UW20 Courses - Spring 2009
Last Updated: 1/10/09 | 8:30 pm
Because all UW20 sections are theme-based, with their own individualized readings and writing assignments, it's important that you peruse the course descriptions below to find a theme that is of interest to you.
REQUIREMENTS: The following requirements and workload expectations are consistent across all sections of UW20. Students will complete a total of 25-30 pages of finished writing, spread out over at least three writing assignments of increasing complexity. All students will engage in pre-draft preparation, drafts, and revisions based on instructor's advice and classmates' comments. Papers will be based on assigned texts and often on additional reading; although instructors will develop assignments that reflect a variety of academic writing projects, one paper will require significant research.
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Malcolm X (a.k.a. El Hajj Malik El Shabazz) is one of the most prolific—and often misunderstood—figures of the civil rights era who articulated the anger, struggles and beliefs of African Americans. His journey was wrought with challenges that impacted his social, political, and religious purpose. Argumentation is discourse that Malcolm engaged in seeking to change attitudes, beliefs and to bring about action. This course will emphasize argumentation and, as a tool in argumentation, the research process. Further, this course will examine the religious and historical underpinnings that gave rise to such proto-Islamic movements and organizations as the Nation of Islam.
Students will write two short argumentative essays and a two-part extended research argumentative essay over the course of the semester; orally present research findings; interact with peers online via Blackboard; tour and conduct research at the Library of Congress; engage guest speakers; view videos; attend panel discussions (when practical); and possibly participate in a tour of sites associated with Malcolm X in New York.
This course will examine the myriad types of love explored in the poetic and dramatic works of William Shakespeare—such as romantic love, familial love, friendship, love of country or home, spiritual or religious love, and courtly love—and the conflicts people experience as they try to balance all these ties and bonds in their daily lives. We will read several of Shakespeare's sonnets and three of his dramatic works, and use them to identify the ways love is represented, imagined, described, and put to use in Renaissance England as well as the ways these notions continue to inform our conceptions of love in the twenty-first century. Along the way, we will necessarily grapple with the problems inherent in trying to represent, access, and understand such abstract concepts as love and desire, as well as the lived experiences of people from time periods different from our own. In other words, how do we know what we mean when we speak of something so imprecise, so relative, so personal as love? Can we truly know or understand another person's experience of love, whether that person is a contemporary of ours or someone who lived 400 years ago? If so, how? What role do language and rhetoric play? And can we even use literature or other forms of writing to represent "real" life? Through three short response papers, two analytical-critical papers and a larger research project, student-writers will "learn to write and write to learn," as we explore the ways that language and rhetoric are used to grapple with grand human concerns like love and desire.
Using writing as the main investigative and interpretive tool, this UW20 course explores the significance of supernatural returns and encounters in a diverse array of fictional works. Texts may include Krik? Krak? (Edwidge Danticat), from which the course title derives inspiration, and also Beloved (Toni Morrison), Comfort Woman (Nora Okja Keller), Anil's Ghost (Michael Ondaatje), and/or Tracks (Louise Erdrich). In pushing the limits of critical thinking, we'll consider how the arrival of ghostly figures in these texts speak to larger, silenced histories that include the traumas of slavery, war, colonialism, sexual violence, and migration. Together we'll also brew profound suggestions about the possibilities of the liminal, border-crossing ghost as a figure capable of navigating these often complicated histories. Otherwise, how can we reimagine the act of telling ghost stories? How might you, through the original argumentative and analytical gestures you make during thesemester, be able to think of ghosts differently than commonly perceived? Assignments will incorporate critical and rhetorical skills apropos to academic writing, and will be broken down into one- page weekly critical responses, two shorter essays, and a longer research-oriented project.
University Writing 20 aims to enhance first-year students’ abilities to read, think, and write critically and analytically; to explore emerging and traditional information resources; their grasp of rhetorical principle; their ability to frame sound questions or hypotheses; their abilities to edit and proofread carefully, as well as to equip them with university-level research and project-management tools. This course seeks to meet these learning 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 discover, 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 include an analysis of the “Dark Alliance” investigative journalism controversy, a research report, a research essay, peer reviews, and presentations.
