SPRING 2013 UNIVERSITY WRITING COURSES
� UW1020 Course Listings by Faculty Member
� Detailed Course Descriptions
SPRING 2013 UW1020 COURSE LISTINGS BY FACULTY MEMBER
DETAILED COURSE DESCRIPTIONS
Bernstein, Arielle - The Future Has 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.
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
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
Donovan, Julie - Art and Autobiography
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.
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
Note: This is a service learning course.
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
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
Hamilton, Leah - That's Epic!
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
Chretien 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
Hayes, Carol - WTF?! Profanity and its Contexts
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
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).
Howell, Katherine - Rewritng Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre: early feminist, lonely romantic, inter-dimensional kidnap victim, or vampire slayer? Edward Rochester: brooding hero, abusive jerk, misunderstood and mentally ill, or mythical beast? Why choose when we can examine the ways that authors have built on Brontë's masterpiece to make new meaning? Students will read and write about Jane Eyre and will have the opportunity to read a "rewritten" version (Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, or Sherri Browning Erwin's Jane Slayre). We'll read Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault for different approaches to authorship as we discuss the ethics of fan-fiction and neovictorian writing. Students will participate in the act of rewriting and determine for themselves what it means to be an author.
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.
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 online spaces such as Live Journal and Twitter; these sessions may also take the form of conferences or small group meetings.
In this course, we will examine visual cultures on the Internet by focusing
on the visual aspects of online environments. What kind of visual digital identities are created
on the Internet? What are the possibilities? And what are the limits? In what ways do race and
gender figure into your use of digital media? While based on the topic of visual cultures and
identity, the themes of this course serve as material from which you will develop your critical
writing and research skills through class exercises and writing assignments.
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.
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 - A Casual Obsession: Videogames for Everyone
When I say the words "videogame" or "gamer" there are probably a number of images that immediately come to mind. Most likely you picture someone who owns a Playstation or an Xbox, who plays a lot of games involving mayhem and arterial blood spray. Most likely that person you are picturing is also a guy.
But have you ever found it impossible to avoid dipping into a game of Solitaire while your teacher drones on at the front of the room? Ever lost an entire afternoon to Angry Birds? Ever grown concerned that your Farmville crops are going unharvested? Then you, my friend, are also a gamer. In fact, you are part of a growing wave of gamers that are redefining what it means to design and play videogames. Our class will start by looking at the rise of casual gaming, and in doing so we will also be looking at how one of the most famously non-casual of gaming genres (online role-playing games) is being redefined to embrace casual players.
The main reason for looking at this topic, however, is that it provides excellent material for both investigating the way current writing and communication practices are changing, and honing the skills necessary to write for diverse audiences across a variety of contexts: academic, professional, and popular. Videogames are, perhaps surprisingly, intensive writing arenas. Developers write lengthy descriptions of their work and respond to player's questions; players write extensively as they organize guilds and society and communicate with one another; some players who enjoy role-playing use the game worlds as a jumping off point for creating their own character fictions. We will be analyzing many of these examples of new media writing and responding in kind with our own efforts. Most importantly, we will be developing extended research projects that draw on multiple academic disciplines in an attempt to make sense of these disorderly new worlds.
Note: This course will require you to play an online game. This game will not cost you anything. However, if you own an Apple computer you may find it impossible to play these games unless your Mac is capable of running Windows programs. It is a sad fact that not a lot of games in general are made for Apple computers, and the number of Mac-friendly online games in particular is exceptionally small. I wish it weren't so, but there it is!
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.
Whether we are jumping platform to platform in two dimensions or roaming the seemingly endless forests of Skyrim, it is easy to get lost in the digital world of a video game. What is the allure that keeps us tethered to places we know to be simulated? This course seeks to examine video games as both fictions and realities, and explore questions about these digital worlds. How do we read (and write) texts about games? How can games be read as texts? How does the player influence narrative? What is really going on in a videogame between the player, avatar, and interface? How do we write about these complex relationships? Why is the Princess always in another castle?
