Expository Writing Course Descriptions

Individual Course Descriptions for Expository Writing (060.113), Fall 2018

060.113.01 Medicine, East and West (MWF 10:00)

James Flowers

When the western physician Vesalius argued for the importance of human dissection, he urged that anatomy was necessary to practice medicine, and he presented his treatise on the human body as the pinnacle of medical knowledge in the sixteenth century. Yet physicians in East Asia and elsewhere, familiar with Vesalian anatomy, emphasized other conceptions, such as qi, until the twentieth century. How was the eastern body different from that of the West? Are there legitimate conceptualizations of the body other than physical structure? In this writing class, we will examine both classic texts and scholarly essays as we consider these questions and pursue our answers. For the first essay, students will read a selection from Fabrica by Vesalius and will analyze his argument, including his concept of representing the body in images. For the second essay, we will read Shigehisa Kuriyama’s essay “The Imagination of the Body and the History of Embodied Experience: The Case of Chinese Views of the Viscera.” Students will evaluate Kuriyama’s argument for the importance of qi, alongside excerpts from the foundational text, the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor. For the third and longest essay, students will read Charles Rosenberg’s essay “Alternative to What? Complementary to Whom? On Some Aspects of Medicine’s Scientific Inquiry.” In it, Rosenberg asks why people seek medical care outside the western scientific model of medicine, and he offers a number of reasons. Drawing on the sources they have already read, as well as selected others, students will develop their own assessments of the tension between scientific and alternative medicines.

060.113.02 Illness and Social Stigma (MWF 10:00)

Alexandra Lossada

Having an illness is both a personal experience, unique to the individual, and a social experience that affects—and is affected by—our relationship to family, community, and society at large. And when that illness carries with it the fear and shame of social stigma, the experience is further complicated. From polio to AIDS, how does having a stigmatized illness affect our sense of self, our relationships with others, and even our ability to heal? What might our fears tell us about our values and the values of our society? In this writing course, we will examine a series of contemporary American works to help us understand the relationship between illness and the social context in which we live. We begin with Susan Sontag’s 1986 short story “The Way We Live Now,” written at the height of the AIDS epidemic, in which neither the central character nor the illness (AIDS) is named. Students will write a brief essay analyzing the story. For the second essay, we turn to the film Still Alice (2014), which tells the story of a 50-year-old linguistics professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.Students will evaluate a critical interpretation of the film and will offer their own views. For the third and longest essay, we read Philip Roth’s 2010 novel Nemesis, the story of a 1944 polio epidemic in a Jewish neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, and a 23-year-old teacher’s moral dilemma as he watches the children he swore to protect become consumed by the illness. Students will enter into conversation with selected secondary sources to construct an argument of their own about the novel’s treatment of illness, stigma, and community.

060.113.03 Genetics and Bioethics (MWF 11:00)

Emilie J. Raymer

When the human genome was successfully sequenced in June 2000, President Bill Clinton claimed that scientists had learned “the language in which God created life.” He further asserted that “with this profound new knowledge, mankind is on the verge of gaining immense, new power to heal.” Since 2000, additional breakthroughs in genetics research have included DNA risk tests, stem cell therapy, and genome editing technology. Yet, despite the potential benefits of these developments, some have expressed concerns about the bioethical implications of genetics research. Critics have voiced fears that scientists are “playing God” and have expressed apprehensions that technologies like human gene editing may allow those who can afford it to produce “designer babies” and those who cannot to suffer from heritable diseases. Can we balance the medical advantages of recent genetics advancements with their potential disadvantages? If so, how should we do it? In this writing course, we will explore these questions. In their first essay, students will examine Francisco J. Ayala’s article “Cloning Humans? Biological, Ethical, and Social Considerations,” in which Ayala questions whether cloning techniques should be applied to humans. For the second essay, students will assess an excerpt from the book A Crack in Creation: The New Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg, who argue that DNA alteration would improve lives, or the article “How Gene Editing Could Ruin Human Evolution” by Jim Kozubek, who identifies the potential dangers of this practice. For their third and final essay, students will develop their own arguments, in conversation with others, as they decide for themselves whether we can establish bioethical guidelines for applying genetics advancements.

