ENG 111 Writing Seminar Descriptions – Spring 2014

How Can I Change Your Mind?: The Ethics of Persuasion

Professor Erin Branch

111C – MWF 11:00-11:50 (19397)

111D – MWF 12:00-12:50 (19398)


Think of all the times you’ve tried to persuade people. As a child, did you ever lobby to stay up later?  To receive a bigger allowance? How about persuading all those colleges to admit you? We practice persuasion constantly; likewise, we are constantly confronted with exhortations to adjust our thinking or behavior because someone else thinks we ought to. Yet just because we can get someone to do what we want, should we? Where do we draw the ethical lines when it comes to persuasion?

Ethics has long been a problem for those interested in how language can shape behavior and thought. Socrates worried about whether skillful speakers trained in rhetoric might use it for unethical ends. And in our own time, the celebrated writer Joan Didion admitted, “writers are always selling somebody out.” Such statements call the writer’s character into question, and imply that ethos (our sense of the writer’s character) is a fake--a mask a writer puts on to persuade a reader, regardless of ethical considerations.

In this seminar, we reckon with the problem of ethos and the ethics of representing the self and others in journalistic and academic essays. We will read and engage a range of texts from great American nonfiction writers, including Didion, Annie Dillard, Jonathan Franzen, H.L. Mencken, M.F.K. Fisher, Tim O’Brien, Richard Rodriguez, and/or David Foster Wallace. We will examine essays that make a range of political and cultural arguments, as well as those depicting the experience of others. We will also interrogate how writing can be an ethical act--honest, generous, even redemptive. In other words, how can we use writing to find common ground among diverse audience, and to what ends?

Writing assignments may include personal essays, literary journalism, rhetorical analyses, argumentative essays, and research reports. At the end of the term, students will compile a writing portfolio and compose a reflective essay.

WRI 111: Eating Our Words: Rhetorics of Food

Professor Erin Branch

111E – MWF 1:00-1:50 (19399)        

We live in an era dominated by processed convenience food and discount bulk retailers, and we have come to expect year-round availability of all products--even those that are only ripe on the other side of the planet. Nonetheless, many people have recently begun to take steps to know more about their food—where it comes from, how it was produced, and how it made its way to your plate.

In this class, we will examine contemporary books, articles, and films that address a range of questions arising surrounding the social, environmental, and ethical consequences of particular eating habits. More specifically, we may consider issues including our obligations to the hungry, the genetic modification of food plants and animals, the industrialization of agriculture, and the treatment of animals.  As this is a writing course, we will consider how the particular genres and texts we study try to shape public discourse around food, nutrition, and the environment. We will be particularly attentive to the rhetorical strategies these authors employ to establish themselves as credible authorities, to address (or constitute) audiences, and to argue for new approaches to cooking and eating.

Readings may include selections from Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, Jonathan Safran Foer, MFK Fisher, Wendell Berry, and others. Projects will include textual analyses, evidence-based arguments, and research reports; students will compose in both traditional and digital modes and will present findings to the class.

WRI 111:  Composing the Apocalypse

Professor Jimmy Butts

111Q – TR 9:30-10:45 (19411)

111W – TR 12:30-1:45 (19417)

 

Zombies!  Nuclear explosions!  And… writing?!  Think of the latest popular survival manuals, the text messages from 9/11 victims telling their loved ones goodbye, the narratives of contemporary post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventures, or the recent news reports of natural disasters.  Human beings will continue to write into the future, about and through catastrophic scenarios, and the way we write about such scenarios often reflects our visions of the apocalypse—the end of the world.  In this course, we will examine apocalyptic scenarios rhetorically while practicing the kinds of writing that remain relevant and practical in the present. We will also consider how people have written during historical catastrophic events as models for what may come.  Many arguments, whether from science, politics, or religion, look towards possible futures, and we will think and compose with this framework in mind in order to craft several arguments that pair writing with other media, including post-apocalyptic technologies. We will read examples from real life events as well as forward-looking science fiction narratives. We will write different apocalyptic projects including survival guides, prophecies, doomsday warnings, and written archives.  Our exploration will culminate in a larger research project in which we will argue the inevitability of different catastrophic events and ethical responses to them.  Using fact-based evidence and comparisons to other events, both actual and fictional, we will anticipate possible scenarios and offer alternate futures.

