UW20 Courses - Spring 2010
Last Updated: 10/16/09
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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Have you ever dreamed about running away to an exotic new location only to realize when you get there that the experience is not what you expected it to be? Regardless of whether we are traveling across the world or moving the next town over, the experience of traveling often helps to shape our individual identities. Our focus this semester will be on exploring ways in which our expectations of what it means to live in a specific place help shape our experience of it. Throughout this course we will be looking at different texts which challenge what it means to be a visitor in a new culture, the impact this dynamic has for the individual and the imprint this ultimately leaves on the physical, emotional and intellectual landscape of another world. This class will ask you to examine the relationship between individual identity and cultural identity and ways in which our personal experiences help to unite and also individuate us from one another. We will be reading a variety of novels, short stories and essays including works by Anne Carson, Robert Olen Butler, David Sedaris, Marjorie Satrapi, and Jonathan Safran Foer.
This course will introduce students to the basic literature and terminology of the environmentalist movement, including the complexity of the current environmental crisis as well as its critique of the monotheistic religions, particularly Christianity. In turn, the final section of the course will focus on various religious responses to such a critique. As such, the course will also explore the themes and terminology of Christian theology and biblical exegesis as well as the socio-cultural contexts from which such thought emerges. Though most of the literature in this field emerges out of a Christian context, other religious responses will be studied, especially in student research projects.
Due to the nature of the course, the exploration will be confined to mostly contemporary texts, especially texts written since the 1950s. However, the course will also employ contemporary films in order to explore the environmental question in the popular context. In the process students will also have the opportunity to reflect upon their own experiences concerning environmentalism, ecology, and religion. As this is a writing course, students will learn to process their own thoughts and research while honing their ability to write academically and sustain a thoughtful, well-reasoned argument about a two often-controversial topics: environmentalism and religion.
Cultural and media messages inundate us with the idea that happiness lies in money, material objects, and social status. Yet, a sense of emptiness – of chronic searching – seems endemic to any life dedicated mainly to accruing things and attaining power. A primary reason for that, according to neuroscience and psychology, is that fulfillment is tied to the neurobiology of interpersonal connection and emotional intimacy. Those Beatles were on to something.
In this writing- and research-intensive course we will examine how sociologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists have used writing to explore the relationship between human connection and personal fulfillment. We will also consider the role of language in connectivity, meaning, and community.
The course will involve short writing assignments, discussions, workshops, and four analytical papers of increasing length and complexity. Our reading will include Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl; The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm; Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert; Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman; A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon; and Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. As we write and revise, we will practice analyzing information, connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, and applying theory to our lived experiences.
This writing course addresses the diverse lives and cultures of African Americans before the Civil War. We will explore facets of African American life and culture by reading, discussing, and writing together as a community of scholars. In order to develop as academic writers, we must also develop critical thinking and analytical skills. In this class, therefore, we will learn to write as scholars by writing about African American history and by discussing a variety of interesting and challenging texts. We will read and discuss three types of literature: the work of published historians, the private and public writings of persons of African descent, and the essay that each student will produce in this class. The poems, petitions, sermons, biographies, and letters of black Americans provide the content for our writing, but we will also improve the analytical skills necessary for writing by discussing these texts in class.
For decades now, the conversations in American cultural and political life have been focused on emotionally charged, polarizing questions of religion, morality, and “values.” Even in times of crisis, when more concrete, material concerns about prosperity and security tend to win out at the ballot box, “hot-button” issues surrounding reproductive rights, sexuality, multiculturalism, feminism, arts funding, religion in the public sphere, etc., continue to dominate our national discourse. It seems that every time some writer or pundit declares the end of the Culture War, the same old passions and hysteria flare up again in rebuke. Though the origins of these conflicts in the tumultuous 60s and 70s will be reviewed, this course will pick up the Culture War narrative in 1990, the start of the decade in which these conflicts escaped the shadow of the Cold War and became central to American political discourse.
This writing-and-revision intensive course will help students develop the critical reading and rhetorical skills necessary for serious academic writing by analyzing Culture War texts from three spheres of intellectual life: science, art, and history. Through in-class discussion, close reading of the assigned texts, and a variety of writing projects great and small, students will work towards building clear, complex, and original academic arguments backed up by extensive research.
