FALL 2012 UNIVERSITY WRITING COURSES

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FALL 2012 UW1020 COURSE LISTINGS BY FACULTY MEMBER

 

DETAILED COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

Bernstein, Arielle - The Future Had an Ancient Heart: Time, Culture and Storytelling

The writer Carlo Levi once wrote, “The future has an ancient heart”. From an early age we learn to understand the world through past stories, through the knowledge we feel we should preserve and bring into the future. Each of us, no matter where we come from, grows up hearing specific stories that end up shaping our values and our beliefs about the word around us. This class will focus on re-examining the stories we as a culture grow up with and considering ways that narratives can be used to subvert these ingrained ideas.  In this class we will consider the ways that stories influence our thoughts, behaviors and actions by considering the texts themselves and how we collectively respond to them. We will investigate the current cultural landscape of the year 2012 by isolating, examining and investigating the beliefs that we as a culture most fiercely cling to. Through readings and class discussions you will confront issues that range from what we as a culture consider to be common knowledge to what we see as being provocative, outlandish and bizarre. Throughout this class we will struggle to understand how and why we regard certain things as necessarily right and true.

Berry, Shannon - Science, Religion, and Popular Culture

Since the Enlightenment science and religion have often been seen at odds with one another. This course will analyze the basic premises of this dichotomy, asking questions about this rift between faith and reason and its origins as well as how the relationship between the two has been understood and treated in popular culture. From analyzing television shows like The Big Bang Theory and Battlestar Galactica to films such as Star Wars and Tree of Life as well as contemporary novels and pieces of music, this course will both delve into the history of the conflict, engaging basic terminology in both science and Western religion, as well as look at the basic ideas that define both religion and science and the practice of the two. The final research project for this course 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: science and religion.

Bliss, Emily - All You Need is Love?

Cultural and media messages inundate us with the idea that happiness lies in money, material objects, and social status. Facebook, Twitter, text-messaging, and email encourage us to live virtually, interacting with others principally through brief, superficial, technologically-mediated exchanges. And yet, emptiness and chronic searching seem endemic to any life conducted principally behind the curtain of technology or dedicated mainly to accruing things and attaining power. A primary reason these common modern existences feel lacking – or even lonely and desolate – may be an observation philosophers, neuroscientists, spiritual leaders, sociologists, and psychologists have all shared: interpersonal connections, emotional intimacy, and love (defined broadly) figure centrally in our sense of fulfillment and existential meaning. Those Beatles were on to something.

In this writing- and research-intensive course we will examine how writers and thinkers in multiple disciplines have used writing to explore the role of empathy, intimacy, and human relationships. Our reading and writing will lead us to investigate and consider recent developments in the neuroscience of empathy, ethical questions surrounding the problem of evil, and the role of human connections in modern institutions and lifestyles. The course will involve several short writing assignments, seminar-style discussions, workshops, and three analytical, research-based papers of increasing length and complexity. Our readings may include writing by Simon Baron-Cohen; Martin Buber; Viktor Frankl; Erich Fromm; Daniel Goleman; Marco Iacoboni; Douglas Kenrick; Carl Rogers; Sherry Turkle; and Frans de Waal. As we write and revise, we will practice analyzing information, connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, and applying theory to our lived experiences.

Buursma, Joshua - Darkest Hours: Film Noir, The Decline of American Civilization, and the Rise of Academic Film Criticism

You probably already know a bit about "film noir" even if you've never heard the phrase.  The genre-- if indeed that's what noir is-- has been imitated, parodied, and argued over for a half century now.  Though the moniker "noir" was originally applied by French critics to describe American detective films, crime stories, and other melodramas from the 1940s and early 1950s, today it's rather clumsily attached to a host of dark, violent narratives in all different genres and media.  In September 2011, architects redesigning Times Square even claimed they wanted to give the area a "film noir feel." 


What is film noir, anyway?  That's one question this course will ask.  The question is an academic one-- because really, what difference does it make?-- but as we'll see in our readings, renewed interest in film noir coincided with rise of academic film criticism.  Beginning in the 1960s, films became objects of study by scholars in universities and at film institutes; some of these bookish types even went on to make films of their own (like Paul Schrader, MA in Film Studies, screenwriter of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, director of Hardcore and Affliction, and author of the academic essay "Notes on Film Noir"). 

