Fall 2019 UW1020 Courses

For class meeting times and room assignments, please see the Schedule of Classes.

Hybrid courses 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.

Service-learning courses address a community need through direct or indirect service and community-based research.

Course Offerings

Course Descriptions

Writing with Sophistication about Elementary Mathematics

Abrams, Lowell

What did you really learn in your math classes in elementary school?
Elementary mathematics can be deceiving. We learn it as young children, and are often left with the impression that it is a collection of mechanical procedures lacking depth. That impression is very unfortunate, as the foundations for key concepts of academic research and academic writing, such as operation, process, categorization, relationship, and abstraction, are actually contained within elementary mathematics itself. In this course we will take a close look at elementary mathematics and writings about it in order to get a closer and more sophisticated view of this critical part of everyone’s education. Each student will develop a research project on elementary mathematics from their own choice of perspective (recent choices include philosophy, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, pedagogy, and mathematics itself). Through a process of research and revision, students will hone their skills in critical thinking and effective written communication while developing a new and rich perspective on what they already know.

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Writing Science and Health:  Women's Health as Point of Inquiry

Barlow, Jameta

The space that resides between STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and society is a precarious one. STEM thirsts for knowledge to expand and build while the public desires STEM for its application, utility and effect. The latter is most often discussed in public spheres. Yet, this co-dependent relationship has the potential to ignite innovation, question moral ethic and inherently prompt moments of resistance. This course will operate in this precarious space and interrogate its very nature, with specific focus on science and health and using women's health as a case study.
We begin the course practicing self-reflexivity and exploring the role of privilege and standpoint in the development of philosophies of science. We engage in critical perspectives and decolonizing methodologies to interrogate traditional approaches in science and health.We end the course with a focused application of these approaches and concepts. This writing intensive is an interdisciplinary study of women’s health from a holistic perspective that builds on socioeconomic, political and biological aspects of women’s health. It explores the relationships between health and gender under political, biological, economic, spiritual, cultural and/or socially constructed influences. Students will engage in a comprehensive overview of health literature in public health, feminist and cultural studies, psychology, sociology, anthropology, medicine, and popular literature and social media. Students will use lectures, class discussions, readings, popular culture analyses, journaling, peer-reviewed group work, and in-class activities to explore writing on and about science and health.

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(De)Constructing the Non-Human

Bieda, Casey

With the vast proliferation and popularity of science fiction in video games, comic books, and popular literature at large, the actor of the “non-human” (or “other”) has cycled through a vast number of representations. These representations have long been the subjects of theological, political,  philosophical, sociological, and scientific debate. These debates have raised larger issues of “humanity”, creationist responsibility, animate/inanimate “life”, “animacy” hierarchy, anthropomorphism, and technological supremacy.  What is “human”? In this age of technology and exploration, how do we define ideas of “human”, “post-human”, and “non-human”? What happens when those definitions touch, blend, or oppose one another? What narratives do they create? Who gets to tell those narratives, and why are those narratives important in how we engage with our contemporary culture?

In this course, we will investigate points in literature, film, graphic narratives, and other media forms where the familiar and unfamiliar touch and analyze how humans both react and interact with these non-human entities. Through these points of contact we will grapple with larger discussions of scientific advancement, animal rights, and how the world expands (or contracts) when we consider life beyond the purely “human”. We will investigate, challenge, and report on several sources of interest ranging from Medieval poetry, to 1950’s science fiction, to contemporary podcasts and graphic narratives  through several concentrated writing assignments and classroom discussion. We will also write a final intensive research paper focused on one subject from/or based on our classroom material.

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Speaking of Animals:Thoughts on Human and Animal Nature

Botts, Eric
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; classroom and online instruction.

Since the early 1900s, many psychologists and linguists have tried to teach human language to great apes--most famously, American Sign Language. Whether they’ve succeeded is a controversy that, especially in the 1970s and '80s, devolved into a bitter war of words, less about science than the nature of humans and other animals.
Many studies suggest, aside from great apes like humans and chimpanzees, even other, less “intelligent” animals use tools, show compassion, follow what seem to be moral codes, and recognize themselves as unique beings separate from the rest of the world. Each of these studies reveals some non-human animal demonstrating some quality that linguists, scientists, and philosophers had once thought of as a dividing line between human and animal nature. When a chimpanzee, a dolphin, an ant, a rat, or an elephant crossed one of these lines, some linguist, scientist, or philosopher would propose a new line that would continue to separate humans from other animals.
This practice of drawing and redrawing lines begs the following question: If language is not uniquely human—nor the use of tools, nor compassion, morality, or self-awareness—then what makes us unique? And underneath that question lies the presumption that humans are unique among animals. Therein lies the problem. The presumption that humans are unique in any of these abilities or capacities flies in the face of what science keeps telling us: We have no ability or capacity that is unique to the human species.
So this course takes a different tack: Rather than presuming that humans are special, this course asks you to acknowledge the scientific reality that humans are animals; from that basic starting point, this course will push you to ask and try to answer questions about how we think about and relate to other animals.
Such questions demand that we examine how and why we, arrive at our ideas, beliefs, and attitudes about non-human animals. They require that we place ourselves in other animals’ perspectives, making this course an apt space to learn how to think critically. Because we often hold deeply ingrained beliefs about human and animal nature, the course theme also demands careful, well-reasoned, and thought-inspiring arguments and ideas, making it useful for teaching rhetorical principles. Writing about animals often directly challenges established ideas and beliefs, guiding us always toward deeper research into the ever-shifting landscape of fact, opinion, and rhetoric about humans in relation to other animals.
During this course, you’ll explore one subject within the broad theme of animal studies, enabling you to build a nuanced scholarly perspective informed by deep research. As this course takes an interdisciplinary approach, I encourage you to explore popular, primary, and scholarly sources relating to history, science, and culture. You’ll also conduct and record at least one interview and find or conduct other forms of primary research, like exploring social media discussions as part of a cultural criticism project, seeking out a historical figure’s journals for a historical profile, or personally observing animal behaviors for a piece of popular science analysis.

