UW1020 Courses

Fall 2018

⇒ For a list of SPRING 2019 UW1020 course offerings, please go here.

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.

Past semester course descriptions 

Fall 2018

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.

back to top

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

Azar, 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. But how exactly has New Media changed us---students, teachers, and administrators---and what we do as producers, consumers, gatekeepers, and curators of information and ideas? The widespread impact of New Media in our everyday lives prompts us to consider critically how technology has changed and is changing the academy. Does technology succeed in breaking down the perception/reality of an "ivory tower"? What happens to academic freedom and research when professors become microcelebrities? How has New Media changed the perception of professors as traditionally producers of knowledge and students as traditionally consumers? And how can we develop and navigate a working ethics for New Media research? 
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 in partnership with the Wikipedia Education Foundation.

back to top

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

Barlow, Jameta

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

back to top

(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.

back to top

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!

back to top

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.

back to top

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. 

back to top

Legacies of the Holocaust

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

Every UW1020 course requires ‘finished’ writing, developed in a rigorous composition process often consisting of pre-draft preparation, drafts, and revisions based on instructor’s advice and classmates’ comments. In this course, the series of tasks you will perform – including  writing a research paper that integrates both primary and secondary sources – are designed both to help you become familiar with an array of research efforts as well as familiar with writing an authoritative study of your chosen topic. In this course, we analyze primary documents from the Shoah – photographs and oral histories, in particular.  I ask that we engage with these materials because such research encourages us to value the research findings of others; to acquire research skills; to recognize the ways in which primary materials are central to both the research process and the conclusions one draws; and, perhaps most importantly, to realize our analysis allows us to make meaningful additions to the academic conversation about a given topic.  The range of research topics is wide, from the role art played in the Holocaust to the workings of a particular concentration camp; or from the role liberators played (or failed to play) to what is known about the "bearers of secrets," the Sonderkommando, who were eyewitnesses to the Final Solution.  While we may not be able to make amends for the Holocaust, I believe that through the careful study of the lives of those who perished and the words of those who survived, we become witnesses for the eyewitnesses, witnesses who are willing to be bearers of the stories and history of the Shoah.

back to top

Environmental Advocacy

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

In this course students will consider the environment through their own active engagement with local spaces and communities. Is there a fundamental difference between natural landscapes and curated landscapes? How do notions of the environment, or what is natural, inflect our views of ourselves and others? Are individuals separable from their environments and contexts? As we explore and grapple with notions of natural and artificial environments, students will make visits to public spaces in Washington DC (e.g. gardens, parks, squares). Students will also conduct research on rhetorical “ecologies” (groups, forums, structures, technologies, architectures, etc.) in local communities while considering how these circumscribe and intersect with environmental ecologies in question.
Over the course of the semester, students will have the opportunity to write many kinds of texts. From proposing an architectural re-design of a local public space to writing “public” documents that respond directly to other local texts (emails, flyers, blueprints, speeches), students will learn to read environments rhetorically as texts and to read all texts as emerging from a field of possibilities and contexts. Students will engage local communities and locate public documents as jumping off points for their own advocacy. In this class, nothing will be assumed to be “natural” or conversely “unnatural,” and the boundaries between natural and artificial environments—like the boundaries between writer and audience, between individual and community—will not be taken as given.

back to top

WTF?! Profanity and Its Contexts

Hayes, Carol

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 place a piece of profanity in a particular context (perhaps a particular subculture, such as a sports team, or an ethnic culture) in order to make visible the impact of the rhetorical situation on the word as it was used in that particular time and place. We'll use the readings throughout the semester to introduce ideas of disciplinarity: scholars who discuss profanity work within Hip Hop culture, Linguistics, Anthropology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology, and many 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.

back to top

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

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

“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.

back to top

Africa and the African Diaspora

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

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

back to top

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.

back to top

Conspiracies, Secrets, and Lies

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

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

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

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

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

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

back to top

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, Roxane Gay, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Joan Didion, Eliot Weinberger, Elena Passarello, and many other writers. These readings will focus on historical events and persons. 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.

back to top

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life in Fiction and Reality

Malone-France, Derek

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

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

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

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

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

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

back to top

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.

back to top

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.

back to top

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.

back to top

Please Like Us: Selling with Social Media

McCaughey, Jessica
NOTE: This course is a hybrid; classroom and online instruction.

Every post, Snap, and Tweet we encounter has a rhetorical context: an intended audience, a specific purpose, and a perspective from a writer, whether that writer is a Kardashian or a finely tuned and branded multi-national corporation. The same goes, of course, for the academic writing this course aims to teach. The exploration of this rhetorical context is central to our studies this semester, and social media, with all its complexities of audience and purpose, serves as an ideal text. As we practice asking the questions necessary to uncover and understand writing in these particular rhetorical situations we’ll consider questions like: What convinces a particular audience to buy or support a company or a cause? What writing strategies are generally effective in the world of social media marketing and promotion, and why is that, sometimes, they fail spectacularly? How do social media strategies shift from industry to industry, from one audience to another?

