our ideas are molded and shaped. Then, students will choose a particular form of technology that interests them and examine it through a series of essays that include a theoretical analysis, an historical analysis, and an extended researched-based argument, along with many shorter writing assignments and some very challenging reading.

Robert Rubin - Spin: A Consumer's Guide

It's said that we live in an age of “spin.” H ow can you become a smarter consumer of persuasive language in politics, commerce, and public life? Must you just become a cynic, or shrug your shoulders and resign yourself to it? Or can you learn how to dive into the dumpster and extract arguments about what might be called “truth?” In this writing-intensive class we'll examine the art of spin, past and present. We'll read three books: one by liberal linguist Geoffrey Nunberg, one by conservative pollster Frank Luntz, and one by satirist Christopher Buckley. We'll try to identify current examples of spin in today's political debates, intellectual arguments, and commercial discourse, and learn how to recognize it. We'll read essays on language by writers such as Stanley Fish and George Orwell, and talk about how logical argument and “good writing” fit into the rough and tumble world of discourse. In the process, we'll learn how to be better writers and thinkers ourselves, and how to join the intellectual conversation of the modern academic community.

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

What does it take to have a voice in public conversations, to shape the direction of our government or communities?

For some, the answer is self-evident: learn to write clearly and logically to people in power. Learn to research the facts and present them. Learn a few key genres--Letters to the Editor, letters to congress, letters to corporations. Maybe even learn to blog.

But there's another answer too— learn to listen, to mobilize people, to partner with community organizations that can make the change you want to see. In these contexts, public writing is much more complex than an individual citizen writing to a person in power. Public writing means reaching out to strangers. It's about reason and research, yes; but it's also about creating hope and possibility. How can we do that?

To find answers to these questions—and more!—we will study how it's done in local DC community organizations: what kind of public writing does it take to reclaim a park that was once given over to drug dealers, old tires, sewage? (Hint: Google Washington Parks and People.) What kind of public writing does it take to bring diverse neighbors together as a multicultural community? (Check out CentroNia.) What does it take to motivate inner-city sixth graders to spend their summers on more schoolwork? (Look up Higher Achievement Program.)

In addition to reading, researching and writing about social change, you will volunteer weekly with local organizations. Writing and research assignments will focus on how organizations define issues, generate public interest, and make a difference. You will write for multiple audiences to see how those contexts shape writing choices.

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


Steven Salchak - Academic Literacy 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 fair 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 commentators, and ourselves and then use that concept to inform our own practices as writers and readers. In an effort to avid 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 –1 12 page well reasoned, well sourced, and well framed argument.

Steven Salchak - Women’s Leadership in a Global Context: Women Making a Difference through 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 in order to better identify the opportunities and challenges that your own circumstances provide 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-sources, and well-framed argument.

Lauren Sallinger - Imagining America: Social Reflection and the Politics of Place

In 1939, Marian Anderson, an African-American woman denied the right to perform at Constitution Hall, sang instead from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before 75,000 people. During the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deliberately gave his visionary “I Have a Dream” speech in the space where Marian Anderson had stood. In these and many other instances throughout American history, citizens have spoken to and for the nation by claiming its public spaces. In this course, we will examine how writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Edward Abbey have used journeys into the American wilderness to parallel meditative journeys about national progress. 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 have been used to reflect the national consciousness in such influential demonstrations as civil rights marches and Vietnam protests. This will be an active class, in which students will explore their own places in D.C., pursue their own viewpoints, and investigate the boundaries of their own education through mapping, traversing, and learning from the city. As a class, we will attend demonstrations and write about the questions, demands or visions they present. Thus, the course content will be determined in part by the national issues being played out on the streets of Washington : possibly the Iraq war, reproductive rights, or immigration issues. These messages embedded in our environment will be the starting points for two short papers exploring the essential elements of college writing and independent thinking, and will culminate in a large research project.


Heather Schell - American Horror Film

Our superstitious ancestors lived in a world haunted by spooks and ghouls. Occasionally, fear of such monsters incited people to burn or decapitate their neighbors. We like to think of ourselves as more sophisticated nowadays. We are no longer tormented by brownies, magyr, or tengu. However, if we look at the realm of popular culture, monsters are still thriving. Why do they continue to fascinate us? Do they unveil our unconscious fears and desires? Do they relieve 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, comes from the same root as the word “demonstrate”—monsters are showing us something. This semester, we'll try to figure out what exactly monster movies are showing us. Furthermore, the painstaking process through which a successful film-maker builds a cohesive story from hours of raw footage parallels the way in which a writer who begins with a messy tangle of half-baked ideas and assorted sources can ultimately create a persuasive, polished research paper. By learning to read the underlying architecture of film, you will simultaneously become more adept at constructing effective, structurally sound written arguments.

