SPRING 2014 UNIVERSITY WRITING COURSES
� UW1020 Course Listings by Faculty Member
� Detailed Course Descriptions
NOTE: Please check the Schedule of Classes to verify room assignments.
SPRING 2014 UW1020 COURSE LISTINGS BY FACULTY MEMBER
DETAILED COURSE DESCRIPTIONS
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
The memoir can be an inspiring form of truth telling, but it is also open to fabrication and the complexities of what we are able to, or may prefer to, remember or forget. Doesn’t everyone, now and again, embellish a story, or recount it for the best possible effect? When is this an acceptable framing of expression, and when does it offend standards of authenticity? The memoir can be guilty of the worst excesses of vanity and unreliable narration, but it can also be a legitimate historical record and a powerful portrayal of the human experience.
In this course we will concentrate on memoirs written by women whose experiences are rich and varied. Taking its title from a question often posed by her overbearing mother, Jeanette Winterson’s Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal? recounts, with acerbic wit, the grim experiences that made her the writer she is. Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison contemplates how women fare in contemporary US policies concerning crime and punishment. Lauren Slater’s Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir narrates her life experiences while simultaneously casting doubt on the veracity of her writing, since she suffers from an illness that afflicts her memory. In Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, we delve into the graphic novel and a blend of comic strip and memoir. We finish with Malala Yousafzai’s stirring, poignant memoir, I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.
Dueck, Jonathan - Beautiful Play: Writing Gesture In Sport And Dance
"That was a beautiful play!" your friend exclaims. But what does she mean by that? And what was the athlete who performed the beautiful play doing? Were they making meanings or moving bodies? When we describe sport as "beautiful" (or dance as "athletic"), when we use visual media to represent movement (like a video game or a YouTube clip), and when we try to teach someone else to move in a certain way (ever taught a friend to snowboard?) we find ourselves in the midst of a tricky question that most academic writers face: how do we connect the world of sensations and movements that are part of experience in our bodies to the meanings--images, words, ways of speaking--that are always connected to our bodies? This is a question about what scholars sometimes call "gesture."
In this class, we will work together to answer this question through our own research and writing. We'll start by writing a "field scene," a vivid description representing our own embodied experiences of a sport or dance, placing those experiences in conversation with anthropologists who write about the senses, sport, and dance. Then we'll explore movement in video and video games, writing a critical review of a video or video game in which we offer some suggestions not only to the video/game-makers but also to the cultural studies scholars who write about those mediums. Finally you'll strike out on your own and, in consultation with a research librarian and myself, you'll write a research-based multimedia essay a particular embodied practice of your choice (a dance performance, a sport, a martial art, et cetera) and a set of representations (TV coverage, magazine articles, or video games, for example), placing these things in conversation with anthropological / cultural studies writings on gesture.
In the end you'll have begun to think through one of the trickiest problems you'll face as an academic writer, and made your own entry into scholarly debates on how to move between embodied experience and writerly voice.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Goward, Shonda - Perceptions of Black Poetics: Harlem Renaissance to Hip Hop
This section of UW 1020 is a service-learning opportunity. Students will work with Words, Beats, & Life, Inc. in Northwest, D.C. As we learn about black poets, their work, and the reception of their work from readers and critics, we will also be working with young people who are learning the four elements of hip hop. UW students will assist these students once per week as they prepare to apply for college. UW students will also be required to attend one non-tutoring event with the organization to grasp a full understanding of what hip hop is and isn’t. The class will explore the circumstances that brought forth major artistic movements, and how those artists have been, and in some cases, still are limited based on their genre, race, gender, and class. Our methods will include peer to peer workshops; journaling and reflection; socio-cultural research; and analytical writing about both poetry and music.
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.
Larsen, Katherine - Washington Fan Pilgrimages: Scandal, History and Hollywood
You pass them every day and probably don’t think about them – Hollywood film sets. Those steps in Georgetown you see from the windows of the Vern Express, the large apartment complex across the street from HOVA, that big white house just blocks from the Foggy Bottom campus. Washington (and George Washington University) has been used as the backdrop to films as varied as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Exorcist, All The President’s Men, and D.C. Cab. It is the place where history, image, rumor, and reality collide. It is a city of symbol and a city full of real people going about their daily business. This course will look at the intersection of symbol and reality from the perspective of political, historical, and media tourism, especially at places where the three collide – such as the Watergate.
We will watch several films set in Washington, as we consider the ways in which we create and interact in spaces that are simultaneously real and fictional (drawing heavily from the literature of fan pilgrimage). Students will create commentary tracks on films set in Washington and will collaborate on creating a film tour of Washington as part of their final projects.