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 2020

All classes will be taught using remote instructional methods only. In addition to 3 credit hours of synchronous instruction, students should expect to complete an additional credit hour of asynchronous guided instruction or the equivalent each week.

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.

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

This course will examine the genre of the graphic novel as it pertains to women. We will trace the history of the genre from the periodical press, newspapers, and comics of previous eras, and we will analyze how women have been depicted when visuals combine with text. As graphic novels gain increasing respectability as more than lowly pulp fiction, we will also think about distinctions, legitimate or arbitrary, that are assigned to culture. The novels that we read are all by women authors and take a transnational approach. Texts include the following: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui; Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; Ms. Marvel, No 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson.

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.

The past three years have seen incredible changes in the debate about climate change, from a renewed surge in climate denial at the highest levels, devastation by climate-intensified disasters in many states and countries, children marching in the streets demanding climate action, and young representatives in Congress demanding a “Green New Deal.” What kinds of communication about climate change’s causes, effects, and solutions really work? Now, in the midst of a pandemic, in an atmosphere of racial transformation, and with a critical election looming, how does the climate movement relate to the issues of the moment? And, how do the communication strategies of the climate movement manifest in other public debates, for example, in discussions about the science of CoVid-19? In this course, we will examine how science is used in climate change debates, including its role in climate denial. 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. 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.

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 UW1020, 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.

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.

Note: 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.

Just one glance at Rembrandt's Self-Portrait (1659) at the National Gallery and we are virtually rendered speechless. Why is this so? Is it his artistic genius that causes this reaction? Is it our knowledge of his tragic life that makes us over-interpret his despondent expression? Thick impastos and deep, dark passages of color compel us to romanticize the artist before our eyes. But why are we compelled to call him a "genius?" No matter what answers we ascribe to Rembrandt, no one can deny that his work still speaks to us after four hundred years. This is just one example of the sort of questions we will explore this semester. In this course each student will develop writing skills through careful observation and analysis of 17th Century Dutch painting at the National Gallery of Art. Besides Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals, various landscape and still life masters also will be central to class discussion. We will explore issues of technique (i.e. materials and methods) and art historical interpretations. Did Vermeer use the camera obscura? What was the role of women artists in the 17th Century? Together we will read a selection of scholarly articles related to each artist, as well as virtually visiting the NGA and other museum collections through their scholarly and interactive websites. Through various forms of critical writing, peer editing, class discussion, and individual research, each student will learn to see and appreciate the art of the Dutch Golden Age. Obviously the study of Art History plays an essential role in the content of this course. However the class is not intended for majors in the field. This means that you will neither be tested nor evaluated according to your knowledge and expertise in the subject. Rather you will use art as a means to improve your writing and research skills at the university. For the Fall of 2020, this course will be taught entirely online through Blackboard Collaborate and WebEx. Students are required to attend live classes online during our scheduled class time. You will also have the opportunity to work in groups for Peer Reviews and art exhibition projects. This class will be a fully interactive experience.

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

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 2020

UW 1015 Courses

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

UW 1020 Courses

Note: This is a service learning course.

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.

The philosopher John Dewey, often considered the father of progressive education, believed that experiences which enable students to interact within communities, and critical reflections on these experiences, are essential to the learning process. Experiential educators, drawing upon Dewey's work, have established a body of theory which suggests that service learning is one of the best ways to achieve these goals. In this class we will partner with community organizations, establishing a relationship of reciprocity which will allow you to contribute to their missions while gaining knowledge and expertise.

As you begin your studies at GW you may be grappling with your place in the academic world — but, paradoxically, most of you are here to prepare for a workplace that is not "The University". In this section of UW 1020, we'll ask how we can apply the ideals of a GW education to communicating in the systems and institutions you'll eventually enter as a worker. How can we compose just and equitable workplaces? Where can we intervene to avoid replicating systemic oppression? We will use writing as a tool to interrogate corporate culture and work toward valuing inclusion and difference.

