Spring 2014 Course Descriptions
Offering an approach unique to Johns Hopkins University, “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 data, 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, 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
060.114 (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 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.
The Cognitive Science of Religion
Baltimore Stories and the Power of Place
Balancing Freedom and Security
Science Fiction and the Question of Identity
Politics and Violence
Politics and Violence
The Utopian Imagination
Better Than Human
Faith and Reason in Public Life
The Ethics of the Apocalypse
On Creating Monsters
The Body in Art
The 2008 Financial Crisis
The Psychology of Emotional Attachment
The American Wilderness
Collective Identity and Responsibility
Please see below for individual course descriptions of Expository Writing (060.114).
060.139 (H) (W) EXPOSITORY WRITING: THE NARRATIVE ESSAY
(3) Limit 12 per section.
Telling stories is one of the first and most important ways that human beings try to make sense of the world and their experience of it. The narrative art informs fiction and nonfiction alike, is central to the writing of history, anthropology, crime reports and laboratory reports, sports stories and political documentaries. What happened? The answer may be imagined or factual, but it will almost certainly be narrative. This course focuses on the narrative essay, a nonfiction prose form that answers the question of “what happened” in a variety of contexts and aims to make sense not only of what happened but how and why. We will begin by summarizing narrative essays, will move to analyzing them, and in the second half of the course you will write two narrative essays of your own, the first based on a choice of topics and sources, the second of your own design. Authors may include James Baldwin, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Chang Rae Lee, Danielle Ofri, George Orwell, Richard Selzer, John Updike, and Abraham Verghese. You will learn the power of narrative to inform and persuade as you test that power in your own writing. "The Narrative Essay" is designed for students who already have experience with expository writing but is open to freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
The Narrative Essay
INDIVIDUAL COURSE DESCRIPTIONS FOR EXPOSITORY WRITING (060.114):
060.114.01 The Cognitive Science of Religion (MWF 9:00)
Religion is a human universal. Every human society, through history and across the globe, has organized its culture around religious rituals and beliefs. From this perspective, religion seems natural. And yet, from the perspective of evolutionary biology, religion is puzzling. Religious beliefs and rituals are costly in time and energy, and they don’t seem to have any clear adaptive benefits when viewed through the lens of Darwinian theory. Evolutionarily, it would be better to spend our time gathering food than kneeling in prayer. This raises the logical question, how did religion become universal if we would have been better off without it? Recently, some important and exciting work in the cognitive and brain sciences has attempted to answer this question. In this writing class we’ll examine three of these proposals. For the first essay, students will read an essay by Pascal Boyer and analyze the proposal that religion is the unintended byproduct of our psychology. For the second essay, students will read an essay by Joseph Bulbulia, and analyze and then evaluate the proposal that religion evolved to promote cooperative behavior. For the third and largest assignment, students will read an essay by Richard Dawkins, and evaluate the proposal that religion is a product of culture rather than of natural selection. In this essay, students will also develop their own view based on the theories discussed so far. For the final essay, we’ll step back and assess the significance of attempting to give a naturalistic account of religion. What place does religion have in a scientific world?
060.114.02 Roman Gladiators (MWF 10:00)
Gladiators held a paradoxical place in the social order of Rome: admired for their masculine virtues and despised because they were slaves; desired as sexual objects by women and envied for their physical prowess by men. Women in the arena turned Roman stereotypes on their heads. Yet all gladiators killed, and were killed, for entertainment. Today, 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. In this writing course, we will examine not only controversies but misconceptions about Roman gladiators. We begin with an analysis of a letter by the first-century philosopher Seneca which focuses on the effect a noontime fight has on the spectators. For the second essay, students analyze Carlin A. Barton’s article “The Scandal of the Arena,” which explores the paradoxical nature of the gladiator in detail but raises several questions students will engage. 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 will test his theory and develop their own conclusions about the statuette. The fourth and final essay analyzes the movie The Hunger Games. Students will focus on one aspect of how gladiators are portrayed by the film. Possible topics include the role of spectators in the film and the portrayal of Katniss Everdeen as a female gladiator.