060.113.04 Science, Subjectivity, and the Problem of Consciousness (MWF 11:00)

David Lindeman

Can we provide a scientific explanation of consciousness? There seems to be no phenomenon more familiar than our own consciousness. Yet it is this very intimacy that poses a problem for any attempt to provide a scientific explanation of it. While the physical sciences are committed to a third-person perspective in their attempt to provide an objective description of the phenomena they seek to explain, consciousness is an essentially first-person, subjective phenomenon. This conflict has led a number of influential philosophers to think the answer to the question is no. In this writing course, we will focus on this problem of consciousness and will critically examine some of the arguments for and against the possibility of a scientific explanation of consciousness. For the first essay, we will read Thomas Nagel’s paper “What is it like to be a bat?” in which Nagel argues that, even if conscious states are identical to brain states, we cannot understand or explain how this could be so. Students will write an essay analyzing Nagel’s argument. For the second essay, we will read two papers: Colin McGinn’s “Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem?” in which McGinn argues that we cannot; and Frank Jackson’s 1982 paper, in which Jackson argues that conscious states cannot be identical to brain states. Students will choose one of these essays to write about, evaluate its argument, and offer their own views. For the third essay, we will read two pairs of papers: First, a pair of essays from Keith Frankish and Daniel Dennett, in which they argue that the subjective aspects of consciousness are illusory and so there is no problem of consciousness; second a pair of essays from Martine Nida-Rümelin and Philip Goff, in which they argue against Frankish and Dennett. Students will choose one paper from each of these pairs and enter the conversation about the possible limits of scientific explanation by evaluating the arguments presented in these papers and developing arguments of their own.

060.113.05 Politics and Violence (MW 12:00)

George Oppel

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 essay 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 torture by the US government. You write an essay on the torture issue that engages with the views of a prominent thinker. In Unit Three, Violence and the People, wefocus 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. The overriding aim is to develop your ability to write clearly and persuasively as you engage with these fundamental questions and classic texts.

060.113.06 American Gothic (MW 12:00)

Mande Zecca

From Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” to the Twilight series, the Gothic imagination is one of the signature modes of American expression. How do we explain our sustained cultural preoccupation with the supernatural and the macabre? To help us understand why this genre has adapted so well to the American environment, we will consider how representations of horror in American literature (and film) express anxieties about the unknown and the irrational and how they serve as compelling allegories for political and social realities. For our first essay, we will read two short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, paying particular attention to patterns of transgressed boundaries between self and other, life and death, sanity and madness. For the second essay, we turn to Henry James’s famous novella The Turn of the Screw. Based on evidence found in the primary text, students will evaluate James’s claim that the novella is nothing more than a simple ghost story. For our third and final unit, we will watch Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out. Students will make use of several secondary and theoretical sources to develop an argument about the relationship between horror and social allegory in the film.

060.113.07 Inequality and Urban Design (MW 12:00)

Morris Speller

Can cities be designed democratically, and if so, how? What might be the role of urban redevelopment in promoting or combating inequality? For the last half-century, urban planners and activists have focused on community-centered planning approaches, stressing the idea that residents of a neighborhood should have the ability to shape its redevelopment and thus have a sense of investment in their community. But others have argued that these planning approaches have contributed to urban inequality through, for instance, “gentrification” and privatization of public space. In this writing course, we will begin our examination of these questions by reading excerpts from one of the most influential works about urban planning, Jane Jacobs’s The Life and Death of Great American Cities (1961), as well as from the work of Oscar Newman, an urban planner who argued that how streets are designed can encourage residents of a neighborhood to see themselves as part of a community and even reduce crime. For the first essay, students will analyze the argument of one of these authors and will identify a flaw in the argument. Next, we will consider some criticisms of how well neighborhood-centered approaches to urban planning can redress historical inequalities, particularly those of race and class. Students will evaluate an argument by historian Suleiman Osman or architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff and will offer their own views. In the final essay, students will enter an ongoing debate about the proposed redevelopment of Baltimore’s Lexington Market. Drawing on their own visit to Lexington Market as well as previous sources, students will evaluate competing opinions on redevelopment and will argue their own approach to a democratically-engaged redevelopment plan for this “World Famous” public space.

