WRIT-015 Writing and Culture Seminar
Fall for 2016-2017
Spring for 2016-2017
Various
An intensive seminar, enrolling no more than 15 students, focused on developing students’ ability to use writing as a tool for inquiry, to develop their writing through an iterative process, and to practice writing in different rhetorical situations. Students should take this course as early as possible and no later than the end of the sophomore year.

The Writing and Culture Seminar helps students develop their ability to
• read critically in ways that are attentive to language, context, and form
• write in ways that are appropriate for different rhetorical situations, with awareness of genre, context, and technology
• deploy language’s many resources, including its figurative power as well as conventions of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and semantics, to shape and communicate meaning with clarity and fluency
• research, evaluate, and synthesize appropriate evidence in order to build and support effective analyses and arguments

Please scroll down to view descriptions of specific sections.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Course syllabi
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Spring '17: Almond, I (web site, description)
Spring '17: Morris, M (description)
Spring '17: Hochman B (file download)
Spring '17: Hochman B (file download)
Spring '17: Tomlinson N (file download)
Fall '16: Debelius M. (file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.

Sections:

WRIT-015-01 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
The Modern and the End/s of Culture

This course examines the clash of cultures in European literature, painting, and theater from the 1870s to the 1930s. During this vibrant period the arts, influenced by Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche, produced a radical transformation of culture. They assailed the tradition of religion, Realism, morality, and sought to “revaluate all values” in order to reshape art and society. The result was a shift in our understanding of the world and ourselves that reflects the new human condition of uncertainty and contingency that still resonates to this very day. What were the dynamics of this process? How was tradition reconfigured? How did artistic concepts of beauty change? How did the concept of the free individual lead to subjectivism and fragmentation? What was the relationship among the various “-isms” (Impressionism, Symbolism, Futurism, Suprematism, Expressionism, Surrealism, etc.) What was the role of the avant-garde? Why the turn to abstract art and formal/ material aspects in the arts? What was the relationship of art to life (to philosophical, technological, social, and political changes)? These questions will be considered in a broad European setting with texts from several literatures.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-02 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Apocalypse and Revolutions

Catastrophic change or, worse yet, complete annihilation—what could be more terrifying? In “Apocalypse and Revolution,” we will read works by Fedor Dostoevsky, Andrei Bely, and Boris Pasternak in which the unthinkable becomes the real. Through close readings and intensive class discussion, we will uncover the strategies through which fiction wraps our greatest fears in words in order to either stoke or allay them. Students will respond to the assigned texts through regular writing assignments, which analyze their insights into each writer’s visions of societal conflict and crisis. Assignments will include traditional academic papers, journalistic reportage, and short historical analysis.

Course Goals -- Students will learn to:
• Read critically, paying attention to the ways that texts reflect their contexts, purposes, and audiences

• Adapt their writing for multiple genres, styles, and technologies in ways that reflect different rhetorical situations

• Based on analysis of genre, context, purpose, and audience, deploy language’s many resources, including its figurative power as well as conventions of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and semantics, to shape and communicate meaning with clarity and fluency

• Research, evaluate, and synthesize evidence in order to build and support effective analyses and arguments for different contexts, purposes, and audiences

Required Reading:
(1) Fedor Dostoevsky, Demons
(2) Andrei Bely, Petersburg
(3) Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

Means of Assessment:

• Class participation 10% (Attendance at all classes is expected. Failure to attend regularly will result in a lowered semester grade)

• Response to email questions on daily reading assignments 10%

• 500-word essay representing a brief newspaper article on the social scandal caused by Stavrogin’s exploits in town 10%

• 1,000-word academic essay analyzing the place of one of the primary characters’ ideology in the novel 20%

• 500-word essay representing a brief newspaper article on the events leading to Russia’s 1905 revolution 10%

• 500-word academic essay explaining the function of one short scene in Petersburg 10%

• 500-word essay analyzing the 1905 Russian Revolution, using Doctor Zhivago as your source material 10%

• 1,000-word academic essay on a topic of your choice using Doctor Zhivago 20% (due on date of final exam)

• The first 5 essays must be critiqued by your small group and revised before being handed in
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-03 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Music is an indispensable element of the modern media soundscape. It may not always be in the foreground, but it is ever present, and its multiple roles are the inheritance of centuries of development through religion and ritual, social engagement, theatre, the concert hall, opera, dance, film, radio, television, and video games. Whether the primary focus, a “background” tint, or a structuring element, awareness of music’s construction, context and function is particularly important to understanding the effect on audiences.