This course will take as its focus three of the most popular female actresses of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood – the period between the Great Depression and the early Cold War. Spanning more than three decades of Hollywood movie-making, the careers of Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Marilyn Monroe offer three critical perspectives on the political struggles, artistic innovations, and popular culture that came to define America in the post-WWII period. Their careers highlight concerns about female celebrity, tensions over the representation of girls and women in popular film, and the competing ways in which bodies, personalities, and lives have been sold by the Hollywood film industry. The primary goal of this seminar is to build writing skills through the analysis of variety of visual and verbal texts that will include film, original magazine and newspaper articles, photographs, documentaries, novels, popular music, biographies, and contemporary academic scholarship.
As participants in American society, we are deluged with a barrage of images on a daily basis. Visual argument presents itself in numerous forms and guises, from advertising and marketing to art and fashion, each competing in some way for our attentions. In this course, we will examine and interrogate the role of the image in everyday life, both on campus and in society at large, reading images alongside written texts, and exploring the parallels between the two forms. To this end, we’ll also discuss what it means to examine something as an “image,” investigating how visual narratives and arguments are formed, composed, and realized.
Throughout the course, we’ll work our way through a variety of visual and written texts, including graphic novels, advertisements and product packaging, and photography and visual art, as well as essays, criticism, and “Imagist” poetry, in an effort to better understand the role of visual mediums in our lives. Students will build their reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills through journaling, group work and short “visual projects,” all leading into several essay assignments of increasing complexity, culminating in a final research project.
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.
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.” 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.
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.
Writing assignments: Adaptation reviews; Creative Adaptation project; Objective Analysis exercise; peer workshopping; and a final research project.
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 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 the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and in Art Spiegelman's Maus I and II).
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 email@example.com
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.
In this course we will explore the ways in which writing is an act of discovery. We will explore how to find sophisticated research sources by taking literal trips to the Library of Congress and George Washington’s rare documents section, Special Collections. We will learn to navigate through electronic journals and other e-resources and discover how to shape our research and writing to create dynamic, successful essays. By looking at contemporary travel writing and writing about Italy, this class will investigate the ways in which writers consciously shape their writing to suit different audiences. The semester will end with a detailed independent research project in which students will be asked to research and develop a topic about Italy or travel, a project intended to assist students in acquiring the specific skills needed for university-level writing and research.
I could settle for being a man, or I could struggle to become a human being.
- Robert Jensen
Why does Jensen associate being a man with something other than being human? Do the expectations of being a "real" man somehow jeopardize one's humanity? Are the expectations different across race, class, geography, age or even time? And what are the underlying assumptions invoked when someone demands that an individual "Man Up!?" Gary Barker points out that this is not always a healthy directive: "In much of the world, young men die earlier than young women and die more often than older men largely because they are trying to live up to certain models of manhood – they are dying to prove that they are 'real men'." When maleness is attached to dominance, control, aggression and violence, it is often seen as a natural way for boys and men to be in many Western countries. When boys and men step outside of this narrow box of manhood, they are given swift correction: "Man Up!"
We will dig into the expectations behind that command and deconstruct the layers of meaning wrapped up in maleness by examining various representations of masculinity circulating in the US that both support and challenge the definitions. In effort to search for deeper cultural definitions of manhood, we will use our own lives as a way to jump into these constructions as seen in a range of multidisciplinary texts including film, literature, visual art and music. Your responses to these texts will become the basis for developing analytical skills through close readings, critical thinking, vigorous writing and multiple revisions. Assignments will include regular in-class journaling, short response essays and a final 15-page research paper with annotated bibliography on a topic that you choose early in the semester.
This writing and research course will explore “local DC”--the city behind and beyond Federal Hill. Because local DC’s history has been shaped by issues of race and class, many of the readings will focus on these controversial topics, from the 1968 race riots, to recent urban renewal, to DC’s own go-go music. You’ll center your writing and research on DC in a variety of ways over the course of the semester: you’ll respond analytically to texts about DC; develop your own lines of research that will explore DC-based places, groups, people, or events; and you’ll conduct at least one journalistic interview while researching your final project. Three major essays will be assigned. As you work on those projects, you’ll learn how to move beyond high school modes of writing such as the five-paragraph essay and standard research report, so that by the end of the semester you’ll no longer simply be repeating what scholars and journalists have to say about DC, but participating in those conversations. Finally, the goal of this course is not only to introduce you to university-level writing and research, but also to encourage you to see writing as itself a form of exploration and learning: as you research and write about DC, you’ll also be discovering the city that will be your home for the next four years.
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 in some way 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 cultural fields.
