UW20 Courses - Spring 2011
Last Updated: 10/20/10
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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.
REGISTERING: Here at the First-Year Writing Program, we do our best to provide
students with a selection of interesting course themes. However,
there will inevitably be students every semester who find that the
sections they want are full. If you find yourself in this
situation, here is everything you should know about UW20 policies:
#1: THE COURSE CAP
Each UW section is capped at fifteen students. There are no exceptions to this. Over-enrollment is not an option.
#2: THERE ARE NO WAITLISTS
UWP instructors cannot sign you into a course, even if there is an opening. All transactions must be through GWEB.
#3: CHECK GWEB
The best advice we can give you is to continue checking the GWeb Info System as often as you can. Students can add/drop classes at any point during the scheduled registration periods (see Registrar's websitefor exact dates). This is particularly true right before the start of each semester, when students return from the holidays and try to create better schedules. Students who check often will be the first to see if a course opens up.
UW20 Course Preview Options
One of our most important jobs as writers is to be able to analyze an argument and assess its credibility. In doing so, a good writer should think about the kind of bias an author brings into her argument, such as a writer’s individual background and the culture in which the author is writing her work.
This task is often easier in hindsight, precisely because it is easier to assess an ideological standpoint we as a culture no longer ascribe to. Today, few would argue that the earth is actually flat or that acting and dressing as a different gender can actually change one’s sex. But these were ideas and beliefs that were staunchly held to by individuals throughout many different time periods. For this class we will isolate, examine and investigate the beliefs which we as a culture most fiercely cling to. Through readings and class discussions you will confront issues which range from what we as a culture consider to be common knowledge to what we see as being provocative, outlandish and bizarre. Throughout class we will struggle to understand how and why we regard certain things as necessarily right and true.
This class revolves heavilly on class discussions, debates and select readings.While a major aspect of this class is learning to cultivate more nuanced interpretations of ideas we normally take for granted, your goal as a writer this semester will be to use your critical thinking skills to analyze and assess the information at hand in order to create a clear and specific argument. You will have three major papers for this course, all of which will require strong critical thinking skills, and one of which will require both library as well as field research.
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.
In this course, we will explore the universally human search for existential meaning – a quest that some might see as the meaning we seek in and of itself! As we read, write and revise, we will consider the following questions: What makes life feel meaningful and worthwhile, and how might writing figure centrally in the process of engaging this question? When is writing an inherent act of searching, and how might we derive meaning through authorship? When and how is questioning a fulfilling journey unto itself, and is it possible, or even desirable, to find absolute meaning? How does writing provide a forum for searchers and thinkers across time and place to come into conversation, and what is the responsibility of the author hosting these discussions? This course will involve many short writing assignments, seminar-style discussions, one-on-one writing conferences, online writing projects, workshops, research and three analytical papers of increasing length and complexity. Texts include The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, The Heart of Philosophy by Jacob Needleman and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. This course is a hybrid, meaning that instead of holding in-person class meetings on Fridays, we will do weekly writing projects in an online environment. These virtual forums and conversations, in addition to creating a disciplined format for the practice of writing, also strongly support the formation of a community of writers and thinkers in constant, thoughtful conversation.
"Death comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes," the great English poet and pastor John Donne once wrote. Yet despite this wry observation on death's inevitable reality and equalizing power, Donne also had a profound religious conviction that the human soul could overcome Death and find everlasting Life. Centuries later, another English poet, Philip Larkin, wasn't so sure: "Death," he wrote, "is no different whined at than withstood." Which poet was right? Or does the answer lie somewhere in between?
As a philosophical problem, as an occasion for art and public ritual, and as a biological reality we all must face, death is certainly one of the most important subjects - perhaps the MOST important subject - any human being must wrestle with. How should we mourn the death of a person we loved? What do the living owe the dead? How should we face the fact of our own mortality?
To help us grapple with these questions, and others, we will study a wide variety of texts on the nature of death and dying; authors read and discussed will include Donne, Montaigne, Philippe Aries, Julian Barnes, Thomas Lynch, Jessica Mitford, Julia Kristeva, and Albert Camus. We'll also be analyzing two films: The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman's classic meditation on death and doubt; and Wit, Mike Nichols's film of the Margaret Edson play about a dying Donne scholar who uses literature and memory to deal with the grueling realities of cancer.