060.113.08 Politics and Violence (MW 1:30)

George Oppel

Please see the course description listed above for Section 05 at MW 12:00.

060.113.09 American Gothic (MW 1:30)

Mande Zecca

Please see the course description listed above for Section 06 at MW 12:00.

060.113.10 What Is Mental Illness? (MW 1:30)

Nikola Andonovski

Mental illness is on the rise. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year, while 1 in 25 suffers from a mental disorder which substantially interferes with their daily lives. But whatis mental illness? The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, doesn’t tell us much, though it uses terms such as “psychobiological dysfunctions” that might be deemed value-laden. Is it possible to talk about mental illness in value-free terms? If so, how can we do it? And what is at stake if we don’t? In this writing course, we will try to answer these questions by considering some of the major philosophical and scientific definitions of the concept. For the first unit, we will read Thomas Szasz’s classic essay “The Myth of Mental Illness.” Students will write a short essay analyzing Szasz’s argument(s), with the goal of identifying an important flaw. Next, we’ll move on to Tom Insel’s short, but programmatic, piece “Faulty Circuits,” and students will evaluate Insel’s claims regarding the case of depression. In doing so, they will consult Nomy Arpaly’s essay “How It Is Not ‘Just like Diabetes.’” In the final unit, we will read three representative essays from the contemporary literature (Wakefield, Murphy, Graham), in which each argues for a different conception of mental illness. Students will critically engage with the existent arguments and will develop their own conceptions in their final essays.

060.113.11 Justice (MW 3:00)

Nur Kirmizidag

Justice, says Plato, is concerned with nothing less than the way we ought to live. Despite the efforts of thinkers and scholars since Plato, however, there is little consensus on what constitutes justice and how it is achieved. Justice remains an elusive concept. Is justice a virtue of the person practicing it, or is it a state of existence? Is justice simply a matter of virtue rewarded and wrong punished? Or is it something more? Are there certain principles upon which we all agree? In this writing course, students will consider these questions as they engage with three influential approaches to justice. We begin with an excerpt from Plato’s Republic, in which Socrates considers and dismisses several definitions of justice. Students will write a brief essay identifying the logical flaws in the definitions Socrates dismisses. Next, we turn to Immanuel Kant’s formulation of justice as retribution. In their second essay, students will evaluate Kant’s essay on the principle of equality in retribution and, with the help of a legal scholar, will offer their own views. In our third and final approach to justice—justice as restoration—students will read an excerpt from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report, in which Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu makes an impassioned argument for restorative justice. In the context of the principles we’ve already analyzed, and drawing on a select few contemporary sources, students will argue their own approach to justice and will consider the implications for how we ought to live.

060.113.24 Nature, Culture, and Climate Change (MW 3:00)

Nathan Doherty

How should human beings understand their relationship to the natural world? Are we, as some see it, simply part of nature and as inseparable from it as other earth species? Or is nature alien to us, an inherent challenge that we must master if we are to live in security and prosperity? And what is at stake in how we answer these questions? In this writing course, we will consider these questions in a systematic way as we attempt to come to our own answers. First, we read an excerpt from Leviathan (1651) by the political theorist Thomas Hobbes. For Hobbes, life in the “state of nature” is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” In this view, our only hope is to construct political societies in opposition to nature. Students write a brief essay analyzing Hobbes’s argument and demonstrating where it might be flawed. For the second essay, we turn to the work of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen, who coined the term “Anthropocene” to describe the current geological era in which humans are “overwhelming the great forces of nature.” Students evaluate the merits and flaws of his argument and offer their own view. In the third and longest essay, students enter a conversation about how to respond to climate change. Sources include the work of influential scientist James Lovelock, historian and sociologist Bruno Latour, and JHU political theorist Jane Bennett. By engaging in this scholarly debate, students will advance their own arguments about how to understand the relationship between human beings and nature in the face of a pressing global challenge.