This course focuses on the writing and communication that take place in professional and industry settings. The course will start with case-study style writing projects in which students can expect to examine, analyze and compose common genres associated with business and technical communication. The second half of the course will explore collaborative and service-oriented project/content management to introduce students to the work habits, tools, technologies, and processes that are common to contemporary work contexts. Framing these central objectives will be an emphasis on resisting the accepted notion that business and technical communication is neutral and objective both in its composition and in its impact.

Instead we will expose the influence of biases — particularly those which inhibit justice, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Student writing will be informed by academic arguments that help them consider motivations and methods for critical interventions that disrupt the status quo in technical and professional communication. Our most useful strategy for thinking critically about writing for business and industry will be a rhetorical approach to communication. We will think about how rhetorical situations, alongside business logic, genre conventions, and design principles shape the ways that we compose to reach particular audiences effectively and ethically.

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.

This course meets any student, STEM major or not, at the door of discovery. Recent political moments have attempted to sanitize science in a way that can inhibit such discovery. We aim to describe the discovery process, using STEM as our lens, in such a way that our audience could possibly replicate the experience. This method offers students to consider multiple standpoints, interrogate their philosophy of science and consider alternate ways of knowing — all skills critical to introducing students to university writing. Students will practice weekly reflective responses to prompts as part of what I call steps to critical thinking: standpoint/philosophy of science, summarize, synthesize, situate, analyze, critique, recommend. Prompts include reference reviews, current news in science, conference proceedings and call for papers. Through this process, students will also practice peer review with opinion-editorials, abstracts, elevator pitches and an academic STEM/health research mini mock grants they will write. You will leave this class appreciating the discovery and application of science (STEM), improving critical thinking skills and communicating through multiple genres. Teaching students how to deconstruct research, as well as think critically about current events in STEM may encourage ongoing practice beyond the end of the course.

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 health from a holistic perspective that builds on socioeconomic, political and biological aspects of 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.

UW 2020W Courses

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement. This is a distance learning course.

The course is designed to give students with diverse backgrounds and disciplines a basic understanding of the debates and perspectives discussed in the field of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) as well as the larger theoretical scope of feminism. The course will foreground concepts of gender and sexuality; in addition, this course will address the materiality of various oppressions as they intersect with critical areas of identity and through. The class will draw on historical and contemporary research as well as diverse sources — such as personal narratives and popular media — to analyze forces that shape women and men’s lives.

The course will ask questions such as:

  • What is gender?
  • What is sexuality?
  • What is feminism and is it still relevant today?
  • What role do gender, sexuality, and intersectionality (as informed by class, race, biology, ethnicity/nationality, ability and disability, education, appearance, age, and others) play in terms of understanding the varieties of human experience?
  • How are issues of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality constructed and defined differently according to various texts within popular media (e.g., advertisements, children’s toys, popular films)?
  • What are the various types of feminist perspectives and praxis that can be used to create equality for both women and men in contemporary American society?

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement. This is a distance learning course.

What’s the best way to persuade a reader of a scientific study’s validity? Why might you want to avoid using the color red in instructional graphics? How can the person in an organization in charge of the website copy advocate for racial justice?

Although you might not guess it, the discipline of technical communication is an ideal vantage point to consider the questions above and many others. This course situates technical communication as a set of crucial problem-solving skills for the workplace. Although it often seems purely “practical,” technical 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, technical 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 science and technology. Technical writing is also inherently rhetorical, meaning that questions of audience, purpose, and medium, among others, are central to every decisions-making process for these communicators.

Technical communication goes beyond simply writing clearly, concisely, and “correctly” (although they’re components of it!), and this course allows students access to and practice with the types of situations and problems that technical communication can solve. Whether you're an English major looking to explore your career options or an engineering student who knows that technical writing will be a part of your future job — or anything in between — our overarching course goal is that you begin to think like a professional technical communicator. By the time you complete this course, you will understand the basic concepts — both theoretical and practical — of technical writing, as well as their significance. Rather than having every grammar “rule” memorized, you’ll be able to spot common errors and be able to find editorial information when you need it, as well as understand grammar rhetorically. Looking beyond the class, you will be able to relate these newly acquired skills and insights to your current or future workplace or writing projects — invaluable experience no matter what kind of career you’re entering.

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement.

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 that 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 requirement. This is a distance learning course.