 

Readings may include excerpts from The Diary of Anne Frank, news stories of national disasters, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” H. G. Wells’s “A Story of the Days to Come,” Paul Virilio on “The General Accident,” The Walking Dead, Max Brooks’s The Zombie Survival Guide & World War Z.

WRI 111:  Comma, Trouble: From the Greeks to HTML

Professor Jimmy Butts

111Y – TR 2:00-3:15 (19419)

Commas may look like little tears.  Don’t panic!  There’s no need to cry over them.  We will work with these menacing little punctuation marks and learn to use them without fear.  But we will also use the comma as a little lens into all kinds of writing issues, from what we mean by good writing to how a little comma can make a big difference financially, politically, and even religiously in some important texts.  Commas are political and legal troublemakers.  We will consider how the comma has been used over time and its power.  We will read about how, for the Greeks, the komma (κόμμα) was simply a short clause, or something cut short.  We will look at some ancient texts, from the Bible to Beowulf, and how commas—some heretical—have been added to them.  We’ll write about how commas end up in some odd places in old books.  Then, we will examine the evolution of the comma, looking at more recent examples, and think about why commas have become the center of many grammar woes.  We’ll write about good uses and abuses of the comma today, and consider how commas are continuing to change writing in digital environments in the 21stcentury. For example, how do we use commas on Facebook and Twitter?  And how should we?  Commas have even entered programming languages like HTML and JavaScript. Our semester will close by composing some of our own interactive writing using commas and some very accessible code.  Our final research projects will culminate in a careful consideration of a collection of commas.  Take a semester to learn the comma really, really well, and see how it changes the rest of your writing.  You may be surprised at what you learn from such a little mark.  Come on, don’t you really want to know how to use a comma correctly, once and for all?

WRI 111: “We, Our Own Devils: Writing Through Evil”

Professor Eric Ekstrand

111Z – TR 2:00-3:15 (19589)

111ZB – TR 3:30-4:45 (19591)

“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell” ~Oscar Wilde

Is there a difference between evil and misdeed?  In amoral settings, how do the lines between hero and villain blur? How can sympathy make us implicit, as readers, in the heinous acts of literary characters?  If we value evil turns in story-making, why do we not value them in our own lives? How did evil as a cultural construct derive and how is it problematized? How is the concept of evil used to make other and to justify claims of rightness?  How has it lead to literal violence, and how has it been used redemptively in art-making? These will be some of the presiding questions of this course as we rhetorically analyze and place in conversation, through our own writing projects, texts from some of the great artists and thinkers, that have helped to make and re-make our contemporary understanding of evil as a literary trope, a psychological mechanism, a sexual interest, a religious imperative and a political reality.

In this class, we will read psychologists, philosophers, Abrahamic religious texts, poets, journalists, neurobiologists, and historians all by way of understanding, more fully, the problem of evil as well as the diversity of human insight and our place within it as valuable contributors to the record of thought. We will be focusing on deep reading and associative thinking across different kinds of speech and knowledge as ways into making new meaning through our own writing. By way of doing this, we will take-on the conventions of narrative, formal argument, and textual analysis as part of the content and practice of the course. The key to succeeding in this course will be to understand writing as an ongoing process of thinking, drafting, and revising; as well as to begin to see your writing not merely as an exercise, but as contributive broadly, with the potential to progresses understanding of evil as a rhetoric.

 

Sample Reading List:

The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics, Elaine Pagels

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robinhood Hills, Film.

The Lucifer Effect, Phillip Zimbardo.