So our understanding of noir-- what it is, what it isn't-- is tied to the birth of Film Theory and Film Studies as academic disciplines, whether we like it or not.  In this course, we'll practice writing academic essays, developing strategies for critical reading, research, and revision as we do.  And yes, we'll tackle the seemingly minor question of what defines film noir.  But we'll also be asking more important questions about the era from which the classic films noir of the 40s and 50s emerged: a period of disillusionment in the midst and aftermath of WWII, followed by apocalyptic paranoia during the Cold War.  Why did this unique thing we call film noir-- defined as much by visual style as by story conventions-- emerge from that particular period?  And what can these films tell us about mid-century America that, say, wartime propaganda or rosy post-war advertisements and sitcoms can't?

The course will culminate in an in-depth, thoroughly researched "case study" of a film from the classic period.  Texts will include The Film Noir Reader Vol. 4, The Little Seagull Handbook, the films Kiss Me Deadly, Detour, and Crossfire, and other films and essays provided online.

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   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

Fitzpatrick, Brian - In on the Joke: Humor and What's Behind It

What is the purpose of humor? Sure, laughing feels good, but is that all? Does our development of humor simply illustrate a curiosity with our own language? A desire to test the limitations of communication? Or does humor serve a more essential function to our experience?

In this course we will examine humor in various media in an attempt to work toward answering these larger questions through vigorous conversations and analytical and research-based writings. We'll explore fundamental differences between humor writing, jokes, comedic films, and stand-up comedy, among other things. Specifically, we will turn a critical eye towards the people and circumstances surrounding the great funny texts of all media—Vonnegut, Twain, Chaplin, (Homer)Simpson, etc. We will examine what makes something funny, look for noticeable trends in humor (what is the lifespan of a joke?), and consider the many ways which humor operates in text, film, and in real life.

Finally, we will consider the dilemmas of humor, like the possible moral implications of laughter—are there times in which it is more okay to laugh than others? Times when it is not okay to laugh? We will read humorous texts written during, after, or about global/individual traumas and try to understand the authors and their experiences. We'll ask questions like can humor help heal? Can it alter power structures? Can it bring about change? Mostly we'll seek to determine how humor works and try to get in on the joke.

Fletcher, Wade - Reading Without Words: The Image as Text

Are images texts? Can images be "read?" What does it mean to "read" an image? As individuals, we are confronted with, interpret, process, and even ignore a barrage of images on a daily basis. Via these images, visual argument manifests across many spectrums, from business, advertising and politics to popular culture, art and fashion, each image vying for our attentions. In this course, we'll intersect with the study of visual culture and visual rhetoric, considering the role images play in our culture(s), while exploring what it means to examine something as an "image" and investigating how visual narratives and arguments are formed, composed, and realized. To this end, we'll also examine images alongside written texts, exploring the parallels between the two forms.

Our subject matter will include two wordless graphic novels, visual art (specifically the collections at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum), and cultural images, the latter of which will potentially comprise photographs, advertising, branding and marketing, iconic images, and much more. Assignments will include three essays of increasing length, each focusing on a particular image (or set of images) – a critique, an analysis of a visual argument, and an argumentative research essay – as well as short visual projects, contributions to an online class discussion forum, and a turn (with a partner) leading class discussion.

Friedman, Sandie - Cinema Nation: Cultural Critique of Hollywood Classics

"We're not in Kansas anymore." "Here's looking at you, kid." "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse." You know these lines, even if you haven't seen the classic films they're from: The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, and The Godfather. Hollywood classics permeate American culture; they shape our collective consciousness, and they also mirror our anxieties and aspirations. In this course, we analyze Hollywood movies from a cultural perspective: What forms of ideology underpin these classics? How do great American films reflect the historical moment of their creation? Our film choices are drawn from The American Film Institute's list of 100 best. We approach old favorites in a new way by writing critically about them, building towards a research essay that interprets a film in its cultural context. The next time somebody quotes The Godfather, offer to analyze the movie for him; he can't refuse.  

Fruscione, Joe - Writing and Rewriting Gatsby

It's been made into four films (with a fifth on the way), a graphic novel, a handful of print novels, a video game, and all sorts of other things. The Great Gatsby, perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald's most subtle novel, will be the centerpiece of this course. We'll focus on it as a novel, source text for the 1974 film adaptation, work in progress, and evidence of Fitzgerald's writing process.

An ongoing debate in contemporary fiction revolves around what makes a "good" or "faithful" adaptation. The Great Gatsby has proven a difficult novel to adapt, given its subtlety and style. We'll begin and end the class by reading the published novel. Between, we'll read the first version (Trimalchio), watch the 1974 film, understand some scholarly works, and discuss some marketing for the forthcoming Baz Luhrmann version. We'll also seek to understand the novel in terms of narration, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, morality, and social class. As we'll see, this is a novel that needs to be reread.