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An Empirical Approach: Writing in the Social Sciences

Fletcher, Wade
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

Media portrayals of social science research, such as a Time Magazine report on “how laughter can boost one’s attractiveness,” often result in sensational claims made in limited contexts, which some scholars say devalues the important work being done in fields such as sociology, psychology, and education. How is social science research relevant to our daily lives? What ethical implications accompany such research? How do disciplinary conventions function in social science disciplines, and how do these differ from those with which we are more accustomed?

In this course, we will seek to better understand how knowledge is constructed in the social sciences, explore how this knowledge is communicated rhetorically, and consider how tenets of social science research and writing can inform our own work in other areas and disciplines. Assignments will include three papers of increasing length—a genre analysis, a rhetorical analysis, and an argumentative research paper on a current issue in a social science discipline—as well as short projects, a poster presentation, and contributions to an online class discussion forum.

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Writing About Writing

Friedman, Sandra

Love letters, song lyrics, Tweets, notes to self, research papers, lab reports.  You already have many different ways of writing, and you automatically shift modes when you go from writing a history paper to writing fan fiction.  And yet, you may have felt baffled when a teacher required a certain procedure for note-taking, demanded that you write according to a pre-set format, or took off points because you used “I.”  We have all had experiences of pleasure and confidence in writing, but also moments when we were disappointed or even shocked by a teacher’s response to our work.  How do you make sense of these varied experiences of writing?   And how can you approach the vastly different writing assignments you will encounter in college?  Are there skills that carry over from one college writing assignment to another? 

The premise of this course is that by studying writing itself, you can become a more effective writer in various contexts.  In this class, we will explore theories about writing: how writers are shaped by their social contexts, how they understand and make use of texts, why they produce texts in a particular way.  By considering these issues, and by doing your own research, you will become a more informed and self-aware writer.  Can I teach you “how to write” or even how to be good at “college writing”?  No.  But in this class, you will learn not only to make sense of past experiences of writing, but also to develop strategies that will enable you to understand the contexts of diverse writing assignments and to approach them successfully. 

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Legacies of the Holocaust

Gamber, Cayo
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

Every UW1020 course requires ‘finished’ writing, developed in a rigorous composition process often consisting of pre-draft preparation, drafts, and revisions based on instructor’s advice and classmates’ comments. In this course, the series of tasks you will perform – including  writing a research paper that integrates both primary and secondary sources – are designed both to help you become familiar with an array of research efforts as well as familiar with writing an authoritative study of your chosen topic. In this course, we analyze primary documents from the Shoah – photographs and oral histories, in particular.  I ask that we engage with these materials because such research encourages us to value the research findings of others; to acquire research skills; to recognize the ways in which primary materials are central to both the research process and the conclusions one draws; and, perhaps most importantly, to realize our analysis allows us to make meaningful additions to the academic conversation about a given topic.  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.  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 for the eyewitnesses, witnesses who are willing to be bearers of the stories and history of the Shoah.

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Environmental Advocacy

Greenberg, Adam
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

In this course, students will consider the ways in which diverse views of nature shape environmental advocacy and vice versa. As they consider local spaces, communities, and organizations, students will visit public spaces around Washington DC (such as public gardens and parks) and conduct a significant research project to investigate how these institutions and spaces perform their environmental advocacy. Important questions to be investigated include: Is there a fundamental difference between natural landscapes and curated landscapes? How do notions of the environment, or what is natural, inform our views of ourselves and others? Are individuals separable from their environments and contexts?
Students will learn to read environments rhetorically as texts and to read all texts as emerging from a field of possibilities and contexts. In this class, nothing will be assumed to be “natural” or conversely “unnatural,” and the boundaries between natural and artificial environments—like the boundaries between writer and audience, between individual and community—will not be taken as given.

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Existentialism and the Rhetoric of Authenticity

Gretes, Andrew

Few philosophical movements have sparked the popular imagination as vividly as existentialism. But what precisely was (is?) existentialism? Was it merely what we call “emo” in embryo, or was there something of more substance underneath all those black turtlenecks and ennui bumper stickers? In this course, we’ll trace the origins of 20th century existentialism and attempt to answer this question by exploring such concepts as despair, angst, authenticity, freedom, and mass-man (aka “sheeple”). In particular, we’ll take a close look at the language which existentialists deploy in order to persuade and “seduce” their readers to re-conceptualize their possibilities and thus, in turn, their responsibilities. We’ll also analyze the various rhetorical stages which existentialists choose to audition their ideas—be they novels, aphorisms, parables, or analytic essays—and how such genres entail specific appeals and strategies.

Throughout the semester, students will engage in a variety of writing projects, from a rhetorical analysis to a research-based essay on the legacy and influence existentialism has held on the popular culture of contemporary America.

TV Culture: America in the 1960s

Herer, Lisbeth
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

Have you ever wondered when watching television from the past, “What were they thinking???” If you have, you are most likely not alone. We are far removed from the moment in time when these shows of the past were produced. But this offers us a chance to glimpse the past through the lens of entertainment. Television as entertainment, then, can function both broadly and narrowly as a snapshot of the desires, anxieties, obsessions, and joys of the culture and era from which they emanate. And TV’s broad reach – by 1960, there was a television in 9 out of 10 households – makes it a rich place to excavate and undercover the past. TV shows as cultural artefacts allow us to plumb the depths of a given historical, cultural, and social moment, illuminating what was valued, what was scorned, and even what was missing. This course will look at American culture and history of the 1960’s through the lens of iconic and lesser-known 1960’s sitcoms and dramas and use these as points of departure to explore issues of the time. Through rhetorical analyses, we will explore how struggles of the 1960s were cast and recast as we move through the decade, attempting to unpack the ways in which TV supports or challenges normative values. The course will offer students ample opportunity to develop their academic writing and research skills.

