Fall UW Course Descriptions


Registration Transaction Forms (RTFs)

Please note that all Fall and Spring UW1020 sections are capped at 17 students and that this cap cannot be exceeded for any reason. UW instructors cannot sign RTF forms to add students to a section. The only way to add a section of UW1020 is through the GWeb system. If a section is full, you should either check GWeb frequently for open seats, select a different section, or plan to take UW the following semester.

Fall 2024


UW 1020 Courses:

Abbas, Nasreen - The Othering of Muslims: Contemporary Diasporic Literature

Can a person be Middle Eastern or is Middle Eastern purely a geographic entity? The texts we will explore together will allow us to investigate these questions and understand the perspectives from this diverse region. You might think that the authors of our assigned texts are "Middle Eastern" because they are (a) Muslim and (b) have their roots in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Is that a fact or just an assumption? Using Edward Said's definition of Orientalism, we will learn that the term "Middle East" is just a catch-all phrase to talk about geographical areas or people that some living in the West are unfamiliar with. Through our texts we will explore burning topics such as “what is a migrant?” Is a migrant and an immigrant the same? Is there a difference between a migrant and a refugee? What kind of crises lead to people becoming migrants or refugees? You will also discover the intersectionality between this course and what you learn in your other courses, such as international affairs, comparative politics, psychology, history, economics and more.

The texts you will read to “enlighten” you on the above questions are written by diasporic writers living in the West, often labeled as “Re-orientalists,” as they write in English about people in or from their birth countries. As we read and discuss each text, your challenge will be:

  • Are these writers sharing their lived experiences?
  • Are they writing with animosity against their country of origin and its people?
  • How are they depicting what it is to be a Muslim?
  • Are all Muslims easily radicalized?
  • Is the label Good Muslim vs Bad Muslim viable?
Antohin, Alexandra Sellassie  - Voice and Agency in Social Impact Writing

For a non-profit organization, illustrating how its activities offer positive effects for individuals and communities – its “impact” – is vital for successfully demonstrating its mission to a variety of audiences, such as beneficiaries, partners, and donors. For cultural and experiential programming such as podcasts, performances and exhibitions, impact can be difficult to measure quantitatively. For this reason, communication tools such as the testimonial are a popular way to showcase how people value transformational experiences, skills, and knowledge in ways that are singular to the individual and collectively relevant and relatable. This practice echoes the “sound bite”, a marketing mainstay in the business world that follows similar reasoning: telling the stories of personal connection is an invitation for the public to join and create their own experience of value. As impact storytelling grows, equal attention to the rights and agency of those sharing the stories is pivotal. This course will draw from key debates in anthropology, history, linguistics, cultural studies and folklore that details the foundational principles that have contributed to ethical practices of representation in academic and applied scholarship in the past 30 years. The course will also provide an orientation to the research processes and methods (with a focus on ethnography and oral history interviewing) that shape and guide how curators, editors, journalists and others create the conditions for shared authorship. The course will demonstrate how research affects the way stories are written, edited, and presented, which in turn can influence equitable power dynamics in public-facing outputs and impact narratives. Writing assignments will include a diversity of formats, sectors and audiences, from development and marketing (press releases, donor appeals, pitch decks), non-profit and business (concept notes, executive summaries), as well as profiles and vignettes for web copy and podcast scripts.

Art, Andrew - Writing Through the Self

When is it okay to use “I” in a paper? Can personal experience appear in a research essay? You’ve no doubt been told to avoid using certain personal pronouns, but in this course, we will examine and unpack the assumptions behind some of these rules. Together, we will explore aspects of personal writing and identify where they appear and when they can be useful. In turn, we will look at our own subjectivity as an energizing force for writing.

We will inquire into these aspects by examining the writing of others (including peers). Our common texts for discussion will be authored by individuals from a variety of backgrounds and fields: poets, critical theorists, filmmakers, historians, autoethnographers, personal essayists, journalists, scientists, and philosophers. In each case, we will consider the presence or the absence of the author, how they establish authority and trust, their style and use of form, and the roles that subjectivity and objectivity play in supporting an argument.

To practice bringing yourself to the conversation, you will have the opportunity to contribute to new knowledge by writing in different genres. These major projects will ask you to explore questions concerning the ethics of subjectivity in the processes of writing and research, as well as the dimensions of personal writing most interesting to you.

Carter, Katharine - Critical Responses: Writing the Implications about Racism and System Inequity

From federal and state laws to school and workforce rules and codes of conduct, systems have historically placed barriers to people’s freedoms and access to opportunities on the basis of race.

Additionally, these institutionalized drivers of inequity are often embedded into society’s culture, where they are far more subtle but equally as unjust. Scholars have used critical responses to identify and address instances of these occurrences.

In this course students will learn the tenets of critical race theory, highlight examples of institutionalized racism in a wide variety of readings, and demonstrate applications of systemic inequity to real-life occurrences. Students will be tasked with reading a variety of sources, including legislative proposals, existing laws, opinion pieces, social media posts, historical texts, and media coverage of current events. Through each assigned reading, learners will explore the various ways that inequity is related to its messaging.