Our ultimate goal in this course will be to craft thoughtful, original academic essays built on lively in-class discussions, smaller personal writing projects, oral presentations, and thorough engagement with the research process. Assignments will include a personal narrative, a philosophical treatise, a close reading of a work of art, and a substantial research paper that follows the conventions of a specific academic discipline.
Many have said that jazz music and the western film genre represent two of the few quintessentially American art forms. However, the classical view of the western genre as fundamentally conservative in outlook has been shaped somewhat by poor journalism.
In fact, western films that receive the praise of serious critics and maintain cultural staying-power (they continue to be watched on Turner Classic Movies or purchased as DVDs) possess values that fly in the face of the stereotypical lone gunman forced to clean up the town. In many ways, the genre responds to the cultural undercurrents of its times better than most so-called independent films do today.
In this course, we will watch the films of directors such as John Ford, William Wellman, and Clint Eastwood. While this is a class about university-level writing, we will master film terminology and attempt “readings” of these films as texts that reveal much about the periods in which they were made. History and politics are important to this discussion. What do westerns say about sexual morality or the construction of racial/ethnic identity for that matter?
At the crux of the western film is a profound meditation both of what it means to be American and to be civilized. Students will develop skills – critical analysis and writing – that will help them develop polished, well-researched university-level arguments. Students will draft short analytical response papers, daily writing and one larger research essay.
Text: Jim Kitses’ Horizons West: Directing the Western from John Ford to Clint Eastwood
“Hipster” was born of the Beat lexicon, and formally christened by Norman Mailer to describe a class of rebels who elect to "divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey.” Capturing the countercultural zeitgeist of the postwar era, the term connoted lifestyles outside mainstream American margins. More than merely a style or posture, hipsterism encompassed ideological and political concerns suffused with issues of national, class, race, and gender norms. Cultural lore has it that the hipster vanished after a late mid-century peak, only to reappear in watered-down form in the 1990s and 2000s. The hipster’s second coming has been lampooned as superficial, reduced to a collage of styles and divorced from meaningful cultural critique.
Is this evaluation valid? Do we romanticize the past, and limit our own moment? When and how do politics and style coexist? Considering crucial questions of identity and cultural formations inherent to hipsterism, this class will engage the hipster’s meaning and potential in the present as well as in its postwar roots. Using cultural criticism, original texts, and film, we will contextualize and re-evaluate both contemporary and originary hipster incarnations. Original (primary) documents will receive emphasis, from contemporary journalism and The Hipster Handbook (2003) to Beat Generation prose and fiction. Writing assignments will aid our critical analysis, and incorporate expositional and creative work. Writing assignments will be frequent, and workshops, revisions, and peer critique will likewise comprise a substantial part of this course.
Taking its title from Susanna Kaysen’s best-selling 1993 memoir, Girl Interrupted, written after Kaysen’s incarceration for almost two years in a psychiatric institution, this course examines the relationship between art and autobiography in women’s writing. We will concentrate on how self-representation can be an incomplete, evolving, elusive phenomenon, but also an aspiration to completeness, however imagined that completeness may be. Focusing on narratives of self-development and formation in not only the memoir, but also through letters, confessional poetry, fiction, journalism, music, film, the visual arts, and online communication, we will also analyze the tension between private, individual documentation and professional authorship, with an emphasis on how different forms of expression proliferate and take on another life as a collaborative or communal history.
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.
“Inception made my brain hurt.” “Chapter four in the boy-wizard franchise, and still no good scenes.” “Simply Tarantino’s best.” We turn to sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB to get pithy statements about recent films from fellow viewers, and this is fine for deciding what to do on a Saturday night. But if we are looking for a way to understand the layers of meaning in a film, or to grasp how it relates to a larger cultural context, Rotten Tomatoes isn’t enough; we need to turn to film scholars who can illuminate films in new ways. Further, in order to write sophisticated analyses of films, we need the conceptual power of film theory. In this class, we use film criticism and theory to interpret outstanding recent films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Happy-Go-Lucky, and Darwin’s Nightmare (a stellar documentary about environmental issues). As the culminating project of the semester, students write an essay for Film Matters, a new journal for undergradu
ate film scholars. If Inception made your brain hurt, write about your pain—in a cogent, theoretically informed essay.
Note: Laptops required.
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.
