FALL 2011 COURSE LISTINGS BY FACULTY MEMBER
Click here for Summer 2011 Course Listings
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF COURSE THEMES
Bernstein, Arielle -Telling Truths; Making Mythologies
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.
Berry, Shannon - Religion and Environment
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, Jewish, and Islamic theology as well as the socio-cultural contexts from which such thought emerges. Though most of the literature in this field emerges from the monotheistic religions, 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 sacred and contemporary texts, especially texts written since the 1950s. However, the course will also employ contemporary films in order to explore the connection between various social issues and environments in the popular context, as the way that many religions approach the environmental question is through the layers of social issues that surround it. The final research project will engage traditional sources as well as interviews, attendance of a religious service, and reading a sacred text. Finally, 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.
Bliss, Emily -
Buursma, Joshua - The End: Writing About Death, Dying, and the Dead
"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.
Coulter, Charles - American Myth in the Western Film
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
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
Fletcher, Wade - The Image of Everyday Life
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 wordless graphic novels, photography, visual art (including required visits to a Smithsonian's American Art Museum), advertising, and product packaging, as well as essays and criticism, in an effort to better understand the role of visual mediums in our daily lives.
Students will build their reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills through participation in an online discussion forum, small-group work and the completion of several "visual projects," all corresponding with three essay assignments of increasing complexity, each focusing on a particular image.
Friedman, Sandie - Beyond Rotten Tomatoes: Writing With Film Theory
"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.
Fruscione, Joe -Adapting Shakespeare
Using three plays—The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Richard III — this course will focus on various approaches to adapting a handful of Shakespeare plays into a period film, a novel, and a postmodern documentary (or, meta-adaptation). We will discuss the plays as plays and as the source text for various adaptations. What does it mean to "adapt" Shakespeare? What does it mean to be "faithful" to a Shakespeare play when adapting it? How might we see Shakespeare himself as an adapter of preexisting literary, historical, and mythical sources?
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, film, or adaptation studies.
Required Texts: Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Richard III; Christopher Moore's Fool; The Little Seagull Handbook.
Assignments: Analysis papers about The Merchant of Venice and King Lear/Fool; peer workshopping and evaluation; and a final research-based project.
Gamber, Cayo -Legacies of the Holocaust
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 email@example.com
Goward, Shonda - Out of Her Mind: Women and Madness through the Lens of Literature
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.
Hayes, Carol - Speak Out!: The Law, Space, and Power
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.
Howell, Katherine - Rewriting Jane Eyre
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.
Jablonski, Leah - When 'That's Just the Way It Is' Does Not Suffice: Examining
Assumptions in American Culture
In this course, students will be raising the questions that are so
essential that they are seldom asked, such as: Why do people go to
college? Why do we eat what we eat? What is proper English? Why is
this class required? As a class, we will raise questions about aspects
of daily life that are so rarely examined that they have become
assumptions. At some point in time, these questions might have been
dismissed with "That's just the way it is," but as students consider
these questions more deeply, that answer will no longer satisfy them.
Examining cultural phenomena such as tattooing, Facebook, Wal-Mart,
and MLA format through a variety of essays and short readings,
students in this course will learn not only how to read critically and
learn from published writers' attempts and techniques, but also how to
identify assumptions which writers (oftentimes unintentionally) reveal
through their writing. Then, by harnessing this awareness and
directing it toward their own writing, students in this course will
move toward a greater recognition of and control over the ways in
which their own assumptions influence their thought processes and
Assignments will include frequent short writings, an annotated
bibliography, and three longer writing assignments. Two of the longer
writing assignments will incorporate research, giving students both
preparation and practice for future writing intensive classes at the
Jablonski, Leah - Old Englishes: The Craft of Medieval Writing
In this course students will examine a variety of Medieval English texts (epic, romance, poetry, and history) 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.
Johnston, Elizabeth - Natural Law, Social Conflict, and
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.
Kristensen, Randi - Radically Rewriting America (Service Learning - (Section 69 only)
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.
Kristensen, Randi - Radically Rewriting America
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.
Larrison, Jennica - International Humanitarianism: The Good, the Bad, and the
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. As the course is a hybrid, we will use web-based forums throughout the semester to address writing techniques and foster collaboration. Ultimately, the class approaches writing as a dynamic and multi-faceted process through which we will examine the varying perspectives on humanitarianism.
- Media Fandom: Geeks, Fanboys and Stalker Chicks
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.
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.
Black Speech in Public Space examines a variety of rhetorical environments (including film, literature, visual art, and agitprop) through Black Americans of slave descent lens as well as the evolving and recurring themes the related arguments employ. Students will critically engage contemporary issues related to race (including their own biases and beliefs) and will be encouraged to produce new ways of approaching and understanding old dilemmas.
McClain, Daniel - The Politics of Death, Dismemberment, and Resurrection in Harry Potter
Can "children's literature" be political? Given its long history of integration with allegory, especially religious allegory (e.g. The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, George MacDonald's fairytales) it seems that children's literature has real capacity to bear deeper meanings that get more or less obscured by exciting plots, breath-taking details, and riveting story-lines. Take, for instance, The Wizard of Oz's subtle political commentary of late 19th, early 20th century America, or the exploration of colonialism in the Babar the Elephant series, or Dr. Seuss' searing attack of deforestation in The Lorax; it seems that children's lit has been making incisive interventions in politics for some time now.