Students will use critical analysis to provide written responses to the readings that will communicate how the content of readings can have an impact on disadvantaged groups. The responses will examine the broader issues of systemic oppression and implicit bias beyond the primary message of the reading.

Counts, Benjamin - Conflict, Kayfabe, and Information Literacy

This course examines the idea of political conflict as performance art. Throughout the semester, students will use performance-based frameworks to examine political conflicts around the world, with an initial focus on the United States. Students will become familiar with jargon and narrative structures from professional wrestling and other storytelling genres as lenses to examine conflicts between celebrities, legislators, nation-states, and even ordinary people. Together, we will see how all conflicts operate at three levels: What is shown, what is hidden, and what goes unnoticed.

Along the way, students will read a variety of texts from political commentators, creative writers, and scholars. Students will learn how to spot the “inside baseball” played by media personalities, allowing them to differentiate between analysis and promotion, fact and narrative, and strategy and theater.

The course will include a comprehensive annotated bibliography, research paper, argumentative essay, and narrative essay. While the course will revolve around comparing and understanding conflicts both real and imagined, students will select conflicts from outside the assigned readings for their research. Students will take part in interdisciplinary conversation, critical thinking, and self-reflection. At every level, creative thinking and approaches will be key.

Daqqa, Hanan - “Not Another Home Movie”: How Do You Research When the Subject is Yourself?

Be prepared to change what you know about writing, and maybe even what you know about yourself. This course will give you the opportunity to make an impact powerfully and artfully through the telling of that family story, hidden in the attic. Give it the attention it needs, so it can connect you to yourself. As we connect, we gain control.

Telling your story, you will be wearing three hats: the journalist, the researcher, and the filmmaker.

As a journalist, you will learn how to take risks and dig deeper into yourself in order to tell a captivating and impactful story, and you will conduct an important interview.

As a researcher, you will learn how to formulate your own research question and how to let your question drive the journey. Your question focus will be on how to tell your story on film.

Finally, as a filmmaker, you will learn how to use framing, camera movements and sound to tell a story. Your film will be screened during the last week of class. A keepsake for generations to come.

Erfani, Kylie - “Your Silence Will Not Protect You”: Using Rhetoric to Refuse Injustice

Amid global climate crisis, ever-widening social inequality, war, and intensifying forms of exploitation, the democratic imperative to “speak your mind” seems altogether too feeble to stand up to the challenges ahead. Indeed, speaking out--by itself--is not a formula for saving the world; but if we follow the insight of the great poet and feminist philosopher Audre Lorde, we learn that speaking out about what pains and oppresses us is existentially, intellectually, and politically necessary. Yet we don’t give much thought to the forms of effective complaint.  

To be fair, complaint gets dismissed because it’s contraposed to real action; in other words, some people think that whiners aren’t doers. However, effective complaint is usually the first step to conflict resolution and social transformation. As a genre, complaining has a fascinating complex history that we can explore and excavate for contemporary ways of expressing discontent, challenging the status quo, and exploring new horizons of possibility. 

Together we will read some of history’s most effective complainers and analyze their rhetorical, logical, and formal appeals for justice, redress and recognition. Close reading and analysis exercises will aid students in identifying the techniques employed in well-crafted complaints, including evidence selection, counterarguments, and persuasive language. Additionally, we will learn to assess different audience types and adapt rhetorical strategies accordingly to enhance the effectiveness of our own complaints. By framing our scholarly projects in terms of developing legitimate complaints, students will be encouraged to think critically about social issues, consumer experiences, and other relevant contexts that spark complaints. This will foster a deeper understanding of the power of language and scholarship in shaping public opinion. Moreover, students will have their own opportunity to participate in that shaping by crafting their own formal research complaint about a social issue of their choosing.

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

Note: Some of these sections of UW 1020 will grant priority registration to students living in the Art + Design Living Learning Community. Departmental approval required to register.

Are images texts? Can images be “read?” What does it mean to “read” an image?

As individuals, we are confronted with, interpret, process and ignore a multitude of images every day. Via these images, visual narratives and arguments manifest across many spectrums, from business, advertising, and politics, to popular culture, art, and fashion, with 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 graphic novels, visual art (specifically the collections at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum) and iconic 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 blog critique, an analysis of a visual argument and an argumentative research essay — as well as short visual projects and contributions to an online class discussion forum.

Francois, Emma - Fashioning Thought: Writing with Style & Intent

“Fashion has to do with ideas,” Coco Chanel said, “the way we live, what is happening.” This course explores the fundamentals of writing by considering fashion. What can the principles of design teach us about our own writing and the writing we love? How can we fashion our writerly identities to produce meaningful texts engaging the world we live, dress, and write in? 

We’ll start the semester exploring fashion writing across genres by translating a scholarly essay into an article for a popular media platform. As we write, we’ll experiment with skills from the designer’s toolkit (like social brainstorming, vision boards, and sketches) to disrupt and examine our own writing processes. Other major assignments include a “collage annotated bibliography” and a class field trip to a museum in D.C. to explore how writing, in conjunction with other mediums, exists beyond the page. Drawing on this experience and research conducted throughout the semester, we’ll write an 8-10 page object essay to discern—and communicate—how one sartorial text can change and reflect the world.