American social norms have attached a derogatory label of “mad” to women who assert themselves, who seek to define their lives separate and apart from social norms, or who stand in the way of their husband’s younger prospective bride. However, many of the women labeled mad were simply fighting against patriarchy for the right to be equal, or in the case of women of color, fighting to be considered human. Nonetheless, many women have actually gone mad for various reasons including being forced to remain in suffocating marriages, being subjected to abuse, or from the fear of death as they petitioned their nation for rights. This class will explore women and madness in literature to uncover how American women writers depict the descent into madness and its causes. Our work will include analyzing the time period in which the work was written and that period’s influence on the writer. Our methods will include peer to peer workshops; journaling; historical research; and analytical writing which will all challenge your ability to read critically and write on a scholarly level.
In spite of the first amendment, speech in the United States has historically been far from free. The rights to free speech have been carved out through activism and legal battles that are often connected to issues of public space. To be able to speak, after all, one needs a place from which to speak (streets and sidewalks, parks, campuses). In this class, we’ll begin the semester with a focus on public space, including a discussion of the decline of public space in the face of privatization (for instance, the replacement of traditional downtowns with shopping malls). In the second half of the semester, we’ll investigate part of the twentieth-century legal history surrounding the freedom of speech, particularly as it pertains to public space. We’ll use our readings throughout the semester to model how scholars frame their writing within academic discourses, such as the law, theories of public space and place, class, and race (among others). Through a series of writing and research projects, you’ll learn to frame your own work in these ways as well, so that by the end of the semester you’ll not simply be reporting on what other scholars have said, but actively engaging as participants in university-level writing and research.
Who "owns" literary icons? Who "owns" culture? How do we approach re-visions of cultural artifacts? Students in this course will explore the ideas of literary archetypes, of myths and how they are made, and of what, exactly, a novel is. Students interested in all types of literature will enjoy this course as we read Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, and The Eyre Affair, as well as excerpts from Harry Potter and selected literary theorists.
The class will revolve around discussion both of the content of the texts and the rhetoric of the texts: what they say and how they say it. Students will write in every class, and will revise in most classes. Like the texts we read, we will strive for global revisions and ways of re-seeing the texts we write. The class will culminate in each student's own revision of a section of Jane Eyre.
Old Englishes: The Craft of Medieval Writing Old English looks like a foreign language; in fact, many students might think Shakespeare’s English deserves the adjective “Old” and should be taught as a foreign language. However, this class will go back centuries further and tackle some of the earliest English texts. The words may appear alien, the stories fantastic, and the handwritings indecipherable, but their legacy is the English language we use today in all discourses, from academic writing to “txting.” In this course students will examine a variety of Medieval English texts (epic, romance, poetry, and history) by to closely examine the roots of this evolving language they will be expected to master and work with throughout their careers, focusing on the beginning of the English literary tradition. Supplemented by secondary readings from scholars including J.R.R. Tolkien and S.A.J. Bradley, these readings will give students a glimpse of the Middle Ages’ creation of a language that was both useful and, against all odds, survived to become the incredibly influential and complex language it is today.
From the perspectives of the writers who lived this history, and also from the scholars who both popularized and legitimized the study of these texts, students will see that the processes that were at work then are at work now: Beowulf may have something in common with Edward Cullen, and the decision to change the spelling of “sunu” to “son” is based on the same impulses that lead students to address each other as “u” in electronic forms of communication. As academic writers, students will examine etymological curiosities and influential rhetorical techniques in Old and Middle English texts, discovering not only the history behind, but also explanations for, various elements found in the language today. This course offers students greater mastery of the craft of writing in the ever-changing language of contemporary English, and hopefully an understanding of its history that will allow them to adapt to the various rhetorical demands that will be made of them in their future as professionals.
Through frequent short writing assignments, in-class projects, and three major papers that will incorporate research, students will be introduced to topics in the fields of Rhetoric, Historical Linguistics, Paleography, and Medieval Literature, while working toward mastery of the critical writing process employed in all scholarly fields. Laptops required for in-class work.
From the earliest days of European presence on the continent, the idea of a "natural" law has held great power for Americans of every kind. For much of American history, those who seek to change the status quo have appealed to natural law, and they have claimed this law could and should replace more “ordinary” laws. This quasi-religious belief in transcendent justice is one of the hallmarks of American identity, as we will discover when we read political, legal, and fictional works from eras of intense social conflict in American history. After a brief introduction to the concept of natural law, we will read the Declaration of Independence, Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” portions of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and other works of literary, political, and legal protest.