060.113.12 Romanticism, the Strange, and the Otherworldly (TTH 9:00)

Joel Childers

The Romantic Age was defiant. Rebelling against Enlightenment rationalism, writers and artists explored new ways of knowing the world. What are the limitations of reason? What might we learn about ourselves by investigating the irrational and unknowable? In this writing course, students will explore how writers of British Romantic literature sought to answer these questions, by examining a range of texts that depict encounters with the strange and otherworldly, and describe states of emotional and psychological extremity, including terror, madness, and ecstasy. For their first essay, students will read from a collection of short stories that focus on the supernatural, highlighted by John Polidori’s classic tale The Vampyre (1816). Here students will examine what otherworldly creatures tell us about ourselves—what innermost fears and desires they reflect. For essay two, students will take up one of British literature’s most challenging and enigmatic artists: William Blake. For this essay, students will evaluate the view of a secondary source and offer their own interpretation of the role that visions and prophecies play in Blake’s “prophetic books.” What do these irrational forms of knowledge reveal about the political world of eighteenth-century Britain? For their final essay, students will read Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights (1847), entering a critical debate surrounding Bronte’s depiction of cruelty and passion. What do these experiences teach us about humanity and the world that reason cannot?

060.113.13 Cross-Cultural Encounters in the Middle Ages (TTH 9:00)

Nathan Daniels

For many, “The Middle Ages” evokes gothic cathedrals, pious monks, and knights in armor—images of a Europe isolated from the rest of the world. But in fact, the exchange of ideas, goods, and services across continents was a regular feature of medieval life, in which people of different backgrounds, cultures, and religions frequently came into contact with one another. In this writing course, we will consider what happened when a member of one culture visited another and wrote about the experience. How were travelers’ ideas about other cultures and religions affirmed or challenged? What did they learn about their own identities, and how can their encounters inform us about ours today? To answer these questions, we will read selections from a series of medieval travelogues—chronicles of journeys across the medieval world. Students will analyze these texts to consider how the authors’ religious backgrounds shaped the ways they interacted with the people of other cultures, and how they themselves were changed by the encounters. For the first essay, students will read and analyze the Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, a twelfth-century Jewish merchant who traveled from Spain to Baghdad and Cairo, describing the communities he met in the process. Next, students will read selections from the Rihla (Travels) of Muslim scholar Ibn Battuta as he journeyed across Africa, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia during the mid-1300s. Students will evaluate an article by contemporary scholar Christine Chism about Ibn Battuta’s interactions with Christians in Asia Minor and will offer their own interpretation of the Rihla. For the final essay, students will read selections from the Travels of Marco Polo, in which the famous Christian traveler journeys from Venice to China to meet Kublai Khan in the late 1200s. Students will enter into conversation with a variety of secondary sources and form their own arguments about Polo’s interactions with the cultures he meets on his journey.