Friedman, Sandie - The New Vanguard: Women Writing Radical Fiction

A girl tosses her friend’s beloved doll through a grate and into a cellar, where it can’t be retrieved. A wife’s head rolls off her body when her husband unties the ribbon around her neck. A young artist rides her motorcycle at record-breaking speeds—until she crashes.

With these snippets of plot, we glimpse fictional worlds created by 21st century women. Critic Parul Sehgal observed that: “The books steering literature in new directions — to new forms, new concerns — almost invariably have a woman at the helm, an Elena Ferrante, a Rachel Cusk, a Zadie Smith.” How can fiction, in Sehgal’s words, “suggest and embody unexplored possibilities in form, feeling and knowledge”? How do women “invent a language for their lives” in the 21st century (Sehgal)? In this class, we take as our starting point “The New Vanguard,” a collection of 15 works of fiction, assembled by three New York Times literary critics. The list ranges from Allison Bechdel’s The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For to Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Our project in this class is to develop our own writing skills by studying the work of radical fiction writers. Using a feminist lens, we consider what makes these works innovative—at the sentence level and through the arc of a whole narrative. We will read as writers, considering how groundbreaking fiction might inform—or even transform—our work as critics and academic writers. As the medium for developing our ideas, we will study and practice writing essays—a genre that blends personal experience, literary analysis, and research.

Gamber, Cayo- Legacies of the Holocaust

Every UW 1020 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.

Grace, Emily - Writing (as) Women

“I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue, my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.” This statement from Gloria Anzaldúa in “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” is a declaration of her individual and feminine voice as something legitimate, something necessary, and something worth celebrating. This section of UW1020 aims to prepare students to make similar declarations of their own as they learn the mechanics of academic writing. Students will read and respond to the work of a variety of women authors and thinkers about what it means to write and exist as a woman, including figures such as Virginia Woolf, Sojourner Truth, Greta Thunberg, Amy Tan, Gloria Anzaldúa, Elizabeth Bishop, Toni Morrison, and Susan Stryker, among others. In so doing, they will learn valuable skills about how to articulate their own ideas, arguments, and research interests at the university level. Emphasis will be placed on developing the processes of research and revision, and students will be expected to use these skills to produce a researched argument paper that will be due at the end of the semester.

Gretes, Andrew - Existentialism and the Rhetoric of Authenticity

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 angsty bumper stickers? In this course, we’ll explore rhetoric and writing by examining a host of existential concepts, such as absurdity, anxiety, authenticity, freedom, and mass-man (aka “sheeple”). In particular, we’ll take a close look at the various rhetorical stages that existentialists choose to audition their ideas—be they parables, dramas, aphorisms, or analytic essays—and how such genres entail specific appeals and strategies. Throughout the semester, students will engage in a variety of writing projects, including a research-based essay in which students will take a specific concept from existentialism and use it as a tool to explore and re-think an issue in our own culture.

Hayes, Carol - “I’m a Bad Writer” and Other Myths about Writing

To write is to convey your thoughts on paper in a traceable form that others can then respond to. Writing is thus both a challenge (are you able to put what you mean into words on the screen or page?) and an act of vulnerability (you are opening yourself to response from your readers, whatever those responses might be). Very, very few people find writing “easy” (I am not among them). Your past experiences with writing and language, whether good or bad, will have shaped your emotions, your writing process, and your view of your own writing identity.

 This UW class is designed to give you a space to explore your experiences and challenges with writing, with the goal of increasing your writing knowledge in ways that will support your transitions to writing in other contexts, such as other GW courses, internships, and beyond. You will use social science methodologies—interviews and surveys—to research the writing experiences of college-age peers who may share the challenges you have faced. Drawing upon writing studies research (yes, scholars research writing!) and research in educational psychology, you’ll use that research to help you analyze your own and your peers’ writing experiences.

Hijazi, Nabila - Contested Bodies: Beyond a Standard Refugee Narrative

Mainstream migration and refugee discourses often frame refugees as living in limbo and waiting to return home. Moreover, refugee women’s voices and experiences are framed within a dominant narrative of female fragility. Departing from these prevailing understandings of refugees as victims, objects of rescue, and problems, this course reconsiders refugees as fluid subjects and historical actors, inquiring into their social and cultural positioning. With refugee women as our primary case study, this course asks students to engage with the lived experience of refugee women, subjects that have been perceived as passive, vulnerable, or even violent in the Western context; and to evaluate their construction of agency. Engaging in various texts – including academic arguments, personal narratives, TED Talks, lectures by guest speakers, and documentaries, we will explore how refugee women are complex individuals experiencing immense challenges but also exerting great resilience. Instead of confirming the standard narrative that presents refugees as victims, we will examine how they are agents in finding ways not only to survive but also to thrive and gain economic mobility. This semester, you will learn to summarize, analyze, research, inquire, reflect, argue and remediate—rhetorical skills necessary for ethical public engagement, rigorous academic scholarship, and exemplary professional practice.