060.114.03 Baltimore Stories and the Power of Place (MWF 10:00)
When someone tells you he’s from Houston, Texas, what do you know about him, and what do you think you know? When a friend says her hometown is Albany, Georgia—or the Upper East Side of New York City, or the Yonsei neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea—what do you learn, and how do your expectations shift? We all intuitively know that we are shaped by place, by where we live and the neighborhoods we grow up in. Who we are, and who we think others are, is profoundly influenced by our personal geography, something that fiction writers from James Joyce, for instance, to William Faulkner to Anne Tyler have always understood. Imagine trying to separate Joyce’s characters from Dublin, Faulkner’s from Mississippi, or Tyler’s from Baltimore. Place helps to define us and who we are, as neighbors, strangers, enemies, friends. Using Baltimore as our fictional ground, we will explore how this intersection of self and neighborhood is represented in stories and films, as we consider the shaping power of place. For the first essay, we read a selection of short stories, and students write a brief essay analyzing how one of the stories represents the influence of place on the main character. Possible authors include Rafael Alvarez, ZZ Packer, and Anne Tyler. Next, we turn to Barry Levinson’s Liberty Heights, a coming-of-age film set in a Jewish neighborhood of Baltimore in the mid-1950s. Students will evaluate the view of a secondary source as they offer their interpretation of the film. For our third and largest essay, we watch selections from the award-winning television series The Wire by David Simon and Ed Burns, and in the context of related commentary and secondary sources, students will develop their own arguments about how the series represents the people and neighborhoods of Baltimore. For the fourth and final essay, students have the option to revisit Essay 1 or 2, or to write a new essay that explores course themes. Throughout, the aim of the course is to develop students’ critical thinking and writing abilities.
060.114.04 Balancing Freedom and Security (MWF 11:00)
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.
060.114.05 Science Fiction and the Question of Identity (MW 12:00)
The best science fiction raises fundamental questions about what it means to be human. Who are we? Is our sense of who we are separable from the society we live in? Is it separable from who others think we are? What is identity? How is it formed? In what sense, if any, can we choose our identity, and in what sense, if any, can we lose it? In this writing course, we will consider these and other questions as we read a range of classic science fiction that asks us to think about our identity as humans and as individuals. We begin with short stories by Harlan Ellison and J.G. Ballard. You will analyze one of the stories, focusing on the question of whether it is possible to lose our identities and, if so, what that means. For the second essay, we read James Tiptree Jr.’s provocative story “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” alongside an excerpt from Descartes’s Meditations, which questions whether identity can be located in the mind or the body. You will consider how, and whether, Descartes’s theory helps to illuminate the story and will offer your own interpretation. For our third and largest essay, we turn to Philip K. Dick's short novel Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. You will develop your own argument about how the novel represents identity by entering into conversation with selected secondary sources. For the fourth and final essay, we will watch Blade Runner, and you will have the option to write a short essay analyzing some aspect of the film in relation to course themes, or to rewrite one of your first two essays.
060.114.21 Politics and Violence (MW 12:00)
When we think about political violence we tend to focus on specific examples of war, genocide, terrorism, assassination, or revolution. But the deeper causes, meanings, and justifications of political violence are also worthy of attention. In this course we explore how major political and literary thinkers have tackled the following questions: What is political violence? Are we all implicated in political violence, or is it something we can blame solely on the actions of states and leaders? And when, if ever, can political violence be justified? In the first segment, Defining Political Violence, we read essays by Abraham Lincoln and William James, and you write a short piece that responds to their views on the nature of political violence. In Unit Two, Violence and the State, we read Machiavelli’s account of state violence, and, as a practical example, we consider the use of military drones by the US government. You write an essay on the drone issue that engages with the views of a prominent thinker. In Unit Three, Violence and the People, we focus on themes of conspiracy, assassination, mob-rule, and the power of political speech. We read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and you write a longer essay that offers an interpretation of the play in light of the thinkers we’ve already read. In the final segment, Non-Violence and Civil Disobedience, we read short pieces by Gandhi and Barack Obama, and you may choose to write an essay that reflects on course themes in relation to an example of your choice. The overriding aim is to develop your ability to write clearly and persuasively as you engage with these fundamental themes and classic texts.