060.113.14 The Dark Side of Progress (TTH 9:00)

Sarah Ross

What, the Victorians wondered, could science achieve, and what might be the consequences of creating what we cannot control? Across the nineteenth century, in the aftermath of the great innovations of the Industrial Revolution, the world seemed to be changing at an ever-accelerating rate. Scientific and technological advances led to rapid economic progress. But with this rapid progress came fear, a lurking sense that science was pushing humanity beyond its limits. In this course, we will engage with a range of literary texts that venture to the dark side of progress, where anxieties about the modern, industrialized world come to be embodied as figures of fear. We begin with Charles Dickens’s short ghost story “The Signal-Man,” which considers strange encounters between humans and technology. Students will write a brief essay analyzing the story. For the second essay, we turn to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1886). Students will evaluate the view of a secondary source and will offer their own interpretation of Stevenson’s classic tale of the monster within. For our third and final essay, we will consider the archetypal mad scientist and his creation in James Whale’s 1931 film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). Students will enter into conversation with selected scholarly sources as they develop their own argument about the film and what it has to tell us about the dark side of progress.

060.113.15 What Is Love? (TTH 10:30)

Sandy Koullas

What do you mean when you say, “I love you”? Do you love your parents in the same way you love your friends? Do you love your cat? Is your love of literature or baseball similar to your love of particular people? We all use the word “love,” but a satisfactory, shared understanding of the word seems elusive. In this writing course, we will explore the philosophy of love. We will begin with an excerpt from Plato’s Symposium, where we find love construed as an admirable pursuit of creativity and beauty. This rather high-minded view of love is complicated by the arrival of a drunken and miserable Alcibiades, who is clearly stricken with love of quite a different sort. Students will analyze the excerpt from Plato, paying particular attention to the problem presented by Alcibiades’s arrival. For the second essay, we will consider a modern philosophical argument for an account of love that influences current debates. Students will evaluate David Velleman’s argument for understanding love as an “arresting awareness” of the value inherent in another person. For the third essay, our primary source will come from another modern philosopher, Harry G. Frankfurt, whose proposal broadens the concept of love. Whereas Vellman considers only love for people, Frankfurt offers a general account of love that could include love of activities, causes, animals, or almost anything else. Students will consider Frankfurt’s proposal in the light of competing accounts and will then offer their answer to the question: “What is love?”

060.113.16 The Ethics of Tourism (TTH 10:30)

Alex Streim

Vacations, Holidays, Cruises, Safaris, Road Trips, Tours, Treks, Adventures—we call travel many things. But travel is never only about the traveler. It is also a global industry: trips are guided, tours are sponsored, and those adventures happen in places other people call home. In this writing course, we examine a range of texts that will help us question the economic, political, and ethical implications of tourism. First, what counts astourism? How do we understand the gap between affluent tourists and local residents whose jobs may depend on serving them, and what is at stake in these encounters? We begin with Rebecca Roanhorse’s short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” (2017), and a chapter of Derek Walcott’s epic narrative poem, Omeros (1990). For the first essay, students will analyze one of the texts and develop an interpretation that responds to a question the text raises. Next, we read Jamaica Kincaid’s longform essay A Small Place (1988). Here, students will evaluate the interpretation of a secondary source and offer their own argument about what Kincaid’s essay reveals about tourism. For the third and final essay, we read a variety of sources that speak to the topic of “voluntourism,” a type of tourism that combines leisure travel with volunteer work (often including conservation, construction, or education). Students will enter into a current debate about tourism that claims to “do good” and will marshal evidence to make an original contribution to that ongoing conversation. At the end of the semester, students will have developed the ability to write clearly, critically, and persuasively in essays based on both primary and secondary sources.

