UW Course Descriptions

Visit the GW Office of the Registrar for the latest schedule of classes by semester. Learn more about UW 1020 requirements, exemptions and hybrid and service learning options. For a list of Writing in the Disciplines (WID) courses, visit the Undergraduate Advising website.


Fall 2021

Note: Some of these courses are intended for WLP students only. Departmental approval required to register.

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.

Note: This course is intended for WLP students only. Departmental approval required to register.

This course examines graphic novels by women authors, focusing on the visual in literature and drawing out its aesthetic, political, and cultural implications. We’ll think about how words and pictures both elucidate and complicate meaning, and we’ll analyze how women have historically been depicted when visuals combine with text. As graphic novels gain increasing respectability in literary and artistic realms, we’ll also consider distinctions, legitimate or arbitrary, that are assigned to culture. 

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.

Who are you as a writer? What experiences have shaped your relationship to writing? How do your ideas about writing help or hinder you when facing a new writing challenge? This course begins by inviting you to reflect on your past experiences of writing, both in and out of school. We go on to study key texts and concepts in writing studies: the field of scholarship that seeks to understand the social forces and technologies that shape us as writers, how people learn to overcome blocks and write effectively, and how writers transfer knowledge from one context to another. The premise of this course is that by studying writing itself, you can become a more effective writer in any context — academic, professional, or social.

For the major project of the semester, you will choose an issue related to student writing, for example: the effects of digital technologies on student writing, writing in STEM fields, or being a multilingual writer. Working in research teams, you will gather survey data from your peers about this issue, and write a research report to present to the class and perhaps share more widely. By conducting your own research on writing, building on other scholars’ research, you can become a more skilled, self-aware, and flexible writer. You may even, as Jesmyn Ward asserts, come to feel that you have more power over your own life: “I believe there is power in words, power in asserting our existence, our experience, our lives, through words.”

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.

Some “rules” of good writing that I was once taught: “Your opening sentence has to grab your reader’s attention.” “Don’t use ‘I’.” “Give three examples to support your claim.”

But what if these rules are not, in fact, always true?

This class will explore the question, “What constitutes ‘good’ writing?” The answer: it depends. If you write the same way in your Biology class as you do in your English Literature class, you probably aren’t going to succeed in both, because the “rules” for what counts as “good writing” are different in each.

To explore the question, “What constitutes ‘good’ writing?” this class will discuss some of the key factors impacting writing (which means we’ll be reading scholarship about writing). First, we will explore the English language itself — or rather, the multiple Englishes that you may speak and write, each of which carries its own history of power, based on the race, class, gender, geographical region, etc. that shape your versions(s) of English. We will also explore the different writing processes that produce “good” writing — or that pose barriers to writing (for instance, rigid adherence to writing “rules” can produce writer’s block). Finally, we’ll discuss strategies for how to move from one academic writing context to another — such as from a Biology class to an English class — in ways that recognize the differences in how disciplinary communities communicate, and thus in ways that will prepare you for the different kinds of writing you’ll engage in during your time at GW and beyond.

After decades of rigorous public debate and division, the U.S. and the world may finally be on the brink of meaningful climate action. As we see the impacts of climate change more clearly each year – from increased wildfires, more intense hurricanes, heatwaves, and biodiversity losses – more people have come on board with the idea that we must reform our fossil-fuel dependent economy, change our cultural norms, and work together to survive on our one and only habitable planet. What kinds of communication will power these changes, in the political, public, and personal spheres? In this course, we will examine how science is used in climate change debates and consider what good science communication can accomplish. We will also explore the dynamics of environmental racism, the powerful rhetoric of the climate justice movement, and the role of morality in arguments about climate change. These explorations offer a unique opportunity to think about audiences, ethos, and the power of language in all its forms. You will develop a deeper understanding of climate change communication by analyzing films, scientific writing, journalism, social media, and other popular texts of your choosing. Assignments include a communications analysis, a research-driven project, and a presentation.

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.

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 The Bachelor or Doctor Who or Harry Potter or K-Pop? And why, if we love these things, do they have the ability to divide us as much as they have the ability to bring us together? 

This writing and research intensive course will begin with an examination of the current research on fans and fan communities. We will also take a look at the research that is not being done, the fan communities that are under-researched or simply not researched at all, and why these gaps still exist. 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 of their choosing.