The new and complex rhetoric of selling through social media (whether one is selling an idea, a product, a person, or a cause) has its own language and writing conventions—even if not everyone using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, SnapChat, or Pinterest has mastered them yet. In this class students will take on the roles of scholar and critic, choosing a related group of individuals, companies, or organizations that are active in social media and tracking, analyzing, and critiquing their marketing or promotion efforts over the course of the semester. We’ll designate a particular focus on the rhetorical situation, developing critical thinking skills and finding, understanding, and utilizing research in a series of written arguments. The class will also spend significant energy exploring process—the process of writing and research, the process of gaining feedback and revising, then editing—both in our own work and in the writing of outside scholars as students become adept at creating and questioning social media writing and, in turn, college-level academic writing.

back to top

Imagining the Future: Genetics in Popular Culture

McReynolds, Leigha

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

back to top

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

Miller, Bruce

From homemade banjo-like stringed instruments employed by rural Malawians, Florida musician Moses Williams fashioning a one-stringed instrument out of a door, to Nigerian Afro beat pioneer Fela Kuti’s slogan that “music is a weapon”, various types of sound art have been used to stare down poverty, radicalize groups of people into a movement for social justice, or simply allow us all to recognize something about where we come from 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.  

back to top

Faking Democracy

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

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.

back to top

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? How can that be, 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 social and cultural meanings.
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 analysis of a fashion text, an annotated bibliography, and a final research project.

back to top

Writing Black Resistance in the United States, 1829-2018

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

Black resistance writing is foundational to the canon of American rhetoric. The Af Am tradition—from Frederick Douglass to Toni Morrison—offers some of the nation’s most powerful and world-historically significant writers and rhetoricians. Examining the tradition of black resistance writing also allows an exploration of some of the most fundamental questions about American citizenship, including what rights are granted in a democracy, what it means to be free, and what role and responsibility local, state, and federal governments have in ensuring those rights and freedoms. Whether writing themselves into subject-hood before emancipation, exposing the inequalities and injustices that followed, or imagining a more utopic future, African American writers have for the past two hundred years helped define the strengths and limitations of persuasive and researched writing. 
The course will move roughly chronologically through the history of African American resistance writing, beginning with David Walker’s An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829). We will give close attention to Frederick Douglass, as well as abolitionist poet Frances Harper, anti-lynching journalist Ida B. Wells, and radical intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois. The second half of the course will move through the 20th century into the contemporary moment, with attention to black resistance writing as part of proletarian movements in the United States, as well as the construction of a global black identity. This will include essays and brief fictional excerpts from Du Bois, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Alice Childress, Michelle Alexander, Saidiya Hartman, Simone White, and others. Assignments will involve situating critical readings of the texts historically, thinking critically about genre, and crafting arguments about the value of black writing in the American tradition.

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.

back to top

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.

back to top

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.

back to top

Embodied Inequality: Rhetoric of Race and Racism

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

Scientific writing about human variation has created and upheld racialized inequality for centuries. 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.

Songs & Script: Critical Writing About Music

Riley, Matthew

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

back to top

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

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

When Darwin’s transformative On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, people in England were deeply shaken, in part because it challenged literalist interpretations of the Bible; it took about forty years for the English to find a way to reconcile their religious beliefs and evolutionary theory.  Today, evolutionary theory is vital to practical and theoretical work in biological sciences, and yet…   on our side of the Atlantic, the reconciliation of religion and evolutionary science never.  This has shown most clearly in our public school system, where a battle over the right to teach evolutionary theory has been waged since the Scopes Trial of 1925, and public schools and courts of law remain the primary battlegrounds.  How can we understand our country’s unresolved unhappiness with the idea of natural selection?   Why makes this idea so provocative?  Is this really a battle about science, or are other factors involved?  Do the opponents in this battle even agree on what they are fighting about?  And what effects does the fallout have on the rest of us, especially students?  To answer these question, we’ll start with a grounding in the basic theory of natural selection, as well as other forms of evolution.  We will look at the players involved, from scientists, teachers, students, and religious figures to politicians, policy wonks, and even some colorful, opinionated crackpots.  Examining their own words, we will use techniques of rhetoric analysis to examine the ways in which these people understand the idea of natural selection.  We’ll evaluate how they frame themselves as authorities, appeal to their audiences, produce evidence, and address alternate perspectives.  Along the way, you’ll learn to apply these same techniques to your own writing.  Later, you’ll research educational approaches that have been explored already, as well as expert advice and best practices; you’ll use that to produce a policy brief designed to improve evolution education in America’s public schools.

back to top

Writing Wellness: Issues in Health and Medicine

Strong, JJ.

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

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

back to top

The Political Brain

Svoboda, Michael

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 likely 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 2018 midterm elections 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—and to repair —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.

back to top

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.

back to top

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.  

back to top

Minding the Body: Writing in the Medical Humanities

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

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

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

back to top