We are constantly assaulted with social commentary: music, blogs, talk radio, speeches, satires, art, and humor, among others. To master the art and rhetoric of social commentary, we must be part renegade and part jester. From Jonathan Swift and Orson Welles to Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and from Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson to Rush Limbaugh and Jay-Z, jesters and renegades have scorched the establishment and tried to speak truth to power. As the former editor of Harper’s Magazine and celebrated satirist, Lewis Lapham said, “I trust the joke to strike more nearly at the truth than the sermon, the sales pitch, or the State of the Union Address.” There is a very particular art to humor, satire, and social commentary – one that we see in the pages of The Onion and in the episodes of “The Daily Show” – a coy smile and a sharp dagger.
In, this intensive writing course students will explore and analyze a variety of social commentary (both traditional and fringe), as well as craft their own. Students will be expected to perform extensive research, write responses to videos and readings, an in-depth issue analysis, a scholarly essay, and a satire or parody.
As participants in American society, we are deluged with a barrage of images on a daily basis. Visual argument presents itself in numerous forms and guises, from advertising and marketing to art and fashion, each competing in some way for our attentions. In this course, we will examine and interrogate the role of the image in everyday life, both on campus and in society at large, reading images alongside written texts, and exploring the parallels between the two forms. To this end, we’ll also discuss what it means to examine something as an “image,” investigating how visual narratives and arguments are formed, composed, and realized.
Throughout the course, we’ll work our way through a variety of visual and written texts, including graphic novels, advertisements and product packaging, and photography and visual art, as well as essays and criticism, in an effort to better understand the role of visual mediums in our lives. Students will build their reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills through journaling, group work and short “visual projects,” all leading into three essay assignments of increasing complexity, each focusing on a particular image.
This is a reading- and discussion-based course that will explore critical methods of interpreting literary texts. Imaginative writing is the result of many authorial choices and responses (deliberate and unconscious) to a particular time, place, literary tradition, culture, etc. We will consider academic analyses of selected works with regard to their methodologies, the extent to which the primary texts and relevant historical documents either support or refute a particular interpretation, and the degree to which critics provide alternative (often conflicting) views of the same work. Readings on the syllabus will represent the three primary genres of literature – drama, prose fiction, and poetry – with respect to the relationship between reading and writing. Through close study of texts, class discussions, and written assignments, you will learn the vocabulary and techniques for reading and writing analytically. The course aims to foster your ability to evaluate challenging literary works, reflect on the activity of criticism itself, and improve your critical thinking and writing skills. You will be required to articulate your ideas in two analytic essays and a major research project. My aim is to instill a lifelong appreciation of a wide range of literature, as well as the ability to respond critically to each work (read either in an academic context or for personal satisfaction).
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—books and films, either with high praise or harsh criticism. Thinking and writing about both genres will allow you to verbalize your own reactions from different perspectives: a reviewer examining narrative, dialogue, and acting; or, an academic writer exploring (and researching) broader issues: race, class, and gender; constructions of truth, memory, criminality, and the past; and, the mythology, attainment, and failure of “American Dream.”
This course will examine several works, all of which will enable you to self-reflect on your own critical reading, thinking, and writing processes: John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie’s The Usual Suspects.
Literature, film, and academic writing are not distinct; rather, you can have these genres “talk” to each other to expand your critical reading, thinking, and writing skills while working with familiar, enjoyable genres.
Writing Assignments: Analysis papers about The Usual Suspects and Six Degrees of Separation; peer workshopping and evaluation; and a final research essay centering on The Great Gatsby.
This course is meant as the UW 20 counterpart to Professor Alan Wade’s “Shakespearean Washington” Dean’s Seminar (CCAS 801-80). It is designed for the students who took the Dean’s Seminar in Fall 2009, and it requires the instructor’s permission to register. This course assumes a basic knowledge of Shakespeare, and it is not designed for students who lack a background or interest in Shakespeare, literary study, or film.
Using three plays and three or four films—Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet—this course will focus primarily on Shakespeare’s work as literature, and as the source text for modernized and period films. What is at stake when Shakespeare’s works are filmed? What might be lost in filming Shakespeare, and what might be gained? Should Shakespeare be modernized, or even filmed at all?