This semester, you will pitch a film to a famous cinematographer, produce a scholarly treatise on a movie monster, and script and produce a DVD commentary for a feature-length horror film. Students should be prepared to screen numerous monster movies, to master basic audio editing technology, and to be afraid—very afraid...

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

Class is an important category of difference, yet here in the United States , we are led to believe that society is largely egalitarian. According to the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University , “This erasure of class has denied individuals an important source of understanding of their experiences.” Class consciousness is necessary to overcome “powerful feelings of alienation and resentment both by and toward members of the working class.”

In this course, we will read essays, articles, short stories, and plays. After exploring concepts important for working-class writing, such as voice, we will write monologues and dialogues that focus on voices from the margin that may or may not be represented in literature or history.

Your final project will be a short performance piece with a research-based critical introduction.

Our understanding of class will increase, but we will still have a lot of questions, giving us the opportunity to conduct research. Since research, like writing, is, first of all, a process, in-class activities and writing exercises will build on each other. Focusing on revision– on the process rather than the fetishized final product–we will think critically, articulate our thoughts, and create class-conscious pieces of academic writing.

Caroline Smith - Fight Club: Writing about Violence in American Culture

“You aren't alive anywhere like you're alive at fight club,” declares the narrator of Fight Club , Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel. Palahniuk's book presents a liberating view of violence; in many ways, violence serves as the catalyst for the narrator's ability to regain a lost sense of self. Other portrayals of violence in American culture, however, are different. Some critics argue that video games encourage violent behavior, that rap songs promote shootings, and that pornography perpetuates violence against women. In this course, we will examine a variety of contemporary texts – from non-fiction, to novels, to films – which address the role that violence plays in American society. How do writers write about violence in America ? What arguments do they make? What role do issues of race, class, and gender play in these arguments? In this UW20 section, we will thoughtfully consider how these writers and filmmakers effectively (or sometimes ineffectively) convince us of their points. Students will write response papers and short essays, and they will pursue an independent research project on the topic of their choice. These writing assignments will help students to develop a variety of reading, researching, and writing skills applicable to the remainder of their college career.

Kimberly Stern - The Nineteenth-Century Body

Frankenstein's monster, Harry Houdini, the Elephant Man. These and other nineteenth-century spectacles have captivated and enthralled for generations. But what attracts us to these figures in the first place? What is so intriguing about these extraordinary bodies? In this writing-intensive seminar, we will examine major writings from the nineteenth century in an effort to understand not only how authors wrote about the body but also how the body itself can be inscribed with cultural and political meaning. Considering some of the most famous literary bodies of the time (such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man ) as well as marginalized figures (such as prostitutes, slaves, and opium-eaters), we will treat the nineteenth-century body as a cultural text capable of expressing the anxieties, fantasies, and preoccupations of the period. We will, to borrow the words of Judith Butler, try to determine why these are “bodies that matter.” While developing a deeper understanding of how to interrogate sources, develop an original argument, and meet the new challenges of writing at the university level, we will also raise important questions about the relationship between writing, the body, and identity. For example, to what extent do representations of the body help to define what is “normal” and what is not? How are issues of race, gender, and other forms of social identity “written” on the body? Above all, how can writing – or a body of writings – both create cultural assumptions and take them to task?

Michael Svoboda - Global Warming & the Problem of Global Governance

With this year's unprecedented Arctic melt, the prospect of “extreme climate change” seems ever more real and dangerous. Britain 's Stern Review on The Economics of Climate Change , the Fourth Assessment of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and even China 's Secretariat of the Environment all agree that avoiding extreme climate change requires that a serious start on lowering carbon emissions be underway by 2020 and that far deeper cuts be realized by 2050. Achieving these daunting goals will require coordinated action and cooperation—between developed and developing nations, between old and emerging powers, and between former allies and new enemies—on a scale no one has ever seen. How will this happen when our thinking—and our institutions of global governance—still reflect memories of frontier independence, of “good war” alliances and animosities, and of cold war suspicions?