060.114.22 Politics and Violence (MW 1:30)
Please see the course description listed above for Section 21 at MW 12:00.
060.114.06 The Utopian Imagination (MW 1:30)
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.” —Oscar Wilde
How have human beings imagined the ideal society? And what dangers are inextricably linked to these utopian impulses? In this writing course we will consider how great thinkers and writers have imagined utopias—visionary communities embodying their ideals—and how others, suspecting the totalitarian motivations lurking behind such utopian projects, have created dystopias as a response. By reading and writing about a range of fictional texts and films, we will take up questions concerning the forms and limits of the utopian imagination. After analyzing a series of pre-Biblical and Biblical utopias, we will focus specifically on the Garden of Eden and the complexity surrounding notions of “the fall” and “original sin.” Next, we turn our attention to Thomas More’s short work Utopia, which gave the literary form its name. For the major assignment of the course, we develop an argument about Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show in the context of Freud’s theoretical text Civilization and its Discontents. Students will evaluate how Weir’s representation of Seahaven, and Truman’s relationship to it and its creator, supports and/or challenges some aspect of Freud’s text. Finally, students have the option to choose a contemporary version of utopia—fictional text, philosophical essay, or film—and analyze it in an essay of their own design.
060.114.07 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 two stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne that raise questions about the consequences of using science to pursue perfection. Students write a brief essay analyzing one of the stories. For the second essay unit, we turn to philosophical arguments that address ethical considerations about the uses of biotechnology and human enhancement. Students choose one of the arguments and write an essay evaluating it. For our third and largest essay, students develop an argument about Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel Never Let Me Go, drawing on the philosophical texts we read in the second unit as well as on secondary sources. Finally, for their fourth essay, students have the option to choose a film from a number of titles related to course concerns (for instance, sex selection, cloning, and behavior control) and analyze what is at stake in its depiction of the near future.
060.114.08 Faith and Reason in Public Life (TTH 9:00)
According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of Americans believe in God. Yet the Constitution excludes religion as a basis for law. In the United States, a country that guarantees religious freedom, governing should occur through reason rather than faith, or so it might seem. Nonetheless, the prominent role of religion in politics today suggests the separation between the two may not be as strong as we may like to believe. Is such separation possible? Is it preferable? What influence does faith have on governing in the United States today? In this writing course, we will examine these and related questions. For the first essay, students will read Kant's famous “What is Enlightenment?” and will analyze his argument for the public use of reason and the restriction of religion to the private realm. For the second essay, students will read selections from James Marone’s Hellfire Nation to evaluate Marone’s claim that Americans make political decisions based on moral values grounded in religion. For the third and largest essay, students will read the play Inherit the Wind which uses the Scopes “Monkey” Trial to stage a discussion about the role of religion in public policy and the importance of intellectual freedom. In this essay, students will develop their own arguments based on the readings from Essays 1 and 2 as well as selected secondary sources. For the final essay, students may choose to rewrite their first or second essay, or to write a brief essay of their own design within the context of the course. A list of relevant sources will be provided.
060.114.09 The Ethics of the Apocalypse (TTH 9:00)
The end of the world has captured the human imagination for centuries, from divine retribution to nuclear war, environmental disaster to zombie plague. In this writing course, we will examine how ancien2t and modern storytellers have imagined life at and after the apocalypse, paying special attention to the ethical problems that arise when everything familiar is threatened or lost. How do apocalyptic stories represent good and evil? How do those categories change under extraordinary circumstances? How do individuals and communities define themselves when social and governmental order has collapsed? What ethical principles are preserved or discarded when we imagine building a new world? In our first unit, we will take up a biblical representation of the end of the world that introduces images and questions that many modern depictions of the apocalypse rely upon. For the first essay, students will analyze a section of the Book of Revelation, focusing on its depiction of the ultimate battle between good and evil. Next, we will turn to more modern representations of the apocalypse. For their second essay, students will view Danny Boyle’s 2002 film 28 Days Later and, with the help of a contemporary review, will examine the ethical implications of the film’s depiction of a large-scale social collapse. In their third and longest essay, students will develop an argument about Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, post-apocalyptic novel The Road in the context of selected secondary and theoretical sources. For the fourth and final essay, students will have the opportunity to revise one of their first two essays, or to analyze an apocalyptic account from literature or film in light of course themes.