Writing Assignments: Analysis papers about Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice; peer workshopping and evaluation; and a final research essay centering on Romeo and Juliet.
I have not chosen the theme of this course – Legacies of the Holocaust – because I believe that engaging in such study necessarily will prevent a future Holocaust, future acts of genocide. Moreover, I concur with Terrence Des Pres when he argues that in the course of such study, we will not learn to understand the Holocaust. As Des Pres argues: “The question Why? will naturally persist…. Why enroll in such a course?.... And certainly, if by good we mean answers and rational explanation, if we mean atonement and redemption, then there is nothing to be gained by knowing the facts of the death camps” (35).
While we may not be able to make amends for the Holocaust, I believe that through the careful study of the lives of those who perished and the words of those who survived, we become witnesses who are willing to be bearers of the stories and history of the Shoah. The range of research topics is wide, from the role art played in the Holocaust to the workings of a particular concentration camp; or from the role liberators played (or failed to play) to what is known about the “bearers of secrets,” the Sonderkommando, who were eyewitnesses to the Final Solution.
The series of writing tasks you will perform -- including composing brief response papers, annotating sources, writing a research paper (in a series of stages which afford you multiple opportunities for revision) that integrates both primary and secondary sources -- are designed both to help you write an authoritative study of your chosen topic and to help familiarize you with some of the types of academic writing you will perform in the semesters to come.
Hybrid Course: "Hybrid" is the name given to courses that blend face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning to improve learning outcomes. Hybrid courses thus move a significant amount of course work to an online environment. If you have any questions about this class, please contact Professor Gamber at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
What sets American Poetry apart from other poetic traditions? What kinds of works are American poets writing today? How do we define poetry? What role does poetry play in society? These are the kinds of questions this writing intensive course will explore using essays, poems, and one book of poetry. Students will be asked to write several journals or blogs, reviews of poetic and scholarly works, as well as three major assignments, including a paper exploring past and present connections in poetry, a paper using a scholarly lens, and a research project that will include a proposal and an annotated bibliography.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, Hunter S. Thompson, James Baldwin, Naomi Wolf, Martin Luther King Jr., Aurora Levins-Morales, Patricia J. Williams, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Howard Zinn, and many, many more have expressed a radical vision of “America,” in multiple non-fiction genres: journalism, travel writing, memoir, essay. This course is designed as a writing workshop for our own research-based radical rewrites of “America.” From their basis in anti-capitalist critique, we will consider the multiple meanings and effects of radical ideas and activism. We will closely read authors of our choosing to consider whether and how to model our own writing on their rhetorical strategies of argument, style, voice, truth claims, research, and audience. We will also present multiple drafts of our work for peer and instructor review, and engage in continuous revision in light of our research and reader responses. Writing projects include an autoethnography, a critical bibliography, and a research project, chosen by the writer, on a public issue that remains unresolved and has the potential for radical revision. Finally, we will seek ways to share our research and writing with audiences beyond our classroom.
What is humanitarianism in contemporary international society? What are the goals of humanitarian organizations and how effective are these groups in reaching their goals? This writing course will explore the long-standing humanitarian vision embedded in contemporary movements for human rights, economic development, and other forms of global unity. Through critical analysis and writing, we will investigate the role humanitarianism plays in conflict areas and after natural disasters throughout the world. We will link these forms of humanitarianism with the newer forms of celebrity and marketing activism to determine whether humanitarian goals have remained the same over time or if they have co-opted into something new. We will review and analyze international humanitarianism through various mediums weekly, from journal assignments to research papers, discussing the topics with classmates through class discussion, group projects, and a final in-class presentation. The course approaches writing as a dynamic and multi-faceted process through which we will examine the varying perspectives on humanitarianism.
How we see our celebrities speaks volumes about who we are as a culture. We are fascinated by the famous, the infamous and, increasingly, by our own fascination with them. This course examines our often conflicted attitudes toward celebrities and the mechanisms through which we express these attitudes.
Students are asked to investigate what seems, on the face of it, to be a rather superficial topic – fame and celebrity in contemporary American culture. After all, isn’t our obsession with celebrities one of the things that pundits frequently point a chastising finger at whenever they decry the dumbing down of culture, the increasing inability of current generations to think and write critically, and the unwillingness to take anything seriously that does not come packaged in sound bites of 7.8 seconds or less?
