UW1020 Courses

Spring 2018

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

Hybrid courses blend face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning to improve learning outcomes. Hybrid courses thus move a significant amount of course work to an online environment.

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

Course Offerings

Course Descriptions

Writing with Sophistication about Elementary Mathematics

Abrams, Lowell

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.

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(De)Constructing the Non-Human

Bieda, Casey

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

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

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Speaking of Animals:Thoughts on Human and Animal Nature

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

Over the past century, many psychologists and linguists have tried to teach forms of human language to great apes. Whether they have succeeded has been a question of intense controversy. The arguments that grew out of these studies turned into a bitter war of words less about science than about humanity’s place in the world. The underlying anxiety was this: If language is not uniquely human—nor the use of tools, nor the capacities for compassion, morality, and self-recognition—then what unique role can humanity possibly serve in a worldview that presumes human uniqueness?
This course takes a different tack: Rather than presuming humans to be either masters or stewards of the natural world, and rather than presuming that we are unique among other animals, we ask a variety of questions to help define what role we want to play in that world. These questions will be rooted in a wide range of fields: science, philosophy, psychology, engineering, art, business, agriculture—it all depends on how we, as a class, choose to direct our thinking. In other words, this is an interdisciplinary course, meaning that you will get to explore ideas within your major, but you will also be expected to engage ideas in other fields.
We’ll read works by classic and contemporary authors like Charles Darwin, Elena Passarello, Jeremy Bentham, Temple Grandin, David Hume, Annie Dillard, and Virginia Woolf. We’ll explore topics of diet and conservation, as well as less obviously related topics, like slavery, urban planning, gender equality, and musical taste. And we’ll even look at topics that, at first, might seem totally unrelated, like the gullibility of modern media audiences. And in the process, we’ll develop your skills in writing, reading, critical thinking, research, collaboration, and technology.
To test those skills, you will produce three essays: an opinion piece, a personal essay, and a feature article; each of these should be written in a voice and style appropriate for a popular magazine or newspaper. To prepare for these projects, you will write weekly blog posts, which I encourage you to incorporate into your larger projects as appropriate. This is a highly collaborative class, so you will workshop each other’s writing in small groups to help with revision, and you will decide, as a class, on a final collaborative project. This could be a magazine, a podcast, an organized event—anything that can be accomplished within a semester that will exercise and demonstrate the skills that this course is designed to teach.
Yes, this class will be tough. We’ll read and think and read and write and rewrite and think harder and… you get the idea. But it will also be fun. You’ll experience new ideas, probably make new friends, get super-nerdy about your research, and that final project, whatever it is, you’ll love it!

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An Empirical Approach: Writing in the Social Sciences

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

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

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

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Writing About Writing

Friedman, Sandra

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

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

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Legacies of the Holocaust

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

In this course, the series of tasks you will perform – 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. 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," theSonderkommando, 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. If you have any questions about this class, please contact Professor Gamber at cayo1@gwu.edu.

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Race, Class and Gender in 60's Popular Culture Entertainment

Herer, Lisbeth

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx

Television has been called many names: some good, many bad. Perhaps when you watch television, if you do, you feel you are tuning out and not tuning in. Maybe like Groucho Marx, you feel you should read a book instead? Fair enough, but TV’s broad reach – by 1960, one television in 9 out of 10 households; today 120 million households – is undeniable. TV shows as cultural artefacts allow us to plumb the depths of a given historical moment to illuminate the desires and anxieties of the culture from which it emanates. This course will look at American culture and history of the 1960’s through the lens of iconic and lesser-known 60’s sitcoms and use these sitcoms as points of departure to explore such issues as class, gender, race, agrarian-technology dichotomy, the space race, and Cold War tensions. Through rhetorical analyses, we will explore how these issues, which reflect political, social, and cultural struggles, were cast and (re)constructed as we move through time, attempting to unpack the ways in which TV supports and undermines normative values. The course will offer students an opportunity to develop their academic writing and research skills. Assignments will include an annotated bibliography, a short sitcom critique, a character study, and a research paper. 