Howard Zinn, Mumia Abu-Jamal, James Baldwin, Naomi Wolf, Martin Luther King Jr., Aurora Levins-Morales, Patricia J. Williams, Audre Lorde and many, many more have expressed a radical vision of “America,” in multiple research-based genres of writing. This course is designed as a writing workshop for our own research-based radical rewrites of “America,” and 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. NOTE: For this section of "Radically Rewriting America," students will engage with the work of a DC community-based organization to identify writing and research opportunities, and to contribute to the work of the organization.
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.
Lonely Trekkies in Vulcan ears, hysterical Twilight fans weeping at the sight of Robert Pattinson, basement dwellers, pale in the glow of a computer screen. These are our stereotypes of media fans. They make us laugh, they make us nervous, they are objects of derision, but who are they really and what do they do?
"Most people are fans of something. If not, they are bound to know someone who is. As much as we all have a sense of who fans are and that they do, the question arises as to why we need to furhter study a phenonomenom we seem so familiar with. Why do the questions of which television program, music or artist we follow make an important contribution to our understanding of modern life? How can a focus on pleasure and entertainment be justified at the wne of what will enter the history books as a centruy of violence, driven by rapid social, cultural, economic and technological change, and with the twenty first century set to follow the same trajectory? What contribution can the study of fans make to a world faced with war, ethnic conflict, widening inequality, political and religious violence, and irreversible climate change among other disasters?"
Thus begins the Introduction to Fandom, edited by Jonanthan Gray, Cornell Sandvoss and C. Lee Harrington. We will begin here as well, posing these questions and idetifying others that may also need to be asked. This writing and research intensive course will begin with an examination of the current research on fans and fan communities. We will then look closely at fan practices in online fan communities and analyze fan generated media. Student research will involve close examination of a online fan community.
This course is a partial hybrid. Friday class sessions will sometimes make use of alternative formats using wiki technology and Blackboard resources; these sessions may also take the form of conferences or small group meetings.
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.
One has only to consider the much-discussed rise of the “confessional” memoir to recognize how central notions of “public” and “private” are to the way we understand the acts of and motivations for writing. At least since the 1997 publication of Kathryn Harrison’s transgressive family memoir The Kiss, for instance, critics have debated the propriety of making public intensely “private” matters. Today, discourses about public and private writing most vividly intersect around Facebook and other internet sites; parents, professors and administrators love to hate Facebook, in part because of the anxieties it generates about the relation of ostensibly private individual pages to the public realm of the corporation and the government. Focusing on questions of genre, audience, and reception, we will examine and practice forms of writing typically intended for either private or public audiences—literary journalism, blogs, letters to newspaper editors, and even UW20 Symposium presentations. We will consider critical theories that complicate the distinctions between public and private spheres and public and private writing, as students work on a semester-long academic research and writing project that speaks to the themes of the course.
About This Class
Who’s to say what fiction ought to do, and what it ought to look like? How do we begin to separate the “important” from the merely entertaining? What criteria do we use to differentiate the quirky, clever, and transient, from the truly substantive, valuable, and enduring? How much sex, violence, and vulgarity are you willing to permit in the name of “art”?
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” fiction. Believing that the goal of fiction 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.
Using this text as a jumping off point, we will explore different arguments about the roles and purposes of fiction in our lives. We will examine short stories, essays, journal articles, scholarly research, and many other sources to further this aim.
Why Is This a “Writing” Course?
This class offers an opportunity for you to agree or disagree with experts’ claims about what fiction should do and what it should look like. It is likely that you have not thought about fiction in the same way we will this semester, and so you will begin by establishing a fixed point in the debate and moving outwards. You will become a stronger writer and thinker as you discover different ways to approach this topic, different rhetorical techniques to persuade your audience (in the spirit of works we read), and develop your own style and voice while joining a long-standing conversation. Our study of writing and other forms of art allows us to crystallize what we as writers value in our own work. You will need to bring all the skills of a collegiate writer to bear throughout the term.
Religion is making a comeback. Whereas in the modern era religion had been treated as a deeply private affair, today prominent sociologists, philosophers, political thinkers, and even Bono increasingly give a greater role to religion in public discourse. And in many of these cases, the discussion is about the things that matter most - wealth, health, and community. This poses a challenge to citizens: as the secularization theory wanes and America is recognized to be a more pluralistic but no less religious country, how do we make sense of the role that religion has played and currently plays in the public arena? Do the old controversies over religious discourse stand? Is religion a source of controversy, violence and discord? Or can religious discourse help us clarify the state of affairs around the globe, or even improve those states of affairs?