In addition, we’ll refer to a rhetoric handbook on occasion for a more practical approach to argument and writing, we’ll meet with a local poet to discuss the ways language is used to define ourselves and culture, and we’ll absorb the works of three very different theorists for presentation purposes.
The fundamental objective of this course, then, 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.
Ever since Socrates sipped the hemlock, notions of academic freedom have stirred the passions of the public, of students, and of teachers. This course will situate the question of academic freedom within three paradigms: "Education as Social Policy," "Education as a Social Right," and "Education as Social Struggle." It will briefly consider classical antecedents and global overviews before focusing on debates in American history. Some of the issues we will examine include the "Scopes Monkey Trial" and creationism versus evolution in American public schools; the "Red Scare" on campus during the Cold War; the struggles for civil rights and education for minorities and women; student activism during the Vietnam War and 1960's; corporate influence on higher education; student speech codes; and teaching during today's War on Terror. Students will learn how professional associations and departments within their own areas of interest have grappled with ideas of academic freedom. Readings include the work of some of the major known figures in academic freedom debates, scholarly articles, and primary sources. The assignments prepared for the course should be stimulating opportunities for the students to assume clearly defined positions on these questions and produce persuasive, well-reasoned and well-supported arguments. This course seeks to guide students in becoming both better skilled academic writers and more aware members of the academic community.
For many people, sports are an integral part of modern life. They arrange their schedules around them, identify themselves by team allegiances, and feel real pain when their team loses. This course will move beyond statistics and sports radio chatter to interrogate the impact that sports have had on society as a whole, particularly in the United States. We will look at how sports have both changed and been changed by society at different points in U.S. history. We will look at the cultural artifacts that emerge from sports, examining and writing about such items as the sports memoir, the sports film, and the sports stadium. Not everyone may have the same level of enthusiasm for sports in general or certain sports in particular, so we will also examine societal issues such as race, class, gender, and sexuality, all of which will provide useful historical background for our coursework. Women and men, athletes and non-athletes are encouraged to sign up!
Throughout this course, our most useful tool of analysis will be our writing, which we will use to both explore new ideas and solidify our thoughts. I encourage you to think of your writing as a continuously evolving process. We will use different forms and venues, all in service of putting words to the page. The university's goal for you in this course is to prepare you for writing at the university level; my goal is not only that, but to encourage you to think more critically about the importance of written expression.
How we see our celebrities speaks volumes about who we are as a culture. We are fascinated by the famous, the infamous and, increasingly, by our own fascination with them. This course examines our often conflicted attitudes toward celebrities and the mechanisms through which we express these attitudes.
Students are asked to investigate what seems, on the face of it, to be a rather superficial topic – fame and celebrity in contemporary American culture. After all, isn’t our obsession with celebrities one of the things that pundits frequently point a chastising finger at whenever they decry the dumbing down of culture, the increasing inability of current generations to think and write critically, and the unwillingness to take anything seriously that does not come packaged in sound bites of 7.8 seconds or less?
All the more reason to take a good, long, critical look at both the ways we receive the information and what we do with it. Since of necessity, many of the resources students are asked to consult fall into the category of pop culture – web sites and blogs, YouTube videos, supermarket tabloids – they must learn to consider these not as entertainment but as texts to be decoded, in the same way they have been taught to approach more traditional texts. The three writing assignments required in this course ask students to examine and engage in three different approaches to celebrity culture – tabloid (print and online) coverage, mainstream press (newspapers, and publications geared to more in-depth coverage and meta-commentary) treatment, and finally a scholarly approach to the larger issues suggested by our infatuation with celebrity and our own forms of engagement with fame and the famous.
Religious and political communities face a similar challenge as they navigate the vicissitudes of history. The fundamental identity of a community must be preserved through the consistent transmission of its core principles and practices. Yet, these principles and practices must also remain relevant to the changing circumstances of each generation. Both religious and political communities depend upon the authority of foundational texts to meet this challenge: religious communities have scriptures and creeds; political communities have constitutional documents and bodies of law. However, such texts generally require interpretation for their meaning to be ascertained and applied. And the question of what constitutes the “proper” method for such interpretation is necessarily connected to fundamental disagreements about the nature of the community itself and the rights and obligations of its members.