Janzen, Kristi - Beyond The Numbers: Business, Money & Markets

This course aims to deepen students’ understanding of business, money and markets, while introducing them to university-level research and academic writing. By examining writings on currently hot financial-news topics—such as inflation, cryptocurrency, the cost of higher education, corporate earnings, interest rates, mortgages, antitrust laws, the minimum wage, taxes, and more—students will both broaden their practical understanding of business and the economy and hone their ability to write about them. Students will read about the discipline of writing and examine different styles and types of business/economics writing. We will also discuss research techniques, context, information sources, and methods of evaluating those sources, while analyzing why and how particular choices are made about what data or information to include or exclude. Smaller writing assignments will lead up to a research paper, in which the student presents evidence and supports a new claim on a subject of their choosing within the realm of business, finance or economics. Over the course of the class, students will discuss their writing in class, not only to improve everyone’s writing, but also to enrich our understanding of the broad range of topics.

In general, UW 1020 emphasizes practice in the processes and techniques of academic writing, drawing upon stimulating topics of current intellectual interest. The course focuses on framing important questions, constructing an argument through identifying and discussing both supportive and contradictory evidence, accommodating a variety of purposes and audiences, and using the ideas of other writers appropriately. The value of revision for clear expression is a constant emphasis; review of conventions for syntax, grammar and punctuation is incorporated as necessary.

Kristensen, Randi - Africa and the African Diaspora

Black Panther. Black Panthers. Black Lives Matter. Slavery. Colonialism. Modernity. Afro-futurism. Critical Race Theory. These and other signifiers of Black life in the 21st century circulate widely. What do they mean? Why do they matter? Why is their teaching being outlawed in some places in the United States? In this course, we will bring our critical reading, thinking, and writing skills to bear on these and other questions. We will also strive to discern the many and complicated versions of Blackness that co-exist, sometimes uneasily, in the US and worldwide. 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 these complexities, and will produce original and effective writing that reflects our close attention to the research questions that engage us, and sources that inform us. Major assignments include an autoethnography, and a carefully researched, documented, and argued research paper on a writer-selected topic that increases our understanding of contemporary Black life. In addition, we will develop a public-facing version of our research for each other and the wider community.

Marcus, Robin - "With Words and With Pretty", Joy and Resistance in Expressive Black American Traditions

This course title suggests that Black American Artistic expression can also be understood in contexts of resilience, exuberance and joyful determination. We will examine traditions that began in 17th century America, often camouflaged or submerged in acceptable forms, when the first Africans to survive their harrowing Trans-Atlantic journey set foot on American soil. We'll trace the artistic path their transplanted traditions forged. Finally, we will also look for primary source material that reveals intention, find cross genre conversations and connections, and learn how these traditions have endured while shape-shifting into new, contemporary art forms. The traditions studied in this survey course may include, but will not be limited to dance, visual art, photography, fiction and song produced by both known and obscure artists. Classroom lectures will be supplemented by guest speakers with expertise in specific genres. Students will write short essays throughout the semester and produce a final multi-media research paper that demonstrates an evolving understanding of how such expressions can be "read" within contemporary spaces.

McCaughey, Jessica - “I Tried to Live, but I got Distracted”: How to Think, Act, and Write in a World that Wants to Sidetrack You

Johann Hari, the author of Stolen Focus, suggests a motto for our era: “I tried to live, but I got distracted.” Deep work and focus are arguably more challenging right now than they’ve ever been. In this class, we’ll try to understand what this means for us as writers. We’ll interrogate factors ranging from stress and our environment to productivity culture and technology in an effort to make sense of why focus and complex intellectual engagement are so challenging. In doing so, we will interrogate our own experiences and consider, yes, issues of willpower and individual tactics to regain and harness our attention—but more so, we will deliberate how we operate in larger systems that are designed to distract. We’ll also try to determine whether or not, at this moment, it’s actually possible to be in control of our own attention and reach our goals without getting sidetracked.

Over the course of the semester, we’ll pay particular attention to the ways in which our distracted world makes an already extremely challenging process of development—becoming an adept researcher and writer at the college level—much, much harder. We’ll develop our academic writing and research skills through a series of increasingly complex assignments, each one scaffolded with the support of substantial feedback from peers and your professor. As we do so, we’ll consider catalysts and implications of “stolen focus” across disciplines, from environmental studies and national security to medicine and marketing, while working to develop the analytical skills necessary to consider, research, and express nuanced intellectual arguments clearly and effectively across a variety of forms of writing. We’ll also inevitably address what it means to be competing for the attention of others with our own writing, whether in college, the workplace, or publicly. Ultimately, it’s my hope that we’ll find lasting ways to engage and function in a world that seemingly wants to keep us operating only at the surface level—rather than engaging in the deep, focused thinking that complex writing requires.

McCaughey, Jessica - Professional Communication in International Nonprofits: A Service Learning Course in Partnership with Clinic+O

At its core, this course interrogates the question: How does writing allow mission-driven organizations to get work done? This class is themed around the topic of international healthcare nonprofit communication, particularly that of our class partner, Clinic+O, a relatively young organization in West Africa that is “committed to improving healthcare infrastructure and outcomes in Guinea, with the goal of creating a sustainable model for primary care that addresses the needs of all Guineans, particularly those living in poverty.” In teams and individually, students will work directly with the leadership at Clinic+O to learn not only about their outreach in rural communities, but also about the essential writing and rhetoric of the organization. Our class writing projects will–in a variety of ways and in genres as diverse as white papers, social media, and research reports–support the organization’s authentic development efforts.  In doing so, we will study the organization’s contextual backdrop–the healthcare structures and challenges of medical access in Guinea, particularly as they relate to issues of culture, political history, womens’ health, and rural vs. urban communities. We will also consider critical questions related to nonprofit communication such as: In what ways are culture and “data” sometimes at odds when it comes to healthcare? How do we ethically represent communities in development materials? West Africa has seen a number of NGOs “set up shop,” and then fail; how has this happened, and in what ways do community-based, local organizations differ from these international NGOs? What does it mean to “decolonize philanthropy”?   