Accordingly, the purpose of this course is to introduce students to the relationship, tensions and intersection of religious and political thought by looking at three of the big topics that occupy both religion and politics: economics, violence, and justice. Along the way, students will be introduced to some of the basic terminology of religious theory as well as the historical underpinnings of religion’s troubled and perplexing relationship to the political sphere. Special attention will be paid to recent authors that challenge dichotomized explanations in favor of more nuanced, synthetic, and constructive visions. Students will participate in this exploration by first reflecting on, discussing, and writing about their own experiences and presuppositions of religion and politics. Second, throughout the semester, students will learn to sharpen their critical thinking and academic writing skills by writing three progressively increasingly complex essays. In order to prompt these writing activities, we will consult both scholarly texts as well as modern film, music, and non-academic literature.
Historians have observed that around the turn of the 20th century, as the United States shifted from a producer-oriented economy to one focused on consumption, Americans changed too. Previously defining aspects of personhood such as civic commitment, personal responsibility, character and morality gave way to concepts such as personality, leisure and self-fulfillment. This transformation was particularly notable in the way it was manifested in the human body. New kinds of grooming products, an intensified preoccupation with one’s physical health and the display of one’s body were part a change in American culture that TJ Jackson Lears has termed the “therapeutic ethos.” We’ll track this phenomenon in American culture from the turn of the century to the 21st century with readings and screenings on topics such as exercise, dieting, plastic surgery, cosmetic use and hair styling. This UW theme would be of interest to students considering majors in the health sciences, psychology, or American history. Assignments for this course include an advertising analysis and 12-15 page research paper.
Even someone living under a rock would have felt the tremors in the cultural and economic landscape created by the rise of Massively Multiplayer Online gaming in recent years. While World of Warcraft, which claims twelve million subscribers, is the most well-known of these games, it is only the most visible example of a large number of shared virtual worlds that have emerged in the last decade. On an average weekday night, even a niche multiplayer game like EVE: Online sees the equivalent of a small US city happily engaged in empire building, manufacturing, adventuring, and, of course, slaughtering. Moreover, the demographic for these games is considerably more diverse in terms of both age and gender than that associated with the stereotypical hardcore gamer. In this class we are going to be looking at how these games work and what makes them so popular. But we’re also going to be looking at their dark side: a culture of workplace exploitation in the studios that make the games, gaming sweatshops in Asia that serve the needs of wealthy US and European players, and the rise of what one critic has termed “playbor,” the uncompensated work that players unwittingly perform for the benefit of game developers. A key part of this investigation will involve playing one or possibly two MMORPGs over the course of the semester. And no, neither of them will be World of Warcraft so don’t even ask.
The main reason for looking at this topic, however, is that it provides excellent material for both investigating the way current writing and communication practices are changing, and honing the skills necessary to write for diverse audiences across a variety of contexts: academic, professional, and popular. Multiplayer games are, perhaps surprisingly, intensive writing arenas. Developers write lengthy descriptions of their work and respond to player’s questions; players write extensively as they organize guilds and society and communicate with one another; some players who enjoy role-playing use the game worlds as a jumping off point for creating their own character fictions. We will be analyzing many of these examples of new media writing and responding in kind with our own efforts. Most importantly, we will be developing extended research projects that draw on multiple academic disciplines in an attempt to make sense of these disorderly new worlds.
Note: This course will require you to play an online game. This game will not cost you anything. However, if you own an Apple computer you may find it impossible to play these games unless your Mac is capable of running Windows programs. It is a sad fact that not a lot of games in general are made for Apple computers, and the number of Mac-friendly online games in particular is exceptionally small. I wish it weren’t so, but there it is!
