FALL 2014 COURSE DESCRIPTIONS
Offering an approach unique to Johns Hopkins,“Expos” teaches students the elements of academic argument shared by all the disciplines. Students frame their arguments making use of what William Evans calls “The Paradigm of Academic Argument.” Within this conceptual framework, students learn to summarize and analyze sources, to evaluate sources, and to develop their thinking with evidence as they reason clearly and logically toward their own conclusions. Students trace the potential impact of their conclusions—their implications, consequences, or applications—and practice suggesting directions for future research or scholarship. All courses in Expository Writing help fulfill the university’s writing-intensive, or “W,” requirement.
060.100 (H) (W) INTRODUCTION TO EXPOSITORY WRITING
(3) Limit 10 per section.
Introduction to “Expos” is designed to introduce less experienced writers to the elements of academic argument. Students learn to recognize the paradigm of academic argument as they learn to read and summarize academic essays, and then they apply the paradigm in academic essays of their own. Classes are small, no more than 10 students, and are organized around three major writing assignments. Each course guides students’ practice through pre-writing, drafting, and revising, and includes discussions, workshops, and tutorials with the instructor. In addition to its central focus on the elements of academic argument, each “Intro” course teaches students to avoid plagiarism and document sources correctly. “Intro” courses do not specialize in a particular topic or theme and are available to freshmen only.
Introduction to Expository Writing
Introduction to Expository Writing
Introduction to Expository Writing
Introduction to Expository Writing
Introduction to Expository Writing
Introduction to Expository Writing
Introduction to Expository Writing
060.113 (H) (W) EXPOSITORY WRITING
(3) Limit 15 per section.
“Expos” is designed to introduce more confident student writers to the elements of academic argument. Students learn to apply the paradigm of academic argument in academic essays of their own. Classes are capped at 15 students and organized around four major writing assignments. Each course guides students’ practice through pre-writing, drafting, and revising, and includes discussions, workshops, and tutorials with the instructor. In addition to its central focus on the elements of academic argument, each “Expos” course teaches students to use and document sources correctly and provides its own topic or theme to engage students’ writing and thinking. Please see the following list of individual course descriptions to decide which sections of “Expos” will most interest you. “Expos” courses are available to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, and to seniors by special permission.
Freedom of Will in Neuroscience & Philosophy
Dissent and the Power of Persuasion
Balancing Freedom and Security
Self-Interest and Common Good
Life, the Cosmos, and Intelligent Design
Better Than Human
The Body as Art
Living Other Lives in American Short Stories
Visions of War
The Power and Perils of Irony
The Celebrity of Jane Austen
The Celebrity of Jane Austen
INDIVIDUAL COURSE DESCRIPTIONS FOR EXPOSITORY WRITING (060.113):
060.113.01 Freedom of Will in Neuroscience and Philosophy (MWF 9:00)
Are human beings truly free in the choices we make, or are we ultimately nothing more than “wet machines” whose actions are predetermined by physical laws and circumstances—or is this a false dichotomy? How do the answers to these questions influence questions of moral responsibility? If human beings are mere machines, is an arsonist any more blameworthy for sparking a fire than a defective toaster? Is a soldier any more praiseworthy for defending her country than an automated drone? Philosophers have struggled for thousands of years to understand the nature of human freedom, but more recently, experiments in psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science have introduced fascinating new data into the fray. In this writing course, we will critically evaluate how experimental results and philosophical arguments have been mobilized in attempts to resolve the puzzle of free will, with emphasis on neuroscientist Benjamin Libet’s landmark study of conscious intentions and readiness for action in the human brain. For the first essay, students will analyze Libet’s own interpretation of his experimental results as he argues for a radically limited conception of human freedom. Next, we turn to philosopher Markus Schlosser, who argues that Libet’s negative conclusions can be avoided by adopting a popular conception of freedom that is compatible with predetermination through physical processes. Students will analyze and critically evaluate Schlosser's argument. For the third and largest essay, students will evaluate an argument of philosophers Maureen Sie and Aron Wouters that claims experimental results are indeed a grave threat to this “compatible” conception of freedom, and drawing on their earlier analyses, students will advance their own argument in response. For the final essay, students will have the option of evaluating an argument from philosopher Timothy O’Connor, who maintains that Libet’s results are inconclusive and advances his own alternative conception of freedom. Note: No specialized knowledge is required for this course.