All the more reason to take a critical look at both the ways we receive the information and what we do with it. Since, of necessity, many of the resources students are asked to consult fall into the category of pop culture – web sites and blogs, YouTube videos, supermarket tabloids – they must learn to consider these not as entertainment but as texts to be decoded using the same critical skills they have been taught to use when approaching more traditional texts. All writing assignments require students to think carefully about audience and approach. Students are asked to examine and then engage in several different writing styles and genres (this may include writing for tabloids, both print and online, the mainstream press, or fan publications). In addition, students will undertake a substantial research-driven writing project.
In this course, we will examine representations of Asian American experiences in contemporary American society. The course is designed to introduce you to historical and cultural concepts of "Asianness" as imagined by Asian American writers and artists. What does the term "Asianness" mean? In what ways can this concept be a shared American experience? In this course, we will focus on questions of authenticity, documentation, and representation. As part of our contact with a wide range of texts — poems, short stories, essays, photographs, and films — we will read, discuss and write about the Asian American experience within a broader American culture. The course materials will serve as topics of conversation for class discussions as well as the content for your writings. The writing assignments will give you opportunity to sharpen your writing and research skills on specific thematic issues.
Who’s to say what art ought to do, and what it ought to look like? How do we begin to separate “important” art from the merely entertaining? What criteria do we use to differentiate the quirky, clever, and transient, from the truly substantive, valuable, and enduring?
In 1978, the writer and critic John Gardner published On Moral Fiction, a series of essays that set forth a premise about the purposes and characteristics of moral art (especially fiction). Believing that the goal of art is to instruct and to affirm life, Gardner felt that to endorse anything less was to forfeit the right to tell each other how to behave, to live in a world where there are no “correct” models of human behavior.
The aim of the course is to examine what stands as true, moral art, and to allow you to develop your own explanation of what the purposes and characteristics of moral art should be. We will use essays, short stories, and films, to explore a range of works both “moral” and “immoral.”
You will be asked to analyze written works (primarily), comparing and contrasting their merits and weakness. The semester will culminate in a final paper that will serve as your own treatise on what art is, what it should be, and what it should never be.
Religious and political communities face a similar challenge as they navigate the vicissitudes of history. The fundamental identity of a community must be preserved through the consistent transmission of its core principles and practices. Yet, these principles and practices must also remain relevant to the changing circumstances of each generation. Both religious and political communities depend upon the authority of foundational texts to meet this challenge: religious communities have scriptures and creeds; political communities have constitutional documents and bodies of law. However, such texts require interpretation for their meaning to be ascertained and applied. And the question of what constitutes the “proper” method for such interpretation is necessarily connected to fundamental disagreements about the nature of the community itself and the rights and obligations of its members.
Our examination of the various ways in which theologians, philosophers, legal scholars, and others have approached the issue of interpretation will provide us with a rich conceptual context in which to explore basic intellectual issues such as: How does the ‘meaning’ of a claim get constructed in the relationship between author and audience?; What justifies me in interpreting a text in this way, rather than that?; How can I establish the correctness (or at least legitimacy) of my perspective on a matter of controversy?; Etc. Students will proceed through a succession of reading and writing assignments intended to introduce them to the skills and sensibilities necessary for quality academic writing in general. These assignments will build upon one another, so that as the students' capacity for sophisticated written argumentation grows they will be asked to formulate increasingly more complex positions. Most importantly, students will learn to incorporate active drafting, revising, editing, and researching practices into their writing throughout their university experiences.
Birthed by a Nation – The Language of Black Americans. Langauge or dialect? What are the origins of Black Vernacular Speech in the United States? What is its linguistic, political and cultural nature? These and other questions will be examined in this UW20 course which will expose students to the arguments made by and made on behalf of what is variably called African American Vernacular English, Black English or Ebonic language, the language created by African slaves in the 1600s. This language has endured into the 21st century and fueled arguments among principles along the way including becoming the subject of the Ebonics controversy ignited by the Oakland School Board in 1997. The language has conveyed hidden and overt messages and perpetuated racist stereotypes of Blacks. The film “Birth of a Nation” will serve as the point of departure for the course. Students will write two reflective papers, one comparison/contrast paper and one 25-30 page group generated research paper as requirements of the course. Students will also be required to attend at least two off campus events assigned by the instructor and produce response papers subsequently. In addition, students will be exposed to a variety of texts (including cartoons) and research that will introduce them to the conversation so that they develop the capacity to engage and contribute to the conversations as scholars.