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

Niles Tomlinson - Animal/Human

Animals have always fascinated and haunted humans; they have been considered figures of strength and beauty, but also of corruption/contagion (e.g., the snake in the Garden of Eden, the half-man/half-bull in the Cretan labyrinth). They have also served as useful foils (others) for the construction of humanity. That is, we tend to define human characteristics as precisely those that are not animal. Animals in different contexts—domestic, wild, feral, industrialized—evoke a wide range of human reactions that are often contradictory but nevertheless inform the important contemporary debate about animal rights and human dominion. 

Some questions we will consider: How do we distinguish between humans and animals and why might these distinguishing traits be useful and problematic? Is the traditional species hierarchy still beneficial or does it need to be rethought? What does thinking about animals teach us about human identity, both self and cultural? This course will address these questions through three different approaches: historical, literary/theoretical, and political/social. As methods of inquiry, we will use literature, critical essays, film, informative articles, and theoretical extracts. Students will have the opportunity to write essays in a variety of forms, including literary/film analysis, critical refutation, inquiry, and research writing. Students will also learn the value of writing as a process through library research, proposals, peer response, drafting, presentation of research, and revision. As a culminating project on the animal theme, students will write a substantial research paper on a critical issue of their choice.

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.

David Truncellito - Issues in College Athletics

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

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

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

Abby Wilkerson - Food and Social Change

Eric Schlosser observes, “Food politics underlie all politics in the United States ”—and globally, we might add. How do our food practices and food-related interactions relate to larger social justice themes, from the micro-level of households and local communities to the macro-level of transnationalism? How are the politics of seasonal food connected to critiques of globalization and of capitalism? How have people worked to pursue social change through altering practices in the production and consumption of food?

This course explores how food and food writing serve as tools for meaning-making, political analysis, and advocacy. Coursework includes:

  • examining published analyses of food politics from several fields and disciplines, considering the strategies for representation and analysis employed in these fields, with critics of the transnational industrialized food system serving as a case study in rhetorical strategies of advocacy;
  • creating reflections and narratives;
  • investigating food politics in specific subcultures, organizations, or practices shared by particular groups;
  • analyzing a food-related political problem and a potential solution.

Zachary Wolfe - Progressive Movements: (Re)Writing History

You can marry outside your race, now. Pre-adolescent children cannot work in coal mines, anymore. Women can attend all state-run military officer training schools, as of 1996. As Dr. King tells us, “human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts” of social justice movements. But most of us know very little about those tireless efforts that produced many of the rights and social assumptions we now take for granted. Although it is axiomatic that our present society is a function of countless social movements and other dynamics, some of those processes become storied while others are glossed-over or ignored.

In this course, through self-reflective and scholarly writing, students will examine the significance of these movements, their place in history, and what this tells us about where we come from and where we may be going. After hearing from a number of experienced activists, much of the semester will revolve around research and writing concerning a social movement of the student's own choosing, critically examining that movement as well as exploring why some (or some parts of) movements make the history books while others do not. Beyond advancing our understanding of social justice movements, the course will allow students to engage existing scholarship and pursue their own innovative research and writing projects.

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.

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

Starve, brood, and be an outcast: those are the supposed requirements for being an artist. But what happens when groups of artists gather together in experimental living arrangements to integrate art and life? From the Harlem Renaissance to Dadaists to the Beats and the French New Wave, bohemian subcultures have changed art, politics, history, and mainstream society. In this course, we'll examine just what the bohemian identity entails. Do we include "musicians, artists, would-be artists, hustlers, and entrepreneurs" alike, as scholar Christine Stansell suggests? What about the peddlers of sex, drugs, and speculative development in so-called artistic districts? We'll look to city neighborhoods and see how boho groups rewrite—often literally—sexual norms, gender roles, race relations, and the urban experience by insistence on new daily lives. Just as bohemians, by their nature, take nothing established for granted, you'll study innovative, hybrid texts—including scholarly and creative writing, visual and performing arts, cinema, photography, and new media—and experiment with bohemian writing forms designed to upset the status quo. You will embark on inventive critical research to address the territories of past and neo-bohemia, then undertake a multimedia writing project to practice the collaborative work that has characterized the creative heart of bohemian culture.

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