Communicating Climate Change

Jacoby, Lindsay
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

The past three years have seen incredible changes in the debate about climate change, from a renewed surge in climate denial at the highest levels, devastation by climate-intensified disasters in many states and countries, children marching in the streets demanding climate action, and young representatives in Congress demanding a “Green New Deal.” What kinds of communication about climate change’s causes, effects, and solutions can alter people’s attitudes and behaviors toward the climate? In this course, we will examine how scientific information is used in climate change debates and discuss the role that scientists have played in sharing ideas with the public and countering climate denial. We will also delve into the dynamics of environmental racism, the powerful rhetoric of the climate justice movement, and the role of morality in arguments about climate change. You will develop a deeper understanding of effective climate change communication by analyzing films, scientific writing, journalism, social media, and other popular texts of your choosing. And, you will get to explore effective responses to climate change by assessing your own carbon footprint and taking a personal or political action in response to this environmental crisis. Assignments include an analysis of scientific communication, a research-driven project, and an action proposal. This course is a fully hybrid course that meets online for the Friday studio.

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Africa and the African Diaspora

Kristensen, Randi
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

Black Panther. Black Panthers. Black Lives Matter. Slavery. Colonialism. Modernity. Afro-futurism. Afro-pessimism. These and many more signifiers of Black life in the 21st century are widely circulated, and their meanings and significance are widely debated. In particular, the relationships between African, Caribbean, African-American, and Black European peoples are complex and ever-evolving. In this course, we will bring our critical reading, thinking, and writing skills to bear on these relationships and signifiers of contemporary Black life.
Africa itself occupies a special place in the Western imagination, so part of this work will involve a critical examination of Western notions of "Africa." Another part of the work will be reading and viewing contemporary representations of the cultures of people of African descent in the Americas and Europe. We will also question the implications of doing research within and across cultures; for example, what is the significance of our research and writing for those about whom we research and write? What are the effects of our choices of language and form? 
As readers, writers, and thinkers, we will develop our skills in recognizing and articulating that complexity, and will produce original and effective writing that reflects our close attention to class texts and contexts. Major assignments include an autoethnography, a Wikipedia entry, and a carefully researched, documented, and argued research paper on a writer-selected topic that increases our understanding of contemporary Black life. At the end of the semester, we will showcase our work for each other and the wider community.

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Media Fandom: Geeks, Fanboys, and Stalker Chicks

Larsen, Katherine
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

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?

A better question might be who we are – since we are all fans of something – and how do we consume culture. How do we talk back to it, reshape it, pull it to pieces and then put it back together? The answers to these questions have the potential to offer insight into what we value (or devalue) as a culture and why. What captures our imaginations? Why do we love Sherlock or Doctor Who or Mass Attack or One Direction? Why do others look down on us for loving them? If we all consume so much media why do we have such a problem with fans?

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 a range of fan generated media, especially fan fiction. Student research will involve close examination of an online fan community.

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Conspiracies, Secrets, and Lies

Luman, Douglas
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

An alarming number of Americans buy in to conspiracy theories. And, these alternate realities are not merely the preoccupations of people with nothing better to do. Belief in conspiracy theories cuts against traditional markers of identity; no one group has a monopoly on the kinds of thinking that develop a conspiratorial mind.

But, conspiracy and misleading propaganda are not contemporary inventions. From an age of rampant forgery in the 18th century to more contemporary hoaxes of corporate entities pulling the levers of power, conspiracy theories' blend of truth, half-truth, and falsehood change views about a broad array of events. Even writers such as William Shakespeare took the notion of conspiracy seriously, demonstrating the human cost of such thought.

In this course, we will read fiction, drama, poetry, and nonfiction by authors such as Shakespeare, Gabriel García Márquez, Haruki Murakami, Elizabeth Cohen, and others who pursue the both the qualitative and quantitative origins of conspiracy, and write three essays: 

  • (1) an analysis of a conspiracy in literature, 
  • (2) an essay comparing literary and non-literary representations conspiracy, 
  • (3) a researched essay exploring the genesis and development of one theory.

Together, we will explore the impact, rhetorical nature and construction of conspiracies, and the dark worlds of secrets and lies that fuel them.

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The Search for Extraterrestrial Life in Fiction and Reality

Malone-France, Derek

Human beings have always speculated about the possibility of life existing elsewhere in the cosmos, beyond the earth. In the ancient world, extraterrestrial life was typically conceived in supernaturalterms, with angels and other quasi-divine (or demonic) beings described as inhabiting invisible and ethereal dimensions existing in parallel with our own, earthly reality. But even among the ancients, some thinkers looked to the sky and pondered whether any of the celestial bodies they saw there might, in fact, be “other earths” with their own populations of intelligent beings living lives similar to our own.

With the advent of modern astronomy, and the discovery that the physical space surrounding the earth contains a vast multitude of other worlds indeed like ours, at least in some fundamental ways, speculation about the existence and nature of extraterrestrial forms of life shifted from being a merely theoretical question for philosophers and theologians to being a practical and observationally testable hypothesis in the physical and biological sciences.

Today, rapid technological advances are allowing us to view, explore, and analyze an ever-expanding portion of the cosmos beyond our own solar system. The early results indicate the likely existence of an enormous number of ‘earth-like’ planets that exist within ‘Goldilocks zones’ of habitability (not too hot, not too cold), around stars that have characteristics similar to our sun. And we are also discovering that ‘habitable environments’ can exist on planets and moons—including even a few within our own solar system—that are well outside of their stars’ Goldilocks zones, thereby dramatically expanding the range of habitability across our galaxy and beyond. In other words, the current evidence suggests a high probability that the sorts of processes that led to the emergence of life on earth some 4 billion years ago have also occurred elsewhere. It, therefore, seems increasingly likely that we—the human and other living inhabitants of earth—are not alone in the universe.

Whether or not any other life forms that exist out there, among the stars, have yet reached the stage of intelligent consciousness, the philosophical, religious, and cultural implications of discovering extraterrestrial life are profound. Even if we were to find only primitive microbial life somewhere outside of our solar system, it would require a fundamental rethinking of traditional understandings of humanity and our place in the universe. While science fiction writers have been exploring these implications for well over a hundred years, serious scholarly attention to the spiritual, moral, psychological, and societal issues involved has only recently begun to develop.