060.113.02 Dissent and the Power of Persuasion (MWF 10:00)
American democracy is built on dissent, both as historical fact and political reality. But while the right of individuals and minority groups to express their views is protected by law, legal protection alone does nothing to change the views of those in the majority, or to change the status quo. In the context of American democracy, how does dissent effect social and political change? This course examines how once-marginal groups and movements succeed—or fail—to capture the public imagination: how some groups persuade the majority to change while others fail in the attempt. For our first essay, we will explore how and why same-sex marriage has recently become the dominant cause of minority sexual politics in America today. Students will choose from a selection of texts and write a short essay analyzing arguments for and against same-sex marriage. For the second essay, we will turn to a classic argument of the modern Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s rhetorically powerful “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In the context of the “moderate” calls for patience that King rejected, students will analyze King’s strategies for navigating the competing views of his various audiences. For the third and largest essay, we will read a selection of views, from The Wall Street Journal to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, about the “Occupy” movement, and students will argue their own interpretation of the effectiveness of that movement’s efforts, in the wake of the financial crisis, to persuade the public to address economic inequality. For the final essay, we’ll explore how social and political ideals can often find their most vivid expression in artistic innovation. Students will have the option to analyze how an artwork, advertisement, or film depicts political dissent in America in a short essay of their own design.
060.113.03 Balancing Freedom and Security (MWF 10:00)
Shortly after leaving office in 1974, and after having struggled with nearly a dozen terrorist attacks during his tenure, British Prime Minister Edward Heath was asked by journalist Alan Hart what his greatest fear for the future of Britain was. Heath responded: “that Britain will become the first police state in the democratic world.” A little over twenty years later, a report produced by David Murakami Wood claimed that Britain is “the most surveilled country in the world.” Although the United States has always prided itself on being a free society, September 11 pushed it into a situation similar to that of 1970s England. The controversy over warrantless wiretapping at the National Security Agency, the role of Homeland Security, and the expanding use of drones have reignited the ancient debate over what constitutes the best balance between security and individual freedom. In this writing course we will probe that debate by looking beyond our contemporary world to consider how others have approached this question throughout history. We will start by writing a brief analysis of Cicero’s narration of the Catalinarian conspiracy—an event that shook the Roman Republic to its core and helped lead to the civil war that has fascinated Westerners for two thousand years. For the second essay, we will move to the Cold War and the opposing views of President Harry Truman and former Vice President Henry Wallace on the spread of communism, views that students will evaluate by focusing on their underlying assumptions. In the third essay, students will read critiques of current US counter-terrorism policies and will develop an argument, focusing on the extrajudicial use of drones abroad and on questions of privacy at home. Lastly, students will have the option either to write a short opinion piece on current US policy, using some of the historical ideas considered earlier in the course, or to rewrite the first or second essay.
060.113.04 Roman Gladiators (MWF 11:00)
Roman gladiators have occupied our imagination for centuries. hey were and are admired for their masculinity and despised for their profession. Female gladiators turned Roman stereotypes on their heads and are sometimes viewed as forerunners of modern women. Yet all gladiators killed and were killed as entertainment for an audience. New evidence about gladiators continues to surface in scholarship, raising questions about the roles they played in their ancient environment and about how we understand them today. In this writing course, we will examine several of these questions about Roman gladiators. We begin with a letter by the first-century philosopher Seneca which focuses on the effect a noontime fight has on the spectators. Students write a short essay analyzing Seneca’s view. For the second essay, we consider Anthony Corbeill’s article “Thumbs in ancient Rome,” in which Corbeill challenges the traditional view that a “thumbs up” gesture signaled life in the arena, while a “thumbs down” meant a gladiator’s death. Students evaluate Corbeill’s claims. In the third and largest essay, students participate in a recent controversy surrounding an ancient statuette which Classics scholar Alfonso Manas reinterpreted in 2011 as a female gladiator. First published in a scholarly journal, Manas’s new view, picked up by Internet media, sparked a debate among classicists, archaeologists, and amateur historians alike. Students test his theory and develop their own conclusions about the statuette. The fourth and final essay analyzes the movies in The Hunger Games series. Students have the option to focus on one aspect of how gladiators are portrayed by the films. Possible topics include the role of spectators in the film and the portrayal of Katniss Everdeen as a female gladiator.