“What’s for dinner?” Perhaps at no other time in American history has this simple question been fraught with such angst. Worries about food safety, concerns about federal regulation and subsidies, health issues, and the impact of food production on climate change are just some of the topics that have made front-page news in the past few years. This course examines these food-related controversies, as well as the wider world of academic food studies, to investigate how eating has become a very political act. Course assignments will ask students to hone their skills of critical reading and analysis using recent non- fiction, scientific reports, documentaries, and academic scholarship to produce 25-30 pages of finished text, including a final research paper.
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.
A policy writer for the World Health Organization, a doctor trained in both Western and Eastern medicine, a twenty-two year old suffering from anorexia, and the parent of a diabetic child will all have different ideas about what it means to be healthy and who should control access to an individual’s body. Each will express her views in different language. This class will ask you to consider the language used by various cultures and subcultures to talk about health and health issues, and to analyze how that language conceptualizes health. As a class we will study how metaphor shapes meaning and then apply that knowledge to language collected from blogs and online discussion boards, using linguistic theory to analyze the metaphorical models used to understand what it means to be “healthy”.
Whether you are interested in these various models as a future health professional, a policy wonk, a patient, or a political junkie tracking health care reform, an ability to decipher the rhetoric surrounding these issues will serve you. As a person, you may be interested in the topic of this class, but as a student and a writer, you will also obtain essential tools of academic writing—tools for analyzing both text and topic, for arriving at answers by starting with questions, for attending to detail and engaging critically—that you will take with you to other topics, texts, and writing throughout your academic career. This class will take the intersections of health, culture, and language as a subject, but we will use our subject in service of rigorous practice in rhetorical strategies and development of a successful writing process.
Assignments include a personal essay, several short analytical papers, and a research project that will ask you to analyze an online health community.
This course will approach poems and poetry as language artifacts, using linguistics as a tool for analyzing poetry as an instance of language. Critical readings will include Wittgenstein’s concept of the Language Game; and de Saussure’s explanation of signifier, signified, and sign. As we build a critical framework for understanding how language is learned, applied, and understood, we will use it to analyze works of poetry starting at the most basic level of language: the words chosen by the writer and the syntax into which those words are placed.
Our readings in poetry will focus on modern and contemporary poets including Gertrude Stein, Harryette Mullen, and Bridget Pegeen Kelly—poets who break language apart, subvert traditional grammar, or display a unique understanding of how the English language can be assembled and create meaning. We will look at experimental poetry and at the word replacement exercises used by the French Oulipo group as a tool for learning what happens to language when a writer radically departs from linguistic norms by inverting or otherwise altering syntax, or by using the “wrong” parts of speech or inventing words.
Assignments include several short, analytical response papers; a research paper analyzing a poet from an applied linguistics standpoint; and a final portfolio of revised writing. The research paper will require both an understanding of the critical readings used throughout the course and additional research.
Understanding religion—either one’s own, or another “foreign” religion—requires navigating a complex field of texts, traditions, and interpretations. How does a religious tradition understand itself? How do scholars of religion engage and critique religion? How is religion depicted in popular culture?
This course asks these questions specifically about Islam. In the context of American interest in Islam since September 11, there is an opportunity for critical reflection on what it means to depict and understand a religious tradition. Beginning with the textual origins of Islam—the Qur’an—and proceeding through a selection of prominent theological, poetic, literary, and philosophical exemplars, we will explore the many competing claims about the nature of Islam.
And we will write about Islam ourselves, confronting the challenges of knowledge, representation, and authenticity. By engaging a variety of texts in our reading, research, and writing, we will also confront the broader challenge of scholarly analysis. We will work to develop your own voice, equipped with the critical skills necessary for academic success. The aim of the course is to combine our evolution as writers with a growing understanding of the role of religion in our society.