The name for the newly emerging, interdisciplinary field that includes both those who are searching for extraterrestrial life and those who are thinking about the potential consequences of this search for human existence is ‘astrobiology’. And precisely because it is such a new and wide-open interdisciplinary field—where philosophers, theologians, historians, political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, and artists are speaking to physicists, biologists, computer scientists, engineers, and astronomers—it represents a perfect intellectual forum in which to explore the diverse ways in which academic writers pursue their research and attempt to make it understandable and persuasive to others.

In this course, will pursue these objectives through a series of written, oral, and video projects that will draw upon both the factual history of the development of concepts of ETL and the scientific and technological advances that have led to our present understanding of the universe and the imaginative explorations of the possibilities of ETL that have defined so much of the content of what we today call “science fiction”.

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Memorials, Museums, and Monuments: Writing the Past through Place and Space

Mantler, Gordon

The National Museum of African American History and Culture just opened on the Mall – the culmination of more than one hundred years of advocacy for such an institution. But while the museum has enjoyed tremendous attention in its opening months, many other museums, memorials, and monuments already here in Washington have commemorated and narrated the American story, or stories, of race for generations. From the African American Civil War memorial to the National Museum of the American Indian, public spaces throughout the city depict the nation’s often tortured relationship with race. Visitors of such spaces generally consider them reliable vehicles for telling that history. But how historically reliable are such public history accounts? What sorts of pressures do these institutions face in relating their interpretations? And, perhaps most importantly for a writing course, are there explicit rhetorical features that distinguish academic history and argument from popular ones found in museums, memorials, and monuments? In this class, students will analyze these carefully crafted, sometimes controversial places and spaces around Washington and how they narrate race – including their physical locations, their visual symbolism, and written interpretations. In the process, you will be asked to write your own argument-driven narratives, sharpening not just your ability to convey your thoughts on paper but also bolstering an array of academic skills, such as critical reading, argument development, substantive revision, and primary source analysis.

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Wakanda Forever: Africans and African Americans - Reaching Across the Diasporic Divide

Marcus, Robin
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

This course will examine the separation, estrangement and reconciliation of Americans who descended from stolen and subsequently enslaved Africans and West Coast Africans who came to America under their own volition in the 20th century.

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Translation as Transfer & Transformation: (Re)Looking at Language

Martinez, Marcos
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

Language matters. Correspondents, diplomats, and heads of state serve as interlocutors—often bridging ideas or policies across languages. Filmmakers contend with issues of dubbing, subtitling, adaptations, and remakes. Scientists engaged in multinational research have to contend with the nuances woven into digital chat. Machine translation software only goes so far without human interaction. How can the practice of translation (the transfer of meaning from one language to another “mode”) help shape our understanding of communication? How can our understanding of “code-switching” provide fresh insights into the prism of our unique identities?
As we investigate our relationships with literacy, we will also explore issues of identity, migration, globalism, and transnationalism. Readings include excerpts from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands / La Frontera, Jonathan Stalling’s Yingelishi, and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Assignments will include a literacy essay; a group digital soundscape project translating a Washington, DC neighborhood into an audio narrative; and a research project, including an option for translating a literary work and analyzing your process.
Proficiency in a foreign language is NOT required for this course. Instead, we will unbind our ideas of literacy and revel in the positive discomfort of confronting tongues in unfamiliar ways. Throughout the semester, we will focus on the idea of language itself (textual, as well as images and sounds in multimodal compositions). We will consider the concept of “translation” from three perspectives:
the processes of transfer from idea to text (written, audio, and visual texts),
critical analysis of discourse communities to glean understanding of lexis and intercommunication, and
transformation through the act of translation (across languages, and across genres).

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Imagining the Future: Genetics in Popular Culture

McReynolds, Leigha

From the mainstream news media to Hollywood, our obsession with genetics suggests that some of our strongest fears surround the human ability to manipulate DNA. Our cultural preoccupation with this issue is rooted in the birth of eugenics at the end of the nineteenth century. Since then, scientific progress has led us to contemplate the potentially threatening consequences of technologies from cloning to gene therapy. Imagining dystopic futures where genes determine one’s destiny or where expensive procedures create a genetic underclass is far more common than depictions of progressive futures where a democratic society is enhanced by access to lifesaving therapies. In this class we will explore where these fears come from; what, exactly, we are so afraid of; and how our fears about and the promises of genetic research and technology are represented and manipulated.
We will begin the class by performing cultural analyses of popular culture artifacts that center around or draw on genetic science. We will consider the purpose of these artifacts — why do they use genetics and what message are they presenting to the audience? — as well as the developments in science and technology that have enabled these representations. Then you will research in-depth an aspect of genetics that is of particular interest to you; you will trace its development through history and science as well as various popular media such as comics or cinema culminating in a review essay. We will end the semester with a final project in which you present an original contribution on the ways that culture is shaped by and in turn shapes advances in genetics.

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Music as a Reaction to Societal Ills and as a Source of Community

Miller, Bruce

From homemade banjo-like stringed instruments employed by rural Malawians, Florida musician Moses Williams fashioning a one-stringed instrument out of a door, to Nigerian Afro beat pioneer Fela Kuti’s slogan that “music is a weapon”, various types of sound art have been used to stare down poverty, radicalize groups of people into a movement for social justice, or simply allow us all to recognize something about where we come from. In this course, we will survey writing, performance, video, documentary, and no doubt some deep listening. Along the way, we’ll take on everything from urban free jazz, rural folk and the complexities inherent in semi-known folk-pop hybrids from Mauritania to Thailand. We’ll not only learn of these styles, but we’ll also be offered a chance to study artists’ arguments rhetorically.
We will, over the course of the semester, craft three major papers that can trace anything from origins of a particular musical form and how it was shaped by environment to musical statements, both cultural and political, to various folk traditions, and how they are either preserved or threatened. There may also be a chance to write short reviews or other commentary on the importance of an artist or style. 