As we work to help solve some of the real-world writing problems faced by Clinic+O, students will gain an understanding of the work our partner organization is doing, the region and people involved, and how writing allows for progress here and in other authentic spaces. We’ll look at crucial differences–and overlap–between writing and research in academic contexts and professional settings, ask nuanced questions about audience and purpose, and work to rethink and remake arguments for various audiences in varied forms. Students will develop a structured research and writing process, as well as a set of rhetorical tools and techniques that will help them not only in our classroom and in our work with Clinic+O, but also in the future when they encounter new and unfamiliar writing situations.

Michiels, Paul - Writing and Learning

The theme of this writing course is learning. You will learn about writing as you learn what the fields of neuroscience, educational and cognitive psychology, and education have to tell us about how students learn. The theme of learning will anchor your research practices and help us select articles that we will read as a class to help inform your different writing activities. You will also use the theme as a springboard to develop your own individual lines of inquiry that you will follow and investigate throughout the semester, beginning with an assignment that asks you to investigate an issue/problem related to the theme of “learning,” then moving to a longer researched piece that more deeply explores one aspect of learning. We will conclude with an adaptation of your researched paper for a different audience and in a new form.

This class will focus on writing as a form of reasoning and knowledge production used in the university, at work, and in daily life, and it will explore how different writing situations and different audiences influence how we question, analyze, make claims, and present information and ideas. The course will explore critical writing skills which involve pre-writing, paraphrasing, summarizing, synthesizing, drafting, and revising. Particular (though not exclusive) emphasis will be placed on source-based writing as a means of acquiring, communicating, and transforming knowledge. Finally, special emphasis will be placed on peer review, in other words, on providing peers with useful, usable, and theoretically-informed feedback on writing (an essential skill with applications in academic, professional, and personal life).

Mullen, Mark - Paying (for) Attention

You’ve probably never heard of the Intention Economy. That is because it doesn’t exist. At least not yet. What you probably have heard about is the Attention Economy, the array of applications and processes that tech companies use to make money by keeping us watching/listening/reading/clicking for as long as possible.

If technology users are honest with themselves, they will admit that their technology usage often feels out of their control. They are right. It is out of their control. Thanks to an increasing number of whistelblower accounts from inside the tech sector—Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley, Christopher Wylie’s Mindf*ck, and Mike Monteiro’s Ruined by Design, to name just a few—we now know that tech companies are actively leveraging the latest psychological research in order to patiently and deliberately design applications to get us hooked, and keep us hooked. Yet, like any addict deep into their denial, people will rationalize and defend to the death their lack of control over their own lives. Technology isn’t good or bad, they say. It is how you use it, they say.

We don’t have to live like this. But what alternatives are there? As we investigate modes of communicating and viewing the world that try to balance technology and lived experience, we will be actively exploring the ways in which different styles and genres of writing can open up new ways of looking at the world. In addition to a research topic of your choosing about some facet of the attention economy, we will also be looking at styles of writing that require us to pay close attention to the people and environments around us. This will be a challenging course. If you aren’t prepared to confront some uncomfortable truths about your own technology usage (and who is controlling that) then this may not be the course for you. If you don’t think you could last a day without your cellphone, this is definitely not the course for you (because that is something we will all attempt). But if you are open to a new way of thinking about the world, and are curious about what forces are shaping the technologies we are already taking for granted, then maybe as a group we can bring into being something that does not yet exist; the Intention Economy.

Myers, Danika - Poetry + Research

“There is no telling this story; it must be told” – NourbeSe Philip, Zong!
“When I write comma I come closer to people I want to know comma to the language I want to speak” - Layli Long Soldier, Whereas

Are poetry and research opposing forms? Is poetry always subjective, while research is strictly objective? How does poetry seek truth? How can poetry become the medium for research and exploration? In this class, we will analyze books of poetry obsessed with communicating truth. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! dwells on the events of the 1781 massacre, when 132 of the 470 enslaved Africans held captive on the British ship Zong were thrown overboard. By drawing legal language into fractured poetics Philip subverts it to convey horror and grief. Layli Long Soldier’s book Whereas is a response to the 2009 Congressional resolution of apology to Native Americans that draws on historical documents to critique the contemporary legacies of settler-colonialism. Philip Metres' Sand Opera is a poetry collection that uses extensive research to explore the human cost of the United States' wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By combining poetic forms with meticulous research and reliance on sources, works like these challenge dominant narratives and offer new ways of understanding history and identity.