060.113.05 Self-Interest and Common Good (MWF 11:00)
In studying how markets operate, economists must first confront a contradiction in economic theory about what motivates individual action. Adam Smith presents an early formulation of the problem in The Wealth of Nations as he argues that, although an individual’s pursuit of self-interest makes markets competitive, cooperation makes markets efficient. How do we, as individuals and as a society, negotiate the potential conflict between acting in one’s own interest, on the one hand, and acting in the interest of all, on the other? In this writing course, we will explore the ongoing conflict between self-interest and common good. We will begin by analyzing how we, as individuals, connect to our society through work, in economic theories by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations and by Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. You will write an essay analyzing one of these texts. Next, we turn to short stories by Tim O’Brien and George Saunders, and you will evaluate a critical interpretation of either O’Brien’s “On the Rainy River” or Saunders’s “Pastoralia,” stories which explore how an individual reacts to the competing pressures of self-interest, economic imperative, and social utility. For the third and largest essay, we will examine Margin Call, J. C. Chandor’s award-winning film about the psychological pressures and ethical choices made by the men and women of a large Wall Street firm in the days before the financial collapse of 2008, and you will develop an argument about the film in the context of both secondary sources and the economic theories analyzed earlier in the course. For your final essay, you will have the option to write a short analysis of a story or film of your choice or to rewrite one of your first two essays in the course.
060.113.06 (MWF 11:00)
060.113.07 Life, the Cosmos, and Intelligent Design (MW 12:00)
How did life develop on earth? Was it accident, the result of random processes? A coincidence of chemistry? Does the existence of complex life imply the existence of an intelligent designer? Does it imply God? The Argument from Intelligent Design claims that the existence of complex organisms, such as human beings, is evidence for believing that biological life did not develop by coincidence, the result of a “blind” chemical process, but rather by purposeful intent. In this writing course, we will examine the strength of these arguments. The recent history of the Intelligent Design account begins in the early nineteenth century with the publication of William Paley’s Natural Theology, a book Charles Darwin subsequently read as an undergraduate at Cambridge. For the first assignment, you will write a short essay analyzing Paley’s argument. The focus of the second essay will be Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, in which Darwin proposes an alternative explanation for the existence of complex biological organisms based on undesigned evolution through natural selection. Your task will be to evaluate the evolutionary approach in the light of Darwin’s contemporary critics who favor Paley’s account. More recently, Paley’s argument has been turned from biology to cosmology. This version of the design argument, called the Fine-Tuning Argument, claims that the fact we live in a universe in which several key cosmological and physical constants necessary for the existence of intelligent life are perfectly “fine-tuned” constitutes strong evidence that these constants must be the result of intelligent design. Your third and largest essay will focus on the contemporary debate over the Fine-Tuning Argument. You will evaluate the opposing views of William Lane Craig and Elliott Sober and, based on this evaluation, will argue your own view of the validity of the Fine-Tuning Argument. For your final essay, you will have the option to rewrite one of your first two essays, or to consider the implications of your previous analyses for the broader public debate on intelligent design.
060.113.08 Hitchcock (MW 12:00)
This course aims at developing students’ critical and expository abilities by taking up the challenges of writing about several of Alfred Hitchcock’s major pictures. “Suspense” was the word Hitchcock most liked to have associated with himself, and we will find that the process of understanding his work often leaves us suspended: between seriousness and play, fascinated absorption and critical distance, high art and mass culture, the elegance of technical and formal control and the excess and contagiousness of desire. Perhaps no figure in the history of cinema has led such a successful double life as entertainer and intellectual, engaging both theorists and the general public with equal intensity. In the course of the semester, we will consider—with help from the critical tradition—different ways of thinking about the relation between the intimate pleasures and anxieties aroused by these films, and their investigations of freedom and community, maturity and identity, visibility and the social role of cinema. We begin with an analysis of a scene from Rear Window, the Hitchcock work which most clearly proposes that film may be a way of reflecting morally on the kinds of excitement it generates. As our second assignment, we look at The Birds in view of Robin Wood’s contention that the film is ultimately less “about” the experience of suspense than about the difference between meaningful relationships and meaningless violence. For the third essay, we bring the work of Sigmund Freud, often thought to be among Hitchcock’s major influences, to bear upon Psycho and Vertigo, two films about guilt, obsession, and the meaning of self-control. Finally, students will have the option of writing a short essay on North by Northwest—a film sometimes seen as summing up Hitchcock’s whole oeuvre—or revising a previous essay for the course.