Our examination of the various ways in which theologians, philosophers, legal scholars, and others have approached the issue of interpretation will provide us with a rich conceptual context in which to explore basic intellectual issues such as: How does the ‘meaning' of a claim get constructed in the relationship between author and audience?; What justifies me in interpreting a text in this way, rather than that?; How can I establish the correctness (or at least legitimacy) of my perspective on a matter of controversy?; Etc. Students will proceed through a succession of reading and writing assignments intended to introduce them to the skills and sensibilities necessary for quality academic writing in general. These assignments will build upon one another, so that as the students' capacity for sophisticated written argumentation grows they will be asked to formulate increasingly more complex positions. Most importantly, students will learn to incorporate active drafting, revising, editing, and researching practices into their writing throughout their university experiences.
Is it slang, dialect, the product of a lazy tongue or worse, an indication of sub-intellectual capacity? Reviled in some quarters, elevated in others, the speech patterns and linguistic behaviors of Black Americans have endured despite generations of assaults from multiple quarters that might have silenced this voice into extinction. This UW20 course will expose students to the rambunctious debate swirling around the language used by the descendants of slaves specifically in the United States. This debate predates the Oakland School Board’s 1997 request for federal funding to address the linguistic differences its black students presented in the classroom; it fueled conversations by self-appointed arbiters of the race and culture during the Harlem Renaissance; it spills into America’s living rooms when James Baldwin, Bill Cosby, Spike Lee, and Toni Morrison take off the gloves in public forums. This conversation arguably began with the release of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent film “Birth of a Nation” when images of former slaves were cast in iconic stone and their motivations were interpreted for wide distribution. This film will become the point of departure for the course. Students will produce response papers assigned to readings film viewing and events attended outside of class and will write two short papers and one long research paper on a topic subject to approval by the instructor.
Playing games is one way through which we humans refine our skills, test our limits and define our potential. In Western culture, however, two mutually contradictory discourses about games exist side-by-side. On the one hand, games are supposed to be purely recreational, and game- players are merely people seeking a little escape from other aspects of their lives. On the other hand, games are held to be capable of powerfully influencing those supposedly separate aspects of our lives. Usually the influence of games, particularly electronic games, is considered to be a negative one. Our course, then, will begin to construct more sophisticated ways of exploring electronic games as an emerging artistic, technological and economic force in our culture.
This course will challenge you to develop your writing skills in new directions. If you have an interest in art, technology, or economics, you will find that exploring electronic games will yield much that speaks to those interests. You will also find that new media require very different analytical approaches to those to which you may be accustomed. Tackling these writing assignments will force you to re- think some of your own preconceptions about both games (concerning the gender of plays and the influence of gender on gamer's perceptions, for example) and writing (some of the assignments may strike you as a little unorthodox!). You’ll be formulating truly investigative research projects with little pre-existing research to guide you and will need to develop a sophisticated balance of descriptive and analytical modes, and a mastery of both aesthetic and technical vocabularies.
Note: While most of the assignments in the course will allow you to choose the game and platform (Playstation, PC, Mac, etc.) you examine, our first assignment will involve a game that the entire class will be exploring. Of necessity this will be a PC/Mac game. It will not be a “bleeding edge” game, but you should be reasonably sure that your computer will provide you with a suitable game-playing platform (laptops can work but some, particularly those with small keyboards, can be physically uncomfortable to use).
Our bodies are our most private and intimate selves, but ideas of wellness and health come to us from the public sphere in the form of culture, business, and government—health care is managed by legislation and insurance companies as well as by medical doctors trained in Western medicine; our ideas about what causes or cures disease are informed by our parents, our religion, our fourth-grade health teachers, and the accounts of epidemics we read in the newspapers. This class will look at those intersections and the language used by various groups to talk about health, health care, and health care policy—after all, a policy writer for the World Health Organization, a doctor trained in both Western and Eastern medicine, a twenty-two year old suffering from anorexia, and the parent of a diabetic child will all have different ideas about what it means to be healthy and who should control access to an individual’s body. Each will express her views in different language.
Whether you find yourself navigating these ideas as a future health professional, a policy wonk, a patient, or a political junkie tracking the health care plans offered by the presidential candidates, an ability to decipher the rhetoric surrounding these issues will serve you. As a person, you may be interested in the topic of this class, but as a student and a writer, you will also obtain essential tools of academic writing—tools for analyzing both text and topic, for arriving at answers by starting with questions, for attending to detail and engaging critically—that you will take with you to other topics, texts, and writing throughout your academic career. This class will take the intersections of health, culture, and policy as a subject, but we will use our subject in service of rigorous practice in rhetorical strategies and development of a successful writing process.