The Brain on the Stand, Jeffrey Rosen.

The Book of Job, Anonymous, trns. Stephen Mitchell.

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote.

WRI 111: Writing About Visual Culture

Professor Lisa Klarr

111A – MWF 10:00-10:50 (19395)

111B – MWF 11:00-11:50 (19396)

From cartoons in local newspapers to videos that receive a billion views on YouTube, our lives are saturated with images. Everywhere we look, images appear: in public bathrooms, on computer screens, on our phones. New technologies have altered our viewing habits so that we no longer watch one episode of a television show a week but instead binge-watch an entire series in a day. And yet we often do not have time to consider the ways in which visual texts speak to us. How do visual images communicate meaning? How do seemingly minor details in the panel of a comic alter our interpretation of its story? How does watching a television series all at once change our opinion of its merits? In this course, we will move from observing visual culture to writing about it, translating what we see into what we write. Throughout the semester, we will develop a critical vocabulary that will allow us to analyze photography, television, film, comics, graphic novels, and advertising.

        

Each week students will write informal responses that will ask them to reflect upon the course material. In addition to these weekly papers, they will write three short analytical essays: the first will be a close reading of a photograph, the second a comparative analysis of two films, and the third a research paper developed out of one of their informal responses. Over the course of the semester, students will spend a significant amount of time drafting, editing, and revising all of their work. By engaging in multiple rounds of revision, they will be able to focus their ideas and develop their voice as a writer.

Texts May Include:

Barnet, S. Short Guide to Writing About Art

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing

Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: How To Do Things With Texts 

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

Mirzoeff, Nick. An Introduction to Visual Culture 

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of A Childhood 

Spiegelman, Art. Maus

WRI 111: Arguing, Reflecting, and Writing About Writing

Professor Zak Lancaster

111I – WF 9:30-10:45 (19403)

The broad theme of this course is Writing about Writing. This means that the focus of our readings, class discussions, and writing exercises will be writing itself. These are some of the central questions that will guide the course:

What are some similarities and differences between spoken and written arguments? How is academic argumentation different from other types of written argumentation? What does it mean to argue responsibly and effectively? What counts as “evidence” in various types of writing? What are some key argumentative moves that are valued within and across disciplines? How do the characteristics of “good” writing vary across fields? What qualities of student writing do professors in the disciplines value? Do experienced writers know what they’re doing when they write, or do they just operate on auto-pilot?

In taking up questions like these, this course is designed primarily to arm you with new concepts and strategies for thinking about and executing college reading and writing assignments and for writing arguments more mindfully. Specific text-level strategies we will practice include how to open a piece of writing, how to motivate your argument by identifying problems, how to incorporate others’ perspectives in your writing to strengthen your argument, and how to express an authoritative stance.

Reading materials will include popular and academic articles about writing, rhetoric, and cultural patterns in argumentative strategies. Work commitments will include short, informal reflections, two mid-length essays, and one group project. For all assignments, you will be given opportunities to give and receive feedback on these assignments and to revise your work. Required readings will include a course packet available in the campus bookstore.

WRI 111: When Writing Goes to War

Prof. Sharon Raynor

111R – TR 9:30-10:45 (19412)

111T – TR 11:00-12:15 (19414)

CNN correspondent, Anderson Cooper, stated, "only the pictures are a reminder you were there. War is like that.  Each day is the first. The past is dead.  Forgotten. There is only now.  This moment." In this class, we will explore this sentiment as we read, research, and write about the historical and cultural perspectives of the war story.   Students will gain a better understanding of the evolution of American and global war stories, engage in the discovery and recovery of war writings (such as letters and diaries written by soldiers during the war) and examine and critique the narrative and rhetorical strategies of such documents. Through major and minor writing assignments, readings, research, peer edit critiques, and written responses to film, photography, and other multimedia sources, students will answer the following questions: What becomes of writing when it goes to war? What does writing become when it passes through this violence, a violence which often remains wordless? What does writing become when, years later, it visits an uncertain memory and produces other texts? How does someone “write the war”?  As we read, discover, critique, and write about the thematic threads in these war stories, you will not only come to a greater understanding of the processes involved in academic writing, but also better understand how a soldier, under the duress of war, mastered a narrative process that moved the writer from passive suffering to active participation in coping and healing.  