The conditions of listening to music have been constantly in flux, almost always in the direction of flexible and varied consumption. What was once heard as a single event in the company of others in a church or concert hall or theatre was brought into the home and repeated via sheet music, pianos bought on installment plans, and later phonographs; it became mobile in the car and with the transistor radio; and it became individual and intimate through the Walkman. It pervades film, television, and the internet. Music can now follow us throughout our day, across our computers, gaming consoles, and smartphones. It shapes time, modifies mood, enhances energy, and can serve as a unifying emblem of identity, or even as torture.

Writing about music in media involves many approaches, including history, biography, analysis, philosophy, aesthetics, acoustics, phenomenology, cognition, psychology, anthropology, and criticism. Students will read/listen to/watch a wide range of both scholarly and popular sources, and compile a portfolio of short writing projects with a variety of expectations, including reading aloud, internet, and multimedia forms. Short papers will include both original work and the analysis and critique of published and peer work, developing a sense of style appropriate to each venue and purpose. Students will also complete a full-length (2500 word) research project in stages from original concept, through annotated bibliography and outline, to draft, and finally to completed work, which may be in essay or script form.


Learning goals -- Students will develop their ability to:

• discern different voices and audiences for writing about music through learning to read critically in ways that are attentive to language, context, and form

• write in ways that are appropriate for different rhetorical situations, with awareness of genre, context, history, and medium; learning to edit their own work and others’ to create the most effective results

• deploy language’s many resources, including its figurative power as well as conventions of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and semantics, to shape and communicate meaning with clarity and fluency

• research, evaluate, and synthesize appropriate evidence in order to build and support effective analyses and arguments
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-05 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
No faculty information available
"Home and Elsewhere, Home As Elsewhere"

How does place shape our own self? Where is home? What is a nation? What does it mean to belong, and why do we leave? How do displacement and border crossing affect one’s sense of self? What is at stake in the notion of return? Can one ever really “go back”? What does the encounter with cultural alterity tell us about our own culture?

These are some of the questions that will accompany us in a literary journey across space and time during which we will discuss individual, national, and transnational identities, borders, travel, migration, exile, and cultural exchanges.

Works by diverse authors as Ernest Renan, Virginia Woolf, Stefan Zweig, Carlo Levi, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Milan Kundera, Mario Vargas LLosa, Maya Angelou, Evin Sevgi Ozdamar, as well as selected movies, will allow us to appreciate different genres and purposes for writing, and will help us engage with them through in-class discussion and written assignments in various formats.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-06 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
The Problem of Writing

"It's appropriate to pause and say that the writer is one who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do." Writer Donald Barthelme, "Not-Knowing"

The move from secondary to college writing challenges us to think about writing in a whole new way: no longer a simple means of representing pre-formed knowledge, but a complex tool of the active mind engaged in discovering, shaping, and making connections among the new ideas and disciplines it encounters at every turn. Without the creative, problem-solving pressures of "not-knowing," there would be no invention. In the words of the Jesuit scholar Walter Ong, "Writing is a technology that restructures thought."

The subject of our course is writing, viewed as a process of rhetorical invention, a perspective that challenges us as both readers and writers; poet Margaret Atwood has stated it plainly: "A word after a word / after a word is power." We will explore this equation as formulated by practicing writers in multiple genres: essayists, poets, storytellers, literary and cultural critics. Imagine the writing classroom as a workshop or studio filled with people making meaning out of original, evidence-based research of many kinds. What you will study here is not only a small collection of published writing, but also your own highly individual writing style, processes, and (conscious or unconscious) theories. You will explore these in an immediate way as you take your writing through a series of drafts. Our most important reading, then, will be the writing produced by the class, and classroom time will reflect this priority.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-07 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Ethnic Humor