Communicating Climate Change

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

How has climate change debate evolved in the past decade, from Al Gore’s hopeful message in the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth to the current renewed prominence of climate denial? Globally and nationally, have we progressed in our understanding and approach to the problem, or are we further behind than ever? In this course, we will study the role of communication in shaping public attitudes and actions toward climate change. 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, an action proposal, a research-driven project, and a final presentation. This course is a fully hybrid course that meets online for the Friday studio.

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American Environmental Advocacy

Johnston, Elizabeth

In this course we will examine with a fresh eye some of the canonical texts of the American environmental movement—works by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and Bill McKibben, among others—as well as writing by politicians, journalists, activists, and artists, all eager to persuade.  With other scholars, we will ask: how has the environmental movement conceived of the relationship between man and nature?  How has it made a difference in human behavior?  What sways people more to act—in-your-face, shocking works or subtle, open-ended pieces that pose questions to which we do not yet have answers?  How have such strategies shifted or been contested over the course of American environmental history, and what shapes can we imagine them adopting in the future?  In addition, we’ll look at other modes of advocacy—including genres like documentary and feature film, children’s literature, and speeches—to determine how environmental advocates choose their forms and approaches to change.

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Media Fandom: Geeks, Fanboys, and Stalker Chicks

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

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

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

This writing and research intensive course will begin with an examination of the current research on fans and fan communities. We will then look closely at fan practices in online fan communities and analyze a range of fan generated media, especially fan fiction. Student research will involve close examination of an online fan community.

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Conspiracies, Secrets, and Lies

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

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

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

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

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

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Historical Creative Nonfiction 

Maakestad, Robert
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 historical creative nonfiction, writers research the past in order to inform the present. By reexamining and retelling history within the genre of creative nonfiction, writers inhabit the space between past and present, tying the two together by thinking critically on the page. Through consideration of the greater context of historical events and persons, the reader juxtaposes the past with their own life and better understands how to create meaning in the present. 
In this class we will read essays by Elizabeth Kolbert, John McPhee, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, and many other writers. These readings will focus on historical events and persons and allow for discussion of the way the past informs the present. By reading researched, argument-driven historical essays and discussing them in the classroom, students will learn the rhetorical situation and see how writers use argument in historical creative nonfiction writing. Students will then apply the rhetorical situation and their own research to three historical creative nonfiction writing projects throughout the semester: a profile essay, and two researched narratives. 

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

Mantler, Gordon

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

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Jacked: The Appropriation and Exploitation of African American Culture

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

Using the terms "appropriation" and "exploitation," this course examines the theft of African American labor, income stability, wealth building capacity and intellectual property as a result of institutional racism. Over the semester, students will examine, analyze and discuss questions of cultural authenticity and realness, white supremacy, and the ways appropriation and exploitation have been embedded in American institutions, and will explore contemporary strategies for resistance and reclamation. Selected texts (scholarly and non-scholarly) will provide a foundation for class discussion and analysis. Students will write three linked papers of increasing length and complexity. The research process is designed to produce a discovery that contributes to the body of knowledge related to a subject of students’ choosing.

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

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

Language matters.  But proficiency in a foreign language is NOT required for this course.  Instead, we’ll unbind our ideas of literacy and revel in the positive discomfort of confronting tongues in unfamiliar ways.  As we investigate our relationships with texts, we will explore issues of identity, migration, and transnationalism.  Correspondents, diplomats, and heads of state serve as interlocutors—often bridging ideas or policies across languages.  Scientists engaged in multinational research have to contend with the nuances woven into digital chat.  Machine translation software only goes so far without human interpretation.  How can the practice of translation (the transfer of meaning from one language to another “mode”) help shape our understanding of communication, while providing fresh insights into the prism of our unique identities?
Throughout the semester, we will focus on the idea of language itself (literacy, both word-based and visual).  We will consider the concept of “translation” through three lenses:
the processes of transfer from idea to text (written and visual)
critical analysis as an act of translation to glean understanding of texts
transformation through the act of translation (across languages, and across genres).
Critical readings from bilingual works (including Stalling’s Yingelishi and Anzaldúa’s Borderlands / La Frontera) will enhance our understanding of “code-switching.”  Assignments include a literacy essay, critical art analysis, exercises using Google Translate, group work leading class discussion, and an ethnographic research essay.