060.113.09 Hitchcock (MW 1:30)
Please see the course description listed above for Section 08 at MW 12:00.
060.113.10 Detective Stories (MW 1:30)
With its signature blend of lurid secrets, shadowy conspiracies, and all-but-unsolvable crimes, detective fiction has grown into a prominent genre in popular culture, pervasive in books, in movies, and on TV. In this course, we'll investigate the literary origins and changing cultural significance of this fictional world inhabited by brilliant sleuths, criminal masterminds, corrupt officials, and "dangerous women." Students will write a total of four essays interpreting a series of classic whodunits. In our first unit, students will analyze Edgar Allan Poe's groundbreaking detective fiction, with a particular focus on what makes C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s investigative genius, able to solve crimes the police cannot. Next, we'll read a selection of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries and, in particular, try to account for the admiration and affinity Holmes feels for his nemesis, Professor Moriarty. Drawing on and evaluating a brief secondary source, students will interpret Doyle’s theory that good and evil are “hereditary tendencies.” In our third and longest unit, students will enter into a longstanding critical debate over the professional ethics of detective Philip Marlowe, the hero of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, and argue their own distinct interpretation of Marlowe’s willingness to commit crimes as a tool for solving crimes. Finally, we'll watch The Big Lebowski, the Coen brothers' radically revised adaptation of The Big Sleep, and try to understand the nature of the mystery at its center. This course will emphasize the development of clear and persuasive writing skills.
060.113 Better Than Human (MW 3:00)
In 2003, the President’s Council on Bioethics noted that the “dream of human perfectibility by means of science and technology has . . . been present from the start of modern science.” Today, with advances in biotechnology research, that dream seems more vivid than ever. We have the power to promote fertility and prevent it, to screen embryos and adults for genetic diseases, to transplant organs and insert new genes into the body, and to alter mood and memory with psychoactive drugs. We celebrate the great advances in human health that biological and medical research has made possible. Yet many are uneasy with the ethical implications arising from the use of biotechnologies that go “beyond therapy”—beyond the traditional goal of medicine to heal—and that instead aim to enhance human qualities such as beauty, strength, and intelligence, to select embryos for specific characteristics, and to increase longevity. In this writing course, we will consider philosophical and literary works that explore some of the ethical questions raised by efforts to perfect human nature with the help of biotechnology. We begin with a contemporary essay by philosopher Richard Rorty which questions the continued usefulness of framing our ethics in terms of “human rights.” Students will write an essay analyzing Rorty’s argument. Next we turn to two short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne that dramatize the consequences of a scientist’s attempt to perfect human nature. Using one of Hawthorne’s stories as the ground of their inquiry, students will evaluate where Rorty’s view of human rights helps to illuminate the story, where it does not, and where, in turn, the story might raise questions about Rorty’s concepts. For our third and longest essay, students will build upon this foundation to construct an argument about Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go, in the context of related secondary sources. Finally, for their fourth essay, students have the option to analyze a story, film, or bioethical argument related to course themes.
060.113.24 Ghost Stories (MW 3:00)
“One need not be a chamber to be haunted, / One need not be a house. / The brain has corridors surpassing / Material place.” As these lines by Emily Dickinson suggest, it is often difficult to discern whether the entities we refer to as “ghosts” are psychological creations or supernatural manifestations. In life, we ask whether ghosts exist outside the mind of their perceiver; but in fiction, a realm where nothing exists beyond the words on the page, the issue is more complicated. How do we understand the presence of ghosts in fictional texts? What do ghosts reveal about the characters who are visited by them? Is beholding a ghost a symptom of a disordered mind or a sign of a heightened state of awareness? What anxieties, emotions, or knowledge do they represent, or does their ethereal nature elude such interpretation? In our first unit, we will read a selection of ghost stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, and Edith Wharton, and students will write an essay analyzing the meaning of the ghost in one of these short tales. In our second unit, we will turn our attention to Henry James’s maddeningly ambiguous novella The Turn of the Screw. Reading this masterpiece in conjunction with Edmund Wilson’s controversial rationalist essay, students will offer their own interpretations of the tale’s seemingly ghostly events by addressing the question of the narrator’s sanity. The specter of psychosis will be ever-present in our third and most comprehensive unit, in which we will turn to what many believe to be the classic ghost story of the twentieth century, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. By evaluating the relative merits and flaws of several divergent critical perspectives on Jackson’s novel, students will develop an argument about the relationship between the ghostly phenomena in the house and the equally unsettling thoughts in the characters’ minds. Finally, in our fourth unit, we will examine the different ways Dickinson renders the psychological effect of supernatural experience. Students will write an essay analyzing one short poem.