Selected readings and media clips for the class may be excerpted from The Things They Carried, Behind the Lines: Powerful and Revealing American and Foreign War Letters, War Letters: Correspondences from American Wars, Will They Ever Trust Us Again: Letters from the War Zone, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops from the Battlefields of Iraq, A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Hope, Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD, Dear Home: Soldiers and the Home Front, War Memorials, Letters from Vietnam: Voices of War, Letters from the Front Lines: Iraq and Afghanistan, Desert Storm Diaries: Letters from Home and The Suitcase: Refugee Voices from Bosnia and Croatia.

WRI 111: The Journey Between Silence and Writing

Professor Sharon Raynor

111U – TR 12:30-1:45 (19415)

In this class, you will explore the genre of travel writing in a manner that will allow you to revisit the concept "journey" as a metaphor for more than just the paths you have traveled but also for your lived experiences, your encounters, your discoveries and ultimately your writings. This metaphor offers you time and space to reflect on the many paths traveled through life. Your journey - your writings - will reveal how you have been both touched and overwhelmed by the discovery of people and places. We will explore this metaphor through readings, art, photographs, new media, oral presentations and other texts. Whether you have traveled aboard or you are an armchair traveler, you will journey to cultures and lands that you may have neither experienced nor encountered. Taking this class will help you better understand the connections between our communities and the multicultural world in which we live. You begin to reconsider how we see ourselves in this world as well as how we are seen once we travel beyond our own communities. Through your research, discovery and writings, you will learn about cultures that are often tucked away at the margins of society where their voices and stories are rarely to never heard nor told, so in silence they exist. As you journey into their lives and through their lived experiences, you will learn about their issues, their fears, their triumphs and their ideologies as you begin your own journey of discovery. 

According to "Writing the Journey," you will embrace the "receptive character of the traveller willing to be touched by people and places."  We will read and learn about people and cultures by exploring new destinations in The New Granta Book of Travel, a psychological journey in the noir fiction of Jim Thompson'sThe Killer Inside of Me and a cultural inner journey in Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory. These texts will help us discover the truth we seek when we embark upon new territory. Through travel writing, analysis, research and creative multi-media projects, you will write about journeying to various destinations, journeying through cyberspace, the (personal and often psychological) inner journey and our multiple arrivals and departures that often map the many paths we travel. 

WRI 111: The Real World of Downton Abbey: The Golden Era of Edwardian England

Professor Randi Saloman

111F – MWF 1:00-1:50 (19400)

If you have found yourself absorbed in the drama of the BBC’s fantastically popular Edwardian soap opera, then this is the course for you. Our seminar will explore England’s Edwardian Era from literary, historical, and sociological angles. We will look to the great houses and the families that kept them (along with the many servants who made this possible), as well as to the broader political and cultural life of this pre-WWI golden age. Edward VII was on the throne for only 9 years (1901-1910), making his reign one of the shortest in England’s history. We will lengthen our own inquiry slightly at both ends, to cover the years 1890-1914. Readings will incorporate literary representations of the period, as well as films, personal narratives, artwork, and social and cultural histories.

Perusing primary documents alongside fictional accounts and historical analyses will provide students in this course with a sense of the force of perspective in representation. Even narratives that claim to be fact-based or historical are written by individual authors with their own conscious and unconscious agendas and biases. Questions of class, gender, age, time period, and nationality make enormous differences in what one sees and how one sees it—as well as in how we read the stories of others. Any number of ‘truths’ may coexist without contradiction when individuals occupy different subject positions. Downton Abbey looks very different upstairs than it does downstairs!