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Imagining the Future: Genetics in Popular Culture

McReynolds, Leigha

From the mainstream news media to Hollywood, our obsession with genetics suggests that some of our strongest fears surround the human ability to manipulate DNA. Our cultural preoccupation with this issue is rooted in the birth of eugenics at the end of the nineteenth century. Since then, scientific progress has led us to contemplate the potentially threatening consequences of technologies from cloning to gene therapy. Imagining dystopic futures where genes determine one’s destiny or where expensive procedures create a genetic underclass is far more common than depictions of progressive futures where a democratic society is enhanced by access to lifesaving therapies. In this class we will explore where these fears come from; what, exactly, we are so afraid of; and how our fears about and the promises of genetic research and technology are represented and manipulated.

We will begin the class by performing cultural analyses of popular culture artifacts that center around or draw on genetic science. We will consider the purpose of these artifacts — why do they use genetics and what message are they presenting to the audience? — as well as the developments in science and technology that have enabled these representations. Then through a conceptual archaeology and a synthesis paper, 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. We will end the semester with a research paper in which you present an original contribution on the ways that culture is shaped by and in turn shapes advances in genetics.

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

Miller, Bruce
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; classroom and online instruction.

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.  

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Faking Democracy

Mullen, Mark
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; classroom and online instruction.

The relationship between the political establishment and the American news media plunged into uncharted territory when the current US president labeled the press “the enemy of the American people.”  Yet many commentators barely registered any surprise.  By that point the US had already witnessed cynical manipulation of the infosphere by everyone from domestic extremist groups to foreign governments, not to mention the political campaigns themselves.  The press itself seemed confused how to respond to an environment where many news consumers themselves no longer seemed to care much about accuracy, evidence, or authenticity.
Does the public’s torrid love affair with “fake news” and “alternative facts” indicate a massive failure in public media literacy?  Is this a throwback to an earlier age of rough-and-tumble journalism where facts were secondary to political ideology?  Or are we experiencing a mutation in the information environment created by the technologies we use to create and access news?
We will look at these and many more questions over the course of a class that will challenge you to develop new writing and research skills—even as we ponder whether or not those skills really matter any more.

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Fashion Emergency!: Clothing and Global Capitalism

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

Did you wake up this morning and feel like you had nothing to wear? Where does that feeling come from, when you’re standing in front of a closet full of clothes? Or maybe you feel like you pay no attention to what you wear—yet what you “thoughtlessly” put on still tells the world something about you.

This class will start by exploring the cultural meanings that articles of clothing acquire: how can clothes communicate a sense of humor, morality or religious beliefs, an appreciation for certain types of music or culture, lifestyle, class, and even politics? From there, we will begin to consider how economics and modes of production shape our desire for clothing that communicates the “right” message while layering our clothing with additional meaning.

Over the past decade, fast fashion, off-shore manufacturing, and shortened design “seasons” have all put pressure on consumers to purchase more and more clothing, while “slow fashion”, DIY movements, and small retailers that advertise ethical labor practices and environmentally sustainable manufacturing have grown. Paradoxically, these movements “sell” themselves as a way to defy the pressures of a global capitalist fashion industry while tapping into a different set of consumer desires.

Over the course of the semester you will first familiarize yourself with some of the questions scholars ask about how clothing fashions mean and matter in the contemporary economic and cultural landscape, and then develop an original research project that takes a closer look at some aspect of clothing, exploring how and why it communicates meaning, and identifying those economic and cultural forces that shape our complex relationship with clothing.

Assignments in the class will include an article review, an annotated bibliography, and a final research project.  This is a hybrid course, which means that significant course work will make use of cyberspace formats including wordpress blogs and wiki technology.