The course is designed to give students with diverse backgrounds and disciplines a basic understanding of the debates and perspectives discussed in the field of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) as well as the larger theoretical scope of feminism. The course will foreground concepts of gender and sexuality; in addition, this course will address the materiality of various oppressions as they intersect with critical areas of identity and through. The class will draw on historical and contemporary research as well as diverse sources — such as personal narratives and popular media — to analyze forces that shape women and men’s lives.

The course will ask questions such as:

  • What is gender?
  • What is sexuality?
  • What is feminism and is it still relevant today?
  • What role do gender, sexuality, and intersectionality (as informed by class, race, biology, ethnicity/nationality, ability and disability, education, appearance, age, and others) play in terms of understanding the varieties of human experience?
  • How are issues of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality constructed and defined differently according to various texts within popular media (e.g., advertisements, children’s toys, popular films)?
  • What are the various types of feminist perspectives and praxis that can be used to create equality for both women and men in contemporary American society?

Note: This course will satisfy a WID requirement.

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 this syllabus 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 we do together. 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 (papers and posts), and respectfully engaging in conversations about cultural artifacts which people love, hate, and love to hate. This academic/fan dynamic will be reflected in our class conversations and in the class assessments.

Note: This is a short-term abroad course that satisfies WID credit. Overseas course component in the Netherlands from July 25 - August 9, 2020. Course will meet online from June 29 - July 24, 2020. Students must contact the Office for Study Abroad to register.

This is a course in the art of looking: What does it mean to see Amsterdam as one grand museum? How do architecture and urban design shape urban life, from 16th century canal houses to 21st century mod condos? How do residents and outsiders engage with art & design? How do museums interpret Amsterdam’s conflicted history, from Golden Age cosmopolitanism and colonialism to 20th century Nazi collaboration and decolonization? How do city-dwellers today — including immigrants and their descendants from north Africa and the former Dutch colonies — interact and claim city space and culture? We’ll read, discuss, and write online (weeks 1-4) then roam Amsterdam & write a group travel blog (weeks 5-6). We’ll visit the Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Stedelijk Museum of modern design, VanMoof Bicycles, Red Light District, ARCAM Architecture Center, and Marken village, plus take architecture tours and attend an Ajax soccer match and the Roots music festival.

 


Spring 2020

Elementary mathematics can be deceiving. We learn it as young children, and are often left with the impression that it is a conceptually shallow collection of mindless procedures. That impression is very unfortunate, as elementary mathematics actually contains the foundations for deeper notions related to concepts such as operation, process, categorization, relationship, and abstraction which have life-long significance, and are of particular relevance to writing itself. In this course we will take a close look at elementary mathematics and writings about it in order to get a closer and more sophisticated view of this critical part of everyone's education. By developing a research project on elementary mathematics through the lense of philosophy, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, pedagogy, or even mathematics itself, students will hone their skills in critical thinking and effective written communication while developing a new and rich perspective on what they already know.

Development programs in emerging economies are commonly judged successful based on their ability to holistically transform individuals and societies for the better. However, the metrics of social impact reflect the cultural values, economic priorities and political ideologies of aid-giving countries, thereby installing an often lopsided relationship and expectations between donors and beneficiaries. The nations of sub-Saharan Africa are most familiar with this power dynamic, given how colonial systems have indelibly shaped their contemporary histories and current status as emerging economies. Working within this regional context, this course will present and evaluate African development policy and impact narratives by centering the perspectives of local actors and considering what indigenous-led development looks like.

This course will begin with foundational knowledge of social impact narratives within development studies literature, sources that range from policy reports and monitoring and evaluation documents to media representations and popular non-fiction on charity in African nations. Rather than reinforce an internal vs. external approach to the power relations of aid, the readings and class discussions will be dedicated to showcasing how African goals for social and economic stability simultaneously dialogue with global-led demands for competition and innovation. The writing assignments will engage directly with this discourse through a class research project that interrogates a development issue local to Washington D.C.: gentrification and urban renewal. Additional learning activities will include attending public events at local think tanks and public policy organizations whose issue forums intersect with these themes. The ultimate aim of the course will be to evaluate narratives about social progress that are nuanced, critical and cognizant of the power dynamics and value systems at play.