Beginning in the late 1940s, with the period known as La Violencia, Colombia experienced 75 years of continuous political unrest and violence. This combined with extreme forms of criminal violence associated with mass drug production and distribution, beginning in the 1970s. Today, a fragile peace agreement is being tested, not only by the previously existing political and social dynamics, but also by the profound economic and social consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. We will partner, through online dialogues, with a class at Universidad del Rosario, in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, to explore the historic and contemporary dynamics at-play as Colombia seeks to maintain peace. And we will use this complex situation to explore the nature and diversity of academic disciplines and the different modes and methods of research and writing found in our own university. In addition, each student will engage, for our Hybrid online sessions, with the language learning app Duolingo (no previous language training is required for the course; each student will engage at their own level for these Hybrid day sessions, which will be evaluated primarily in terms of effort).

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened just a few years ago on the Mall – the culmination of more than a century of advocacy for such an institution. But while the museum has enjoyed tremendous attention in its first several years, 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. A few, of late, have even been taken down, and yet, generally, visitors of these spaces consider them reliable vehicles for telling history. 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 American history, particularly its racial history, including these sites’ physical locations, visual symbolism, and written interpretations – as much as the pandemic will allow us, at least. 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.

This course will examine a variety of texts (written, visual, cinematic, etc.) representing the work of Black voices who have challenged/corrected White Supremacist narratives and confronted racism in America. Using a shared text composed of selected works, students will engage historic and contemporary issues and finally produce research that may be useful as the country enters the Black Lives Matter Era.

In recent years, conversations about what higher education is “for” have mostly addressed economic issues. And research shows that, yes, college graduates earn more over the course of a lifetime. Studies also show that the average American college graduate carries tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. With an emphasis on inquiry and critical thinking, we’ll grapple with this question of what—and who—college is “for.” Our inquiries will also address more nuanced concerns, like the following: What is the value of college, and how might we measure value beyond the financial? Are degrees in one discipline more worthy or valuable than others? Should everyone go to college? How does socio-economic status and family background play into higher education opportunities? Finally, does college prepare us for what comes next—particularly as writers? As we work to make sense of these complex issues, we’ll explore both scholarly articles across disciplines and popular media. 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 a writer, you’ll develop the skills necessary to consider, research, and express arguments clearly and effectively in a variety of written forms. Thematically, you’ll leave this course with a more nuanced perspective of why you’re here at the university and the complex factors surrounding everything it took for you to be here—from the personal to the political to the historical.

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.

In the spring of 2020, with COVID-19 creating a global health crisis, the New York Times published a printable pattern for sewing a face mask, and people across the United States threaded needles and got to work. Some were sewing for their families, some for extended social networks, and some craft collectives used social media to form, organize, and produce thousands of masks in just a few weeks. COVID-19 may be new, but the intersection between hi-tech communication and old-timey craft traditions is not. Since the early 21st century, new platforms like Reddit and YouTube have provided resources for those interested in learning old skills and sharing new techniques. Even as craft-specific social networks like Ravelry have helped knitters connect and innovate, and banned knitting patterns that support white supremacy, crafters of color have used Instagram and Twitter to call out racism and exclusionary practices in predominantly white craft circles and “little yarn shops.” Craft and craft communities provide evidence scholars can use to answer myriad questions about culture, society, labor, and aesthetics. What has it historically meant to make something by hand in America, and what does it mean now? Why is it so surprising to see a man knit a sweater? Why are “crafts” treated as different from “art”? Why do scholars find craft blogs useful for understanding 21st century labor and economics, and community gardening useful for understanding principles of human-technology interface design? In this section of University Writing 1020 we will approach scholarship about American craftwork and crafters as a case study for learning about academic writing and research conventions. We will both become familiar with and practice some of the genres scholars use to write about craft and craft labor, developing sufficient expertise to provide each other with feedback on the writing we produce. This section of UW1020 also uses labor-based contract grading to support rigorous engagement with writing practice. This model is designed as an anti-racist teaching practice that supports every student's right to use their own written language to communicate. As part of this model you will learn new approaches to writing that you can rely on in future classes where traditional grading models are still in place.

“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.

This course examines the greatest surviving masterpieces of Greco-Roman sculpture and explores their enduring significance in western art from antiquity to the present day. From this essential canon of ancient sculpture, which includes the Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), the Laocoon, the Aphrodite of Knidos, the Spinario, and the Weary Hercules, we will analyze why these works have both inspired artists and stirred scholarly debate amongst ancient writers, art historians, archaeologists, Renaissance humanists, and Enlightenment philosophers. In this class, students will write art museum catalogue entries (~2 pages each) on related artworks and interdisciplinary research papers (~6-10 pages each)  on related topics concerning the continued presence of Greek art in the western world.

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.