060.113.12 Shakespeare’s God (TTH 9:00)
What did Shakespeare believe about God? Was he Catholic? Protestant? An atheist or pantheist? Something else entirely? As with so many aspects of Shakespeare’s life, no clear answer to the question is possible. But this hasn’t stopped many readers from detecting Shakespeare’s faith through his works. And regardless of what Shakespeare may have believed himself, his plays provide some of the most searching and powerful meditations on the nature of faith—and the tragedy of the confrontation of faiths—in literature. “Shakespeare’s God” explores in depth two plays, The Merchant of Venice and The Tempest, in probing the question of Shakespeare’s own possible beliefs. These plays offer an opportunity to consider the idea of the divine, and poetic ways of representing divinity more generally. The class is organized around four essay assignments. For the first assignment, we will consider the confrontation of Judaism and Christianity in The Merchant of Venice, particularly as those faiths are represented by the characters Shylock and Portia, and students will attempt to answer the simple but perennially perplexing question: whose side, if any, is Shakespeare on in this play? The second essay centers on some prominent scholarly examinations of the play; students will evaluate the claims of one of these articles and offer their own interpretation in response. For the third essay, we then turn to The Tempest—one of Shakespeare’s last finished plays—and consider a number of scholarly essays that engage with the complex varieties of spirituality represented in this play. Students will enter this critical conversation and argue their own interpretation of the play. Finally, students will have the opportunity either to revise the first essay or compose a new essay on a recent film adaptation of one of the plays: Michael Radford’s The Merchant of Venice (2004), starring Al Pacino, or Julie Taymor’s The Tempest (2010), starring Helen Mirren.
060.113.13 (TTH 9:00)
060.113.14 The Body as Art (TTH 10:30)
The concept of the body as an object of display is as old as human history and as current as the Internet. Images put bodies on display in private and public contexts, involving the viewer in various ways; yet how we interpret and relate to such images varies widely depending on our cultural understandings. Taking paintings from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Modern eras as the ground of our inquiry, we will ask: how are such paintings responses to the intellectual and cultural environment that produced them? And how do we begin to interpret the body in art with critical distance rather than with modern presumptions? To answer these questions, and others, we will examine paintings by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, Manet, and Degas, all of which express ideas of beauty and desire in relation to the body in private and in public. In this writing course, we will examine the paintings themselves—our primary sources—and will evaluate arguments about them. The first essay asks students to practice the art of “close looking” and write a visual analysis of a painting by Michelangelo or Caravaggio. For the second essay, students will analyze scholar Rona Goffen’s argument about the genre of the reclining female nude, evaluating it against the primary evidence of Titian’s Venus of Urbino and offering their own view. For the third and largest essay, we will consider Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère and Degas’s The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage, paintings that represent women as entertainment in public spaces. Students will develop an argument about one of the works by entering into conversation with two scholarly articles. In their final essay, students will have the option of analyzing a contemporary image of a body in an advertisement, photograph, or painting. We will also visit the Baltimore Museum of Art, but the central aim of the course is to develop students’ thinking and writing abilities.
060.113.15 Living Other Lives in American Short Stories (TTH 10:30)
In a 2012 interview with the New York Times, American critic M.H. Abrams was asked, “Why study literature?” Abrams answered, because “it enables you to live the lives of other people.” In his book How Fiction Works, critic James Wood points us to fiction’s “extraordinary capacity . . . [to] tell us what a character is thinking.” But how does a master of short fiction open a window to his or her characters’ thoughts and feelings? In this writing course, we will examine how writers of American short stories use fictional elements such as point of view and description to create a character’s inner life. In our first essay, students will analyze one story from among a small set of stories by considering how the author uses point of view to bring to life a character’s experience. For Essay 2, students will evaluate a critic’s interpretation of how characterization operates in a story and, based on that evaluation, will offer their own interpretation. For our third and largest essay, students will develop an argument about a short story in the context of secondary sources, evaluating the critics’ views and offering their own. The fourth essay will offer students the opportunity to analyze a story of their choice, using the critical apparatus they’ve learned during the semester, or to rewrite one of their first two essays. Our readings will feature the work of some of the great masters of contemporary American fiction including Raymond Carver, Grace Paley, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Ford, Denis Johnson, ZZ Packer, George Saunders, Lorrie Moore, Edward P. Jones, and Lydia Davis. By the end of the course, we should be, in Wood’s words, “better readers of detail in literature . . . which in turn makes us better readers of life.”