Popular country music constructs an idyllic, rural America where men are cowboys or farmers, and women love Jesus and raise children – but the women who top country music charts have resisted traditional femininity as often as they have embraced it. In 1952, Kitty Wells was banned from major radio stations when she took men and a societal double standard to task singing, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” but the song spent six weeks at number one in spite of the ban. In the sixties, Tammy Wynette spelled out D-I-V-O-R-C-E at the same time as she enjoined women to stand by their men, while Bobbie Gentry sang “Ode to Billy Joe,” a song about the emotional toll of unintended pregnancy. The Dixie Chicks challenged country music’s long-standing pro-military patriotism when lead singer Natalie Maines said she was embarrassed that then-President George W. Bush was from her home state of Texas. Dolly Parton could teach Lady Gaga a thing or two about creating a public persona. More recently, artists like Gretchen Wilson and Carrie Underwood have tackled class issues and co-opted the rebellious good-timing that has long been the domain of male country artists.
This class will ask you to draw on feminist and gender theory as well as music criticism to untangle and analyze the way country music has constructed, evolved, or subverted the feminine. You will synthesize a body of work to see how gender transgressive acts are accepted, celebrated, or punished. Assignments will include a gender analysis of an album, postings in a course blog, and a research project which will culminate in the production of a podcast.
This is a hybrid course, which means Friday class sessions will make use of cyberspace formats including wordpress blogs and wiki technology; these sessions may also take the form of conferences or small group meetings. The final project for this course will require the use of audio recording & editing software; no prior experience with this technology is necessary. Because this class will study music, homework will include frequent listening assignments.
We are daily presented with news that turmeric kills cancer cells, red wine stops heart disease, and corn syrup causes diabetes—information often attributed to a nameless, faceless group identified only as “scientists”. The implication is almost always that the findings are “facts”—except when the science in question is evolutionary, in which case the phrase “only a theory” may be used. Scientific findings are sometimes reported as a debate between two extreme and absolute views and sometimes reported as absolute fact, but rarely as a nuanced space of interpretation, probability, and predictive models. While major newspapers often assign reporters with no science background to cover science news and rely on a “he said-she said” formula, a rich community of science blogging is flourishing on internet sites like Scientopia.org, Discover.net, and Scienceblogs.com.
What constitutes ethical science writing? Is there a real debate about the link between autism and vaccines, or is that debate a media invention? This class will engage these and other questions about the way science and scientific discovery are covered and communicated in contemporary American media. This class might appeal to you if you are considering a major in the physical or biological sciences, technological or engineering, or journalism – or if you’d just like a better toolkit for interpreting the articles in Women’s Health, Runner’s World, and the science section of The New York Times.
Assignments will include posts in a course blog, a critical review of a peer-reviewed article, and a team research project analyzing the way “science” is constructed and reported in an online or print publication. This final project will culminate in a collaborative research paper. This is a hybrid course, which means Friday class sessions will make use of cyberspace formats including wordpress blogs and wiki technology; these sessions may also take the form of conferences or small group meetings.
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 2 polished catalogue entries (2-3 page each) of works from the National Gallery collection, a short exhibition review (3-5 pages), a short research paper (5-7 pages) and a larger research project (15-20 pages). Artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals 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? How did the new wealthy middle class affect art patronage? Together we will read a selection of scholarly articles related to each subject, 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.
If you could find out everything about how your mind works, would you want this knowledge? Or does some of the magic of life evaporate if all secrets are revealed? Utilizing recent discoveries about the brain, this class will interrogate the role values should play in scientific research.
Freud believed that unconscious wishes and repressed memories continuously controlled us, regulating what we thought during the day and what we dreamed at night.After scientists began discussing the chemical transmission of nerve impulses in the brain,. physicians rejected Freud's model of the mind, 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 are collaborating to analyze discoveries made possible by recent technologies 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.
Beginning with historical analysis of the veil in France, we’ll consider the powerful local and global forces that shape women’s lives. Drawing upon Joan Scott’s Politics of the Veil and other short pieces, 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 (or, cannot) 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 course includes three major writing assignments as well as short writing assignments. 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 that draws from writing and research methodologies learned in class. The course will end with an oral presentation where students present their research to an audience of their peers.
This course is an ongoing study conducted by First Year students concerning how music functions as social commentary. We will begin by looking at how we interact with musical artists and the industry as consumers and then examine how professional journalists write and argue about popular music. From there, were will examine how scholars analyze music in a wide variety of disciplines. Students will engage in developing the analytical tools necessary to conduct research and critical commentary, and they will argue positions on issues drawn from both popular music and scholarly inquiry.