Scientific writing about human variation has created and upheld racialized inequality for centuries. In particular, scientists have created race categories through the misuse of quantitative measures. However, quantitative techniques have also made it possible to establish that there are no biologically recognizable race categories in humans and to assess the impacts of racism on human wellbeing. In this course, we will critically read and write about the histories and futures of race and racism with scholarly and popular texts from the natural and social sciences, especially those that employ quantitative methods.

The quantification of race and racism in scientific disciplines offers many lessons for writing and research. Scientific, quantitative approaches to race and racism bring up challenging methodological and ethical questions, but have also shaped how we understand the roots of the urgent health issues facing much of the world today. This course — with its biocultural approach to a complex topic — offers students the opportunity to practice critically and ethically reading and writing about quantitative claims related to race and racism. Assignments include 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.

Darwin’s transformative On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, his theory of natural selection challenged literalist Biblical interpretations about human origins and the age of the earth. Historically, America’s public debate over evolution has centered on science classes in public high schools. The US legal system has repeatedly been called on to adjudicate, from the Scopes Trial of 1925 to Kitzmiller v. Dover in 2005.

While some people outside the sciences continue to dislike the idea that humans have evolved, the heated controversy has diminished. After all, evolutionary theory is the foundation of research in the biological sciences today. Current public debates over science focuses on more urgent issues: climate, vaccines, gun violence, and reproductive health. All four of these will probably shape your future life, indirectly if not directly. In all four cases, scientists with vital expertise are being ignored and sidelined by special interests, politicians, and members of the public. Powerful rhetoric often outweighs reasoning based on solid scientific information. And science classrooms and public school policy are still at the front lines of these controversies. In this regard, America’s public debates about science bear the legacy of our long struggle with the idea of natural selection.

This semester, we will look at the players involved in these controversies, from scientists, teachers, students, and religious figures to politicians, policy wonks, lobbyists, and even some colorful crackpots. We will start the semester with opponents and proponents of natural selection; examining their own words, we will use techniques of rhetoric analysis to study the ways in which these people frame themselves as authorities, appeal to their audiences, produce evidence, and address alternate perspectives. Later, you will select one of the contentious topics I mentioned earlier, researching the best available information and drafting policy options for American high schools, aimed toward improving science education or enhancing the safety and well-being of students.

Girl meets boy. It’s the simple plotline of the incredibly popular genre known as the romantic comedy. While admittedly rom coms are entertaining, these “fluffy,” “feel good” films also contain strong messaging about American ideals and values — particularly regarding gender, race, sexuality, and class.

In this class, we will watch and discuss romantic comedies, focusing on the ways in which this genre treats identity politics. Who do we see in these films? Who don’t we see? What roles are men supposed to play in these films? What roles do women play in these films? And, why do we often see a surge of interest in the genre during particularly distressing times in American culture. (This remains true in the age of COVID-19 as films such as Jennifer Lopez’s upcoming Marry Me, series such as Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever, and upcoming adaptations such as Camille Perri’s When Katie Met Cassidy have been popping up.)

We will also read and write about these films. Rom coms 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). 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.

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.

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 satire news shows like Last Week Tonight, Full Frontal and Patriot Act, to the mockumentaries of Sacha Baron Cohen, to critiques of cultural appropriation in such films as Get Out and Sorry to Bother You, 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 satire or comedy 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.

GW students have a long reputation for activism. Women and men entered a float in the 1913 Women’s Suffrage March, facing down a drunken mob on Pennsylvania Avenue. In the late 1930s, the Liberal Club and several Christian orgs demonstrated against fascism and the munitions industry. White veterans of World War Two picketed the whites-only opening of Lisner Auditorium in 1946, then called on the university as a whole to desegregate (which it did only in 1954). Black students and their allies fought for desegregation in sports, housing, and fraternal organizations for another decade. During the Vietnam War, Thurston Hall residents hosted anti-war protesters from across the country, earning GW the nickname “the Holiday Inn of the Revolution.” And in 1971, during the university’s sesquicentennial celebrations, students loudly protested the renaming of their student center after segregationist Cloyd Heck Marvin. In the 1980s and 1990s, LGBTQ students organized openly and helped change the culture of campus, and students today are helping spur GW’s eventual divestment from fossil fuels. In this course, we’ll dig into the GW archives to read history first-hand and to write compelling narratives that matter to GW students today—on our bicentennial. What goals did students have? What were their strategies? What actions did they take? What change did they make in the world, or at least on campus? How did they shape GW as we know it today?

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.

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.

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.

 


Summer 2021

UW 1015 Courses

Registration restricted to the incoming freshman cohort of the GW Early College Program.

UW 1020 Courses

What is good writing?

Are some genres more equal than others?

What do our ideas about writing enable or restrict?