060.114.16 On Creating Monsters (TTH 10:30)
What do we mean when we say, “I’ve created a monster”? Mary Shelley asked this question nearly 200 years ago in her novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, in which a young scientist’s experiment results in one of the most famous monsters in literary history. In this writing course, we will examine a series of fictional manifestations that address the complex relationship between creativity, monstrosity, and human identity. What happens when one’s attempts at scientific progress and human creativity go terribly awry? How do these narratives blur the boundaries between monsters and human beings? Students will begin to think about such questions in their first assignment, which asks them to produce an interpretation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale, “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” We will then turn to Arthur Machen’s account of the horrific consequences of a doctor’s ambitious experiment in his novella, The Great God Pan. Students will situate their interpretations of Machen’s story in relation to a secondary argument about the text. The third and longest essay will be an extended analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in which students will place their arguments in conversation with at least two critical sources on the novel. Finally, we will analyze episodes from the fourth season of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, during which members of a secret government organization decide to create their own “Adam” figure. In this fourth essay, students will offer their own interpretations of the episodes as they focus on the course’s key questions about creativity, monstrosity, and human identity.
060.114.11 The Body in 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.
060.114.12 Fairy Tales (TTH 10:30-11:45)
What is good and evil? We often think of fairy tales as stories for children—magical, enchanting, and delightful—where ideal love is achieved and just deserts are meted out. Yet fairy tales are also fascinated by the strange and grotesque and not infrequently by violence, including cruel punishment. This class explores how fairy tales may disturb as much as they create a clear line between good and evil, as well as how they delve into aspects of society and psychology that we might consider “adult,” such as cruelty, desire, and the nature of justice. For the first essay, students will read “Prince Ivan, the Firebird, and the Grey Wolf” and “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” and choose one closely to analyze. For the second essay, students will evaluate an essay on “Snow White” by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar based on their own analysis of that tale and its representation of “evil.” The third and most extensive essay will focus on “Little Red Riding Hood” and various critical sources on the tale. Students will assess these sources and develop their own argument about the complex relationships among desire, violence, and punishment in that tale. The final essay offers students the option to evaluate one of the theoretical claims about fairy tales that we have encountered over the semester in relation to a tale of their choice.
060.114.12 Fairy Tales (TTH 12:00-1:15)
Please see the course description listed above for Section 12 at TTH 10:30.
060.114.14 The 2008 Financial Crisis (TTH 12:00)
What was the financial crisis of 2008? The question is surprisingly difficult to answer. We all know something happened on Wall Street and in global financial markets in 2008, something that involved high-frequency trading systems, subprime mortgage lending, and credit-rating systems. But determining how these factors, and others, may have caused the crisis and understanding the implications for the future are matters of interpretation and argument. In other words, they are political matters. What should have been done in 2008, and what should we do now? In this section of Expository Writing, we will read a range of sources on the 2008 crisis that address the political question of how to regulate the relationship between government and financial markets. We begin with former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Alan Greenspan’s testimony about the crisis to Congress in October 2008. Students will write an essay analyzing Mr. Greenspan’s view of the crisis. For the second essay, we turn to selections from N.N. Taleb’s 2012 book Antifragile, concerning the role of risk and uncertainty in high-finance decision making; students will evaluate Taleb’s argument in light of the Greenspan testimony. Our third and most comprehensive essay will focus on the U.S. government’s reaction to the financial crisis from March 2008, to the passage of the “Troubled Asset Relief Program” (TARP) in October 2008. Students will develop their own arguments about the role of government in regulating financial markets by evaluating the views of Mark Blyth, Tyler Cowen, and Ira Katzenstein and Stephen Nelson in light of Essays 1 and 2. The fourth essay will invite students to reconsider course material in relation to the 2010 documentary Inside Job.