060.113.16 Western Movies (TTH 10:30)
Western movies are famously formulaic. For more than a century, they have told variations of the same story, using a small set of iconic images. A man and a gun, and his horse. Showdown at high noon. The vast plains, a stagecoach, Indians in the distance. Westerns tell the mythical story of the American West through the moral battles that civilization fights against outside forces, and forces within. And although the evolution of social and ethical concerns in American culture has undoubtedly made its mark on Western movies, it still takes only a glance to recognize a Western. How, then, can we explain the vitality of the genre? The question frames this Expos course, in which we will focus our analysis on the intricacies of film form and examine the interplay of convention and innovation inherent in any art form. Students will learn to identify key elements of film language and to understand how these elements contribute to their interpretation of the film. To begin, students will analyze a scene from John Ford’s classic Stagecoach (1939). For Essay 2, students will further develop their analytic skills by evaluating a critical source comparing the Western hero in Stagecoach to that in another Ford classic, My Darling Clementine (1946), and offering their own interpretation. In the third and longest essay, students will evaluate various critical views of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992) and will argue for their own view. For the final essay, students may choose from a list of films that represent the richness of the Western, including John Ford’s masterpiece, The Searchers (1956), Nicolas Ray’s feminist Western Johnny Guitar (1954), Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), as well as more radical deviations such as George Miller’s The Road Warrior (1981), whose post-apocalyptic tale is a classic Western in disguise.
060.113.17 Visions of War (TTH 12:00)
Literature begins in war. We need only look to the Mahabharata and Homer’s Iliad to see that events in war exert a powerful hold on the literary imagination. A consequence of this conjunction is that literature serves as an important means for shaping a public’s reaction to war. We should wonder then whether literature provides realistic representations of war; or, do literary works merely glorify the experience of war? This writing course will investigate some of the ways that modern literature and film envision war and will consider the consequences of those visions for society. To begin, we will read a selection of stories about the Vietnam war, and you will write an essay analyzing one of those stories by focusing on the view of war the main character presents. For the second essay, we turn to a section of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the Battle of Borodino, a turning point in Napoleon’s campaign against Russia. Alongside this section of the novel, we will read an essay by the literary scholar Lionel Trilling in which Trilling questions Tolstoy’s literary realism. You will evaluate Trilling’s claims against the evidence of the novel and offer your own view of how Tolstoy portrays the battle. The third and longest essay asks you to formulate an argument about John Hersey’s non-fiction essay Hiroshima in the context of scholarly and historical sources. For the final assignment, you will have the option to analyze a film of your choice, for instance, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty or The Hurt Locker, or the Afghanistan documentary Restrepo or its sequel Korengal.
060.113.18 American Gothic (TTH 12:00)
From Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” to the Twilight series, gothic imagination is one of the signature modes of American expression. Why does the gothic mode continue to play such an important role in our cultural imagination? In this course, we will consider how representations of horror in American literature express anxieties about the unknown and the irrational, and why this genre has adapted so well to the American environment. For their first essay, students will analyze one of several stories by Edgar Allen Poe, paying particular attention to the trope of transgressed boundaries between self and other, life and death, sanity and madness. In the second unit of the course, we will focus on the Southern gothic. Authors may include William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, and others. We will supplement our attention to these rich primary texts with secondary sources, and students will evaluate the interpretation of a secondary source against one of the stories and offer their own interpretation. For our third and most comprehensive unit, students will develop an argument about Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved in the context of several secondary and theoretical sources. For essay four, students may analyze a story or film of their choice, or revise one of their first two essays.