Ideas of perspective will frame all of our writing inquiries, as students perform literary analysis, research key topics of the era, review literary works, and attempt their own creative representations of the period.

Potential Readings:

Arnold Bennett, The Grand Babylon Hotel

David Cannadine, The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy 

E.M. Forster, A Room with A View

John Galsworthy, The Man of Property

Jacky Hyams, The Real Life Downton Abbey: How Life Was Really Lived in Stately Homes a Century Ago  

Sarah Warwick, Upstairs & Downstairs: The Illustrated Guide to the Real World of Downton Abbey 

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest 

 

Potential Films:

My Fair Lady

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain

Titanic

WRI 111:  Keywords: A Vocabulary for the 21st Century

Professor Ryan Shirey

111ZA – TR 2:00-3:15 (19590)

Culture. History. Family. Freedom. Liberal. Conservative. Nature. Science. What do these words mean? Do they mean today what they have meant in previous eras? In 1976, the scholar Raymond Williams published a book titled Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. This study traced the origins, cultural uses, and debates over certain words—keywords—that have played and continue to play a significant role in shaping the way that we think about ourselves and our world. Nearly forty years later, we inhabit a world in which “keyword” is a term mostly used to describe one way we search for information in the ever-broadening and deepening pool of knowledge we call the internet.  What these uses of “keyword” have in common, however, is that they ask us to think about the way that words matter—the way that the choices we make in language shape how we think about and interact with the world.

In this course, we will write towards an understanding of how words matter in both the broad cultural context of a globalizing world and in the more specific context of our own individual expression and rhetorical choices. We will use our own words to examine critically the kinds of specific language that inform our understanding as citizens, consumers, partisans, and thinkers. You will be asked to write within a variety of genres, from Williams-style cultural definitions of terms to autoethnographies, from rhetorical analyses of advertisements and political speeches to researched writing on the keywords of our own time. At each step, I will ask you to think carefully and critically about your language choices and give you opportunities to practice revising and refining your writing over time. The final project for this course will be a multimedia presentation on a keyword that you make the case for as particularly salient for your own generation, and we will compile our projects into a 2014 Wake Forest-specific addendum to Williams’s text.

Texts may include selections from: Williams’s Keywords, Deutscher’s Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages, Burgett and Hendler’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies, Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, and Crystal’s The Story of English in 100 Words. We will also read closely along a wider range of cultural texts, including commercial advertisements, academic papers, political speeches, university catalogs, Twitter accounts, literary texts, and more.

WRI 111: Sustainable Futures: Thinking Positively and Acting Effectively in an Era of Global Environmental Change

Prof. Eric Stottlemyer

111P – TR 9:30-10:45 (19410)

111V – TR 12:30-1:45 (19416)

In the time required to read this course description, the Earth will witness a net gain of 150 new human beings, which is the equivalent of about 10,000 per hour. Many argue that this figure is not sustainable. What does it mean, then, to adopt a sustainable lifestyle in the twenty-first century? Considering the massive infrastructure required to keep alive 7.1 billion humans (and counting), are such lifestyles realistic? If not, what are the ongoing environmental consequences of our current patterns of production and consumption? How has our species arrived at the precipice of global environmental collapse in such a relatively short period of time? These are some of the many questions we will explore throughout the semester. Along the way, we will examine realistic solutions to global environmental pressures wrought by spiraling human populations on a planet with rapidly diminishing resources. Course readings will be both literary and scientific, and we will discuss the philosophical and technical dimensions of human relationships to their natural environments. We will focus on the rhetorical strategies various writers use to present sophisticated arguments about their environmental concerns. We will discuss genre and its relationship to audience, purpose, and rhetorical convention. We will write, then revise—then revise again—substantive essays in the service of lucid, well-organized, argumentative prose. 