The class will take a three-tiered approach: fictions, critiques, and play.
Fictions will look into narratives about early video games that may include novels such as Ender's Game and films like War Games and Tron (not the remake). How did these works reflect their own time while envisioning the future world of games?
Critiques will examine the world of videogame reviewing, through professional means, academic interventions, and online forums. What makes a game 'good' or 'bad' and how do you write about it?
Play will be the students' own exercise in scholarly writing about virtual game-worlds. Utilizing a game of their own choosing, students will conduct a scholarly project aiming to come to an understanding of the nature of the game's world, and of games themselves.
Students will be expected to have access to at least one video game during this class. The game can be on a computer or on a gaming console, so long as the student has continued access throughout the semester, as some writing assignments will be contingent on gameplay.
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
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.
Riedner, Rachel - Writing Global Women's Lives
Beginning with historical analysis of the veil in France, we’ll consider the powerful local and global forces that shape women’s lives. Drawing upon Joan Scott’s Politics of the Veil and other short pieces, shared readings will lead to writing projects that look closely and carefully at women’s experiences beyond literal or popular representations of their lives and explore how we can (or, cannot) rigorously write about and represent women. To begin our conversations about writing women’s lives, we'll reflect upon how history shapes our writing, how we include the voices of others in our writing, how we use and frame evidence, and how we ethically represent our own knowledge claims. The course includes three major writing assignments as well as short writing assignments.
The first assignment is an analytical and critical assignment that works closely and critically with shared course reading. The lengthiest assignment of the semester is a student-generated, critical research project that draws from writing and research methodologies learned in class. The course will end with an oral presentation where students present their research to an audience of their peers.
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.
Salchak, Steve - Academic Literacy in the Age of BS
“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his fair share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.” So begins On Bullshit, a serious piece of analysis by distinguished Princeton philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt, and so begins our course. In this course, we will begin by exploring the concept of bullshit as developed by Frankfurt , other professional scholars and commentators, and ourselves and then use that concept to inform our own practices as writers and readers. In an effort to avid the production of bullshit in your writing, you will develop a sustained research project of your own choosing and design that culminates through a series of assignments in a 10 –1 12 page well reasoned, well sourced, and well framed argument.
Sallinger, Lauren - The Road Trip in American Culture 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 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. 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 - Feminism and Women's Bodies
Women's bodies sometimes see to be a battleground, with everyone from politicians to sex traffickers, fashion designers, religious leaders, and cosmetic surgeons fighting for the right to define what women can (or should) do with their bodies. Feminist theory offers a useful approach for understanding this conflict. This semester, we will explore several key struggles over women's bodies, possibly including the women's health movement, romance and erotica, and human trafficking.
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.
Schell, Heather - Write of the Living Dead
Our superstitious ancestors lived in a world haunted by spooks and ghouls. Occasionally, fear of such monsters incited people to burn or decapitate their neighbors. We like to think of ourselves as more sophisticated nowadays. We are no longer tormented by brownies, magyr, or tengu. However, if we look at the realm of popular culture, monsters are still thriving. Why do they continue to fascinate us? Do they unveil our unconscious fears and desires? Do they relieve the stress of everyday life? Are they a shared memory of our prehistoric role as prey? The word “monster” itself, as cultural critic Donna Haraway points out, comes from the same root as the word “demonstrate”—monsters are showing us something. This semester, we'll try to figure out what exactly they are showing us. First up is an investigation into our own worst nightmares. Next, you and two classmates will research, write, and record a DVD commentary for a feature-length horror film. By then, you’ll be ready to undertake your final project: a scholarly research essay on a horror film. You should be prepared to screen numerous monster movies (over and over and over again), to master basic audio editing technology, and to be afraid—very afraid...