This course will develop the student's ability in rhetoric and composition, focusing on a wide range of literacy practices--from journals and essays to digital media and film. The special topic for the course will be on ethnic humor and its ability to challenge the categories of ethnicity and race through the genres of comedy and comedic performance. Upon whose authority can humor be limited or contained? Is all ethnic humor at base a form of social protest? Can “inside humor” be expressed cross-culturally, and when does humor cross the line and become offensive? What line? Who decides? Using a comparative approach to the study of race and ethnicity, we will read selected works by Gita Mehta, Don Lee, Gish Jen, Percival Everett, Sherman Alexie, Luis Valdez and Philip Roth. Although our primary focus will be on contemporary expressions of humor in folklore, plays, novels, short stories, essays and satires, we will also observe the stand-up routines of Margaret Cho, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Peters, Sarah Silverman and Culture Clash and discuss ethnic humor in light of its broad cultural significance.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-08 Writing & Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Let’s Be Clear: If you Google “be clear” you’ll get 32 million results. Writing teachers demand it. Politicians use it as a kind of invocation — “let’s be clear.” There’s even a federal law that requires it for government documents. But what do we really know about how and why to be clear? What are the secrets to clarity in a world of screens and social media? And how and when should we fight obfuscation, such as legalese, bureaucratese and academese? We’ll explore these questions and more in the next few months – through readings, class discussions and especially your writing. You’ll create and update your own blog, draft your own op-ed for potential publication, consult for a federal agency that has asked for our writing and editing help, and craft a short research essay on the ethics and limits of adopting a clear style.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-09 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Let’s Be Clear: If you Google “be clear” you’ll get 32 million results. Writing teachers demand it. Politicians use it as a kind of invocation — “let’s be clear.” There’s even a federal law that requires it for government documents. But what do we really know about how and why to be clear? What are the secrets to clarity in a world of screens and social media? And how and when should we fight obfuscation, such as legalese, bureaucratese and academese? We’ll explore these questions and more in the next few months – through readings, class discussions and especially your writing. You’ll create and update your own blog, draft your own op-ed for potential publication, consult for a federal agency that has asked for our writing and editing help, and craft a short research essay on the ethics and limits of adopting a clear style.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-10 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Detective Fiction and Writing

San Francisco detective novelist, Dashiell Hammett wryly observes in The Thin Man, “The problem with putting two and two together is that sometimes you get four, and sometimes you get twenty-two.” Only the detective, the investigator of knowledge en route to solving a crime, would judiciously perceive that the same evidence could add up in (at least) two entirely different ways. Not all detectives perform quite as Bogartian a wit as Hammett’s Sam Spade, but detectives of any time and place are a rather singular breed, empowered by a second sight often blind to their own natures. Some wield a gun, others yield to the girl (or guy), while still others fascinate with their “little gray cells” or exude a mystique almost as alluring as following the track of their gum shoes in pursuit of evil. Our own game’s afoot as from beneath the fedora, we enjoy clandestine encounters with several classic detective stories, ferreting out the origins of the detective persona and his or her story. Our semester begins by reading and watching lots of detectives do their thing – answer the call to solving the crime, figuring out the questions to ask of whom in pursuit of truth, and then reflecting on the often provocative relationship between truth and justice. Along the way, we’ll come to understand the fuller meaning of truth – and therefore, why finding it is complex but also eye-opening in some ways we might not expect. The second part of the semester finds us becoming detectives ourselves. Students will identify a social or cultural or political quandary they feel called to solve. Working in partners, just as many detectives do, class participants will shape this quandary into a series of questions they believe worthy of investigating. As worthy sleuths, you will carefully consider what needs solving (the essence of the writer constructing a thesis dynamic and important enough to research and think through en route to proving effectively and persuasively). You will then pound the pavements of the city in which you find yourself detecting and writing – D.C. – for the truth. You will visit the same locale at least three times or you will identify three different locales, armed with cell phone and notebook to record your discoveries. Your final project will be to make your case for truth – and hopefully, expand some sense of justice in the process. What might some of your pursuits entail? (these are only meant to ignite your own truth details): There is so much still to learn about Emmett Till’s life and death – how was he a harbinger of Freddie Gray or Philando Castile? What museums or agencies in DC might allow me to explore more completely and responsibly the history of police response to young black men in America? OR What might I learn from an art museum’s paintings/photographs/installations about resisting binary language and identification of gender? How might such a study allow me to offer new insights to sexual and gender equality at Georgetown? OR This has been quite a year of journalists butting heads with politicians – is this a completely new crisis that will demand cultural changes in how these two societal factions relate? Is there a history I might discover in reading media in Newsmuseum and Lib of Congress archives that could explain how we arrived at 2016? Curious about how DC sports are marketed and to what public effects? How are decisions made between Metro and the Nationals’ games? What’s the relationship between Penn Quarters’ residents and the nightlife (and lights!) required by the Wizards and the Capitols? Course requirements include several short papers, a presentation by you and your partner of your “case”, and the final project described here. It might not be so elementary, dear Watson, but detection is certainly enlivening!
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-11 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Reading and Writing the Urban Century