Additionally, students will prepare multi-disciplinary proposals to improve various components of campus sustainability. Working closely with the Center for Environment and Sustainability, we will study the many initiatives currently underway on campus. Volunteer opportunities will be available to students who want to work with and write about the Campus Garden, the Campus Kitchen, the Sustainability Theme House, Leed Certified buildings, and campus recycling. The course will end with a multi-modal research project and a class presentation.

Texts might include David Abram, Bill McKibben, bell hooks, Rick Bass, Leslie Marmon Silko, Terry Tempest Williams, Jean Baudrillard, Annie Dillard, and more.  

WRI 111: Thinking Like a Mountain: Nature and Culture in an Age of Mass Distraction

Professor Eric Stottlemyer

111X – TR 2:00-3:15 (19418)

As of 2013, one of Brazil’s last surviving indigenous tribes, the Awá, remains un-contacted by Western society and has been observed only from a protective distance. Living comfortably deep within remote sections of the Amazon rainforest, some Awá tribal members have had no interaction with—and know nothing about—the modern world. Their histories, their cosmologies, and indeed their very lives are inseparable from the natural environment upon which they rely for sustenance, for shelter, and for meaning. Simply put, the Awá’s sense of reality is so far removed from our own that it is virtually incomprehensible. In the twenty-first century, then, perhaps what most divides us from the Awá is our profound alienation from the natural world. How has our separation from nature fundamentally altered how we think about our own lives? What specific values do we attach to culture and how do we relate those values to the environment? If we do not accept the premise that all life is interdependent, as ecologist Aldo Leopold suggests, are we endangering the future of our species? Given the chance, how might the Awá perceive us and our connection to nature?

In this course we will critically examine our own relationships to the environment on individual, cultural, and national levels. We will explore problematic terms, such as “nature” and “the natural world,” while interrogating their historical and cultural contexts. We will think critically about the purpose of higher education and the role of ecology and ecological thinking in all of our actions. Finally, we will explore the concepts and the practices behind “sustainability” while closely examining the numerous sustainability initiatives underway on the Reynolda campus.

Throughout the course, we will focus on the rhetorical strategies various writers use to present sophisticated arguments about their environmental concerns. We will discuss genre and its relationship to audience, purpose, and rhetorical convention. We will write, then revise—then revise again—substantive essays in the service of lucid, well-organized, argumentative prose.

WRI 111: What is Language? Rhetoric and Representation
Professor Belinda Walzer

111J – WF 11:00-12:15 (19404)

111L – WF 12:30-1:45 (19406)


Every means of expression used in society is based, in principle, on collective behavior or—what amounts to the same thing—on convention (Ferdinand de Saussure)

Language is widely understood as a set of conventions in which communities and individuals participate, but does language help shape those communities/individuals or do the communities/individuals shape the language? Does language construct reality or does language merely represent reality (or some combination of all of the above)? Is it possible to adequately and ethically represent and describe the entirety of an event or experience in language? In considering these questions and more, we will interrogate how language and writing function as sites of inquiry, truth seeking, and knowledge production.

This class will serve as an introduction to written rhetoric. Rhetoric is language use that “represents a set of activities—reading, writing, speaking, listening, and discussing—that all intellectually engaged people—students, teachers, and public figures alike—participate in every day” (preface to
Everyday Use by Hephzibah Roskelly and David Jolliffe). Therefore, we are all already rhetoricians and so will also be doing significant critical thinking about our own language use and its relationship to our position(s) within communities, both large and small. We will read and/or practice several different types of writing including critical academic writing, exploratory personal writing and fiction. Authors might include Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wayne Booth, Jonathan Safron Foer, Judith Butler and more. At the end of the semester, you will compile your polished writing in a final portfolio and reflect on your writing process throughout the semester. A portion of almost all classes will be devoted to in-class writing and there will be an assignment due each week, either a journal or a paper, all of which you should keep for your final portfolio.