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 - Graphic Novels as Art & Literature
In this Service Learning course, you will connect what you learn—both about writing and about graphic novels—to the real world. As your final project, you will work in peer teams and with Safe Shores DC to research, compose, design, and produce short educational comic books aimed at children who have experienced or witnessed trauma or abuse. No prior art skills are required, and no prior knowledge of comics or graphic novels is expected.
How do graphic novels make an "art argument" as artist Paul Pope claims? How can they work as literature or contribute to knowledge in other fields—history, philosophy, psychology, journalism, political theory, religion, education? What criteria help us evaluate works like Maus or Persepolis? By analyzing graphic novels as an art form, you will develop key writing and research practices valued in academic work. You will acquire a specialized analytical vocabulary; frame research questions in response to existing scholarship; pursue those questions through research; and hone your analytical voice by anticipating reader expectations through a peer response process. This is a "hybrid" course, meaning we will spend most Friday classes in online writing assignments and on class field trips, including to Safe Shores and to a local comics shop.
Troutman, Phillip - Images of Race in American History
Pictures from the past are not transparent windows onto that reality. Cartoons, paintings, films—even maps and photographs—interpret, idealize, and shade the truth. They even lie outright. This is especially true when it comes to race, which has continually been represented, reinterpreted, and reinscribed in images—from the earliest colonial encounters through slavery and civil rights, from frontier wars through civil wars, foreign wars, and culture wars. Visual depictions of race have always been bound up with other issues: gender norms and identity, class mobilization, democratic politics, national expansion, immigration and migration, scientific thinking, religious ideologies, and technologies of mass communication and culture.
In this class, you will work as a visual historian, designing your own research project in any period of American history by drawing on a wealth of image-based primary sources available in digital and local archives. You will acquire a specialized analytical vocabulary; frame research questions in response to existing scholarship; pursue those questions through archival research; and hone your analytical voice by anticipating reader expectations through a peer response process. This is a "hybrid" course, meaning we will spend most Friday classes in online writing assignments and at local archives, such as The Library of Congress and The National Portrait Gallery.
Wilkerson, Abby -Recipes and Power
Recipes, with their detailed precision, may come across as essentially factual, yet closer study reveals a complex world of values just below the surface. Through careful reading, a host of messages emerges regarding culture, nation, region, ethnicity, and religion, as well as sexual identities, what it means to be a family, and various forms of social privilege. Recipes also often depend on assumptions about the global agro-industrialized food system and the political, economic, and social relations it structures. Thus, recipes can reflect and reinforce established systems of power that have come under fire for assorted inequities. Other recipes, however, testify to the losses and harms imposed by injustice, explicitly challenge power imbalances, or support food justice under the banner of the “Delicious Revolution.” We will study a range of recipe-based writing and the contexts that generate them in order to reflect on these underlying sociopolitical and economic dynamics.
Coursework includes learning and applying the film studies and critical literacy tool of “reading against the grain”; collaborating in small groups to conduct ethnographic-style research on recipe use; and writing an analysis of recipe-centered writing.
"Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and . . . when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
Manipulations of law have been used many times throughout our hiistory 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
Zink, Christine -Truth and Lies: Documentaing American Lives in Writing and Film
"Every fact in my films is true," documentary filmmaker Michael Moore told Time magazine. While facts are by definition true, he felt the need to clarify, "The opinions in the film are mine. They may not be true, but I think they are." At first glance, we take for granted that documentary film is straight truth. But on closer look, we learn that most documentarians are quick to acknowledge--and struggle with--the central tensions in their work between fact and fabrication and between the real and its representation on the big screen. Sergei Dvortsevoy, a documentarian, tells us frankly, "When you see through the lens, you lie immediately."
This course takes as its central texts film documentaries on the American experience that rest with no easy answers. From films that explore outright political rebellion to those that consider interior battles of family politics, we will examine questions of fair and ethical representation, of substantial research and handling of facts and argument, and of what, in the end, it means to even try to document the truth. These very questions are, indeed, central to good writing work. In this course, you will take on the role as both critical audience and creative auteur to determine what constitutes truth and lies in film and writing alike.