Required texts: The Great Gatsby (Simon & Schuster), Trimalchio (Cambridge UP), The Little Seagull Handbook (WW Norton).

Assignments: Analysis papers on the novel and film; creative adaptation work; research and library projects; a final research essay.

Fruscione, Joe - Writing and Rewriting War

Note: This course is designed to coincide with the university's First Chapter initiative, which focuses on Sebastian Junger's nonfiction narrative War (2010). It is open to any interested first-year students.

Using a handful of books and 1-2 recent films (Restrepo, 2010; The Hurt Locker, 2008), this course will examine how various authors write, rewrite, and adapt war as a subject. We will pay particular attention to how both current wars and the Civil War have been written and rewritten in a contemporary context. During this time of Civil War sesquicentennial observances, how has the Civil War changed as a cultural/historical episode? How do Junger's book and the films both reflect and complicate the topic of modern war?

Required Texts: Sebastian Junger's War; Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic (1998); Thomas Brown's essay collection Remixing the Civil War (2011); The Little Seagull Handbook.

Assignments: Analysis papers about The Hurt Locker and War; peer workshopping and evaluation; research-based assignments; and a final research-based project.

Fruscione, Joe - Adapting Shakespeare

Using two plays—King Lear and Richard III — this course will focus on various approaches to adapting Shakespeare into a graphic novel, a novel, and a postmodern documentary (or, meta-adaptation). We will discuss the plays as plays and as source texts 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?

Required Texts: Shakespeare's King Lear and Richard III; Christopher Moore's Fool (2009); McCreery and Del Col, Kill Shakespeare, Volume 1 (2010); The Little Seagull Handbook.

Assignments: Analysis papers on Richard III/Looking for Richard and King Lear; peer workshopping and evaluation; research-based assignments; and a final research-based project.

Note: This course is required for the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare . It is open only to Dean's Scholars. Departmental approval required to register. For questions, send an email to shakesp@gwu.edu or visit http://columbian.gwu.edu/shakespeare/

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 cayo1@gwu.edu

Note: This is a service learning course.  

Goward, Shonda - Perceptions of Black Poetics: Harlem Renaissance to Hip Hop

TBA

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.

Hamilton, 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 writing.

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 university level.

Hamilton, Leah - That's Epic! (And Romance)

This is a UW20 course about brave warriors and noble ladies in Medieval Literature. Come explore college-level writing as a genre and a skill, while having the opportunity to read some of the most influential Epic and Romance literature of all time: Beowulf, as a text in translation and through the eyes of Tolkien, French works by Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France, and selections by Sir Thomas Malory. It simply does not get any more enjoyable!

There will be knights and princesses, there will be seminal literary criticism regarding these works (which you may or may not agree with), and there will be three major writing assignments and one group research project (designed to ease your workload and certainly not to add any interpersonal stress to your life): An 8-10 page essay, a 10-12 page research paper engaging with specific literary critics regarding one or two works that you have read, and a 5-page article written to a student audience. The group research project will comprise a 6-page annotated bibliography and group presentation of a single article from your research.

No previous experience is necessary – simply bring your enthusiasm, writing ability, and your laptops (which are required for this course).

Hayes, Carol - WTF?! Profanity and Culture

Words have power. But that power, and often the meaning of the words, can change depending on context. How a word is used—by and to whom, and for what purpose (also known as the rhetorical situation)—is vital to understanding the power of a word. We'll begin the semester by reading excerpts from Randall Kennedy's Nigger:The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, which takes up the question of what the N-word means, based on when, how, and by whom it is used--and also asks whether the word should be shunned or continued in its uses. The first paper of the semester will ask you to place a piece of profanity in a particular context (perhaps a particular subculture, such as a sports team, or an ethnic culture), to make visible the impact of the rhetorical situation on the word as it was used in that particular time and place. We'll use the readings throughout the semester to introduce ideas of disciplinarity: scholars who discuss profanity work within Hip Hop culture, Women's Studies, Linguistics, Anthropology, Queer Studies, Philosophy, African American studies, and many other fields. Readings from these disciplines will model how scholars frame their writing within academic discourses. Through a series of writing and research projects that focus on specific instances of profanity, 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.