Can writing help improve your state of mind, or impact on the world?

Questions like these, which we will discuss in this class, are part of a long standing conversation about the nature of education. In this course, you will be encouraged to explore your own research interests an will also have the opportunity to work with the Smithsonian Institution or a community non-profit.

In the spring of 2020, with COVID-19 creating a global health crisis, the New York Times published a printable pattern for sewing a face mask, and people across the United States threaded needles and got to work. Some were sewing for their families, some for extended social networks, and some craft collectives used social media to form, organize, and produce thousands of masks in just a few weeks. COVID-19 may be new, but the intersection between hi-tech communication and old-timey craft traditions is not. Since the early 21st century, new platforms like Reddit and YouTube have provided resources for those interested in learning old skills and sharing new techniques. Even as craft-specific social networks like Ravelry have helped knitters connect and innovate, and banned knitting patterns that support white supremacy, crafters of color have used Instagram and Twitter to call out racism and exclusionary practices in predominantly white craft circles and “little yarn shops.” Craft and craft communities provide evidence scholars can use to answer myriad questions about culture, society, labor, and aesthetics. What has it historically meant to make something by hand in America, and what does it mean now? Why is it so surprising to see a man knit a sweater? Why are “crafts” treated as different from “art”? Why do scholars find craft blogs useful for understanding 21st century labor and economics, and community gardening useful for understanding principles of human-technology interface design? In this section of University Writing 1020 we will approach scholarship about American craftwork and crafters as a case study for learning about academic writing and research conventions. We will both become familiar with and practice some of the genres scholars use to write about craft and craft labor, developing sufficient expertise to provide each other with feedback on the writing we produce. This section of UW1020 also uses labor-based contract grading to support rigorous engagement with writing practice. This model is designed as an anti-racist teaching practice that supports every student's right to use their own written language to communicate. As part of this model you will learn new approaches to writing that you can rely on in future classes where traditional grading models are still in place.

How was race created by scientists and how do scientists evaluate the impacts of racism that are only made possible by the myth of race categories? From measuring human cranial capacity to quantifying the stress of racism, scientists have used data to construct races and now to measure how racism impacts health and wellbeing (there are no biologically recognizable race categories in humans). Quantitative information can be deceptive—it appears natural and neutral, but is calculated by us imperfect humans. Scientific, quantitative approaches to race and racism bring up challenging methodological and ethical questions, but have also shaped how we understand the roots of the urgent health issues facing much of the world today.

In this course, we will examine the process of creating and disseminating scientific knowledge about race and racism; this will involve critically reading and writing about the histories and futures of race and racism with scholarly and popular texts from the natural and social sciences, especially those that employ quantitative methods. 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.

What is good writing?

Are some genres more equal than others?

What do our ideas about writing enable or restrict?

Can writing help improve your state of mind, or impact on the world?

Questions like these, which we will discuss in this class, are part of a long standing conversation about the nature of education. In this course, you will be encouraged to explore your own research interests an will also have the opportunity to work with the Smithsonian Institution or a community non-profit.

UW 2020W Courses 

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement. This is a distance learning course. This class is cross-listed with CRN 81529 WGSS 2120W D.80.

Designed to give students with diverse backgrounds and disciplines a basic understanding of the debates and perspectives discussed in the field of WGSS, as well as the larger theoretical scope of feminism, this course asks:

  • What is feminism?
  • What role do gender, sexuality, and intersectionality play in terms of understanding the varieties of human experience?
  • How are issues of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality constructed and defined?

In order to answer those questions, we will interrogate our responses/relationships to various texts -- including academic arguments, personal narratives, advertisements, films, YouTube videos, celebrities, consumer goods -- as they are inflected by our evolving understanding of feminism/s and social justice.

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement. This class is cross-listed with CRN 82966 BADM 4900W M.80.

According to a recent study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 73.4% of employers state that "strong written communication skills" are among their top hiring priorities. Yet most new graduates struggle with workplace writing. This advanced writing course situates workplace writing as a set of crucial problem-solving skills necessary for all communicators in all fields. Although it often seems purely “practical,” workplace writing is in fact a set of complex strategies and tactics that require us to juggle substantial knowledge and often contradictory ideas and interests. Further, contrary to popular belief, workplace writing is not inherently (or even ideally) objective; it has a point of view that’s dependent on everything from organizational culture to controversies in the larger world. Workplace writing is also inherently rhetorical, meaning that questions of audience, purpose, and medium, among others, are central to every decision for these communicators.