In this course we will develop writing skills through careful observation and analysis of 17th Century Dutch painting at the National Gallery of Art. Each student will write three polished catalogue entries (1 page each) of works from the National Gallery collection, a short exhibition review (3-5 pages), and a larger research project (15-20 pages). Artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Judith Leyster will be the central focus of class discussion, as well as various landscape and still life masters. We will explore issues of technique (i.e. materials and methods) and art historical interpretations. Why do we consider Rembrandt a "genius?" Did Vermeer use the camera obscura? What was the role of women artists in the 17th Century? Together we will read a selection of scholarly articles related to each artist, as well as visiting the museum collection firsthand. Through critical writing, class discussion, and individual research, each student will learn to see and appreciate the art of the Dutch Golden Age.
Have you ever had a surprising thought, blanked while writing an exam question, or wondered what a particular dream might mean? Such events have long been puzzling those who are interested in the way brains function. Freud believed that unconscious, infantile wishes and repressed memories continuously controlled us, regulating what we thought during the day and what we dreamed at night During the mid-twentieth century, scientists began to discuss the chemical transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. Increasingly, physicians began rejecting Freud's model of the mind and turning to biological approaches. Yet, as an interdisciplinary field which focuses on cognition has emerged, Freud's ideas have made a comeback. Neurologists, biologists, and psychiatrists, among others, are collaborating to analyze discoveries made possible by recent technologies, such as brain imaging, which seem to corroborate Freud's theories. This work has implications for students and teachers of the writing process. Understanding how the brain works can provide insight into how people construct meaning, use language, create narratives and develop arguments.. Assignments for this class might include, but will not be limited to, a collaborative project, an annotated bibliography, and an analysis of a blog which is relevant to course concerns.
The humorist Dave Barry once wrote, “They can hold all the peace talks they want, but there will never be peace in the Middle East. Billions of years from now, when Earth is hurtling toward the Sun and there is nothing left alive on the planet except a few microorganisms, the microorgan-isms living in the Middle East will be bitter enemies.”
Why is this region such a hotbed of animosity? And given such long-established and bitter enmity, what could American foreign policy possibly hope to achieve? Considering that Israel and Pakistan are nuclear states and that Iran will soon be one also, can American policy afford to fail in searching for a reconciliation among the peoples of the three Abrahamic faiths?
In this course, we will read and write in search of answers to these or related questions as we also read about and discuss the essentials of rhetoric and composition. Students will identify focused concerns important to them, such as policy on Iran, or Iraq, or the two-state solution, and will join research groups with like minded-peers, reading and writing about policy issues in light of their common interests.
Students will write three main projects and several shorter papers. The three main projects will be drafted and revised during the semester for potential inclusion in a final portfolio, the major grade in the course, and will build on each other, starting with a summary/response opinion piece, followed either by a rhetorically-based chronology of Middle East history (explained in an ancillary document) or a multimedia document (also with an accompanying explanation), followed by a research-based white paper on American policy. The shorter writings will involve summarizing and responding to weekly readings, culminating in an annotated bibliography.
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.
This course will begin an ongoing study conducted by First Year students concerning how music functions as social commentary, beginning with the question of whether it does at all. In other words, if Kanye sings a song, does it really matter? What if the singer is Bob Marley, Woody Guthrie, or Billy Holiday? Do songs ever persuade us of anything—do they change our minds—or simply reinforce ideas and feelings we already have? It will be the task of the students this spring to develop the analytical tools necessary to answer this question and conduct further research. Your work will lay the foundation for students in future semesters to carry on the project.
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 email@example.com
Within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are an array of deeply conflicting and competing historical narratives. For the cultures of this region, seeped in faith and engaged in a long political struggle, there is an exceptional amount at stake in constructing their national histories. In this class, we will look at versions of the regional history told through a diverse set of voices from within the conflict. We will compare a wide range of Israeli, Palestinian and American perspectives in sources including memoirs, newspapers, film, local history textbooks, and international observers’ reports. Each of these genres combines varied measures of historical understanding, faith, or individual experience to construct a coherent story from a deeply complicated situation. We will take apart these narratives to examine how each writer collects information and stakes a claim. For each piece of writing, we will ask how collective memory impacts personal accounts. We will scrutinize what cultural or historical assumptions shape their understanding and determine their actions. These discussions will anticipate the sorts of questions students will need to ask in their own writing: What are their sources of information? What constitutes evidence for each? What are their claims and how do they convince their audiences? Students will keep all of these questions at play as they research a piece of the history of the region.