Assignments include several short, analytical reading response papers; two essays, and a research project that will ask you to create a pamphlet on a health issue and analyze the rhetoric you use to communicate the issue.
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, Harryette Mullen, and Bridget Pegeen Kelly—poets who break language apart, subvert traditional grammar, or display a unique understanding of how the English language can be assembled and create meaning. We will look at experimental poetry and at the word replacement exercises used by the French Oulipo group as a tool for learning what happens to language when a writer radically departs from linguistic norms by inverting or otherwise altering syntax, or by using the “wrong” parts of speech or inventing words.
Assignments include several short, analytical response papers; a research paper analyzing a poet from an applied linguistics standpoint; and a final portfolio of revised writing. The research paper will require both an understanding of the critical readings used throughout the course and additional research.
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.
Beginning with two case studies, an historical analysis of the veil in France and an anthropological study of sex workers in a small Mexican city, we’ll consider the powerful local and global forces that shape women’s lives. Drawing upon scholarship in transnational feminist theory, shared readings will lead to writing projects that look closely and carefully at women’s experiences beyond literal or popular representations of their lives and explore how we can rigorously write about and represent women. To begin our conversations about writing women’s lives, we'll reflect upon how history shapes our writing, how we include the voices of others in our writing, how we use and frame evidence, and how we ethically represent our own knowledge claims. The first assignment is an analytical and critical assignment that works closely and critically with shared course reading. The lengthiest assignment of the semester is a student-generated, critical research project. The course will end with a short public writing assignment where students will write a letter to an academic publication which could publish their research work.
There is little question that modern society has changed dramatically as a result of technological development. Even in your lifetime, technology has enabled us to radically alter how we live, travel, communicate, and even love. Yet, has technology merely enabled us to make these changes or has something fundamental to its nature shaped our decisions in the process?
Careful analysis shows that there is a pattern to technological development. The Industrial Revolution brought wondrous machines and a bounty of goods that freed us from the burdens of cold, hunger, disease, and poverty. However, with all this new freedom and power, we cannot stop polluting the environment, homogenizing our landscape, and driving whatever animals we can’t use toward extinction. Meanwhile, in our homes, relationships grow ever more strained and congested with new devices and demands on our attention.
In his book, Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life, the philosopher Albert Borgmann argues that this increasing fragmentation of our ways of life is more than just circumstantial. On the contrary, there is something fundamental to our relationship with technology that all but programs it, which we must learn to manage more carefully.
In this course, students will explore this pattern of technology through Borgmann’s theoretical framework and then propose new perspectives on current problems with technology. Your work will contribute to an ongoing, accumulative project begun in the fall of 2007 in which each class builds on the contributions of previous classes. We will use all the tools of analysis, argument, research, and well-written prose to develop and articulate an understanding of this pattern. Like most works of philosophy, Borgmann is not an easy read; however, it is an eye-opener, and a well-developed structure of support materials allows us to take what we need from the philosophy and apply it to a real-world context.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle, complaining about what we now might term “spin” 2,300 years ago, argued that “It is not right to pervert the judge [of laws and ideas] by moving him to anger or envy or pity.” But, he admitted, people do so all the time. So, what’s a modern philosopher, living in the age of spin, to do? What does “spin” mean? Is it any different now than in Aristotle’s day? How can you become a smarter consumer of persuasive language in politics, commerce, and public life?
In this writing-intensive class we’ll examine the art of spin, past and present. We’ll read a book by a conservative “spin doctor” that offers a “how-to” guide to spinning, and we’ll examine those recommendations in the light of essays by liberal linguists, academic psychologists, journalists, political scientists, communications theorists, social critics, lawyers—and even a novel by a satirist. 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 talk about the differences between political rhetoric and academic prose, and 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. In addition to class presentations and a reading notebook, each student will compile a portfolio of three major papers, one of which will be a substantial researched argument that explores the language strategies and “spin” that a particular organization or interest group uses to advance its political, social, or commercial agenda.
When people write in the real world—as when community organizers publish brochures to motivate their neighbors to fight injustice or even when college professors argue for a way to classify knowledge—they must consider their rhetorical situation carefully. In addition to conveying information, they must convince people that what they say matters, that what they are proposing has merit, that what they are asking is reasonable and possible. They must convey a sense of urgency and a sense of agency.