While we will read about and critically consider workplace documents from corporations as well as nonprofits and government agencies, students will be given the opportunity to focus their inquiry on particular settings, as they consider the complexities of communicating in specific careers and industries. As they do so, students will work to understand and interrogate workplace discourse communities; consider, practice, and critically investigate what it means to conduct and communicate research professional settings; grapple with the concepts of agency, power, and ethics in workplace writing; critique and practice visual rhetoric of workplace documents; and write collaboratively.

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement. This class is cross-listed with CRN 82702 CAH 2001W M.80.

In 1985, a group of anonymous women artists known as the Guerrilla Girls exposed the sexism and racism that ran rampant in the art world. The women involved wore gorilla masks and used the names of deceased female artists as pseudonyms, becoming famous for the work that they did sharing information about the inequity that exists in the art world. While incremental changes have been made in the art world since 1985, there is still a great deal of inequality. According to ArtReview’s 2018 Power 100 list of the “most influential people in the contemporary art world,” only 40% were women, and a 2019 study conducted by the Public Library of Science “found that 85% of artists in U.S. museum collections are white, and 87% are male.”

In this course, we will view, read, research, and write about the work of women artists whose work can be found in the many museums located in Washington, D.C. Each week, we will visit a different area museum, including The National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Portrait Gallery, and The Kreeger Museum. We will examine the work of women artists and consider the themes and techniques that they employ. We will also complete a variety of writing assignments similar to those done by artists and museum professionals. These assignments will include exhibition label writing, visual analysis, and exhibition review. Together, we will explore the vibrant arts community in Washington, DC and celebrate women artists whose work continues to be marginalized in the larger art community.

Note: This course will satisfy a WID credit. This class is cross-listed with CRN 82210 HIST3101W M.80.

Amsterdam is unique in that every square centimeter has been painstakingly designed: dredged from the sea, drained, and canalized since the 15th century, raising key questions of sustainability. These processes shape the city’s relationship not only to water, but also to surrounding villages, farms, and “natural” spaces, most of them sitting on equally human-made land. How have Dutch architects, planners, designers, and politicians shaped this landscape (originally landschop, literally “shoveled land”)? How do they respond to 21st century demands of climate change? We will also approach Dutch visual culture through a lens of sustainability. Amsterdam’s rich heritage of art was built on liberal immigration policy but also on slavery and colonization. How can this complex legacy be understood, preserved, critiqued, and built upon? Amsterdam’s museums and galleries work to answer these questions and, more concretely, help shape the physical geography of the city itself. We’ll address these linked issues of sustainability with a multi-disciplinary approach, hosting virtual field trips and live chats with Dutch experts. 

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement. This is a distance learning course. This class is cross-listed with CRN 81853 WGSS 2120.W D.81.

Designed to give students with diverse backgrounds and disciplines a basic understanding of the debates and perspectives discussed in the field of WGSS, as well as the larger theoretical scope of feminism, this course asks:

  • What is feminism?
  • What role do gender, sexuality, and intersectionality play in terms of understanding the varieties of human experience?
  • How are issues of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality constructed and defined?

In order to answer those questions, we will interrogate our responses/relationships to various texts -- including academic arguments, personal narratives, advertisements, films, YouTube videos, celebrities, consumer goods -- as they are inflected by our evolving understanding of feminism/s and social justice.

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement. This course is cross-listed with CRN 81871 ENGL 3810W M.80.

What are time and space? We move through them every day. But do we live in them or do they exist because we live? In other words, are the concepts of “time” and “space” ideas that we construct in order to make sense of our world? Is there, within these parameters, such a thing as absolute, objective knowledge, or can we only access relational, subjective knowledge? These questions have driven some of the greatest philosophical and scientific modern European minds: from Newton to Kant to Einstein to Bohr. Only one thing is certain: we experience life as bodies moving linearly in time and through a three dimensional space. As narratives of human experience, literature and art tend to depict the same. But art has always been a loci of experimentation, and science fiction is one of the greatest experimental playgrounds of modern literature. All of the work we will read this semester re-imagines our relationship to time and space and explores how changing these familiar dimensions might change what it means to see, to know, and to, in fact, be human. This semester we will challenge ourselves to do the same. The texts on the syllabus will enable us to engage with those questions and also with the following issues:

  • Literary strategies employed by writers seeking to present an alternate relationship to time and space
  • The originality and plausibility of the methods authors imagine to move bodies through time and space
  • How the type of body one occupies, in terms of race, gender, or species, affects that body’s relationship to time and space

Engaging in science fiction studies entails more than performing critical analyses of science fiction works, though that will constitute much of the work of this class. Through this work, you also will enter into and engage with a unique academic/fan community. This engagement will require speaking to different audiences (academic and general), communicating through different genres, and respectfully engaging in conversations about cultural artifacts which people love, hate, and love to hate. This academic/fan dynamic will be reflected in class conversations and assessments.