What’s hanging in The Celluloid Closet? Should the Dixie Chicks just Shut Up and Sing? What happened in New Orleans When the Levees Broke? Got (The Times of Harvey) Milk? What’s so ‘badass’ about Baadasssss Cinema? What’s Girlhood like in a Baltimore prison? Who’s fighting the American Drug War? Does The Education of Shelby Knox include sex ed.? Who are the 4 Little Girls? Could Tupac[‘s]: Resurrection change society?
We will begin by discussing the genre of documentaries (do they depict the “truth”?) and the intersecting categories of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Throughout the semester, we will examine the messages these documentaries may be trying to convey, how they are attempting to do so, and to whom they might be trying to speak. In short, we’ll be looking at issues such as argumentation, evidence, tone, audience, and structure –- key elements to develop in our own writing. Frequent writing assignments, including reaction posts, two short essays, and a research paper, will allow us to identify our writing as part of an ongoing dialogue about the society in which discourse is created and, in turn, creates. We will make use of multiple revisions, peer review, and regular in-class writing assignments.
This past summer, the movie, Julie and Julia, which intertwines the tales of chef, cookbook author, and television personality Julia Child and food blogger Julie Powell, opened to complimentary reviews and a positive public reception, grossing $20.1 million on opening weekend. The film, which is based on two food memoirs (Child’s My Life in France and Powell’s The Julie/Julia Project), reveals the public’s recent fascination with the food we eat, the way we prepare it, and the stories of people like Julie and Julia who find pleasure and fulfillment in both. In the last five years, there has been a swell in food writing – from food histories (Anne Mendelson’s Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages) to local eating manifestos (Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). In this class, we will examine this recent writing trend, looking specifically at women’s food writing for the way in which this writing complicates more traditional perceptions of women and their relationship to the food they eat and write about. We’ll ask, along with writer Laura Shapiro, if women really do like to cook, and we’ll discuss how women writers, like Diana Abu-Jaber (The Language of Baklava), use food to shape their identities. We’ll also look at non-traditional forms of food writing – like the documentary – which chronicle this often complicated relationship between women and food. In our class, we’ll consider how, through the tangible act of preparing food, these writers encourage readers to reconsider the intangible politics of the kitchen.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 food writing 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.
When the television series Mad Men first aired in the summer of 2007, it didn’t have much going for it. After all, it was a period drama airing on a network best knowing for showing classic films. But, before long, it became clear that Mad Men was here to stay – winning an Emmy for best drama both this year and last. All of the sudden, Mad Men seemed to be everywhere. Banana Republic’s fall line was inspired by the show’s fashions. AMC’s webpage allows you to create your own Mad Men character and post it to your Facebook page. Even Sesame Street spoofed the series. In this course, we will examine the popular appeal of the series Mad Men. Not only will we look at the written criticism surrounding the show from articles in The New York Times to blogs like Basket of Kisses, but we will also look at the extratextual references that Mad Men makes, particularly in regard to the political climate of the early 1960s. For instance, how might newspaper coverage of the historic Nixon-Kennedy election help us to better understand the cultural climate in which Don Draper lives and works? Might reading Betty Friedan’s feminist classic The Feminine Mystique (1963) shed light on the character of Betty Draper? And, would considering historical accounts of the Civil Rights movement inform our reading of Paul Kinsey, who travels down south to register voters? As a class, we will immerse ourselves in 1960s culture in order to better understand the complicated historical circumstances that surround these characters.
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? What research lenses might we apply to our work in order to enrich it? The television series Mad Men and the readings associated with it 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.
We live in a diverging and converging world. On the one hand, communications improve and internet reaches even the smallest remotest villages allowing us to converge and feel a part of areas once alien to us. On the other hand, however, many of these remote regions are becoming increasingly poor while parts of the world enjoy historically high growth rates. Many economists think rich countries are racing away and that poor countries are being left behind.
This course will start off by looking at some of the key problems in economic under-development to understand their nature as well as some of the causes. We will then explore some of the factors often cited for this regional poverty and discuss ways in which economists and political scientists have tried to help understand them.