But, what do we do when the political and the religious allegories appear along side one another in the same work? How do we make sense of them when in fact one allegory seems to be both political and religious? Religion and politics are strange bedfellows. In America, we have learned that they do not seem to get along so well. And we often project this out of the ambivalently public realm of politics to supposedly private spheres, like our various forms of media (visual arts, film, literature), as well as different "life-style" outlets, of which, in fact, religion seems to have become just another.
Although unbeknownst to or unacknowledged by most critics, the recently completed Harry Potter series profits from the amalgamation of the religious and the political, especially in Rowling's use of death. This class will explore the mythic relation between religion and politics through an analysis of life, death, the relationship of body and soul, institutional involvement in death and life, and the relationship of the above to magic in selections of the Harry Potter series. Students will develop the reading skills, critical thinking, and vocabulary necessary to conduct this exploration through in-class discussion, regular readings, several small writing assignments, and three longer essays, including one research paper.
Mullen, Mark - Covering Chaos
Nowadays even the most respectable news outlets seem to diminish the magnitude of their daily stories of war, disaster, torture, and terror by granting equal time and status to the drunken exploits of pampered celebutantes, sensationalized crime stories, and jokes of the day. Yet regular access to news remains a high priority for a majority of people in the US. While viewership for the traditional "Big Three" television network news shows continues to decline, this has been more than made up for in the proliferation of new forms of news coverage, ranging from 24-hour cable news networks, magazine shows, and, more recently, the rise of blogs and podcasting.
We will spend the semester examining the ways in which the news media cover international events, with a special focus on war reporting and coverage of disasters (famine, earthquakes, etc.). Starting with an exploration of the history of war reporting, we will also consider the development of the mainstream vs. the alternative press, the role of objective journalism, the impact of military, governmental and civilian censorship, the ethics of using disturbing and/or offensive images, and the influence of changing patterns of media ownership. As a specialized form of communication, news coverage throws many of the challenges inherent in writing in general into sharp relief (tailoring your work to a specific audience, for example, or maintaining credibility) and we will be using examples of war and disaster journalism to help hone our writing skills in these areas. This course will also challenge you to develop sophisticated research projects comparing US and International journalistic coverage of events, and formulate a critical analysis of specific instances of war and disaster reporting, and learn to write effectively about multimedia formats.
Myers, Danika - Honky-tonk Angels, Redneck Women & Dixie Chicks: Feminism & Femininity in Country Music
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.
Myers, Danika - Rhetorical Intersections of Science,
Culture, & Media
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.
Pollack, Rachel - Dutch Painting at the National Gallery of Art
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.
Presser, Pam - Brain Matters: Can Science solve the Mystery of Your Mind?
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
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.
Riley, Matt - Songs about Something Other than Love: Music as Social Commentary
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.
Ronan, Megan - The Poem as Hang-Out: Community, Correspondence, and Collage in Literature.
The romantic idea of the individual genius has long portrayed writers as solitary, and often tortured, artists, and has resulted in strict ideas of originality and ownership of creative texts. However, literary history shows us that community is an important part of literary production and creativity; and the avant-garde, in contrast to the tradition of the individual genius, tends to value community, collaboration, play, pleasure, and chance. As writers and researchers, we can take a lesson from the texts and authors that emerge from these communities. Our goal is to critically consider what already exists, the ideas and voices of those around us and before us, 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 community in which we have decided to participate. But we will also consider what the individual writer has to gain or lose by association with a larger whole.
Literary communities can take different forms: political, local, aesthetic, or practicing groups can be self-labeled or named in retrospect by scholars or critics. This class will consider whether or not writers need community? What role does literature play in a community? What does literature that values community over independence or isolation look like? Students will look at the apparatus of literary communities: journals, manifestos, reading series, salons, anthologies, festivals, etc, and consider a literature that is social instead of isolating. 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 converse with and appropriate the voices and information around us, to become active members of a conversation who can respond to, comment on, and adapt what people have said before us.
Ryder, Phyllis - Writing for Social Change: Writing with DC Community Organizations
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
Sallinger, Lauren - The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
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.
Svoboda, Michael - Global Warming and the Media: Advocacy, Science, and
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.
Tomlinson, Niles - Ghosts of Washington, DC: History, Folklore and Memorial
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.
Troutman, Philip - Serious Comix: Graphic Novels and Manga as Visual Argument
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.)
Wilkerson, Abby - Food, Rhetorical Agency, and Social Change
Food is not simply a biological necessity but a part of life situating each of us in a network of growers, producers, consumers, preparers, and sellers—a network that has expanded to encompass the globe. Food is also a rhetorical domain, in which meanings are created and struggles enacted through language—writing about food and agriculture, as well as food used as language. This course uses the context of food and food politics as a site for exploring rhetorical agency, how speakers, writers, and all makers of meaning accomplish their goals through persuasion, argument, and advocacy of all kinds. In particular, we will investigate rhetorical positions and frameworks taken up in recent debates on sustainable eating. Coursework includes (1) examining published work on food politics, considering their strategies for representation and analysis, (2) creating reflections and narratives, and (3) conducting research on the rhetorical dimensions of specific instances of food politics and practices.
"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