UW20 Courses - Summer 2006

| Last Updated: 5/22/06 | 9:40 pm

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About UW20

Because all UW20 sections are theme-based, with their own individualized readings and writing assignments, it's important that you peruse the course descriptions below to find a theme that is of interest to you.

REQUIREMENTS: The following requirements and workload expectations are consistent across all sections of UW20. Students will complete a total of 25-30 pages of finished writing, developed through a process that may include pre-draft preparation, drafts, and revisions based on instructor's advice and classmates' comments. Each student will complete at least three writing assignments of increasing complexity. Papers will be based on assigned texts and often on additional reading; although instructors will develop assignments that reflect a variety of academic writing projects, one paper will require significant research.

Summer Courses

Regular Classroom



Summer Distance Learning

Starting Summer 2006, UW20 will be offered as a distance learning course for continuing and transfer students. The following faculty will be teaching the inaugural sections of this new initiative.

For more information on Summer 2006 courses clicks on the links below:


Eric Drown - Conspiracy : Theory

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

Sandie Friedman - Culture and Memory

If you had to choose one memory from your whole life, which one would it be? Which aspects of your identity would you want this memory to reflect? What emotions would it contain, and who would be there? The Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu poses these questions in Afterlife , and we begin our semester with an analysis of his film. The characters in Afterlife have died and, at a way station between life and death, must choose a memory in which to spend eternity. Our investigation of the film will give us the opportunity to think about the nature of individual memory: distortion, repression, and the close relationship between memory and identity. For the next essays, students will expand their field of inquiry from individual to collective memory: How do societies choose those memories that come to define them? What do collective memories reveal about the political and cultural forces within the community? The class will consider these questions in a unit on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. For the research project, students will choose a memorial site and research its history, developing an argument about how its shape reflects not just what it commemorates, but the values of those who built it.

Gustavo Guerra - Latin American Thought and Culture

This writing intensive course explores issues and topics surrounding Latin American and Latino/ Latina studies. 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 interact in Latino and Latina contemporary writing? How do issues of class, or national origin circumscribe the possible meanings attached to sexuality, identity, sense of place, etc?

Melinda Knight - All That Jazz

Jazz has often been described as the most American of all musical forms to evolve in this country.  Certainly, it has permeated popular and elite culture for more than a hundred years and has proven to be hugely popular abroad.  This version of UW20 will explore the origins of jazz, including the social and historical factors that contributed to its success.  Students will conduct research on jazz music, using audio recordings, film, autobiography, archival materials, and criticism, among other possible sources.  The joint purposes for this course are to strengthen every GW student's ability to write clearly and effectively at the university and in other arenas and to emphasize the importance of strong writing for success in all academic, public, and professional enterprises that require critical thought and communication.  The course will focus on framing feasible research questions and problems, setting clear and measurable objectives, analyzing audiences,  formulating communication strategies, structuring arguments, using and citing sources appropriately, rewriting to achieve intended outcomes, and enhancing editing and proofreading skills.  Students will listen to and critique jazz music, participate in online discussions, write  and revise essays on specific topics to varied audiences and for different purposes, review each other's work, and use digital technology to facilitate the process of reading, writing, and research.  Artists to be studied will include Louis Armstrong, Bennie Moten, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Mary Lou Williams, George Gershwin, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Albert Ayler, among others. 

Randi Gray Kristensen - Poets of the Underdog

Poet Audre Lorde claims that poetry “forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” Peoples of African descent around the world have engaged in struggles with language and image in multiple media—writing , film, and music—to communicate their “hopes and dreams toward survival and change” within their own communities, some of which has reached and affected global audiences.

This is a course in critical reading, thinking and writing that focuses on the representations of those who are often absent from powerful discussions and decision-making about their lives. Student researchers will choose a typically ignored constituency and research an area that affects them, both with and for them. Since marginalized groups often first enter public consciousness through the arts, we will consider works of art that represent those constituencies as well as the academic discourses that address them. Examples of such research include developing a guide to understanding and changing the new Medicare prescription benefits for seniors at a local senior agency; evaluating the effectiveness of Colonial Inauguration for particular groups of students for the Colonial Cabinet and the Student Association; and investigating the impact on Hispanic immigrants of current discourses of immigration, housing, and “the border.” Writing assignments include an autoethnography, in which students reflect on their own relationship to language and culture, the major collaborative research paper on an aspect of life in Washington DC, and a hybrid creative/analytical assignment. Shorter assignments ask students to consider the process described by Lorde above, how hopes and dreams become action, and to evaluate and critique texts and their production. Texts and/or authors may include Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”; essays by Audre Lorde, Beverly Bell’s Walking on Fire, and others selected by students. Poets, musicians and other artists considered may include Sekou Sundiata, Mos Def, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Wyclef Jean, Toni Morrison, Boots Riley, and student selections.