We will also engage in the crafting of complex thesis statements and dig deeper into source types as well as methods as we add to an ongoing scholarly conversation that merges art, culture, social justice, and politics into well-supported, thoughtfully organized, original work. Instead of echoing existing scholarship, our concerns come with re-examining it, questioning it, and therefore adding to it. Doing this allows us to analyze rhetorical situations, consider scholarship critically, and ultimately arrive at more polished writing. 

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Playing at Life

Mullen, Mark
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

In a variety of professional contexts, simulation is employed as a powerful learning and training tool.  The military uses elaborate war-games to simulate physical combat while also employing sophisticated tactical simulations to train military planners.  Airline pilots routinely train for unexpected and potentially disastrous scenarios in simulators that replicate the cockpit and behavior of a chosen aircraft down to the last detail.  Climate scientists construct elaborate computer models of weather patterns.  Many videogames features extremely realistic simulations of environments, weapons, social and political systems, and even human interactions.  
At its core, however, simulation is simply the ability to model a system, and there are many ways to do that, many of which don’t involve high tech digital tools.  This class will focus initially on board games, which during the last decade have experienced a major resurgence in popularity.  Many of these games are complex simulations of everything from the spread of disease pathogens to the insurgency in Afghanistan; soldier bonds during WWI to the courtship rituals in Jane Austen’s novels.  We will be playing, analyzing, critiquing, and writing about many of these games.  
Above all, however, we will be using our engagement with simulation board games to develop your writing skills.  We will, first of all, be exploring the ways in which learning about writing is in fact a complex simulation activity and—perhaps—the ways in which education itself can productively be regarded as a game.  By asking you to engage with new modes of writing and analysis, this class will develop your writing, research, and critical thinking skills.

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Useful, Pretty Things: Hobbycraft, Handwork, and Making Stuff in the United States

Myers, Danika
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

The 21st Century faces a labor crisis in the form of increased automation of jobs across sectors, from manufacturing to service--yet it’s also seen a resurgence of interest in craft traditions from sewing & knitting to woodworking & blacksmithing. Intriguingly, new media and technology have been central to the revival of many of these skills and practices. Craft-specific social networks like Ravelry help knitters connect and innovate; platforms like Reddit and YouTube provide resources for those interested in learning old skills and sharing new techniques; technologies like 3D printing challenge old definitions that saw “hand-crafted” as indicative of one-of-a-kind artistry while “manufactured” necessarily meant assembly lines and uniform mass production. 
What has it historically meant to make something “by hand,” and what does it mean now? 
How is a hand-crafted item with use-value -- a quilt someone’s grandmother made a hundred years ago, a hand-turned wooden bowl bought at a craft fair, a garment someone sews for themself -- meaningful to an individual, a culture, an era? When does making things by hand become a political statement? When does it become art?
Over the course of the semester you will first familiarize yourself with these and other questions that have been posed by gender, cultural & rhetorical scholars about the role making things by hand continues to have in the formation of American identity and experience, about particularly American conceptions of craft & handmaking, and about complex ways in which handmade things mean. You will then develop your own original research project that takes a closer look at some aspect of handmaking in the US.
Assignments in this class will include a critical analysis of a handmade object, an annotated bibliography, and a final research project.

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Writing Black Resistance in the United States, 1829-2018

Pears, Sean
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

Black resistance writing is foundational to the canon of American rhetoric. The Af Am tradition—from Frederick Douglass to Toni Morrison—offers some of the nation’s most powerful and world-historically significant writers and rhetoricians. Examining the tradition of black resistance writing also allows an exploration of some of the most fundamental questions about American citizenship, including what rights are granted in a democracy, what it means to be free, and what role and responsibility local, state, and federal governments have in ensuring those rights and freedoms. Whether writing themselves into subject-hood before emancipation, exposing the inequalities and injustices that followed, or imagining a more utopic future, African American writers have for the past two hundred years helped define the strengths and limitations of persuasive and researched writing. 
The course will move roughly chronologically through the history of African American resistance writing, beginning with David Walker’s An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829). We will give close attention to Frederick Douglass, as well as abolitionist poet Frances Harper, anti-lynching journalist Ida B. Wells, and radical intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois. The second half of the course will move through the 20th century into the contemporary moment, with attention to black resistance writing as part of proletarian movements in the United States, as well as the construction of a global black identity. This will include essays and brief fictional excerpts from Du Bois, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Alice Childress, Michelle Alexander, Saidiya Hartman, Simone White, and others. Assignments will involve situating critical readings of the texts historically, thinking critically about genre, and crafting arguments about the value of black writing in the American tradition.
The Demagogue in American Politics
Pliskin, Richard
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.
In his history of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides recounts a debate in the Athenian Assembly over the fate of the rebellious citizens of Mytilene. The upstart politician Cleon, whom Thucydides describes as “the most violent man at Athens, and at that time by far the most powerful with the commons,” argued for the slaughter of the men and the enslavement of the women and children. Cleon was a venal demagogue whom the comic playwright Aristophanes described as a new type of political figure, a crass outsider who rose not from the landed aristocracy but from the commercial class. Aristotle said he was “the first to shout during a speech in the Assembly [and to] use abusive language while addressing the people …”
Sound familiar? American political history is pockmarked by the swaggering boor who commandeers the ship of state, runs it aground, and leaves wreckage in his wake. In politics, think Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace; in literature, Willie Stark and Buzz Windrip; in crime fiction and film, Sonny Corleone.
How about Donald Trump? A brash political outsider from the commercial class, Trump has been charged by critics with having shattered the norms of both politics and governance by personalizing political and policy differences in particularly nasty fashion. But as we know from Thucydides, Aristophanes and Aristotle, he’s not only normal; he’s an archetype of democracy as old as the polis.
What makes a demagogue? How does he seize and retain power? What is the source of his appeal? What ideological principles does he espouse? Does he believe anything he says? What does he achieve, build or destroy? What mark does he leave? And why does he always seem to be a he and never a she?
To help answer these and other questions, we will read speeches, novels and plays and watch a few good movies. Assignments will include essays of varying lengths that seek to deepen our understanding of the current moment by analyzing and understanding the past. And we will learn to write clearly, coherently, persuasively and with respect for the conventions of grammar, usage and mechanics.