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.

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

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

In this course, students will first examine and define the genre and subgenres of apology, with a focus on public apologies and efforts towards reconciliation. We will then analyze various cases to study the rhetorical devices applied, identify the strategies and appeals the apologizer uses, and assess their effectiveness. We will also investigate cases in which an apology was warranted but not given, and students will write an apology tailored to the rhetorical situation. This course will leave room for students to ask big questions, including “what makes an apology rhetorical, and why should we study it through this lens?” and “what are the limits of apologies?” The questions posed in the course will be answered through student inquiry and informed by core principles of composition and rhetoric.

Our current political weather offers ample case studies. We will tie the course work closely to the current election cycle. Students will be expected to follow current events, beyond apology, and be prepared to apply our knowledge to emerging social issues. Further, we will also study the rhetoric of protest to help us understand the greater discourse and rhetorical situation surrounding public apologies (and calls for apology) and reconciliation efforts. The course will culminate in a final research paper in which students will inform their analysis of the topic through a lens of their choosing. This may include race conscious, feminist, queer, class counscious, psychological, philosophical, religious, peace and conflict studies, business, military, or another academic framework, and they may choose to focus on particular historical or current events relevant to their major.

Through this course students will develop a solid understanding of rhetorical situation, rhetorical appeals, stasis theory, and scholarly and public discourse. We will move through a diverse constellation of case studies including truth and reconciliation commissions, celebrity interviews, statements by former presidents, the ceremonial burning of offensive art, and more. In their final research project, students will author and refine a research question, develop skills for researching, synthesizing, arguing, and analyzing, and will leave the class having made a unique contribution to the body of knowledge.

“The success or failure of a country’s foreign policy and its ability to preserve peace will depend upon the reliability of its diplomats’ reports.” – U.S. diplomat and academic Hans Morgenthau

This course will introduce students to the fascinating world of diplomatic writing.  Although sometimes overlooked, writing is one of the key skills any good diplomat should have.  Every single day, thousands of diplomats around the world write a wide range of texts, looking to inform, persuade, assuage, warn off, and explain things to their audiences.  From lengthy treaty texts to punchy diplomatic cables, diplomats must pay scrupulous attention to tone and connotation, while writing as succinctly as possible, given the extremely limited attention of senior policymakers.

This course will particularly focus on recent U.S. diplomatic cables, which students will have to read, research, and analyze, as well as attempt to write their own.  We will study how diplomatic cables are written, and the contexts that U.S. diplomats in the field operate within.  We will also discuss why diplomatic cables have recently gotten unusual amounts of attention, due in part to several high-profile leaks, including the infamous Cablegate incident in 2010, the 2019 forced resignation of British Ambassador Kim Darroch, and the role diplomatic writing has played in the unfolding Ukraine investigation.

For a final project, students will choose an area of American foreign policy of their choice and use declassified diplomatic correspondence to explain what options were available to U.S. policymakers, and how diplomatic reports shaped the eventual contours of U.S. policymaking.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

Every 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.

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

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

Words have power. But that power, and often the meaning of the words, can change depending on context. How a word is used — by and to whom, and for what purpose (also known as the rhetorical situation) — is vital to understanding the power of a word. We'll begin the semester by reading excerpts from Randall Kennedy's Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, which takes up the question of what the N-word means, based on when, how, and by whom it is used — and also asks whether the word should be shunned or continued in its uses. The first paper of the semester will ask you to discuss a profane utterance in terms of its rhetorical situation, in order to make visible how the word was used in that particular time and place, and with that particular audience and purpose. We'll use the readings throughout the semester to introduce ideas of disciplinarity: scholars who discuss profanity within Anthropology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology, and other fields. Readings from these disciplines will model how scholars frame their writing within academic discourses. Through a series of writing and research projects that focus on specific instances of profanity, you'll learn to frame your own work in these ways as well, so that by the end of the semester you'll not simply be reporting on what other scholars have said, but actively engaging as participants in university-level writing and research.

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

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

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

Lonely Trekkies in Vulcan ears, hysterical Twilight fans weeping at the sight of Robert Pattinson, basement dwellers, pale in the glow of a computer screen. These are our stereotypes of media fans. They make us laugh, they make us nervous, they are objects of derision, but who are they really?