Spring 2021

From Aristotle to the present, notions of mathematical infinity have been a major concern of mathematicians and philosophers of mathematics. What does it mean that there are infinitely many numbers? That a value can grow infinitely large, or infinitely close to zero? That a sequence can be infinitely long? That a process can be repeated infinitely many times? We will grapple with all of these issues.

In addition to covering the basics of polished academic writing such as precision, concision, coherence, and cohesiveness, this writing-intensive course will focus on what it means to analyze a text and to construct a convincing argument. By going through the processes of research and revision throughout the semester, students will hone their skills in critical thinking and effective written communication while developing a new appreciation for one of the key concepts of mathematics.

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.

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.

Who are you as a writer? What experiences have shaped your relationship to writing? How do your ideas about writing help or hinder you when facing a new writing challenge? This course begins by inviting you to reflect on your past experiences of writing, both in and out of school. We go on to study key texts and concepts in writing studies: the field of scholarship that seeks to understand the social forces and technologies that shape us as writers, how people learn to overcome blocks and write effectively, and how writers transfer knowledge from one context to another. The premise of this course is that by studying writing itself, you can become a more effective writer in any context—academic, professional, or social.

For the major project of the semester, you will choose an issue related to student writing, for example: writing in STEM fields, being a multilingual writer, or the challenges of writing during Covid. Working in research teams, you will gather survey data from your peers about this issue, and write a research report to present to your team and perhaps to share more widely. By conducting your own research on writing, building on other scholars’ research, you can become a more skilled, self-aware, and flexible writer. You may even, as Jesmyn Ward asserts, come to feel that you have more power over your own life: “I believe there is power in words, power in asserting our existence, our experience, our lives, through words.”

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.

Canoes blocking giant coal ships. Bodies lying, as if dead, at a global summit. Children in the streets shouting for intergenerational justice. Young political upstarts proposing a Green New Deal. Black, brown, and white protestors linking arms to halt a pipeline’s progress. These are snapshots from the climate justice movement, in which power, progress, and possibilities for action are wide open for debate. In this course, we will explore climate change discourse through the lens of environmental justice, to learn how this increasingly visible branch of the movement is pushing the global political conversation. While the dominant voices of the mainstream climate change movement – from scientists like James Hansen to political figures like Al Gore – tend to focus their communication strategies on scientific fact-finding and high-level technological and market fixes, the climate justice movement centers voices from non-dominant cultures and genders, who raise new questions and propose alternative solutions while engaging a wider variety of communication strategies that intersect with progressive movements for women and children, black and brown lives, and labor and civil rights. The climate justice movement’s unique and evolving uses of audiences, images, symbols, narratives, and local resources make it rife with opportunities to generate original knowledge and learn about the power and uses of writing. Together we will expand our understanding of climate communication by analyzing films, photography, social media, journalism, poetry, and other texts of your choosing, and individually you will develop habits of mind and a practical toolkit that will support your academic work. Assignments include a communications analysis, a research-driven project, and a presentation. This class is for you if you are interested in communication studies, climate change, environmental racism, global politics, activism, journalism, film studies, and the arts.

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, 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.

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 &me. 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.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened just a few years ago on the Mall – the culmination of more than a century of advocacy for such an institution. But while the museum has enjoyed tremendous attention in its first several years, 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. A few, of late, have even been taken down, and yet, generally, visitors of these spaces consider them reliable vehicles for telling history. 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 American history, particularly its racial history, including these sites’ physical locations, visual symbolism, and written interpretations – as much as the pandemic will allow us, at least. 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.

This course will examine a variety of texts (written, visual, cinematic, etc.) representing the work of Black voices who have challenged/corrected White Supremacist narratives and confronted racism in America. Using a shared text composed of selected works, students will engage historic and contemporary issues and finally produce research that may be useful as the country enters the Black Lives Matter Era.

“I remember having a tough time pivoting from the way you wrote your assignments in school to writing business communication. It wasn’t the same at all and nobody made that distinction for me at the end of school as I was preparing to graduate and set out for a career… I think it was a lot of effort spent on making sure we got you out of here, and got you a job after you graduated, and then you’re on your own after that.”
– Patrick, Marketing Director, from an interview in the Archive of Workplace Writing Experiences

What knowledge and skills are required to write a marketing proposal? A research project in an international affairs course? A Facebook post for a nonprofit organization? A media assessment of a political campaign? A protest sign?“Good” writing looks dramatically different from one context to the next, and no matter how adept we become in one specific writing situation, we often still struggle to adapt — whether that’s in future coursework or, eventually, in our professional lives. Why is shifting from one writing context to another so challenging? What questions, strategies, and ways of thinking can help? This course seeks not only to answer these questions, but also to provide you with the tools and ways of thinking that are central to becoming a more prepared, flexible, effective writer — in school and at work.