Helfers, Edward - Architecture and Ecology

Are cities greener than suburbs? Is public space a human right? Should all historical buildings be preserved? How does the digital world transform our relationship with the physical world? What do ethics have to do with architecture? How sustainable is sustainability?

These are just some of the questions we will tackle in this course. Our readings will cover a wide range of academic disciplines, including Anthropology, Biology, Creative Writing, Digital Media Studies, Environmental Studies, History, Philosophy, and Urban Planning. Our discussions will explore the promises and pitfalls of utopian experiments, suburban developments, and urban renewal projects. We will look both near (GW's proposed Science and Engineering Hall) and far (Earthships, a Southwestern biotecture firm), real (Chicago's Cabrini Green) and imagined (Le Corbusier's "City of the Future"). Our exercises and assignments will help you read critically and write persuasively. In the process, we will come to a better understanding of how we shape our spaces, and how our spaces shape us.

Along with a site visit, students in this course will be expected to complete three major essays: analytic (3-5 pages), conversation (5-7 pages), and research-based (7-12 pages).

Johnston, Elizabeth - American Environmental Advocacy

In this course we will examine with a fresh eye some of the canonical texts of the American environmental movement—works by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson, among many others—as well as writing by politicians, non-profit groups, and even judges all eager to persuade. We'll study more recent efforts to inspire the grass-roots, like those of Greenpeace, Earth First!, Earth Day, and Al Gore. Lastly, we will read critics to help us interrogate these texts. With other scholars, we will ask: why study the environmental movement? How has it made a difference in human behavior? What sways people more to act—in-your-face, shocking works, or subtle, open-ended pieces that pose questions to which we do not yet have answers? How have such strategies shifted or been contested over the course of American environmental history, and what shapes can we imagine them adopting in the future? Students will have an opportunity to write papers dissecting the campaigns of a non-profit group of their choice as well as a chance to create their own environmental protest. In the process, they will discover the persuasive techniques environmental advocates employ and determine how they might deploy such tactics to persuade in their own writing, both as members of an academic institution and as citizens.


Kristensen, Randi - Art and Revolution

This course is designed as a writing workshop for our interrogations of the relationship between art and revolution. Some of the questions we might consider include: What do we mean by art? What do we mean by revolution? Is there a relationship between artistic revolutions and political ones? How do we recognize art and/or revolution? How do we consider the implications of the new? How do we participate in art and/or revolution? You will come up with more and perhaps better questions about these themes. And we will, as a class, write our way to provisional answers and perhaps unanswerable questions.

We will watch a film or two together. Together, we will read closely authors of your and my choosing, both for their ideas and arguments about art and revolution, and also for their methods of approaching these ideas and arguments. What are their rhetorical strategies? What audience(s) are they attempting to reach? What voice(s) are they using? How are they engaging with other voices? What kinds of styles do they deploy? Do we want to model our writing on theirs? Why or why not?

The overarching goal of this and all UW1020s is to introduce you to the expectations of academic research writing. We will engage the possibility of artfully revolutionizing our writing habits to include strategies for integrity and ethical argument with academic and other authors who are asking the kinds of questions we are, as part of a semester-long project to individually and collectively explore our interest in art and revolution. Along the way, we will present multiple drafts of our work for each other's review, and engage in continuous revision in light of changes in our thinking because of our research and reader responses. The major writing assignments for the class include a substantial academic research paper on the topic of your choice, a conceptual archaeology to initiate the research for that paper, and a response to the first film we'll watch.

Larsen, Katherine - 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.

Lee, Jee Yoon - Asian American Experience

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.

Marcus, Robin -African American Rhetorics: Black Speech in Public Space

In this course, "Black Speech in Public Space" is not limited to an examination of what is variably labeled African American Vernacular Speech, Black Language, Ebonics etc. It refers more broadly to the sociolinguistic study of Black Speech and the ways this speech has been used to convey history and argument. In addition, we expand the concept of Black Speech in order to understand the ways this language operates rhetorically (whether subtly or overtly) in visual art, film, dance, the pulpit, music, and theater. This will allow us to appreciate how contexts and issues relevant to Black life in America are framed within the public sphere. Emphasis will be placed on class discussions based on reading a variety of texts. Students will be expected to undertake research that produces fresh approaches and observations through the production of three papers including one major research paper. Class participation is weighted equally with other graded work. Students will also be expected to attend evening lectures featuring guest lectures, off campus events, relevant university events and one field trip.