Collage techniques have infiltrated our culture, from mash-up musicians like Girl Talk, collage poets and visual artists, to spliced together You Tube parodies. As writers and researchers, we can take a lesson from these techniques. Our goal is to critically consider what already exists, and then synthesize various sources to create a new contribution to the conversation. The truth is, as writers, we can only put forth new and worthwhile arguments if we’re willing to use and bounce off of the old ones. But there is also controversy surrounding this kind of remix culture: what pieces of culture, what images, language, sounds, ideas, and materials are free to use and what is owned? What does society have to gain or lose in all this borrowing, stealing, and refashioning? Students will critically examine the intellectual, ethical, and social implications of the remix culture we live in and analyze mash-ups to see how the artists use, comment on, and converse with previousl
y existing material to make their own argument, putting these remixing skills to use in their own writing and research.
The goal is for students to become critical readers within active communities, and become involved in a writing process that is not stale or linear, but recursive, responsive, and creative. Good ideas don’t come from nowhere, and students will cultivate strategies for using the writing process to learn and think. Becoming comfortable with the writing process means gaining the authority to appropriate and remix the sources and information available to us, to become active members of a conversation who can comment on and adapt what people have said before us.
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
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.
When Darwin’s transformative On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, people in England were deeply shaken, in part because it challenged literalist interpretations of the Bible; it took about forty years for the English to find a way to reconcile their religious beliefs and evolutionary theory. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, that kind of coming to terms has never really happened. This has shown most clearly in our public school system, where a battle over the right to teach evolutionary theory has been waged since the Scopes Trial of 1925. Why is evolutionary theory still the subject of debate in the United States? To answer this question, we will look at this war of ideas at the level of writing; we will use techniques of rhetoric analysis to examine the ways in which the players in this ongoing debate frame themselves as authorities, appeal to their audiences, produce evidence, and address alternate perspectives. The class will include a visit to Special Collections at two area libraries to study primary documents.
Last 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 in both 2008 and 2009. All of the sudden, Mad Men seemed to be everywhere. Banana Republic’s fall 2009 line was inspired by the show’s fashions. AMC’s webpage allows you to create your ownMad 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.
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.
Do comic books, graphic novels, and manga make an “art argument” (as artist Paul Pope asserts)? Can this entertaining image/text medium really contribute to knowledge in history, literature, philosophy, psychology, journalism, politics, religion, or education? What criteria help us evaluate graphic novels like Maus, Persepolis, Palestine, or Pyongyang? By treating the comics medium as an object of academic analysis, you will develop key writing and research practices valued in academic work. You will acquire, practice, and refine a specialized analytical vocabulary; discover and frame relevant questions in terms of existing scholarly literature; and develop your own analytical voice by anticipating the expectations of academic readers. You will practice writing as a recursive process of sketching, drafting, researching, revising, and editing, especially by learning to respond substantively to peers' work and to their comments on your work. You will shape your writing through authentic modes and genres that also hold applicability outside the university: scholarly article abstracts, a research proposal and bibliography, a short formal analysis, and an original research essay with a strong visual component.
Guibert, Emmanuel. The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. First Second, 2009.
ISBN-10: 1596433752, ISBN-13: 978-1596433755
Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. Utah State University Press, 2006.
ISBN-10: 0874216427, ISBN-13: 978-0874216424
McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Harper, 1993.
ISBN-10: 006097625X, ISBN-13: 978-0060976255
Lipson, Charles. Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles ... . University of Chicago Press, 2006.
ISBN-10: 0226484750, ISBN-13: 978-0226484754 (1st ed.; 2nd is not out yet.)
Recipes, with their detailed precision, may come across as essentially factual, yet closer study reveals a complex world of values just below the surface. Through careful reading, a host of messages emerges regarding culture, nation, region, ethnicity, and religion, as well as sexual identities, what it means to be a family, and various forms of social privilege. Recipes also often depend on assumptions about the global agro-industrialized food system and the political, economic, and social relations it structures. Thus, recipes can reflect and reinforce established systems of power that have come under fire for assorted inequities. Other recipes, however, testify to the losses and harms imposed by injustice, explicitly challenge power imbalances, or support food justice under the banner of the “Delicious Revolution.” We will study a range of recipe-basedwriting and the contexts that generate them in order to reflect on these underlying sociopolitical and economic dynamics.
Coursework includes learning and applying the film studies and critical literacy tool of “reading against the grain”; collaborating in small groups to conduct ethnographic-style research on recipe use; and writing an analysis of recipe-centered writing.
"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.