This section of UW1020 invites you to use texts that combine research + poetry as a starting point to explore research, writing, and the production of knowledge. It seeks to support you in developing a sophisticated understanding of the infinite ways sources can be engaged or critiqued, subverted or celebrated, and see how it feels to adopt such techniques in your own writing. We will also consider what these texts reveal about how other, more familiar, forms of research-based and academic writing operate. How might traditional academic research –supposedly an objective form– silence particular voices or perpetuate systems of power? How can poetry transform our understanding of research and what research values? Assignments will include a poetry portfolio, a group presentation, and a research-based poem sequence. Homework will frequently require you to attempt archaic or byzantine poetic forms or ask you to render the conventions of academic genres in verse.

Ohno-Machado, Thomas - Linguistic Landscapes of Opportunity: Rhetoric and the American Dream

“The American Dream.” A term many of us have heard but still struggle to define. This class will engage with the idea of the American Dream by analyzing the rhetoric of leaders, scholars, and artists who have critiqued it in the past. From leaders like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama, to singers like Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, and Marvin Gaye, to playwrights and poets such as August Wilson and Langston Hughes, access, opportunity, and the American Dream itself, have been argued through different forms of written expression. Students will be examining language through a variety of mediums, such as speeches, music, and films that demonstrate the multimodal nature of rhetoric, argumentation, and reflection. 

In studying the methods of argumentation that leaders, scholars, and artists have employed throughout American history, we can learn how to formulate our own effective arguments. In addition to analyzing rhetoric, this course prepares students for the rigors of the academic and professional world. Students will engage with various stages of the writing process, and by the end of the course, will be developing their own processes to become skilled writers, eloquent communicators, and critical thinkers. In constructing strong arguments, students will learn effective strategies for brainstorming, working through writer’s block, researching, revising, and editing. Class dialogue and discussion will coincide with peer review. As a result, writing can be viewed as a social activity that involves the active participation and critical input of a community of people that support and care for one another. By the end of the course, students should be able to access different registers of language through a mixture of low, medium, and high stakes writing that places them in a stronger position to achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals.

Pollack, Rachel - Dutch Painting at the National Gallery of Art

In this course we will develop writing skills through careful observation and analysis of 17th Century Dutch painting. 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.

Pollack, Rachel - Art in the Age of Shakespeare

In this course, students 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, students visually reconstruct the world that inspired Shakespeare’s oeuvre. Neil MacGregor’s book Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects is central to class discussion and serves as a model for students to develop their own research and related group exhibition projects. Writing assignments will include catalogue entries on selected art works ( ~2-3 pages), a shorter research paper (~8 pages), a final research paper (~10 pages) on material culture and art from Shakespeare’s time. 

Presser, Pamela - Writing Lives: Composing Consciousness and Service Learning

Note: This course is a service-learning course. Service-learning courses address a community need through direct or indirect service and community-based research. For more information, see the Honey W. Nashman Center website.

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 GW 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.

Richter, Jacob - Writing in Responsive Workplaces

Workplace writing evolves, innovates, mutates, and responds. Social media, social justice, and generative AI: as the world changes, the writing that both college students and workplace professionals need to be experts in changes, too. The genres that professionals write in within their workplaces are never static, but rather respond to dynamic social, technological, and cultural changes. This course considers how students and professionals alike write in responsive ways to three evolutions in workplaces that have developed over the past decade or so: the ubiquity of social media, the necessity of pursuing social justice, and the rise of generative AI. The responsive workplace acknowledges that writing itself is different than it was in previous media environments, as it now is distinctly multimodal, video-based, image-laden, sonic, hyperlinked, and networked in ways that alter how professionals operate. The responsive workplace knows the exigencies of today— like Black Lives Matter protests, TikToks about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a rapidly worsening climate crisis— demand responses from public commentators that feature writing but aren’t limited to it or by it.   

In this course, we’ll consider academic writing’s connection to workplace writing genres informed by social media, social justice, and generative AI. Furthermore, we’ll approach writing—especially writing that blends academic, workplace, and multimedia genres—as an opportunity to not only respond, but intervene in the pressing issues of today. We’ll engage these connections by writing in varied genres that could include a Public Education & Advocacy Report, a petition optimized for social media circulation, a Social Media Remediation project, and a collaborative Policy Proposal project. As future (and oftentimes current) professionals, students in this course will consider pressing topics like social media, social justice, and generative AI, responding critically and creatively with literacy actions that merge critical thinking and creative expression into innovative written documents. Future workplace writers, including each student enrolled in this course, will all play a role in inventing the responsive writing genres of tomorrow. This is an opportunity that this course embraces.

Russ, Ebony - Anti-Racist Writing in the 21st Century

Understanding the importance of amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups in academia, publications, and media is key to contributing to anti-racist writing. Our writing skills and style are informed by the subject matter of which we partake. Approaching anti-racist writing with intent can be pivotal to your success as a well-informed scholar. Exercising inclusivity can be superficial and deceptive if one does not possess the foundational knowledge of the interplay of race, racism, and scholarship in academia. Anti-racist writing is a function of scholar activism which is a component of social justice which can contribute to overall equality and societal transformation.