How do people make their words do all this? First, they learn to analyze how the context in which they are speaking affects their persuasiveness. Second, they develop a repertoire of strategies for responding—ways to enhance their credibility among different kinds of audiences, ways to heighten or diffuse audience concerns, ways to signal that they share their audience’s values. They develop this repertoire by studying, with a writer’s eye, how other people in the community speak, act, and write. That’s what we’ll do in this course.
We’ll study the discourse of community organizations to understand these moves. Community organizations are a helpful starting point because their purposes and contexts are readily apparent. Looking at their mission statements, their websites, their history, demographics of their communities and so on, we can identify the challenges that they face as they seek to persuade others to work with them. As you partner with the organizations throughout the semester, you will gain an insider’s perspective on the methods that they use to bring people together to make change.
Coming from this experience, we’ll then consider the somewhat more elusive rhetorical context of academic writing. Just as a community organization is united around a particular social goal and a particular method of achieving it, so the academic community at a research university unites around its social goals and accepted methods. Using the analytical abilities we developed by studying community organizations, we’ll study academic discourse and learn how to write in a way that signals that you are part of this academic community.
Hybrid Course: "Hybrid" is the name given to courses that blend face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning to improve learning outcomes. Hybrid courses thus move a significant amount of course work to an online environment. If you have any questions about this class, please contact Professor Phyllis Ryder at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
“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.
This course will examine the strength of the written word to inspire people and promote social change. Students will examine the role of writing in codifying resistance and inspiring historic American social movements, with a particular focus on the civil rights movement. Writers may include John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Henry David Thoreau. Students will examine current social problems and promote reform in a variety of writing formats. Much of the writing material will be gathered on the streets of Washington. Students will take part in some of the major forces promoting change in the nation by observing protests, volunteering with community service organizations and working on projects with major activist groups. Thus, the course content will be determined in large part by the national issues being played out on the streets and within the organizations of Washington, possibly related to the Iraq war, global warming, the economy or the inauguration. The class will develop in response to students’ experiences among the forces for change in the city. They will serve as the raw material for forming challenging questions, writing compelling arguments, and pursuing original research. Several short paper assignments will build to a large research paper examining challenges for a better society.
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 they are showing us. First up is a theoretical exploration of theories about horror movie audiences. Next comes a collaborative project that entails researching, writing and recording a DVD commentary for a feature-length horror film. Following that, you will write a substantial research paper on a horror film. You should be prepared to screen numerous monster movies, to master basic audio editing technology, and to be afraid—very afraid...
Shelton "Spike" Lee belongs on the shortlist of the most well-known and controversial directors in Hollywood today. This writing workshop examines a variety of Lee's films as potential texts of social commentary. We will begin our course by formulating some working definitions: What is "society"? What is a "social critic"? What does it mean to promote "social change"? What is a "working definition" anyway? With these frameworks in place, we will then turn to the films themselves: Does Mookie Do The Right Thing? Who are the 4 Little Girls? If you Get on the Bus, where will it take you? Why are so many critics bamboozled by Bamboozled? When the Levees Broke, what did Katrina say? What does Clockers tell us about our time? Why did it take nearly three decades to get Malcolm X's story on the big screen?
In addition to looking at Lee's films as a form of social commentary, we will consider responses to Lee's work by film critics, the mainstream media, and "intellectuals" such as Amiri Baraka and bell hooks, both of whom have serious reservations about Lee's projects (and they're not alone). Moreover – and more importantly – we will produce our own critical responses to Lee's work through frequent writing assignments which will not only allow us to develop our writing skills but to identify our writing as part of an ongoing dialogue about the society in which discourse is created and, in turn, creates. In order to facilitate these formal writing tasks, we will make use of multiple revisions, peer reviews, and regular in-class writing assignments.
What is wilderness? Is it aesthetic or ecological? Or is it an historical construction? What should humanity’s responsibility be to protect wilderness? How has wilderness rhetoric shaped the development and growth of our National Parks System? By critically reexamining ideas of wilderness both today and in the past, students will participate in some of the crucial debates influencing current preservation practices.
Wilderness as a theme allows for a variety of writing opportunities, both expressive and analytical, designed to reinforce a number of important literacy tools and techniques. During the first few weeks of the course we will discuss how we experience wilderness. You will then visit a local National Park area and evaluate the experience. For much of the remainder of the course we will examine historical and contemporary conceptions of wilderness in America. We will try to understand the theoretical and practical implications of these contending ideas in both a regional and global context. Your assignments for this unit will emphasize document analysis, the formulation of argument, and the synthesis of these two skills in analytical essays. Finally, in a larger research project, you will frame critical questions and then investigate the significance of wilderness in a specific park within the National Parks System. Revision will be emphasized throughout the semester.