A better question might be who we are — since we are all fans of something &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.

Creative nonfiction — and in particular the personal essay — has given writers a unique form. It is a space that allows us to merge personal experience with research in order to ask complex questions about the world (and our place in it). It is a genre that encourages writers to look at life closely and make nuanced arguments about themselves, and by extension, humanity as a whole. This class will study the personal essay in depth, letting students explore narrative and argument, as they pull from experiences in their lives and put them under the microscope, using this specificity to unlock universal ideas. It will focus on observation, critical thinking, and reflection — the most important tools in an essayist’s toolbox. We will read essays by E.B.White, Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and others; and we’ll discuss the ways that these essayists pair life experience with research in order to address interesting (and sometimes difficult) topics.

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

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

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

Language matters. Correspondents, diplomats, and heads of state serve as interlocutors—often bridging ideas or policies across languages. Filmmakers contend with issues of dubbing, subtitling, adaptations, and remakes. Scientists engaged in multinational research have to contend with the nuances woven into digital chat. Machine translation software only goes so far without human interaction. How can the practice of translation (the transfer of meaning from one language to another “mode”) help shape our understanding of communication? How can our understanding of “code-switching” provide fresh insights into the prism of our unique identities?

As we investigate our relationships with literacy, we will also explore issues of identity, migration, globalism, and transnationalism. Readings include excerpts from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands / La Frontera, Jonathan Stalling’s Yingelishi, and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Assignments will include a literacy essay; a group digital soundscape project translating a Washington, DC neighborhood into an audio narrative; and a research project, including an option for translating a literary work and analyzing your process.

Proficiency in a foreign language is NOT required for this course. Instead, we will unbind our ideas of literacy and revel in the positive discomfort of confronting tongues in unfamiliar ways. Throughout the semester, we will focus on the idea of language itself (textual, as well as images and sounds in multimodal compositions). We will consider the concept of “translation” from three perspectives:

  1. the processes of transfer from idea to text (written, audio, and visual texts);
  2. critical analysis of discourse communities to glean understanding of lexis and intercommunication; and
  3. transformation through the act of translation (across languages, and across genres).

Note: This course is a hybrid; classroom and online instruction.

“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.

From homemade banjo-like stringed instruments employed by rural Malawians, Florida musician Moses Williams fashioning a one-stringed instrument out of a door, to Nigerian Afro beat pioneer Fela Kuti’s slogan that “music is a weapon”, various types of sound art have been used to stare down poverty, radicalize groups of people into a movement for social justice, or simply allow us all to recognize something about where we come from and what we have in common. In this course, we will survey readings, performance, video, documentary, and no doubt some deep listening in order to craft our own writing, and perhaps opinion, on the subject. Along the way, we’ll take on everything from urban free jazz, rural folk and the complexities inherent in semi-known folk-pop hybrids from Mauritania to Thailand.

Students will craft papers that trace anything from origins of a particular musical form and how it was shaped by environment, to musical statements both cultural and political, to various folk traditions, and how they are either preserved or threatened. Topics may deal with movements such as Rock Against Racism, and Riot Grrrl; we will check in with the West Blue Nile People of Sudan and note their ability to harness song and dance in order to fight back against a government that bombs its own people. There will also be a chance to write short reviews or other commentary on the importance of an artist or style.

Texts may include:

  • Alan Lomax’s The Land Where the Blues Began (video)
  • Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life
  • Francis Bebey’s African Music: A People’s Art
  • Photo collections of early phonograph memorabilia from around the globe
  • Reebee Garofalo’s Rockin’ The Boat: Mass Music and Mass Movements
  • Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony

…and of course, select recordings to enhance what we discuss and write about.

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

In a variety of professional contexts, simulation is employed as a powerful learning and training tool. The military uses elaborate war-games to simulate physical combat while also employing sophisticated tactical simulations to train military planners. Airline pilots routinely train for unexpected and potentially disastrous scenarios in simulators that replicate the cockpit and behavior of a chosen aircraft down to the last detail. Climate scientists construct elaborate computer models of weather patterns. Many videogames features extremely realistic simulations of environments, weapons, social and political systems, and even human interactions.