Framing the Visual World of Shakespeare

Pollack, Rachel
NOTE: Friday classes meet at the Folger Shakespeare Library. See department for details.

“Such was the very armour he had on.” “For the apparel oft proclaims the man.” “I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another.” These three memorable quotations are examples of the importance of appearances in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. Horatio recognizes the king’s ghost by the armor he has on. Polonius gives his son Laertes fatherly advice on how to dress properly during his journey to France. Hamlet admonishes Ophelia for changing her face with cosmetics. Whether it was through armor, flashy clothing or make-up, this world of appearances described by Shakespeare was full of common cultural references which would have been easily understood by a contemporary audience in Shakespeare’s day. The visual world of art and culture in the Shakespearean Age was as rich and complex as Shakespeare’s own poetry and prose.

In this course, we will explore the visual arts created during the Shakespearean Age. From a rich array of mediums spanning Elizabethan and early Jacobean portraiture, book illustrations, tapestries, sculpture, clothing, jewelry, and armor, we will visually reconstruct the world that inspired Shakespeare’s oeuvre. During the first half of the semester, the class will read Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum. Each student will then select an art object from Shakespeare’s time and write an additional chapter (~8-10 pages) to add to this book. During the latter half of the semester, students then will design in groups of four or five a museum exhibition based on a Shakespearean theme. Each student will select two objects to include in his or her group exhibition and will write a catalogue entry for each object (~2-3 pages each). Finally, each student will individually write an essay (~10 pages) on a topic related to the theme of his or her group exhibition.

Class will frequently meet on Fridays at the National Gallery of Art, Folger Shakespeare Library, and other museums and art collections throughout the Washington Metropolitan area. These field trips are intended to enhance the students’ understanding of the visual arts that shaped Shakespeare’s world.

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Dutch Painting at the National Gallery of Art

Pollack, Rachel
NOTE: Friday classes meet at the National Gallery of Art. See department for details.

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 pages 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.

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Writing Lives: Composing Consciousness and Service Learning

Presser, Pamela
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; classroom and online instruction. This is a service learning course, for more information see http://serve.gwu.edu/information-students.

To what extent is your sense of self shaped by your culture, circumstances and location? How does where you are living and working influence what you dream? Does performing service, and writing about your experiences, change your ideas about who you are?

Such questions fall within the domain of consciousness studies, an interdisciplinary field which will be the subject of this class. Because consciousness studies in its present incarnation is a new and largely uncharted field, most questions its scholars are asking remain unanswered. This course, then, will be best suited for curious students eager to explore inner and outer space. Indeed, the course requires a willingness to leave the GWU bubble, since students will be required to perform 20 hours of community service off campus, with a non-profit organization.

Assignments may include, but will not be limited to, collaborative projects, an annotated bibliography, a journal in which you engage in meta-cognitive writing, and a final paper combining research on service and consciousness. This is a hybrid class, and will include a significant amount of on-line instruction and discussion. Class texts will be drawn from several genres and will include academic essays, autobiographies, and graphic narratives.

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Embodied Inequality: Rhetoric of Race and Racism

Quave, Kylie
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

Scientific writing about human variation has created and upheld racialized inequality for centuries. This has occurred through reification of biological race categories; however, while race is not biologically identifiable, the impacts of racism do become biological. In this course, we will critically read and write on the histories and futures of race and racism through natural and social sciences. In the first half of the semester we will read and interpret scientific studies on human biocultural variation, the history of scientific racism, and the misuse/misinterpretation of genetic research. The second half of the course examines the biological impacts of racism. Readings from biology, public health, and anthropology will model scientific research design and discourse. Assignments include responses to readings and peer writing, original research writing, collaborative and independent revision, and graphical display of information (tables, charts, and infographics). Students will rhetorically evaluate scientific arguments and respond to them in socially relevant ways.
Scientific writing about race and racism in particular helps us understand the roots of the most urgent health issues facing much of the world today. This course--with its biocultural approach to a complex topic—offers students the opportunity to integrate and compare various disciplinary perspectives and to critically evaluate how writing those disciplines has created social inequality. In turn, by conducting one's own research and crafting text and graphics, students will personally engage in public science communication. Students will become critical consumers and producers of writing on human variation, race, and racism.
Writing Global Women's Lives
Riedner, Rachel
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 Veiland other short readings, 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 graded 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. 

Songs & Script: Critical Writing About Music

Riley, Matthew

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. Every assignment will involve research, analysis, argument, and formal expression.

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Darwin’s Legacy:  Science, Religion, and the Politics of American Education

Schell, Heather
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting.

When Darwin’s transformative On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, people in England were deeply shaken, in part because it challenged literalist interpretations of the Bible; it took about forty years for the English to find a way to reconcile their religious beliefs and evolutionary theory.  Today, evolutionary theory is vital to practical and theoretical work in biological sciences, and yet…   on our side of the Atlantic, the reconciliation of religion and evolutionary science never.  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, and public schools and courts of law remain the primary battlegrounds.  How can we understand our country’s unresolved unhappiness with the idea of natural selection?   Why makes this idea so provocative?  Is this really a battle about science, or are other factors involved?  Do the opponents in this battle even agree on what they are fighting about?  And what effects does the fallout have on the rest of us, especially students?  To answer these question, we’ll start with a grounding in the basic theory of natural selection, as well as other forms of evolution.  We will look at the players involved, from scientists, teachers, students, and religious figures to politicians, policy wonks, and even some colorful, opinionated crackpots.  Examining their own words, we will use techniques of rhetoric analysis to examine the ways in which these people understand the idea of natural selection.  We’ll evaluate how they frame themselves as authorities, appeal to their audiences, produce evidence, and address alternate perspectives.  Along the way, you’ll learn to apply these same techniques to your own writing.  Later, you’ll research educational approaches that have been explored already, as well as expert advice and best practices; you’ll use that to produce a policy brief designed to improve evolution education in America’s public schools.