Course readings will include essays by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Edward Abbey, and current scholars. We will also examine visual representations of wilderness, such as Thomas Moran’s paintings and Ansel Adams’s photographs. Students should expect to actively participate in, and occasionally lead, class discussion. In this course, you will be challenged to think, read, reason, analyze, speak, and write—skills that transfer to any career you might imagine.
How many times have you been told, as a writer, to eliminate the word “I” in an essay? Personal writing can often seem biased, opinionated, far removed from objective analysis. It’s a common misconception, however, that writing about the self is vastly different from research-based, academic writing. Actually, it’s not that uncommon for professional writers to incorporate their own experiences into their work as a way of commenting on larger, social issues. In this class, we will focus specifically on the autobiographies of women writers, noting the ways in which these writers often make the personal, political. For instance, what does Anne Moody’s account of her participation in a Mississippi lunch counter sit-in reveal about the historical time period of the 1960s? What can we learn from Le Ly Hayslip’s depiction of her life as a Vietnam villager during the Vietnam War? And, can seemingly intimate stories, such as those recorded by blogger Stephanie Klein about her post-divorce, dating life, actually speak to larger, pressing issues about female sexuality? Throughout the semester, we will examine various forms of life-writing (traditional autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, documentaries, and blogs), exploring the writing and research challenges that one faces when recording stories of the self.
UW20 serves as the training ground for three important abilities – critical reading, researching, and writing at the college level. My intention in this class is to expose students to the thoughtful consideration of how writers effectively (or sometimes ineffectively) convince us of their points. Additionally, we will consider how we, as writers, best express ourselves. How can we make our own writing stronger? The autobiographical texts that we will read throughout the semester will serve as the starting point for our own writing assignments, which will be as varied as the texts that we will consider. Students will write response papers and short essays, and they will pursue an independent research project on the topic of their choice. These writing assignments will help students to develop a variety of reading, researching, and writing skills applicable to the remainder of their college career.
Last summer, for the first time in recorded history, both Arctic sea passages were ice-free. The prospect of "extreme climate change" seems ever more real and dangerous. The Fourth Assessment of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Britain's Stern Review on The Economics of Climate Change,and even China's Secretariat of the Environment all agree that avoiding extreme climate change will require significant cuts in carbon emissions by 2020 and far deeper cuts by 2050. Achieving these 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 the world 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.
Emily Dickinson writes: “Much Madness is divinest Sense—to a discerning Eye—much Sense—the starkest Madness.” This course starts with the premise that the border between insanity and sanity is often an unstable and paradoxical one, but the attempt to define this border reveals a lot about the cultural moment. We will investigate both the madness of individuals and of the collective imagination, particularly as they intersect in a widespread contemporary form of madness in American culture: addiction.
Some questions we will consider: How does our culture tend to distinguish between sanity and insanity and how are these distinctions problematic? In what instances does insanity masquerade as sanity? How does the study of madness provide insights into issues of gender, ethnicity, and class? How might we begin to see consumer culture as intimately tied to the madness of addiction? Students will have the opportunity to write essays in a variety of forms, including literary/film analysis, critical response, comparison/contrast, and research. Students will also learn the value of writing as a process through library research, proposals, peer response, drafting, presentation, and revision. As a culminating project students will write a substantial critical research paper on a topic of their choice.
Can comics or "comix" (graphic novels, comic books, manga) do viable argumentative or interpretative work in history, literature, philosophy, psychology, journalism, politics, or religion? By what criteria do we evaluate "sequential art" works like Maus, Persepolis, Palestine, or Pyongyang? Can these hybrid image-texts help us explore relevant issues in new ways? Instead of a topic or discipline, students in this UW20 will focus on an object of research: the comics medium, a sequential combination of images and text.
The comics medium is especially suited for pre-disciplinary first-year writing because comics scholarship is itself proto-disciplinary. It is "proto-" in the sense that it is the purview of no single field. This means that you can find approaches of interest from history, literary studies, philosophy, clinical psychology, education, public health, journalism, politics, aesthetics, semiotics, technology studies, religious studies, and many other fields. And in most of these fields, comics scholarship is nascent, so your writing and research can make genuine intellectual contributions.