WRI 111: Writing Rights/Righting Wrongs: The Rhetoric of Human Rights
Professor Belinda Walzer

111O – WF 2:00-3:15 (19409)

 

Rhetorically, human rights are an inventory of axioms about what it means to be human that everyone presumably knows; practically, it is necessary to admit that, at the very best, they constitute what everyone should know.
- Joseph Slaughter

Human Rights is a concept familiar to most, but what do you really know about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights an subsequent instruments? As declarations and thus rhetorical acts, these documents call for being analyzed rhetorically. Therefore, this section of English 111 will explore the rhetoric of contemporary Human Rights and the subsequent issues of language and representation that surround the documents, rights violations, rights advocacy and the academic conversations surrounding all of the above. We will ask questions and examine topics such as what are international human rights in legal and rhetorical terms? What narratives do human rights recognize, produce, ignore? How do different texts (understood broadly including film, short stories, essays, testimony, advocacy, art etc) expand or limit scope of human rights? What is the relationship between language and rights? What is ethical action? In order to answer these questions and more, you will complete writing assignments throughout the semester that will work towards a final research project in which you examine an individual human rights issue of your choice from several different perspectives. Student writing goals include developing a more fluid and coherent implementation of argumentation, developing an understanding of the rhetorical triangle and good research practices and, most importantly, developing your critical thinking skills in relation to your position in this world. Readings will include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other instruments, selections from world leaders and human rights advocates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hillary Clinton and Charlotte Bunch, and short stories, novellas, film, advocacy literature, and more. Assignments may include free writes, journals, rhetorical analyses, and an argumentative research project. Significant revision is required for all formal assignments and a reflective component is required at the end of the semester.


WRI 111: The Music of the 1990s

Professor Casey Wasserman

111G – MWF 1:00-1:50 (19401)

We listen to music not only for enjoyment and entertainment but to have our values affirmed or contested. This class seeks to examine how the music of the 1990s reflected a period in American cultural history in which the tastes of those on the periphery became the mainstream, the unusual became typical, and seemingly shared cultural value systems underwent a tremendous transformation. Over the course of the decade, there emerged a true diversity of mainstream musical genres ranging from grunge to gangsta rap to country to pop with each responding to American society in its own way.

Over the course of the semester, students will “read” ‘90s music (and music videos) to question how particular artists or genres confronted racism, classism, regionalism, sexism, sexuality, technological developments and socio-economic changes. The primary course goal is to develop and cultivate a voice as a writer and cultural critic through an examination of how others have down so through musical and visual pursuits as well as cultural criticism. Students will write a personal essay, several short analytical essays (including close readings of songs and videos as well as analyses of scholarly responses to our primary musical texts), and a research project on an artist or unstudied genre of the student’s choice that will culminate in a presentation to the class. We will spend a significant amount of time writing and revising essays with different approaches examining academic writing and popular culture that will include multiple drafts, self-reflection, and peer review. The diversity of assignments and revision strategies will allow you to produce a range of writing that engages with personal, analytical, and critical styles while developing your voice as a writer. While a good deal of time will be spent engaging directly with the music and videos from the era, students can expect to encounter a wide range of scholarly and popular essays and interpretations in a course reader as we historicize this music.

WRI 111: Science / Fiction(s)

Professor Elizabeth Way

111S – TR 9:30-10:45 (19413)

Science and fiction are two disciplines often considered as antithetical to one another. In this course we will explore the relationship between science, as the mode of factual observation and exploration, and fiction, the creative mode of narrating experience. In other words, how does the rhetoric or language of science (and its emphasis on record-keeping, giving evidence or proof, bearing witness, etc.) operate in the genre of fiction (that which is empirically not true but which often aspires to realism) to interrogate issues of power, religious belief, gender, class, and/or race? What rhetorical or narrative “experiments” are being conducted in fiction and non-fiction texts as well as sci-fi films? We will begin with a blog that analyzes various medical advertisements, from the billboard wars between Winston-Salem’s two prominent hospitals to ads by major pharmaceutical companies. From there we will progress to longer, more formal written responses to various “science-minded” works. As a writing seminar, our main goal is to hone and improve our writing and critical thinking skills through various written responses to these diverse sources. Assignments include three formal essays: a close reading, a comparative analysis, and a research project. Students will also give one oral presentation related to their writing projects, maintain a reading blog, and participate in regular peer critiques, full-class writing workshops, and individual grading conferences. By the end of the semester, students will produce a writing portfolio of twenty pages of polished writing.