Scholars, policymakers, and planners have already described the twenty-first century as _the_ urban century, and the promise or inevitability of the mega-city seems to offer something distinctly new and has been met with a mixture of foreboding and excitement. Similarly, in the past, individuals experienced dramatic changes in urban spaces and demographics as something radically new. For instance, in the nineteenth century, the populations of London and Paris increased by nearly 500% as people flocked to cities for new types of work. This mass migration became known as the urban revolution. Throughout these past and recent urban transformations, writers, artists, and philosophers have explored the meaning of the city experience and measured how cities have changed the texture of daily life and the structure of relationships.

Although this course is not designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the development of cities or urban planning policies, our writing projects will allow us to inquire about aspects of urban experience as well as the rhetoric of cities: What defines a city? How do we read cities? How do we access history in cities? What is the relationship between the imagination and cities? What is public space? How are spaces, especially city spaces, rhetorical? What arguments have been made - through language, art, and materiality - about cities, and how have these arguments been circulated and creatively adapted? Due to the complexity and diversity of cities, we will have many opportunities for critical reading and writing.

This class is project-driven. We will practice reading cities by evaluating maps, short films, a novel, first-hand accounts, and scholarly texts. You will complete two writing projects that ask you to curate objects related to an urban environment by writing a very short text on an early film of New York City and by creating an interactive geocaching tour of Georgetown’s campus. You will pursue an individual project that investigates the rhetoric of a city in one genre or across multiple genres. The argument that you develop in this paper will be remixed as a short video essay. After completing the video essay, you will return to your paper and revise it. Throughout the entire semester, we will develop research practices that are appropriate for the college-level.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-12 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Utopian Ideals and Dystopian Disappointments

Our utopias are always already utopias lost. Through a set of questions that we will develop together through discussion and writing, we will try to figure out why this seems to be true. Our questions will then guide our reading of Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia, Huxley’s Brave New World, and George Orwell’s 1984. (Which is the dystopia, or even the utopia, from which we have the most to fear?) Readings will also include two or three short non-fiction readings, notably two reviews of a current film—possibly Interstellar—as well as Nick Bostrom’s “In Defense of Posthuman Dignity,” and David Cole’s article “Can the NSA be controlled?” We will also view and discuss a dystopian film—Gattaca is the most likely contender. (Blade Runner or Ex Machina are other possibilities.)

As a course about writing, research skills and critical thinking, “Utopian Ideals and Dystopian Disappointments” asks students to write in a variety of genres. Students thus write an analytical paper on Plato’s Republic, but also an epistolary defense of institutional practices in Utopia, a short review of a film or book with a dystopian focus, and a research paper on some utopian or dystopian topic—a contemporary intentional community such as ZEGG, for instance, or an architectural design with utopian aspirations, or perhaps the dystopian possibilities of the ever more comprehensive information being gathered about us by the NSA and Facebook. Students are also asked to complete a series of short preliminary assignments and participate in small, mostly in-class workshops that lead up to the research paper—the emphasis is very much on process. Some students may also choose to participate in an undergraduate conference the following spring. And finally, the course also has a website (“UtopianDreamsDystopian”) to which students contribute as part of the course.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-13 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Reading and Writing the Urban Century

Scholars, policymakers, and planners have already described the twenty-first century as _the_ urban century, and the promise or inevitability of the mega-city seems to offer something distinctly new and has been met with a mixture of foreboding and excitement. Similarly, in the past, individuals experienced dramatic changes in urban spaces and demographics as something radically new. For instance, in the nineteenth century, the populations of London and Paris increased by nearly 500% as people flocked to cities for new types of work. This mass migration became known as the urban revolution. Throughout these past and recent urban transformations, writers, artists, and philosophers have explored the meaning of the city experience and measured how cities have changed the texture of daily life and the structure of relationships.