In this section of UW 1020, we will consider your future writing lives through the lens of “transfer,” or the way we apply or adapt previous skills and strategies in new or unfamiliar writing situations. We will not only practice asking the questions necessary to move from one form writing to another, but we will also work to make more instinctive the ways of thinking about arguments, audiences, and evidence that we know to be beneficial as we progress along in our writing lives. You’ll explore academic, professional, and personal/social texts as well as the narratives of real workplace writers in a variety of fields as we work to make sense of conventions and constraints, how “good writing” can look so different from one area to the next, and how we can adapt swiftly among them.

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.

Your generation is collectively more acutely aware of both the promise and peril of images than any group of people who came before you. Thanks to sophisticated mechanisms of digital capture and transmission we have all experienced the power of an image to disturb, shock, provoke and inspire us. On the other hand, we all routinely experience what media scholars in general and photography scholars in particularly have described as “compassion fatigue,” a numbness when faced with yet another in a tidal wave of images of suffering or horror. While images occasionally inspire us to act, more often than not they inspire us to shrug, look away, turn the page, change the channel or go back to watching re-runs of The Office.

This course will investigate the role of photographic images today, with a special emphasis on their capacity to inspire — or thwart — movements for social justice. You will be challenged to think critically about the production, publication and reception of images in ways that will probably make you uncomfortable. We will look, for example, at the systemic racism that has for years characterized the mainstream news media’s use of images of disaster and warfare abroad. We will explore people’s tendency both to believe an image too readily and to disbelieve it if it is inconvenient; we will instead explore two more complex responses to images: unbelief, and mis-belief. You will also be challenged to think about your role in an economy of media images not just as a consumer but as a producer. The average US teen now probably takes more images in a year than many pre-digital photographers took in a lifetime. Is our steady output of trite, clichéd and narcissistic images contributing to our perception of information overload and making it even harder for images to move us toward change and a more just society?

This course will push you to hone your written analytical and critical thinking skills, and to incorporate images into your work ethically and responsibly. You will develop your research skills on a project that you select and shape, by taking a deep dive investigation into a single image. The course will offer a lot of options for smaller assignments that will allow you to produce and analyze your own image content, and will culminate in a final photo essay about your own home town.

Note: By nature of the subject-matter this course will of necessity involve looking at some disturbing and distressing images. They will prompt a visceral reaction from all of us. Our task will be to account for those reactions (or, alternatively, a lack of reaction), to honor those feelings and to explore their personal and social significance.

In the spring of 2020, with COVID-19 creating a global health crisis, the New York Times published a printable pattern for sewing a face mask, and people across the United States threaded needles and got to work. Some were sewing for their families, some for extended social networks, and some craft collectives used social media to form, organize, and produce thousands of masks in just a few weeks. COVID-19 may be new, but the intersection between hi-tech communication and old-timey craft traditions is not. Since the early 21st century, new platforms like Reddit and YouTube have provided resources for those interested in learning old skills and sharing new techniques. Even as craft-specific social networks like Ravelry have helped knitters connect and innovate, and banned knitting patterns that support white supremacy, crafters of color have used Instagram and Twitter to call out racism and exclusionary practices in predominantly white craft circles and “little yarn shops.” Craft and craft communities provide evidence scholars can use to answer myriad questions about culture, society, labor, and aesthetics. What has it historically meant to make something by hand in America, and what does it mean now? Why is it so surprising to see a man knit a sweater? Why are “crafts” treated as different from “art”? Why do scholars find craft blogs useful for understanding 21st century labor and economics, and community gardening useful for understanding principles of human-technology interface design? In this section of University Writing 1020 we will approach scholarship about American craftwork and crafters as a case study for learning about academic writing and research conventions. We will both become familiar with and practice some of the genres scholars use to write about craft and craft labor, developing sufficient expertise to provide each other with feedback on the writing we produce. This section of UW1020 also uses labor-based contract grading to support rigorous engagement with writing practice. This model is designed as an anti-racist teaching practice that supports every student's right to use their own written language to communicate. As part of this model you will learn new approaches to writing that you can rely on in future classes where traditional grading models are still in place.

“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.

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.

NOTE: This is a service learning course. Learn more about service learning courses.

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.