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Writing at Work: Difference, Equity, & Justice in Business and Industry Contexts

Shelton, Cecilia
As you begin your studies at GWU you may be grappling with your place in the academic world--but, paradoxically, most of you are here to prepare for a workplace that is not "The University". In this section of UW1020, we'll ask how we can apply the ideals of a GWU education to communicating in the systems and institutions you'll eventually enter as a worker. How can we compose just and equitable workplaces? Where can we intervene to avoid replicating systemic oppression? We will use writing as a tool to interrogate corporate culture and work toward valuing inclusion and difference.
This course focuses on the writing and communication that take place in professional and industry settings.  The course will start with case-study style writing projects in which students can expect to examine, analyze and compose common genres associated with business and technical communication. The second half of the course will explore collaborative and service-oriented project/content management to introduce students to the work habits, tools, technologies, and processes that are common to contemporary work contexts.  Framing these central objectives will be an emphasis on resisting the accepted notion that business and technical communication is neutral and objective both in its composition and in its impact.
Instead we will expose the influence of biases--particularly those which inhibit justice, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Student writing will be informed by academic arguments that help them consider motivations and methods for critical interventions that disrupt the status quo in technical and professional communication. Our most useful strategy for thinking critically about writing for business and industry will be a rhetorical approach to communication. We will think about how rhetorical situations, alongside business logic, genre conventions, and design principles shape the ways that we compose to reach particular audiences effectively and ethically. 

Happily Ever After?: Writing about Romantic Comedies

Smith, Caroline

Girl meets boy. It’s the simple plot line of the incredibly popular genre known as the romantic comedy. In this course, we will explore a select group of contemporary, American romantic comedies and associated readings, examining how these seemingly innocuous films actually contain strong messaging – particularly about gender, race, sexuality, and class.

We will watch and discuss romantic comedies, and we will read and write about them. These films will provide us with a clear example of the concept of genre and prepare us as we read different genres. We will discuss how audiences have different expectations depending on genre (for instance, we probably don’t want to see a protagonist die at the end of a rom com) and how various genres require different “writerly” expectations (for instance, when reading a scholarly article about a film, the writer would probably not use slang). These discussions about genre will help inform our own critical reading, researching, and writing strategies that we will practice throughout the semester. Students will produce writing assignments in a variety of genres, including an independent research project on the topic of their choice. The skills we will work on in this introductory course will prepare students for other academic challenges throughout the remainder of their college career.

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Democratizing Science: Science Writing and Communication in the 21st Century

Stearns, Frank

In November 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the world by announcing that he had used the new CRISPR-Cas9 technology to edit the germline of twins Lulu and Nana thus making them resistant to HIV. Not only did he bypass traditional ethics boards, but he side stepped communicating his work in a peer reviewed publication. Instead, he announced his results in a hastily assembled press conference. This decision only served to increase confusion around a scientific technique already fraught with ethical concerns and public controversy.

Jiankui’s case speaks to the challenges of communicating science. In this course, we will read texts, such as scientific papers and news articles, written about controversial scientific topics such as biotechnology, vaccine hesitancy, and evolution in order to examine how science writers deploy different rhetorical strategies based on context and audience. Not only will we compare how various news outlets might cover a topic such as gene editing, but we will also read competing scientists’ perspectives on such topics. The aim is to equip students with the ability to not only separate fact from fiction when forming opinions but also to empower them to effectively employ strategies that will convey their opinions in a compelling way, persuading a given audience while respecting the objectivity and neutrality that science prides itself on. Students will also practice scientific writing through themed writing assignments directed at different audiences and with different goals. Such writing assignments may include press releases, news coverage, white papers, and a research project which focuses on the issue of their choice related to the course theme. These writing assignments will emphasize the fundamentals of science – basic logic combined with skeptical and critical evaluation of evidence – important skills for professional scientists and informed citizens.

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Writing Wellness: Issues in Health and Medicine

Strong, JJ.

From the national debate on healthcare reform, to technological advancements in medicine, to the seemingly straightforward but infinitely complex patient-doctor relationship . . . ethical dilemmas abound in the health field. This course will provide students with hands-on, workshop-intensive guidance on the writing process by way of an investigation into the questions that have shaped and are shaping the future of wellness and medicine in America and throughout the world. We’ll begin by examining pertinent health-related issues in our own community and widen our scope as the semester progresses to consider the many ways our own and others’ health is protected and threatened. Doing so will allow us to develop the vitally interconnected skills of writing, critical thinking, and ethical inquiry.

Human wellness incorporates a broad range of issues and topics—there are few, if any, serious issues that are not in some way entangled with the health and well-being of those affected—and this wide scope will allow students a significant amount of freedom in what they choose to think and write about. Students will be encouraged, within the scope of the course’s theme, to pursue their own interests and curiosities. Consider the possibilities: the ethics of gene manipulation, the dynamics of medicine in war, representation of illness and/or medicine in art, the intersection of health and environmental ethics, the viability of alternative medicine.  Drawing from both popular and scholarly sources, we’ll read some of the best health-related writing out there—Atul Gawande, Oliver Sacks, Patricia Leigh Brown, Dennis Raphael—in an effort to both broaden our own perspectives on key dilemmas and to gain a reliable understanding of what successful writing in this realm looks like. The semester culminates in a research-intensive writing project that examines some pressing health issue of the student’s choosing.

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Winter Is Coming? Climate Change in American Popular Culture

Svoboda, Michael

Climate change is not coming; it has already arrived. Weather patterns are shifting; the destructive power of storms is increasing; and sea levels are slowly but inexorably rising as Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets melt. Climate change has also become a cultural force—as writers, artists, and filmmakers try to grasp the breadth, depth, and length of anthropogenic global warming. George Martin, author of the books behind HBO’s Game of Thrones, acknowledged that the scope and scale of climate change was on his mind when he conjured his song of fire and ice. 
In this class we will explore how our personal understandings and experiences of climate change are influenced by the re-presentations of climate change in popular culture. To do this, we will examine how we perceive and manage risk, how stories shape our thinking, and how our most widely shared stories have been shaped by history and culture. In the process, we will also examine the different styles of writing associated with these perspectives and practices.
Whatever discipline you plan to pursue at GW, you will face the challenges of living in a changing climate. Prepare for these challenges with the critical thinking, creative research, and reflective writing you will practice in this section of UW 1020.