Although this course is not designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the development of cities or urban planning policies, our writing projects will allow us to inquire about aspects of urban experience as well as the rhetoric of cities: What defines a city? How do we read cities? How do we access history in cities? What is the relationship between the imagination and cities? What is public space? How are spaces, especially city spaces, rhetorical? What arguments have been made - through language, art, and materiality - about cities, and how have these arguments been circulated and creatively adapted? Due to the complexity and diversity of cities, we will have many opportunities for critical reading and writing.

This class is project-driven. We will practice reading cities by evaluating maps, short films, a novel, first-hand accounts, and scholarly texts. You will complete two writing projects that ask you to curate objects related to an urban environment by writing a very short text on an early film of New York City and by creating an interactive geocaching tour of Georgetown’s campus. You will pursue an individual project that investigates the rhetoric of a city in one genre or across multiple genres. The argument that you develop in this paper will be remixed as a short video essay. After completing the video essay, you will return to your paper and revise it. Throughout the entire semester, we will develop research practices that are appropriate for the college-level.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-15 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Film and Writing

This course uses the medium of cinema to help students develop as writers and thinkers. “Film and Writing” is not a comprehensive survey of film masterpieces. Nor will the assignments on our syllabus attempt to encompass any single tradition or period in the history of cinema. Rather, the course examines a set of aesthetically significant feature-length films to help students learn the language of film style and appreciate the cultural power of motion pictures. In the process, we will develop tools to help us understand how images make meaning, and we will consider how thinking critically about film can improve our approaches to written communication. Films may include: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Weine), Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee), Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog), Playtime (Jacques Tati), Tokyo Story (Yazujiro Ozu), and Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock).
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-16 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
This course uses the medium of cinema to help students develop as writers and thinkers. “Film and Writing” is not a comprehensive survey of film masterpieces. Nor will the assignments on our syllabus attempt to encompass any single tradition or period in the history of cinema. Rather, the course examines a set of aesthetically significant feature-length films to help students learn the language of film style and appreciate the cultural power of motion pictures. In the process, we will develop tools to help us understand how images make meaning, and we will consider how thinking critically about film can improve our approaches to written communication. Films may include: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Weine), Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee), Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog), Playtime (Jacques Tati), Tokyo Story (Yazujiro Ozu), and Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock).
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-17 Writing and Culture Seminar
Fall for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Reading and Writing the Urban Century

Scholars, policymakers, and planners have already described the twenty-first century as _the_ urban century, and the promise or inevitability of the mega-city seems to offer something distinctly new and has been met with a mixture of foreboding and excitement. Similarly, in the past, individuals experienced dramatic changes in urban spaces and demographics as something radically new. For instance, in the nineteenth century, the populations of London and Paris increased by nearly 500% as people flocked to cities for new types of work. This mass migration became known as the urban revolution. Throughout these past and recent urban transformations, writers, artists, and philosophers have explored the meaning of the city experience and measured how cities have changed the texture of daily life and the structure of relationships.

Although this course is not designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the development of cities or urban planning policies, our writing projects will allow us to inquire about aspects of urban experience as well as the rhetoric of cities: What defines a city? How do we read cities? How do we access history in cities? What is the relationship between the imagination and cities? What is public space? How are spaces, especially city spaces, rhetorical? What arguments have been made - through language, art, and materiality - about cities, and how have these arguments been circulated and creatively adapted? Due to the complexity and diversity of cities, we will have many opportunities for critical reading and writing.

This class is project-driven. We will practice reading cities by evaluating maps, short films, a novel, first-hand accounts, and scholarly texts. You will complete two writing projects that ask you to curate objects related to an urban environment by writing a very short text on an early film of New York City and by creating an interactive geocaching tour of Georgetown’s campus. You will pursue an individual project that investigates the rhetoric of a city in one genre or across multiple genres. The argument that you develop in this paper will be remixed as a short video essay. After completing the video essay, you will return to your paper and revise it. Throughout the entire semester, we will develop research practices that are appropriate for the college-level.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-18 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
Digital Txt: Language and Computers