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Framing the Visual World of Shakespeare

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

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

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

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

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Dutch Painting at the National Gallery of Art

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

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

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Writing Lives: Composing Consciousness and Service Learning

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

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

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

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

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#AmWriting: Researching, Authoring, and Audience in the Age of New Media

Ravy, Tawnya
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.

From the way we consume our daily news and learn the best method for applying eye shadow to the way we fund a campaign or publish a book, New Media not only shapes our experience of modern life, but also our roles as producers and consumers of ideas. The digital technology boom has changed our access to information in a move that some say is turning us into screen zombies and others say is responsible for some of the greatest accomplishments in human history. The widespread impact of new media prompts us to consider critically not only the changing nature of communication (and the very definition of “writing”), but also the evolving parameters of what constitutes an author and an audience. Are you an author if you post clever captions on Instagram? Should having a built-in (digital) audience be a necessary perquisite for traditional publishing? Is digital scholarship and open access the only/best option for academia in the 21st century? These are just some of the questions that we will think about, write about, and debate with one another in this class. 
We will begin by contemplating what New Media means, its history in the larger narrative of 20th and 21st century communication, and its relationship to writing strategies and conventions. We will also begin by probing some of the ethical implications of new media, such as issues of copyright, capital, and privacy. Throughout the course, we will write about New Media and for New Media, utilizing a variety of digital platforms to explore digital writing conventions, community guidelines for a digital audience, and the impact of digital knowledge production and consumption on the modern research process. We will then reflect on and evaluate our New Media productions and conclude the course with a research project.

 Writing Global Women's Lives 

Riedner, Rachel

Beginning with historical analysis of the veil in France, we’ll consider the powerful local and global forces that shape women’s lives. Drawing upon Joan Scott’s Politics of the Veil and other short readings, shared readings will lead to writing projects that look closely and carefully at women’s experiences beyond literal or popular representations of their lives and explore how we can (or, cannot) rigorously write about and represent women. To begin our conversations about writing women’s lives, we'll reflect upon how history shapes our writing, how we include the voices of others in our writing, how we use and frame evidence, and how we ethically represent our own knowledge claims. The course includes three major writing assignments as well as graded short writing assignments. The first assignment is an analytical and critical assignment that works closely and critically with shared course reading. The lengthiest assignment of the semester is a student-generated, critical research project that draws from writing and research methodologies learned in class. The course will end with an oral presentation where students present their research to an audience of their peers.

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Songs & Script: Critical Writing About Music

Riley, Matthew

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

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Writing for Social Change in DC

Ryder, Phyllis

Our city is a powerful place to learn how to read structures of power and mobilize for change. Washington, D.C. houses the world’s most powerful political leaders and institutions.  Yet, just a few miles from the National Mall, children rush home from school to avoid being shot.  They try to finish their math problems while their empty stomachs ache. In this service-learning course, you will partner with DC community leaders who address social inequities in areas such housing, education, criminal justice, and the environment.  In class, we will analyze local sites to learn how to research and write for community action: How do community leaders discover and name the systems that reproduce inequalities? How do they choose the right course of action? How do they mobilize people to respond? How can you contribute to this work? You will write for both academic and public audiences.


Love and American Culture

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

Love stories are tremendously popular in the US.  According to industry statistics compiled by the professional society Romance Writers of America, sales of romance novels in the U.S. grossed more than $1 billion in 2013 and comprised 13% of adult fiction purchases.   These numbers represent only consumer spending, but data from the Nielsen Romance Buyer Survey suggest that many readers also borrow popular romance novels from libraries and friends.  We not only love romance narratives in fiction but also relish them in movies, songs, comics, computer games, and so on.  At the same time, love stories seem to unleash passionate responses from their detractors as well:  people either love romance or loathe it.  In 2014, for example, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to prohibit the National Endowment for the Humanities from funding any “project related to love or romance.”  A quick online search yields decades of journalism decrying romance as ridiculous “mommy porn” or actively detrimental, perhaps even “lead[ing] women to make poor health decisions,” as an article by Rachel Rettner on the blog LiveScience suggests.  Why all these strong feelings?  And why do we associate love stories with women, rather than men?  Is romance really worse than other types of popular culture?  What can we learn about American culture by studying why people love love?