Authors and materials may include selections from: Mary Shelley, Humphry Davy, Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Max Nordau, Cesare Lombroso, Bram Stoker, Sigmund Freud, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, H. G. Wells, C. P. Snow, and Kazuo Ishiguro; articles from the Medical Laboratory Observer, Science, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Forbes; films such as Frankenstein (1994) and The Matrix (1999).

WRI 111: Us versus Them: The Rhetoric of Groups

Professor Elisabeth Whitehead

111H – WF 9:30-10:45 (19402)

111K – WF 11:00-12:15 (19405)

Sometimes we choose the group, and sometimes the group chooses us.  But whether it is race, gender, religion, sexuality, a nation or an ideology, we all can claim numerous group affiliations.  Group membership can fulfill important needs, helping us to negotiate and establish identity, reduce chaos, and create a sense of larger purpose.  It can also instill in us a feeling of safety and confidence, or even aid in our survival.  So when is group alliance functioning in a life-giving way, and when does it become dangerous?  

In this course we will be investigating the psychology and rhetoric of groups, especially as it relates to written text. We will look at themes such as conformity, obedience to authority, dispersal of responsibility, group privilege and power, and stereotypes.  We will discuss through what lens groups see each other, speak to each other, and write about each other.  Analyzing texts about issues including the Holocaust, hazing, the glass ceiling, racism, Abu Ghraib, sexual identity, and cults, we will examine the language of prejudice and exclusion.  In addition, we will study authors who embrace a very different vision, of empathy and inclusion, including Martin Luther King Jr. who once wrote: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

This is a reading and writing intensive course.  We will be exploring a variety of texts, including nonfiction essays, journalism, literature, psychological studies, film, letters, speeches, poetry, and the graphic novel.  In addition to analytical and researched writing, you will also have the opportunity to write narratives from personal experience.  

Texts may include work by Martin Luther King Jr., Stanley Milgram, Philip Zimbardo, Malcolm X, Art Spiegleman, Maxine Hong Kingston, Studs Terkel, Augusten Burroughs, and Deborah Layton.  

WRI 111: Tell Me a Story

Professor Phoebe Zerwick

111M - WF 12:30-1:45 (19407)

111N - WF 2:00-3:15 (19408)

Don Hewitt, the founder of the CBS news show 60 Minutes, lived by four simple words: Tell Me A Story. That motto transformed television news from a series of reports to engaging stories about the issues of the day – large and small. In this course, you will practice storytelling as a way to add meaning and depth to your academic writing. We will practice the writing process in class, including the development of an idea, writing the first draft, peer response and making revisions. Written assignments will give you the chance to practice a variety of genres, including a personal essay, a persuasive essay, a text analysis and shorter assignments. Readings will include examples of narrative writing, persuasive essays, speeches, and other texts chosen to inspire you in your work. Student writers do best when they find a topic that stirs their passions and means something to them. That freedom and self-direction, however, carries responsibility. You will be graded on your participation. You will be expected to read beyond the list of assigned readings and bring samples of writing that inspires you to share with your classmates. You will be expected to find your own topics for longer assignments. And you will be expected to actively engage in peer review.

Students will be expected to read the following books on writing: The Glamour of Grammar, Roy Peter Clark and “They Say, I Say” The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, Gerald Graff. Readings will also include selected magazine pieces, essays, speeches, letters and other texts that make use of narrative techniques which I will post on the Sakai page for this class. You should also purchase the on-line version of Writer’s Help, by Diana Hacker, as a reference for all your writing at Wake Forest.