Derek Malone-France - Morality, Diversity, and Human Rights

In a culturally diverse world, what basis is there (if any) for the notion of "universal" human rights and the existence of laws guaranteeing such rights?  This question lies at the heart of current debates over issues ranging from the impact of "globalization" and the development of international law to the war in Iraq and the wider "war on terrorism."  The manner in which one answers this broad theoretical question will largely determine what sorts of answers one gives to more specific and practical questions about what policies are most appropriate and/or effective in promoting the interests of the United States, as well as those of the rest of the world community.

In this course, we will begin the semester by examining the emergence of classical formulations of the idea of human rights in the modern west, paying close attention to the historical relationship between such formulations and the gradual development of the concepts of moral "pluralism" and "relativism" that have come to challenge the claimed "universality" of human rights discourse.  Next, we will look at a wide spectrum of positions in moral theory, ranging from "absolute universalism" to "absolute relativism," and investigate the specific challenges that the arguments for these positions pose for human rights claims.  Finally, we will turn to the concrete claims regarding human rights that are made by governments, international institutions and treaties, and non-governmental organizations that work for human rights.  We will also visit various governmental agencies and NGO's located near GW, in order to examine the ways in which policies get formulated and documents either promoting or critiquing those policies get produced.

Students will engage in a series of linked reading and writing assignments over the course of the semester, culminating in a research paper that brings together all of the various threads of our discussions in order to present their own answers to the questions raised by these discussion.  These writing assignments will not only initiate students into the language and concepts of moral and political theory and practice but also develop their skills and sensibilities as academic writers in general.

Caroline Smith - Picture This: Writing About the Visual and Verbal

Have you ever noticed just how much of an impact images have on our lives today? Each morning, we may wake up, turn on the news, eat our breakfast and flip through the newspaper, glancing at the advertisements on the pages in between. On our way to work or school, we may pass a flyer or two, each decorated with a catchy image and a few phrases. From television to advertisements to paintings to the Internet, it's hard to escape this infiltration of images! In this class, we will explore the intersections between critically seeing and critically reading. For instance, how is “reading” a painting different from “reading” an essay? How is it similar? Does knowing more about an artist's life change our perceptions of his/her work? How does knowing background information about an author affect the reading of his/her text? While our course will be grounded in the study of “classic” works of art (painting, photography, sculpture), we will also use the critical reading skills we develop to analyze pop culture creations (product packaging, advertisements, music videos, movies), examining how, in many of these mediums, the visual and verbal often work together. For example, how do designers incorporate effective text and images into a product's packaging? The visual and written texts we look at will, in turn, serve as the starting points for our writing assignments, as we experiment with our own methods of argumentation. Writing assignments for this class are as varied as the texts we will consider. Students will write response papers, short essays, and longer, research based essays. At the conclusion of the semester, students will produce an illustrated, personal narrative exploring their development as a writer over the course of the term. As a class this semester, we will explore – through observing, reading, researching and writing – the ways in which both the visual and verbal affect our everyday lives and shape our culture.

David Truncellito - The Many Faces of Religion

Religion has played a number of roles in the history of humankind. People have lived and died for religion; people have tried to prove that their religion is right by way of argumentation, and have tried to show that their religion is right by way of war. There have been as many religions as there have been cultures, times, and nations (perhaps more!). Religions involve systems of belief, codes of morality, social conventions, literary traditions and canons, iconography, and rituals. Even in America, which ostensibly enjoys separation of church and state, religion permeates all aspects of political, social, cultural, and even educational life.

In this course, then, we'll think about the many aspects of religious belief: historical, cultural, psychological, sociological, anthropological, and personal. Questions we'll think about and write about will include: What is religion? How is it practiced in different places? Why do people believe? Do they have good reasons for believing? Is this question even meaningful? Is religion a good thing? Can we ask this question in such general terms? What is the appropriate role of religion in personal/academic/political/social life? Is it important to respect others' religious beliefs? Why or why not? What do you believe, and why?

Each of you has surely thought, perhaps at length, about religion.  But putting your thoughts in writing will help you to clarify those thoughts.  There are many different ways to write about religion, and this course will afford you a variety of opportunities to do so.  For instance, you'll write an autobiographical paper in which you try to codify your religious views, a persuasive paper in which you try to justify those views, and a research paper in which you pursue an aspect of religion which you've yet to think much about.

A cornerstone of the design of this course is students' choice: you will choose the topics for your papers, a religious institution to visit, and some of the course readings.

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

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