This course will delve into the debate by studying the perspectives of scholars and romance novelists, and by studying a few representative texts.  Your big research project will draw on methods from the social sciences (sociology and psychology) to design and implement a study about popular attitudes on romance.  Also, as this is a hybrid class, once a week we will have a class-wide online discussion of an academic article about romance.

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 Feminist Filmakers? Writing about Women and the Movies

Smith, Caroline
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; classroom and online instruction.

Girl meets boy. It’s the simple plotline of the incredibly popular genre known as the romantic comedy. In this course, we will explore a select group of contemporary, American romantic comedies and associated readings, examining how these seemingly innocuous films actually reflect a great deal about our current cultural climate. We will consider why – despite their predictable narratives – audiences flock to see these films. We’ll also examine the messages that these films impart to their audiences about gender, race, and class. And, we will consider the ways in which the genre has – or hasn’t – evolved from the early screwball comedies of the Great Depression.

While these movies will serve as the basis of our class discussions, our primary focus will be on how to critically read, research, and write about these films. What observations might we have about these movies? What have other scholars written about these films? What research lenses might we apply to our work in order to enrich it? And, how might we – as writers – effectively convince our audience of these claims. Students will produce a variety of writing assignments, including an independent research project on the topic of their choice. These writing assignments will help students to develop a variety of reading, researching, and writing skills applicable to the remainder of their college career.

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Extreme Weather, Extreme Politics

Svoboda, Michael

Americans experience some of the most extreme weather on the planet: droughts, heat-waves, flash floods, hurricanes, tornados, and fierce winter storms. And even before the election of Donald Trump, Americans also experienced some of the most extreme politics on the planet, especially on the issue of climate change. Could the shared suffering inflicted by weather disasters eventually bring Americans together in a collective, bi-partisan effort to face the changing global environment? Or will our divisive politics leave us to weather crises on our own? 

In this class we will work to discover and understand the connections between personal experiences of dramatic events, media coverage of those events, and the political processes by which we decide how to respond to such events. To do this, we will consider natural risks and human choices from multiple perspectives and, in the process, examine the different styles of writing associated with these perspectives. 

Whatever discipline you plan to pursue at GW, you will face the challenges of extreme weather and extreme politics. Prepare for these challenges with the critical thinking, creative research, and reflective writing you will practice in this section of UW 1020.

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Fake News and Ironic Views: Satire as Social Critique

Tomlinson, B.

While satire has a long history of exposing social/political excess and human folly, 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.

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A Students' History of GW

Troutman, Phillip

Did you know that in 1970 Thurston Hall was called “the Holiday Inn of the Revolution” as students invited anti-war protesters nationwide to camp in the dorm? Or that The Hatchet’s editors were sacked in a 1938 showdown over academic freedom? Or that students at the all-women’s Mount Vernon College in the 1910s played baseball, basketball, and tennis, and attended Women’s Suffrage demonstrations? Or that WWII veterans and nurses were among the first to desegregate GW? Or that slaves worked on campus from 1821 to the Civil War? You can research and write about these stories and more in this course. GW’s Archives has the full run of The Hatchet (1904-), all GW and MV yearbooks, and dozens of student literary journals, including a scandalous Prohibition-flaunting student magazine, The Ghost. Plus records of student organizations like the Columbian Women (1894-), Progressive Student Union (1966), and GW Pride (1971). Plus scrapbooks, photographs, and other materials donated by alumni over the years. In this course, you’ll research and write to generate new knowledge—discovering and interpreting GW's campus life, student organizations, social movements, and sports—both for a scholarly audience and museum exhibit, for a public audience of GW students and alumni.

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Composing Disability: Crip Intersections

Wilkerson, Abby

This course brings together work in critical disability studies, intersectionality, and queer theory. Intersectionality “describe[s] how individuals located perilously at the intersections of race, class, gender, and disability are constituted as non-citizens and (no)bodies by the very social institutions…designed to protect, nurture, and empower them” (Erevelles and Minnear 2011). Meanwhile, the terms “crip” and “queer” share an “out and proud” attitude, rejecting conformist sensibilities. “Queer” affirms fluid and non-normative sexual identities. “Crip” is widely deployed by radical activists and cultural producers in the global movement for disability justice.