Scientific writing about human variation has created and upheld racialized inequality for centuries. In particular, scientists have created race categories through the misuse of quantitative measures. However, quantitative techniques have also made it possible to establish that there are no biologically recognizable race categories in humans and to assess the impacts of racism on human wellbeing. In this course, we will critically read and write about the histories and futures of race and racism with scholarly and popular texts from the natural and social sciences, especially those that employ quantitative methods.

The quantification of race and racism in scientific disciplines offers many lessons for writing and research. Scientific, quantitative approaches to race and racism bring up challenging methodological and ethical questions, but have also shaped how we understand the roots of the urgent health issues facing much of the world today. This course — with its biocultural approach to a complex topic — offers students the opportunity to practice critically and ethically reading and writing about quantitative claims related to race and racism. Assignments include 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.

NOTE: This course is restricted to students in Civic House. This course is a service learning course. For more information, see http://serve.gwu.edu/information-students.

Learning to “write well” means learning to wrestle with power. “Writing for Social Change” is a space where we will work (virtually) 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.

In the era of incels, swiping left & #metoo, we might be forgiven for thinking that romantic love is in the midst of a terrible crisis. Critics worry that this new environment will ruin sex, or that it frames everyone as either a victim or a villain. Some conservative pundits are still panicking over same-sex and interracial marriages, which they see as the threat to the very existence of the family. What we’re witnessing is a historic, complex transformation in how Americans understand their intimate relationships. Many of these changes are being driven by young people. Our cultural representations of love reflect these shifts, with popular romance novels, rom-coms, songs, comics, computer games, and so forth, exploring new protagonists, new scenarios, and even new subgenres.

How will modern love reshape our culture? What changes should we foster, and which should we resist? This course will explore the issue by studying the perspectives of romance novelists, scholars, intellectuals, and other experts, as well as some novels and films. As this is a hybrid class, you will regularly participate in online discussions about our course reading. Your big writing project will invite you to formulate and systematically investigate some key research question about a specific issue related to our changing cultural understanding of romance, love, or relationships.

Girl meets boy. It’s the simple plotline of the incredibly popular genre known as the romantic comedy. While admittedly rom coms are entertaining, these “fluffy,” “feel good” films also contain strong messaging about American ideals and values — particularly regarding gender, race, sexuality, and class.

In this class, we will watch and discuss romantic comedies, focusing on the ways in which this genre treats identity politics. Who do we see in these films? Who don’t we see? What roles are men supposed to play in these films? What roles do women play in these films? And, why do we often see a surge of interest in the genre during particularly distressing times in American culture. (This remains true in the age of COVID-19 as films such as Jennifer Lopez’s upcoming Marry Me, series such as Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever, and upcoming adaptations such as Camille Perri’s When Katie Met Cassidy have been popping up.)

We will also read and write about these films. Rom coms 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). 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.

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, the 2020 presidential election in particular. 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.

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 The Colbert Report to The Simpsons to the mockumentaries of Sasha Baron Cohen to the controversial Jutland Post Muhammad cartoons, satire is a potent and sometimes dangerous rhetorical tool for illuminating the absurdities of extremist views and partisan propaganda. This course starts with the question of why satire has become such a pervasive phenomenon and then moves towards an exploration of the value of, and potential problems with, satire as a rhetorical lens of social criticism.

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.

In this course, you’ll generate new knowledge — discovering and interpreting GW students’ history — campus life, student organizations, social movements, sports — both for a scholarly audience and for a public audience of GW students and alumni. Founded in 1821 as Columbian College, a Baptist liberal arts college for white male students only, it attracted a few international students in the 19th century and admitted a few female students starting in the late 1880s. In 1904 we changed our name to George Washington University, started moving into Foggy Bottom by the 1910s, and set our sights on becoming a nationally recognized university. We did not admit African American students, however, until 1954, the last university in DC to do so. How did students' gender and racial identities help shape their experiences as students? How did these qualities shape their participation in different academic disciplines, in honors societies, in sports, and in social organizations? How did students themselves shape and reshape the culture of the campus? GW’s Archives has the full run of The Hatchet (1904-), all GW yearbooks, and dozens of student literary journals, including a scandalous Prohibition-flaunting student magazine, The Ghost; records of student organizations like the Columbian Women (1894-), Progressive Student Union (1966-), and GW Pride (1971-); and scrapbooks, photographs, and other materials donated by alumni over the years. Students will write a journal article abstract — boiling down an academic argument to 250 words; a research proposal; an interpretative research essay using GW Archives; and a curated set of documents suitable for the GW Museums bicentennial exhibit, to open in 2021.

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.

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.

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.