060.114.15 The Psychology of Emotional Attachment (TTH 12:00)
What is the nature of a child’s tie to his mother? How do psychologists assess and measure the quality of emotional bonding between a mother and her child? Does this attachment occur only in early childhood, or is it a life-long phenomenon? How do cultural differences affect mother-child attachment, if at all? In this writing course, we will explore some of the ways in which a series of pioneering psychological studies responds to these questions. We will read classic essays from the field of contemporary psychology and will examine different forms of reasoning used to explore mother-child attachment. We begin with an essay by British psychologist John Bowlby, which proposes a correlation between early maternal separation and adolescent delinquency. For their first essay, students will identify and analyze the unexamined assumptions in Bowlby’s study. For the second essay, we read excerpts from psychologist Mary Ainsworth’s Patterns of Attachment, in which Ainsworth examines infants’ behavioral responses to maternal separation. We will analyze the arguments Ainsworth makes to identify individual differences in infant attachment, and students will evaluate how Ainsworth’s work both critiques and draws on Bowlby’s ideas. In the third and largest essay, students will enter into the scholarly debate surrounding the famous Bowlby-Ainsworth Theory of Attachment and will develop their own arguments about the unexamined assumptions it harbors. Finally, for the fourth essay, students will have the option to choose and evaluate a scientific paper from the viewpoint of the assumptions and empirical evidence it deploys to support its claims. Throughout, students will reflect on and develop the skills and strategies of academic argument as they read and evaluate different forms of argumentation deployed in scientific studies. Note: No specialized knowledge is required for this course.
060.114.16 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 law or 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.
060.114.16 Family Matters (TTH 1:30)
Please see the course description listed above for Section 15 at TTH 12:00.
060.114.18 Hitchcock (TTH 1:30)
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 multiple critical perspectives, including interviews with Hitchcock, to bear on Psycho and Vertigo, two films about obsession, loss, 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.
060.114.19 The American Wilderness (TTH 1:30)
More than 150 years ago, Henry David Thoreau asserted that “All good things are wild and free.” Thoreau was by no means the first to claim that what it means to be American, and to have a stake in our national destiny, is closely tied to the vast wilderness that both inspired and terrified the first European settlers. In this writing course, we will explore the history of the American relationship to the wilderness, and to the non-human animals that inhabit it, in literature, environmental policy, and film. We will investigate some of the ways that relationship has developed since the nineteenth century: the ethical questions it raises, the legal and political struggles it has engendered, and the ambiguous place of American wilderness in contemporary life. In the first essay, students will analyze Thoreau’s famous lecture “Walking” and its claims for an exceptional America based on the nation’s relationship to the natural world. For the second essay, we will consider what is at stake in stories about the wild, and especially the kinds of knowledge that might be shared by humans and animals. Students will analyze Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire” in relation to a critical argument about literary naturalism. In the third and most substantial essay of the course, we will research the controversy caused by the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s. Students will draw on historical writings, Congressional testimony, newspaper editorials, essays, and government policy documents to develop their own argument about this famous experiment in managing the wilderness. For the final assignment, students may examine one contemporary American’s extraordinary relationship to the wilderness in Werner Herzog’s film Grizzly Man, or revise a previous essay from the course.
060.114.20 Collective Identity and Responsibility (TTH 3:00)
Philosopher Hannah Arendt characterizes “collective responsibility” as arising from our membership in a particular community, or group, and not from our individual actions. As members of a group, are we responsible for the actions of others in the group? Are they responsible for ours? Can we choose not to be responsible for the actions of group members? How does membership in a group—a community, race, religion—shape the way we relate to other members of the group? In this Expos seminar, we will address these questions and others as we examine the political and moral implications of what it means to belong to a group. For our first essay, we read the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and students write a brief essay analyzing the questions the story raises about collective guilt and responsibility. Next, we turn to the mid-twentieth century and screen selected scenes from the film Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). Students write an essay in which they analyze Judge Dan Haywood’s arguments about the individual responsibility of defendants for Nazi war crimes in light of Arendt’s definition of “collective responsibility.” In our third and largest essay, students will enter debates about how to write elementary-school history in post-WWII Japan. Since elementary history texts are often a first point of entry into group political identity, how the group is characterized becomes a matter of political argument. For our fourth and final essay, students have the opportunity to write an essay in which they analyze some of the difficulties in navigating collective identity and responsibility as members of a group to which they belong.