UW20 courses make use of a wide variety of topics, approaches, and assignment designs to meet a common set of goals. To prepare students for rigorous academic writing across the range of disciplines offered at GW, the course strives to develop or extend student writers' capacity for critical reading and analytic thinking; their ability to explore information resources; their grasp of rhetorical principles; their ability to frame sound questions or hypotheses; and their ability to edit and proofread carefully. You will be expected to speak, read, and write in this class as writing is an interactive and multi-dimensional process. I want the class to be interesting and even fun! Each student will have to give a brief presentation of a key course-related topic and most weeks will have some group activity such as a peer review of an essay draft or small discussions of the topics for that week. In addition, you will do a lot of commentary-writing to think critically about the ideas of the course. The course intends to teach you about important international issues but with the over-arching aim of providing you with essential writing skills to help you in your college career and beyond.
Researchers have found that humans respond most effectively to problems that pose an imminent risk, affect them directly, and can be solved by actions they can readily imagine taking. The worst effects of climate change, by contrast, will not be experienced for decades, will likely be experienced by people far away, in less developed regions of the world, and are difficult to link with actions we might take now. This last characteristic is compounded by two other factors. First, it is easy to ignore the costs of action if we won’t be the ones who pay them. Second, it is hard to change habits that define a way of life. But this is the challenge that all Americans now face.
Climate scientists and policymakers, sociologists, public and non-profit administrators, psychologists, political scientists, media analysts, journalists, environmentalists, diplomats, and business people are all now striving to better understand the problem of communicating climate change. Over the course of this semester, you can participate in their broad interdisciplinary conversation. And through the critical thinking, creative research, and reflective writing you will practice in this section of UW 20, you will be able to make an original contribution to this ongoing discussion.
To study Washington as a place of haunting is to discover how traumatic events in American history are never fully buried or repressed but are instead always returning and exerting their influence on the present. This course starts with William Faulkner’s premise that “[t]he past is never dead, it’s not even past,” and moves towards an exploration of how we might locate in Washington’s ghost legends and national memorials the interchange between past and present, the popular and the officially authorized—in short, the ghostly whisperings that continue to haunt the American imagination.
We will begin by identifying specific strains of trauma and haunting in political speeches, short essays and fiction. We will then examine Washington’s most famous ghost stories and analyze some of its most significant memorials. The final research project will give students a chance to explore in depth a haunted event that creates a unique link between discourses of nation and American culture. In all, this course will make the larger point that Washington has a haunting side rarely read about in history textbooks, and this spectral history is crucial in continually deepening and revitalizing the American imagination.
This course starts with William Faulkner’s premise that “[t]he past is never dead, it’s not even past,” and moves towards an exploration of how we might locate in Washington’s ghost legends and national memorials the interchange between past and present, the popular and the officially authorized, nation and imagination.
Can the comics medium (graphic novels, comic books, manga) do viable argumentative and interpretative work in history, literature, philosophy, psychology, journalism, politics, religion, education? By what criteria do we evaluate "sequential art" works like Maus, Persepolis, Palestine, or Pyongyang? By taking on the comics medium as an object of study, you will develop key writing and research practices: discovering and framing relevant questions through scholarly secondary-source research; acquiring, practicing, and refining a specialized analytical vocabulary; and extending and developing your own analytical writing style by learning to anticipate the expectations of academic readers. You will write as academics do, through a recursive process of sketching, drafting, researching, revising, editing, and responding substantively to peers' work. You will frame your writing in a series of authentic academic modes and genres that also hold applicability outside the university: a short formal analysis, scholarly article abstracts, a research proposal/bibliography, and an original research essay with a strong visual component.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
"Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and . . . when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
Manipulations of law have been used many times throughout our history to prevent social progress or even create intellectual justification for injustice, such as the once-revered concept of "separate but equal" and the notion that a person can be property. Despite this history, progressive movements continue to claim the law as their own, invoking the language of rights at every stage and ultimately turning to the courts and legislation to effect their demands. When those arenas are functioning at their best, we get to see words and ideas taken seriously. Advocates construct legal briefs, OpEd articles, scholarly journal articles, and legal opinions. These will be our course materials, which we explore in often intense seminar-style class meetings. Students then explore these concepts even more thoroughly in their scholarly writing, culminating in a major final research paper that will advance the discourse on a self-selected social justice issue in current public debate.
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 email@example.com