060.113.17 Black Panther, Race, and Representation (TTH 10:30)

Atesede Makonnen

From a minor comic book character in the 1960s to the titular star of a film generating more than $1.3 billion in 2018, Black Panther has grown to be one of the most famous black superheroes. However, “Wakanda Forever” does not mean the character has been an unchanging figure with fixed meaning. Through the figure of the superhero and the medium of comics, we see how race informs and shapes heroism, narratively and visually, and we consider how representations of blackness have changed over time, why they matter, and what we can learn about our society by writing about them. We begin with Richard Dyer’s “The Role of Stereotype” and think about the definition and power of stereotype, starting with Black Panther’s very first appearance in 1966. For the first essay, students will choose one early issue of thecomic to interpret. Next, we will practice evaluating representations of blackness against a critical essay, working with comics that move beyond stereotype and craft complicated images of black characters. Students will write a second essay using Ta-Nehisi Coates’s take on Black Panther in A Nation Under Our Feet (2016) and Roxanne Gay and Yona Harvey’s World of Wakanda (2016) against excerpts of bell hooks’s “Loving Blackness as Political Resistance.” For the third and final essay, we watch Black Panther (2018) and read excerpts from Stuart Hall’s “Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation,” along with other secondary sources. Students will enter into conversation with the sources to develop their own views on Black Panther, heroism, and how race is represented in popular culture. As we write about representation, we consider how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

060.113.18 Family Matters (TTH 12:00)

Aliza Watters

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. How do we understand and reconcile the shaping power of family—a power that can both fortify and confine us? In this writing course, we will examine what family narratives can teach us about the formation of individual identity. To help answer our central question, we’ll explore diverse examples of family narratives, including fiction, memoir, and a contemporary case study. We’ll begin with a variety of origin stories whose central characters grapple with family legacy: the original 1939 Batman, “The Very Rigid Search” by Jonathan Safran Foer, and “North” by Aria Beth Sloss. Students will write a brief essay analyzing one of the stories and offering an interpretation. Next, we’ll examine how auto-biographical authors Maxine Hong Kingston and Sherman Alexie shape their own identities by re-shaping their family narratives in memoir. Students will evaluate the view of a critical source as it pertains to either Kingston or Alexie. In the last and most extensive phase of the course, we’ll investigate how new scientific research can compete with conventional views of what defines us to reshape our understanding of family. Students will read excerpts from Andrew Solomon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity alongside other critical sources to develop an argument of their own about the power of family and its boundaries.

060.113.19 Cli-Fi Climate Change Fiction (TTH 12:00)

Christopher Westcott

The science tells us that climate change is no mere fiction. Yet even its present-day effects, from devastating weather events to rapid melting at the poles, can seem a bit like science fiction made real. And while we know some of what’s in store if its causes go unaddressed, the future we are making for ourselves remains troublingly hard to fathom. What can our gut feelings and speculations about climate change tell us about the nature of our predicament? In this writing course, we will examine works of “cli-fi” that dare to imagine our environment, and the lives we lead within it, transformed. For our first essay, we will read two short stories, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The New Atlantis” (1975) and Junot Díaz’s “Monstro” (2012), attending to the ways their sci-fi depictions of climate change provide means for exploring linked social problems of race, gender, state power, and wealth. Students will analyze one of the stories. For our second essay, we will read The Lamentations of Zeno (2016), Ilija Trojanow’s novella about an “edutainment” cruise to Antarctica gone wrong. Situating it within a conversation about “the human” as the agent of climate change, students will evaluate a critical article about the book, then offer their own take on its tragicomic juxtapositions of optimism and misanthropy, good intentions and hard truths. Our third and final essay will look at Jeff Vandermeer’s post-apocalyptic novel, Borne (2017). Working with a handful of secondary sources, students will answer one of the interpretive questions posed by the book’s weird mix of allegory, realism, and unreality—like, What’s with the flying bear?

060.113.25 Democracy and Lies (TTH 12:00)

Tarek Tutunji

Philosopher Sissela Bok defines a “lie” as “any intentionally deceptive message that is stated.” While lies in general can be pernicious, lies that aim to influence public opinion, whether from domestic or foreign sources, are particularly challenging to democratic governments for which free and open public deliberation is essential. This raises the question of how to balance the role of lies, which some argue are necessary in politics, with the need for transparency in a democracy. The problem has received renewed attention in response to recent Russian efforts to influence European and American public opinion. In this writing course, we will deepen our understanding of the debate surrounding democracy and lies by examining the problem through a sequence of three essay units. We begin with Sissela Bok’s famous book Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. You will write a brief essay analyzing the chapter “Lies for the Public Good,” in which Bok makes a strong case for the corroding effects of lies on public trust and sets a high standard for their use. Next, we turn to John Mearsheimer’s “Lying between States,” in which Mearsheimer argues that lies are strategically useful in international politics and therefore beneficial, if not necessary. You will evaluate the merits and flaws of Mearsheimer’s argument and propose your own view of lying in international politics. In the third and largest essay, we consider the case of Russian propaganda in the United States. Informed by your reading of Bok and Mearsheimer, you will enter the debate about how to deal with Russian propaganda efforts and will argue your own view of the best response.