McCaughey, Jessica -Telling True Stories: Truth and Memory in Creative Nonfiction

Is the truth precisely what occurred, or is it in how we recall an event, or a conversation, or an image years later? Should we trust our own memories in storytelling? What about those of other people? How should gaps and haziness in memory be addressed in writing? Does a text's "truth" affect its power? Do the answers to these questions shift with audience, or the purpose of a piece of writing? In addition to countless literary scandals surrounding memoirs and creative nonfiction over the past several years, the exploration of what constitutes "the truth" in writing is an essential and fascinating element of not only literary study, but in examining our world and its stories. In this class we will read a variety of nonfiction texts—from literary journalism and essays to memoirs and book-length creative nonfiction—and we'll write intensely both about the ideas and arguments of these writers and about our own experiences and research.

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 - Craftivism: Art, Craft, and Activism

Yarn-bombing. Radical knitting. Subversive quilting. Though some think of traditional crafts like knitting and crochet as innocuous hobbies for old ladies, crafts and craft-based communities are and have historically been a place where politics happen. The craft renewal of the past decade has political roots – whether the explicitly pacifist activism of textile artist Marianne Jorgensen’s knitted pink cozy draped over a military tank, or the quietly anti-consumption spirit of a sewing and craft blog like Kathreen Ricketson’s whipup.net, which values making over buying. This class will explore the ways contemporary crafting and craftivist communities consciously and unconsciously form around political ideals and take action towards political change.

Assignments in the class will include participating in a class blog, a personal essay, an annotated bibliography, and a collaborative final project exploring the political implications of a historical or contemporary craft, instance of craftivism, or craft-based community. This is a hybrid course, which means that significant course work will make use of cyberspace formats including wordpress blogs and wiki technology.

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: Should 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 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.

Riley, Matt - Songs & Script: Critical Writing about Music

This course is an ongoing study conducted by first year students about how popular music serves as a reflection of society. We will investigate a variety of ways that music is analyzed and argued about in both popular and academic communities, and we will research the issues about music that we, as a group, consider to be important. Songs and Script is based on the idea that students who take the course—past, present, and future— should form a community of scholars who build the course over repeated semesters. Consequently, the issues we address and the knowledge we establish comes equally from the students and the professor, and current students must always build upon the work of previous classes. Further, the course maintains a concentrated focus on different means of analysis. Therefore, not only will students write analytical research essays about critical issues, but they will also participate in several collaborative group projects, including writing, composing, and producing an original song and developing a multimedia presentation that investigates an historically significant music artist. Every assignment will involve research, analysis, argument, and formal expression.

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 pryder@gwu.edu

Ryder, Phyllis - Civic House: Writing with DC Organizations

As a course devoted to Civic House scholars, this section of UW1020 will introduce you to a new side of DC: its local neighborhoods and the community leaders who are working there to create social change. As a class, we will investigate what it means to "serve" within DC communities. More specifically, we'll uncover the rhetorical skills community activists use to persuade people that they can make a difference, and we'll consider hot those same skills might serve you both inside and outside the university. By the end of the semester, you will prepare detailed, research analyses for area nonprofits. Additionally, you work as a group to plan and secure funding for a community project that you will carry out the following semester.

This is a service learning course. At the beginning of this summer, we will collaboratively choose a thematic focus for the course (homelessness and poverty, education, or "counter-cultural" youth identities) and I will arrange for a variety of placements with relevant service organizations. During the fall, you will work closely with these organizations for at least twenty hours, learning about their approaches and sharing your findings with the class.

As this section is connected to the Civic House Living and Learning community, you can expect to participate in additional activities outside the regular class schedule, such as visits to different parts of DC, local restaurants and events with local community leaders, and GW sponsored service events.

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 pryder@gwu.edu

Sallinger, Lauren - The Road Trip in American Literature and Film

The promotional ad for Easy Rider stated, "A man went looking for America. And couldn't find it anywhere." Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas opens with a wild ride through the desert on a quest "to find the American dream." This class will look at the enduring trope of the road trip in American culture and consciousness. What do the characters seek and why is it so elusive? How do these narrative journeys develop themes of the outsider, the frontier, and the individual's quest for identity? Why have the outlaws who populate these stories become counter-culture icons? We will explore these questions in books that may include On the Road, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Travels with Charley, and films that may include Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider and Thelma & Louise. Students will analyze how these narratives form sociopolitical critiques and how scholars use them to frame questions about popular culture. There will be several short writing assignments leading to a substantial research paper and a creative project. Through these, we will explore how the process of writing can mirror the unfolding of a trip and how it, too, can be a journey of self-discovery.