At its core, however, simulation is simply the ability to model a system, and there are many ways to do that, many of which don’t involve high tech digital tools. This class will focus initially on board games, which during the last decade have experienced a major resurgence in popularity. Many of these games are complex simulations of everything from the spread of disease pathogens to the insurgency in Afghanistan; soldier bonds during WWI to the courtship rituals in Jane Austen’s novels. We will be playing, analyzing, critiquing, and writing about many of these games.

Above all, however, we will be using our engagement with simulation board games to develop your writing skills. We will, first of all, be exploring the ways in which learning about writing is in fact a complex simulation activity and — perhaps — the ways in which education itself can productively be regarded as a game. By asking you to engage with new modes of writing and analysis, this class will develop your writing, research, and critical thinking skills.

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

The 21st Century faces a labor crisis in the form of increased automation of jobs across sectors, from manufacturing to service — yet it’s also seen a resurgence of interest in craft traditions from sewing & knitting to woodworking & blacksmithing. Intriguingly, new media and technology have been central to the revival of many of these skills and practices. Craft-specific social networks like Ravelry help knitters connect and innovate; platforms like Reddit and YouTube provide resources for those interested in learning old skills and sharing new techniques; technologies like 3D printing challenge old definitions that saw “hand-crafted” as indicative of one-of-a-kind artistry while “manufactured” necessarily meant assembly lines and uniform mass production.

What has it historically meant to make something “by hand,” and what does it mean now?

How is a hand-crafted item with use-value — a quilt someone’s grandmother made a hundred years ago, a hand-turned wooden bowl bought at a craft fair, a garment someone sews for themself — meaningful to an individual, a culture, an era? When does making things by hand become a political statement? When does it become art?

Over the course of the semester you will first familiarize yourself with these and other questions that have been posed by gender, cultural & rhetorical scholars about the role making things by hand continues to have in the formation of American identity and experience, about particularly American conceptions of craft & handmaking, and about complex ways in which handmade things mean. You will then develop your own original research project that takes a closer look at some aspect of handmaking in the US.

Assignments in this class will include a critical analysis of a handmade object, an annotated bibliography, and a final research project. This class uses a labor-based grading system.

Note: Friday classes meet at the Folger Shakespeare Library. See department for details.

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

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

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

Note: Friday classes meet at the National Gallery of Art. See department for details.

In this course we will develop writing skills through careful observation and analysis of 17th Century Dutch painting at the National Gallery of Art. Each student will write 2 polished catalogue entries (2-3 pages each) of works from the National Gallery collection, a short exhibition review (3-5 pages), a short research paper (5-7 pages) and a larger research project (15-20 pages). Artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals will be the central focus of class discussion, as well as various landscape and still life masters. We will explore issues of technique (i.e. materials and methods) and art historical interpretations. Why do we consider Rembrandt a "genius?" Did Vermeer use the camera obscura? How did the new wealthy middle class affect art patronage? Together we will read a selection of scholarly articles related to each subject, as well as visiting the museum collection firsthand. Through critical writing, class discussion, and individual research, each student will learn to see and appreciate the art of the Dutch Golden Age.

Note: This course is a hybrid service-learning course that combines classroom and online instruction.

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.

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

Scientific writing about human variation has created and upheld racialized inequality for centuries. In this course, we will critically read and write on the histories and futures of race and racism through natural and social sciences. In the first half of the semester we will read and interpret scientific studies on human biocultural variation and the history of scientific racism (race is not a biologically identifiable category). The second half of the course examines the biological impacts of racism. Readings from biology, public health, and anthropology will model scientific research design and discourse. Assignments include responses to readings and peer writing, original research writing, collaborative and independent revision, and graphical display of information (tables, charts, and infographics). Students will rhetorically evaluate scientific arguments and respond to them in socially relevant ways.

Scientific writing about race and racism in particular helps us understand the roots of the most urgent health issues facing much of the world today. This course — with its biocultural approach to a complex topic — offers students the opportunity to integrate and compare various disciplinary perspectives and to critically evaluate how writing those disciplines has created social inequality. In turn, by conducting one's own research and crafting text and graphics, students will personally engage in the act of public science communication. Students will become critical consumers and producers of writing on human variation, race, and racism.