In this course, we will examine tenents of anti-racist writing in the 21st century while comparing the similarities and differences in social justice work from past centuries. Our examination of anti-racism will be guided by exploring race and racism in scholarly writings. This will involve critically reading and writing about scholarly and popular text authored by African American authors as well as many other Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Assignments include identifying scientific evidence, original research writing, responses to readings and peer 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 for both expert and broader public audiences.

Ryder, Phyllis - Writing for Social Change

NOTE: This course is a service learning course. For more information, see Support for Students in Community Engaged Scholarship Courses website.

Learning to “write well” means learning to wrestle with power. “Writing for Social Change” is a space where we will work with local DC nonprofits to confront social inequities, study how to use writing to build community, and convince people that a more just world is possible. We also will wrestle with the power of “writing well” at a more meta level: the rules for “good writing” are themselves tools that can include and exclude people from power. By the end of the semester, you will have your own toolbox for developing complex, meaningful writing projects and a philosophy of writing that reflects your personal values and engages diverse audiences.

Over the semester, you will build on the writing strategies you learned in high school to become stronger, more deliberate writers. I will challenge you to reflect on your own values and identity, so that you can connect with your readers. I will push you to think more fully about the sources you draw on, so that your essays are complex and compelling. I have high expectations, but you will have a great deal of support. The assignments are divided into manageable pieces and you will receive a lot of feedback along the way. If you do all the work, you will get a good grade.

Sauer, Beverly - Risk Communication

The Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters, the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, the Woodley Park and Fort Totten Metro crashes, and the Surfside Condominium collapse demonstrate that communication plays an important role in risk management. Since the beginning of 2020, we ourselves have struggled to make sense of risk information about COVID as we consider whether to travel, see our families, party with friends, or mask (or not) in public spaces.

Risk demands action. But facts alone may not persuade stakeholders to act. What kinds of evidence can we draw upon to persuade people to act in what we perceive to be their best interests? Who can we trust? What does science tell us—or fail to tell us—about how to behave and act in the face of uncertain and contradictory data?

Writing assignments in this class are designed to help students construct persuasive fact-based ethical and logical risk communication messages for a particular audience. Although the disasters presented in the class are interesting from a technical point of view, we will focus our attention on communication strategies (visual, verbal, graphical, and written) that influenced the outcomes of the disaster. Students will summarize and critique previously published analyses of communication failures; construct a research-based assessment of risk of their choice; learn to construct a ‘mental model’ of what audiences know or believe (audience analysis) about a particular risk; explore the challenges of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary risk communication; and produce a short research paper in which they apply the skills they have learned to persuade, inform or move a specific audience to act to reduce risk.

Ultimately, students will develop critical thinking skills that enable them to identify and mitigate communication failures before, during, and after a crisis. 

No technical experience is required.

Schell, Heather - Data Driven

We live in a data-driven world.  While we may not agree on what counts as data—or even whether data is plural or singular— “showing someone the numbers” is currently our most treasured way of proving something is true.  It’s “hard evidence,” which is maybe why it crunches when we “crunch the numbers.”  Personal experience—our most immediate source of knowledge about our world—often gets dismissed as “anecdata.”  In this class, we are going to push data out of the driver’s seat and ask some hard questions about what data can do and what it can’t.   For example, what’s the relationship between information and knowledge?  How do our own assumptions and biases show up in the data we gather?  How does the availability of data affect the questions we think to ask?  How does the visualization/presentation affect its persuasive power?  What does it mean for each of us as human beings to have so much data about our “private” lives—our educational record, our health, our politics, our phone calls, our driving record, even our food preferences—easily available for strangers at major corporations and other institutions to access at will?  We’ll explore these questions through a series of writing and research assignments, beginning with a report assessing the accuracy of online information, moving to a research project that collects new data addressing an important problem, and culminating with an exploratory essay that compares data-driven arguments with other ways of knowing.  The floating, “hybrid” hour of class time will generally entail teamwork; depending on the assignment, this teamwork may be in person or online.

Smith, Caroline - Communicating Feminism

Most of us have probably seen the iconic image of Beyoncé in front of a giant screen on which the word FEMINIST is emblazoned. You may even be familiar with the feminist author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s speech “We Should All Be Feminists,” which Beyoncé samples in her song “Flawless.” But, have you ever considered what Beyoncé means by feminism? Or how her feminism might be similar or different to Adichie’s? What does the term feminism actually signify?

In this course, we will study the history of the feminist movement and consider the various strategies that feminist writers use to educate and inspire their audience. Students will have an opportunity to explore a range of feminist issues from different disciplinary angles. We will also produce our own feminist writing in a variety of genres. Students will work in partnership with the Wiki Education foundation to create and revise content about feminists and feminist issues on Wikipedia in order to help close Wikipedia’s gender gap. Students will also research and write on the feminist topic of their choice for an independent research project. The skills we will work on in this introductory course will prepare students for other academic challenges throughout the remainder of their college career.

Smith, Nichole - I am #Kenough: Writing Gender and Sexuality in Popular Culture

The course offers students the ability to engage-and begin writing on-aspects of how popular culture represents issues and inequalities related to gender and inequality. With the backlash of the feminist movements in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, debates surrounding representation has now been tied to aspects of “wokeness” and political correctness. This class seeks to answer the preliminary questions: how does popular culture-such as films like Barbie, Legally Blonde, and other forms of media-represent gender and sexuality, and critically engage with unique social issues of the twenty-first century? And, more critically, what is representation’s importance?