Schell, Heather - Darwin's Legacy: Science, Religion, and American Politics

Darwin's transformative On the Origin of Species shook the world when it was published, not only because it challenged literalist interpretations of the Bible but also because it offered a grim view of what the poet Tennyson termed "nature red in tooth and claw." More than one hundred and fifty years later, long after the rest of the world has come to terms with Darwin's ideas, controversy about evolutionary continues unabated here in the United States. 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. While evolutionary theory is a fundamental building block of the life sciences today, a sizable group of Americans does not believe that species have evolved and actively campaigns to keep Darwin's ideas out of the science curriculum. This semester, 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, define their terms, and address alternate perspectives. We will also explore the way that contemporary journalistic practice may contribute to public misunderstanding. In your essays this semester, you will explore the use of evolutionary theory in a political debate, critically analyze a scholarly essay, and research the underpinnings of America's uneasy relationship with Darwin.

This is a hybrid course, meaning that a significant amount of the course work will make use of internet and other electronic media; these sessions may at times also take the form of small group workshops or field trips.

Note: laptops required.

Smith, Caroline It’s a Mad, Mad World: Writing About AMC’s Television Series Mad Men

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 known for showing classic films. But, before long, it became clear that Mad Men was here to stay – winning Emmys for best drama in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. 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 own Mad Men character and post it to your Facebook page. Even Sesame Street spoofed the series.

UW20 serves as the training ground for three important abilities – critical reading, researching, and writing at the college level, and in this course, we will use the television series Mad Men and the readings associated with it as the starting point for our own writing assignments. 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? Students will produce a variety of writing assignments, including a DVD commentary assignment analyzing scenes from the series and 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. Note: Students in this course need not have viewed the series before enrolling.

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 Caroline Smith at cjsmith7@gwu.edu.

Svoboda, Michael - The Political Brain: The Psychologies of American Politics

We like to believe we can be perfectly rational. Consequently, when others disagree with us at such moments, we also like to believe our opponents are being irrational. Sadly, both beliefs are almost certainly false, especially when it comes to politics. Our political convictions have psychological underpinnings. But, we must hasten to add, our psychological analyses of politics can also be prompted by political motivations.

In "The Political Brain," we will examine what models of cognitive psychology, eco-psychology, neuro-politics, and risk assessment can tell us about contemporary American politics, the politics represented by the 2012 presidential campaign in particular.

In this section of UW 1020, you can join the ever-increasing number of political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, and, yes, voters, who are trying to understand—and to address—the dysfunctional state of American politics. Through a carefully selected set of readings, including Drew Westen's The Political Brain, you will participate in their broad interdisciplinary conversation. And through the critical thinking, creative research, and reflective writing you will practice in the assignments for this course, you will be able to make an original contribution to this ongoing discussion.

Tomlinson, Niles - Fake News and Ironic Views: Satire as Social Critique

While satire has a long history of exposing social/political pretensions and human folly, never has it been so prevalent as in our current cultural moment. From The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to The Simpsons to the mockumentaries of Sasha Baron Cohen to the controversial Danish Muhammad cartoons, satire is a potent and sometimes dangerous rhetorical tool for illuminating the absurdities of extremist views and partisan propaganda. This course starts with the question of why satire has become such a pervasive phenomenon and then moves towards an exploration of the value of, and potential problems with, satire as a rhetorical lens of social criticism.

We will begin by identifying specific strains of satire (Horatian, Juvenalian, black comedy, etc.) in essays, short stories, films, and tv shows. Students will then write their own argumentative satires on a subject of their choice and will close read a satirical text. The final research project will give students a chance to explore in-depth a particular manifestation of satire in contemporary culture. In all, this course will make the larger points that the language of satire and irony is our language and that laughter and seriousness are not mutually exclusive.

Troutman, Phillip - Serious Comix: Graphic Novels and Manga as Visual Argument

In this Service Learning course, you will connect what you learn--both about writing and about comics--to the real world. Student teams will work with Safe Shores DC (safeshores.org) to research, design, and compose short educational comic books aimed at children aged 10-14 who have experienced or witnessed trauma or abuse. No prior comics or art skills are required.

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.

Troutman, Phillip - Pop Art Lit: Graphic Novels as Visual Literature

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.

Wilkerson, Abby -Food Movements and Rhetorics of 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.

Wolfe, Zachary - Law as a Force for Social Change

"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.

Zink, Christine -Pedagogy and Praxis for Writing Tutors

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