Why this topic for UW 1020? A crip/queer/intersectional conjunction is a rich site for exploring rhetorical agency—how meanings are created and struggles enacted through language, and how meaning-makers accomplish their goals through persuasion, argument, and expression. Ethnography offers a method of inquiry that grounds our experiences in specific settings where bodies interact with societal constructs. It also provides a valuable case study in academic writing and opportunities for advancing the complexity of student writing. Coursework includes studying a variety of queer/crip/intersectional texts; producing a collaborative ethnographic project and analyzing this material using published studies; and participating in GWU’s “Composing Disability: Crip Politics and the Crisis of Culture” conference in March.

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Writing Women's Lives

Yip, Nolanda

Due to the extensive ability to share our lives on the internet, we are awash in a variety of forms of self-representation; as well, the memoir genre has long been a literary and financial boon to the publishing industry. This course is a reading and writing intensive course that will investigate the cultural relevance of women’s life writing, how memoirs are a literary strategy for women to represent themselves, and the multiple ways women can amplify their often unheard voices through writing. We will examine how race, class, gender, sexuality, queerness, disability, and national identity are represented in these texts. 

Some texts we may read are Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, Daphne (now Dylan) Scholinski’s The Last Time I Wore a Dress, Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted, Terry Galloway’s Mean Little Deaf Queer, Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home, Thi Bui’s graphic memoir The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir, Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black, and Waldeman and Levi’s Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. Students will write their own memoirs and should be prepared to discuss their writing with the class. The course will have several short writing assignments and will culminate in a final research paper.

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Latinx Identities & Stereotypes in the United States

Yunis, Bernardita

From Lucy and Ricky Ricardo to the Sofia Vergaras, Gina Rodriguezes, and Salma Hayeks of today, Latinx's in the United States have regularly been the objects of exaggerated representations, commercializing Latinx culture and history for popular consumption. A focus on Latinx identities and stereotypes in the United States will provide an opportunity for practice in the processes and techniques of academic writing that will encourage students to use critical analysis skills and thoughtful evaluation in their writing. Through the use of writing assignments that require creativity and research, this course will help students be critics of the Latinx identities presented by the media and the society at large. Students will create their own testimonios (testimonials/memoirs) and research papers that look at the process of identity creation and how that can quickly devolve to stereotypes and misrepresentations. These projects will give students a platform from which to use critical thinking and researched argumentation in order to shine a light on the inaccuracies and oversimplifications of Latinx stereotypes that develop in our media culture.

The goal is that towards the end of the semester, students will have developed rhetorical strategies and critical analysis skills that will be important tools not only for future academic writing, but also for consuming media and cultural narratives with more awareness and a keen critical eye in their everyday lives.

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Minding the Body: Writing in the Medical Humanities

Zink, Christine
NOTE: These sections are hybrid; classroom and online instruction. 

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

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

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Truth and Lies: Documenting American Lives in Writing and Film

Zink, Christine
NOTE: These sections are hybrid; classroom and online instruction. 

“Every fact in my films is true,” documentary filmmaker Michael Moore told Time magazine. While facts are by definition true, he felt the need to clarify, “The opinions in the film are mine. They may not be true, but I think they are.” At first glance, we take for granted that documentary film is straight truth. But on closer look, we learn that most documentarians are quick to acknowledge – and struggle with – the central tensions in their work between fact and fabrication and between the real and its representation on the big screen. 

This course takes as its central texts film documentaries on the American experience that rest with no easy answers. We will examine questions of fair and ethical representation, of substantial research and handling of facts and argument, and of what, in the end, it means to even try to document the truth. These very questions are, indeed, central to good writing work. In this course, you will take on the role as both critical audience and creative auteur to determine what constitutes truth and lies in film and writing alike. The series of writing projects includes a critical review of a contemporary documentary, a scholarly research project, and your own documentary treatment and short film.

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