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Fake News and Ironic Views: Satire as Social Critique

Tomlinson, B.

While satire has a long history of exposing social/political excess and human folly, it seems especially relevant in our current cultural moment. From Last Week Tonight and The Daily Show to Black Mirror to Sasha Baron Cohen’s Who is America?, satire is a potent rhetorical tool for illuminating the absurdities of extremist views, technological trends, 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 form of social criticism. 
This course will include assignments such as a self-written and performed satire that critiques a relevant current issue, a critical reading and collaborative bibliography of a satirical film, and a capstone research project which will give students a chance to explore in depth a particular example of satire in contemporary culture. In all, this course will make the larger points that the language of satire and irony is the language of our culture and that laughter and seriousness are not mutually exclusive.

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Race, Gender, & GW History

Troutman, Phillip
In this course, you will take on the role of GW historian and museum curator. You’ll conduct original archival research, craft an interpretative essay, and curate exhibit materials for a public audience. As GW approaches its 2021 bicentennial, we have a lot of questions: How did slavery shape the original Columbian College and its response to the Civil War? What drove the admission of its first female undergraduates (and some African American law students) in the 1890s? How did we become the George Washington University and the “Colonials” in the early 20thcentury? How did women shape campus culture and intellectual life in the 1920s “flapper” era? And how did World War Two’s boost in female undergraduates change the campus again? What was GW’s relationship to Foggy Bottom’s African American community as GW expanded? Who pushed for GW to desegregate, and why did President Marvin resist it for so long? When and how did GW become a “northern” school, becoming attractive to larger numbers of Jewish students from New York and New Jersey? What was the experience of early African American students in the 1950s-70s? How did students organize around and respond to feminist issues in the 1960s-70s? How did the AIDS crisis and gay rights activism change the campus in the 1970s-80s? In short, how have the racial and gendered identity of GW students changed over the decades—in classrooms, student organizations, cultural life, social movements, and sports? Our archives hold the full run of The Hatchet and The Cherry Tree, student literary journals (including the scandalousGhost), records of student organizations like the Enosinian Society, Columbian Women, Progressive Student Union, Black Student Union, and GW Pride, plus scrapbooks, photographs, and ephemera donated by alumni over the years. First, you’ll research and write about these materials, then, with support from the director of the GW Museum, you’ll curate your findings, interpreting them for a public audience at the GW Museum’s bicentennial exhibit in 2021.

Real Minds, Real Bodies: Intersectionality and Social Justice

Wilkerson, Abby

From Disney villains, blind superheroes, and YA romances with cancer storylines, to sports injuries and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for disabled students, we see social dynamics of disability. According to the philosopher Susan Wendell, “the oppression of disabled people is the oppression of everyone’s real bodies”—and, we should add, our minds and emotions. If you care about social justice, this class will interest you, even if you have never thought much about disability before. What do disability perspectives reveal about what is considered normal and why “normalcy” seems to matter so much? What do they reveal about the effects of labeling and stigmatizing people’s identities? How does disability intersect with race, sexual identity, socioeconomic class, and gender? 
And what do the words “out and proud” mean to you? For some disabled activists identifying as “crip,” these words convey resistance to demands for conformity. Some “crip” activists, writers, and artists are LGBTQAI+ activists identifying as “queer,” or inspired by queer activism and culture. Together we’ll explore how the language we use to talk about disability and the stories we tell might shift perspectives. For the major research project, students collaborate, interviewing people you know and composing narratives, then putting these stories in conversation with published scholarship in order to highlight, understand, and critique social dynamics of disability.

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Law as a Force for Social Change

Wolfe, Zachary
This course uses the theme of law and its role in progressive social movements to introduce students to university-level research and writing.  Understanding that law is an important means by which we structure social relations consistent with shared values, this course will examine historical and contemporary social movements that have used the language of rights and turned to legal systems for solutions.  We will explore how advocates for social change—in the streets, in courtrooms, and in academic journals—have challenged and redefined foundational concepts, invoking history and law in order to challenge the status quo.  Throughout all of this, we consider how to evaluate arguments, what makes for effective advocacy, and the ways in which thoughtful analysis contributes to our understanding of contentious social issues.
Each student’s own research and reflection will form a major part of this course, particularly in the final weeks.  This course culminates in a research paper on a subject for which advocates today employ law to advance their cause.  Within those general parameters, the specific topic is selected by each student, so this course will reflect intense research on a variety of subjects.  While finalizing the research paper, each student will contribute to the others’ understanding of their respective topics through participation in an in-class conference.

Minding the Body: Writing in the Medical Humanities

Zink, Christine
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; in addition to classroom instruction, students are required to participate in course activities for 50 minutes every week in lieu of a Friday class meeting. 

Check the pulse. Record the numbers. Diagnose, close the chart, and move on. The work of medicine often concentrates on clinical action, but the world of the medical humanities has drawn our attention closer to the human inhabiting the body at study. How we reckon with life, death, and everything in between invites in equal parts science and art; to divorce the two is to create a false dichotomy that works against real-life standards of care.

Involving disciplines as wide-ranging as visual art and film, philosophy and bioethics, the social sciences, law, literature, and technology, the interdisciplinary field of the medical humanities recognizes that with each big innovation in health sciences come new critical questions about what it means to be human. Narrative science, a division in the field, increasingly examines the rhetoric of those stories in connection to scientific knowledge, not just as explanation but as active argument towards discovery. Research, critical listening and analysis, evaluating and interpreting evidence, coming to new understandings: the very talents needed for innovative practices in health and medicine are, in fact, present values shared with the academic writer. Rafael Campo, a physician and a poet himself, argues that “the work of doctors will always necessarily take place at the intersection of science and language.” Projects for this course, then, focus on that intersection, first studying texts from writers who bring together diverse perspectives on medicine and science and then creating our own research that argues for new, collaborative understandings of body and mind.

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