How have electronics reshaped our written language? This course focuses on the rhetorical and cultural effects of computers and related devices, examining how they open new possibilities for artistic expression, intellectual debate, political protest, and social exchange. Among other topics, we will discuss the politics of online anonymity; the casualness of Tweets and text messaging; online archives of literary and visual art; and the permanence and impermanence of electronic texts. We will address these contemporary issues in the context of histories and theories of earlier language technologies reaching back to the gramophone, the typewriter, and the printing press. In written work, students will explore how electronics enable and constrain their own uses of language; students will also have an opportunity to explore how new media make it possible to develop new kinds of arguments.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-19 Writing and Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
This course turns to the figure of the monster as a critical lens for reading the value systems and anxieties of modern culture. As social outcasts and as embodiments of endless interpretative possibility, monsters resist “normal” categories and encourage us to examine the relationship not only between self and other but also between conventional and unconventional reading practices. What makes monsters both terrifying and fascinating? How do monsters challenge what we often take for granted as “natural” and is this challenge destructive, productive, or both? How do monsters provoke important discussions about gender, race, class, and species? In order to tackle these questions we will read and view works by a range of writers and directors, including, but not limited to, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Alex Garland, and Gore Verbinski. In this writing course students will learn the value of close reading, of recognizing and using sources for different rhetorical purposes, and of research writing as a process.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-21 Writing & Culture Seminar
Spring for 2016-2017
Faculty:
What is the power of the written word? Is it, as Joseph Conrad suggests, “to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see”? This idea - that literature can and must provoke the visual imagination - is the focus of the course. We will use works such as Ovid’s Metamorphosis and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray to consider how words enable us to see - and what that means for us as readers. Other course readings will include short stories, graphic novels, and works of art. These course materials will serve as topics of conversation for class discussion and the content for your writings. The writing assignments are designed as a process of working through ideas from drafts to final project. Through different course assignments, you will have the opportunity to sharpen your writing and reading skills.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
WRIT-015-30 Writing & Culture Seminar
Fall for 2016-2017
Mel Hall
"The Act of Writing and the Cultural Role of Rhetoric"


This seminar gives student writers ample practice with writing and critical reading. It aims to help students develop a rhetorical character for understanding their own writing and the writing of their academic, local, and national communities. In order to help writers achieve greater command of writing, I conduct the seminar as a workshop asking students to draft numerous essays to be read, discussed, and commented on by their peers. By making frequent revisions to their essays over the course of the semester, writers will create a final presentation portfolio of their writing – like a music student developing a repertoire for public performance or a journeyman in a guild creating a masterpiece to exhibit the mastery of his or her craft. Writers will produce four major essays and numerous weekly writings, such as blogs, summaries of readings, and film reviews. This seminar is reading intensive. Seminar texts provide a thematic structure for class discussion, professional models for imitating style and organization, and arguments for critical analysis. Consequently, this seminar requires students to read and write in multiple genres, using various technologies, to gradually arrive at a greater awareness of the way authors use language rhetorically (stylistically and logically) to describe complex topics, create identities (ethos), participate in conflict, and communicate abstract ideas and arguments. With the above in mind, writing assignments and journal entries (blogs) allow students to practice as much as possible the writing techniques they discover in professional writers', their peers', and their own texts.

This seminar flips the script. Commonly, rhetoric and literature (writing and language style, including metaphors, figures of speech, schemes, essay organization, narrow theses, and sentence structure) are thought of as being divorced from what we normally do everyday – Literature is art; it is confined to libraries, bookstores, bedside nightstands, and entertainment venues. Instead, this course assumes that humans live their lives literarily and rhetorically. Literature and rhetoric (our linguistic styles and cognitive forms) are our equipment for living. We ask the fundamental question why do humans write. And we ask what is the cultural role of rhetoric. To help answer these questions, the seminar is divided into three sections. The first section lays a foundation for understanding the relationship between language, thought, and culture, culminating in students writing a synthesis essay. The second section examines how professional writers, filmmakers, and student writers use language, images, and symbols to create an American national identity. It culminates in a creative nonfiction essay (using images and text) to argue for or describe an American identity that can either unify or divide the nation. The final section challenges our allegiance to a single cooperative national identity. We examine whether or not, in the age of “globalization,” we should adopt a cosmopolitan or patriotic attitude toward our national identities and moral allegiances. The third section culminates in an academic research paper in which writers argue whether we should have patriotic allegiance as citizens of our countries or a cosmopolitan allegiance as “citizens of the world.” In the end, the seminar strives to show that the literary and rhetorical writing skills, habits, and disciplines we practice in the writing seminar are the same language/writing skills, habits, and disciplines we use not only for living as academics in the university but also as citizens in our communities, nations, and world.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
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