This course serves as an early introduction into writing about gender and sexuality issues, but tied with how such issues and inequalities are represented in the aspects of the everyday; from the movies we see (Barbie, Promising Young Women, etc.), to the books we read (Grass, among others), and the social media that we are engaging with. We are also going to critically think about how far we’ve come and how far we still must go for equality and social change.

This course is designated to give you an introduction to university writing, including the preliminary aspects of crafting and implementing research tied to your burgeoning interests within this course. On top of the ability to write short, preliminary papers, you will be responsible for a final research paper due at the end of the semester. I will be here to guide you through the writing process and answer any questions you may have. 

Svoboda, Michael - The Political Brain

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

In “The Political Brain,” we will examine models of cognitive psychology, media biases and effects, moral psychology, neuro-politics, and popular culture to see what they can tell us about contemporary American politics.

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

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

While satire has a long history of exposing social/political excess and human folly, never has it been so prevalent as in our current cultural moment. From The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight to the Netflix series Bojack Horseman to the mockumentaries of Sasha Baron Cohen to the films Don’t Look Up and They Cloned Tyrone, satire is a potent and sometimes dangerous rhetorical tool for illuminating the absurdities of extremist views and partisan propaganda. This course starts with the question of why satire has become such a pervasive phenomenon and then moves towards an exploration of the value of, and potential problems with, satire as a rhetorical lens of social criticism. 

This course will include assignments like a self-written and performed satire that critiques a relevant current issue, a rhetorical analysis of a scholarly article on satire, a critical reading of a satirical film or novel, 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 our language, and that laughter and seriousness are not mutually exclusive.

Troutman, Phillip - Visual History: Race, Gender, and Sexuality

Historical images pose writing problems. Images say things; they can be rhetorical. Cartoons, paintings, films--even maps and photographs--interpret, idealize, and shade the truth. They generate their own truths, and they lie. Images have represented, reinscribed, and reinterpreted ideas, both damaging and empowering, especially in regards to race, gender, sexuality, portraying these historically diverse and mutable qualities of human behavior and identity as apparently essential and unchanging fact. But images also challenge the status quo and generate new ideas. Images do not speak for themselves; despite appearances, their meanings are not self-evident, and scholars of visual culture have created specialized concepts, terms, and methods that you will need to adopt and adapt in order to do your own interpretation. You will gain hands-on experience with archival and digital primary sources, analyzing and interpreting them in light of historical questions important to you and to other scholars. Since writing about images requires description, translation from the visual to the verbal, it will help you hone your critical thinking, research, and analytic skills. But you will also have to approach historical images with some imagination and creativity, finding new words and phrases to rise to the task, especially as you handle dated and potentially offensive historical documents. In this class, you will work as a visual historian, framing research questions in response to existing scholarship, pursuing those questions through archival research, acquiring specialized analytical vocabulary and conceptual frameworks, and honing your analytical voice by anticipating reader expectations through a peer response process.

Wolfe, Zachary - Law as a Force for Social Change

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.

Zink, Christine - Minding the Body: Writing the Medical/Health Humanities

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/health humanities draws our attention closer to the human body and mind within it. How can we use science and art—through critical questioning, research, and multiple forms of writing—to better understand the complex realities of human beings?

Writing in the medical and health humanities invites us to listen to a rich range of voices and experiences to deepen our notions of what healthcare could mean. When we pay attention to key moments in the history of medicine when “factual” definitions of disease and diagnosis changed, how do we come to understand the cultural and social construction of health and illness? What does a healthy body and mind even mean, and who gets to decide? How does knowledge shift when we engage perspectives that have traditionally been left out, or even purposely excluded, from expert discussions about the body and mind? These questions have become more pressing during contemporary crises of the COVID pandemic, racial violence, and Supreme Court decisions and state legislation affecting reproductive and general healthcare access. 

This course invites you to write through intellectual and imaginative inquiry; your academic and life interests become essential to our interactive discussions both in class and with our shared readings. Course materials range from patient and practitioner memoir to scholarly research articles, to public lectures, short films, and multimedia materials. We will build on these works for exploring your heart-felt cares, situating your own body and mind as authentic researcher and writer among a community of writers.

Upper-Level UW Courses:

Wolfe, Zachary - UW2031 Equality & the Law:  Introduction to legal research and writing

This course offers an introduction to how lawyers and legal scholars research and write about specific disputes that arise in the context of complex social issues. It is one of the required courses for the minor in law and society and satisfies a WID requirement.

Legal writing, like all forms of scholarly writing, is best understood in context and in practice. In this course, we have the opportunity to explore an ongoing challenge to our society in general and the legal system in particular: the promise of equality, and how government relates to it. We do so by examining judicial decisions, statutes, regulations, and law review articles concerning matters related to race, sexual orientation and gender, disability, and others issues that continue to advance major challenges to the system’s ability to realize legal and civil equality. That examination requires an understanding of legal audience expectations as well as the ability to use specialized research techniques and craft written analysis in particular forms, so students will learn about the nuances of argument in the interdisciplinary field of law and the unique requirements of legal research and writing.