At the same time, comics scholarship is "disciplinary" in the sense that, in order to write sensibly and precisely about it, you must acquire, practice, and work to refine a specialized analytical vocabulary that has been developing around the study of comics. You must also discover, through scholarly secondary-source research, what the relevant and interesting questions and arguments to write about are. By taking forays into fields of scholarly analysis, you will acquire both specific knowledge and specialized ways of knowing that will allow you to situate your arguments and build credibility for your writing among particular scholarly audiences.
As a proto-disciplinary composition course, then, "Serious Comix" challenges you to engage in specific academic discourse without insisting on any particular disciplinary path. By researching, analyzing, and responding to the writing of artists, writers, fans, critics, and scholars, you will further develop your own analytical writing style and learn to anticipate the expectations of academic readers. You will write as academics do, through a recursive series of thinking, writing, research, and peer response practices. You will frame your writing in a series of authentic academic modes and genres that also hold applicability outside the university: a formal analysis, a visual argument, a scholarly review, a research proposal and bibliography, and an original research essay.
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 email@example.com
In 2002, animals gained protection under the German Constitution. Six animal rights activists were convicted of "terrorism" in 2006 and sentenced to a collective 23 years in prison. In 2007, Michael Vick was indicted for Dogfighting. A recent study found at least 25 percent of the world's wild mammals at risk of extinction. This fall, Californians will vote on Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. As Bernard Rollin asks, “Why have the last three decades witnessed the proliferation of concern about all areas of animal use and treatment and seen a correlative demand for a new ethic that goes well beyond cruelty?” This University Writing course will examine the many complicated concerns in the rapidly growing field of Animal Studies. A multi-disciplinary topic, Animal Studies will challenge us to research and write across traditional academic and professional boundaries. We will need philosophical rigor and scientific validity as we question the use of animals in biomedical research. We will challenge our sentimental ideals and our legal precedents as we examine how far one can go in the name of Justice. A charged, often polarizing topic, Animals Studies asks us to consider rhetorical devices in both our readings, and our compositions.
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 rhetorical strategies and rhetorical frameworks employed in these fields, with critics of the transnational industrialized food system serving as a case study in advocacy;
- creating reflections and narratives;
- estigating food politics in specific subcultures, organizations, or practices shared by particular groups;
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.
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. 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.
"Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and . . . when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
Manipulations of law have been used many times throughout our history to prevent social progress or even create intellectual justification for injustice, such as the once-revered concept of "separate but equal" and the notion that a person can be property. Despite this history, progressive movements continue to claim the law as their own, invoking the language of rights at every stage and ultimately turning to the court system and to new legislation to effect their demands. Within those arenas, when functioning at their best, we get to see words and ideas taken seriously. Advocates construct legal briefs, OpEd articles, scholarly journal articles, and legal opinions. These will be our course materials, which we explore in often intense seminar-style class meetings. Students then explore these concepts even more thoroughly in their scholarly writing. In addition, students will produce a major final research paper on a self-selected topic, advancing contemporary discourse on a social justice issue in current public debate.
Starve, brood, and be an outcast: those are the supposed requirements for being an artist. But the romantic myth of the rebel artist extends far beyond the Paris garret to inform the choices we believe are available in arenas as varied as politics, human relations, business, art, religion, and the intersection of intellect and identity. Bohemian subcultures from starving artists to firebrand activists have not just challenged, but changed, where and how we live, under what rules and terms through their works, lives, and documented words.
In this course, we'll look to city neighborhoods and to countercultural groups such as the Dadaists, Beatniks, Black Panthers, Weather Underground, and contemporary "nowtopians" to see how countercultural groups rewrite—often literally—the world around us. Because bohemians break established boundaries to create new forms, you'll study a range of innovative, hybrid texts—including scholarly and creative writing, visual and performing arts, cinema, photography, and new media—and experiment with authentic writing forms designed to upset the status quo. As major projects, you will critique a countercultural text, embark on inventive critical research to address the bohemian experience, and then explore the city to create a multimedia writing project that critically argues the territory of neo-bohemia right here in Washington, DC.
Hybrid Course: "Hybrid" is the name given to courses that blend face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning to improve learning outcomes. Hybrid courses thus move a significant amount of course work to an online environment. If you have any questions about this class, please contact Professor Christy Zink at firstname.lastname@example.org