This course is an ongoing study conducted by first year students about how popular music serves as a reflection of society. We will investigate a variety of ways that music is analyzed and argued about in both popular and academic communities, and we will research the issues about music that we, as a group, consider to be important. "Songs and Script" is based on the idea that students who take the course, past, present, and future, should form a community of scholars who build the course over repeated semesters. Consequently, the issues we address and the knowledge we establish comes equally from the students and the professor, and current students must always build upon the work of previous classes. Further, the course maintains a concentrated focus on different means of analysis. Therefore, not only will students write analytical research essays about critical issues, but they will also participate in several collaborative group projects, including writing, composing, and producing an original song. Every assignment will involve research, analysis, argument, and formal expression.

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

In 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.

As you begin your studies at GW you may be grappling with your place in the academic world — but, paradoxically, most of you are here to prepare for a workplace that is not "The University". In this section of UW 1020, we'll ask how we can apply the ideals of a GW education to communicating in the systems and institutions you'll eventually enter as a worker. How can we compose just and equitable workplaces? Where can we intervene to avoid replicating systemic oppression? We will use writing as a tool to interrogate corporate culture and work toward valuing inclusion and difference.

This course focuses on the writing and communication that take place in professional and industry settings. The course will start with case-study style writing projects in which students can expect to examine, analyze and compose common genres associated with business and technical communication. The second half of the course will explore collaborative and service-oriented project/content management to introduce students to the work habits, tools, technologies, and processes that are common to contemporary work contexts. Framing these central objectives will be an emphasis on resisting the accepted notion that business and technical communication is neutral and objective both in its composition and in its impact.

Instead we will expose the influence of biases — particularly those which inhibit justice, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Student writing will be informed by academic arguments that help them consider motivations and methods for critical interventions that disrupt the status quo in technical and professional communication. Our most useful strategy for thinking critically about writing for business and industry will be a rhetorical approach to communication. We will think about how rhetorical situations, alongside business logic, genre conventions, and design principles shape the ways that we compose to reach particular audiences effectively and ethically.

In this section of UW 1020, we will be watching, discussing, researching, reading about and writing about women and film. While movies are usually considered “entertainment,” you’ll see throughout the semester, there are lots of people reading and writing about women and film in intellectual ways — both in the popular press and in academia. We will look at the work of writers in this discourse community to examine the way in which they create effective arguments about film. What are their own observations that they are making? How are they entering ongoing conversations about these movies? And, in what ways are they applying research in order to enrich their readings of these films? We will also consider how the “writerly” expectations of this discourse community might be similar to or different from other disciplinary writing. We will watch and discuss films by women directors such as Sofia Coppola, Dee Rees, and Jenny Slate. Our in class discussions will help inform our own critical reading, researching, and writing strategies that we will practice throughout the semester. Students will produce writing assignments in a variety of genres, including an independent research project on the topic of their choice. The skills we will work on in this introductory course will prepare students for other academic challenges throughout the remainder of their college career.

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

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

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

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

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.

Have you ever been unable to enter a building? Do you have difficulty seeing the board, or hearing a teacher, in class? If so, do you feel like you are still “normal?” This course is about the myths and paradoxes surrounding ability and disability in the United States. We’ll be thinking about disability is understood through (and in opposition to!) our conceptions of normal, abnormal, and “Other.” During this term, we will approach disabled embodiment through a variety of approaches that inflect disability studies — medical diagnosis, social construction, literary analysis, and performance studies — in an effort to more richly understand the construction of the “normal” human body as an organizing principle for participating in America’s public sphere. In this section of UW1020, we will be in conversation with a wide range of disabled voices and allies, including Presidents Lincoln and Eisenhower, bestselling novels The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and Good Kings Bad Kings, plays such as The Elephant Man and Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark, and a variety of TV and movies, from shows like Sense8 and American Horror Story to disability short films. Students will learn to scaffold original research projects by public-facing social media posts, annotated bibliographies, public speaking, and a final research paper.

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

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

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