060.113.19 Family Matters (TTH 12:00)
Your roommate stares at you and says: “Tell me about your family.” Translation: who are you? In leaving home for college, we come to reevaluate the primary—and primal— relationships which define us, often for the first time. What compass have we been given, and how do we use it to navigate the boundaries of familial relationships? When we present ourselves to the world, what aspects of our pasts do we highlight and which ones do we edit out? How do we come to understand ourselves as being both apart from our families and a part of them? This writing course focuses on the family. We’ll explore diverse examples of the family narrative: ones that look back to foundation-myths; ones that self-consciously look within to question how we “become ourselves”; and finally, those that look out, to the cultural factors which inform our sense of families today. We’ll start with a variety of origin stories, including the Gospel of Luke, the original Batman, and “The Very Rigid Search” by Jonathan Safran Foer. You will write a brief essay analyzing one of the texts. Next, we’ll examine how various authors, such as Tony Earley, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Barack Obama, explore identity and legacy in personal narratives about family. For your second essay, you will evaluate the view of a secondary source about one of the stories, and offer your own interpretation. For our third and largest essay, we’ll enter one of the thorniest areas of debate about families today, the family and science. We will investigate how recent laws or scientific advancements affect our understanding of what constitutes a family and what that means for our society. You will enter the debate and develop your own argument. Finally, for our fourth essay, you will have the option to write a brief essay of your own design, exploring matters of family, and how family matters.
060.113.20 Family Matters (TTH 1:30)
Please see the course description listed above for Section 19 at TTH 12:00.
060.113.21 The Power and Perils of Irony (TTH 1:30)
If irony says what it doesn’t mean in order to mean what it doesn’t say, how do we recognize it when we see it? If Jonathan Swift, for instance, urges us to eat Irish babies as a cure for the poverty of eighteenth-century Ireland, how do we know he doesn’t mean it? What does he mean? And how can we be sure? In this writing course, we will explore these questions, and others, as we read classic and modern authors who use irony as a powerful rhetorical weapon in philosophical and political debates to demolish the views of their opponents while promoting their own. We will examine the mechanisms of irony: what it consists in, what advantages it brings to those interested in influencing public opinion, and what the cost may be when it backfires. In the first essay unit, we will analyze Swift’s pamphlet “A Modest Proposal” with a view to understanding both the power and perils of irony. For the second unit, we will build on that initial ground by exploring the contemporary world of cultural commentary. Students will view the documentary Religulous (although some critics dispute the term “documentary”) and, with the help of an additional source, evaluate the implications of the film’s use of irony. For the third and longest essay, we will read Voltaire’s famous short novel Candide, together with critical sources, and students will develop an argument considering what remains after irony has done its work. For the final essay, students will revisit Unit 1 or 2 and either rewrite their essay or work with a new source of their own choosing.
060.113.22 The Celebrity of Jane Austen (TTH 1:30)
In this writing course, students will engage with the work, life, and celebrity of Jane Austen, paying particular attention to the effects that her works have had on several generations of admiring readers and writers. Our objective will be to think about Austen’s continuing popularity in times and contexts that are significantly different from those in which she wrote. In the first unit, students analyze John Spence’s argument—made over the course of two chapters in his bestselling biography, Becoming Jane Austen (2007)—that in her youth Austen fell in love with an Irish lawyer named Tom Lefroy and that this experience (and eventual heartbreak) deeply informs her fiction. For the second essay, students read Rudyard Kipling’s short story, “The Janeites” (1926), alongside contemporary analyses of the culture of Janeites. Kipling’s story is told mostly in the voice of a World-War-I veteran, and focuses on what he (perhaps mistakenly) understands to be a secret society among fellow soldiers devoted to Jane Austen. Students will lain evaluate the claims of a secondary source about Kipling’s story. In the third, and longest unit, we consider Pride and Prejudice—arguably Austen’s most popular work—in the context of the popular recent discussion about whether Austen wasnd-1 a nascent game theorist. Sources include excerpts from Michael Chwe’s Jane Austen, Game Theorist (2014), as well as responses to the central claims made in this book by William Deresiewicz and others. Students will evaluate these arguments against their reading of Pride and Prejudice and argue for their own interpretation. Finally, in the fourth unit, students will have the option to rewrite one of their first two essays or to write a brief essay analyzing one of several recent theatrical adaptations of Austen (particularly Pride and Prejudice), or P. D. James’s bestselling novel Death Comes to Pemberly (2013).
060.113.23 The Celebrity of Jane Austen (TTH 3:00)
Please see the course description listed above for Section 22 at TTH 1:30.
060.113.24 Ghost Stories (MW 3:00)
Please see the course description listed above at MW 3:00.