060.113.20 Family Matters (TTH 1:30)

AlizaWatters

Please see the course description listed above for Section 18 at TTH 12:00.

060.113.21 Cli-Fi Climate Change Fiction (TTH 1:30)

Christopher Westcott

Please see the course description listed above for Section 19 at TTH 12:00.

060.113.22 Comedy and Crossdressing (TTH 1:30)

Royce Best

Here’s the scene: A man has duped a television network into thinking he’s a woman so he can get a part on one of its soap operas. He’s standing in his girlfriend’s bedroom, about to try on one of her dresses to get ideas for his character, when his girlfriend walks in and demands an explanation. The audience laughs. But why? What’s so funny about a man in a dress? Is there some inherent connection between crossdressing and comedy as a genre? How does comedy play with and comment on gender as a category? Such questions form the backbone of this writing class. For the first assignment, we will read the original crossdressing comedy tour de force, William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Students will write a brief essay in which they analyze how crossdressing, gender, and the play’s genre interact. Keeping our attention on Shakespeareand gender, we next turn to Shakespeare in Love, the 1998 Oscar Winner for Best Picture in which a “blocked” Will Shakespeare struggles with Romeo and Juliet while Viola, the woman he loves, disguises herself as a man to play his male lead. As they think about how comedy plays with gender, students will evaluate a critical article about the film and will offer their own interpretation. For the third and final essay, we return to that guy who plays a woman in a soap opera as we write about the 1982 film Tootsie, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange. In this essay, students will continue their exploration of comedy and crossdressing as they engage with their choice of two critical reviews of the film. Students will develop their own argument about the film and what it implies about comedy as a genre

060.113.23 Age of Collapse? (TTH 3:00)

Michael Albert

We live in a time of great uncertainty, with many questioning the sustainability of our civilization and even the future of human survival. What do contemporary global challenges, from climate change and resource depletion to unprecedented population growth, tell us about where our civilization is headed? And what might be done to confront these challenges? In this writing course we will examine a range of perspectives on these questions. For the first essay, we read political theorist William Ophuls’s argumentthat our civilization is destined to fail. Students will analyze Orphuls’s claims and identify a flaw in his argument. For the second essay, we shift our attention to a scientific approach to the question, focusing on the view of population biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich who believe that we are headed for collapse. Students will evaluate the strengths and possible weaknesses of the Ehrlichs’ argument and will offer their own assessment. In the third and longest essay, students join a lively conversation about what, if anything, is to be done. We will read selections from Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, which presents a case for radical political-economic evolution; Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, which believes in the problem-solving capacity of our current institutions; and selections from the “Dark Mountain Manifesto,” which eschews the scramble for “solutions” in favor of a more spiritual and artistic approach. Based on their analysis, students will develop their own perspectives on the question of what can and should be done to meet these global challenges.


Individual Course Descriptions for Expository Writing (060.114), Spring 2018

060.114.01 Balancing Freedom and Security (MWF 10:00)
Robert Webber

Shortly after leaving office in 1974, and after struggling with nearly a dozen terrorist attacks during his tenure, British Prime Minister Edward Heath was asked about his greatest fear for the future of Britain. Heath responded: “that Britain will become the first police state in the democratic world.” Some 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 reignited the ancient debate over 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 our 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 students will evaluate by focusing on their underlying assumptions. In their 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.

060.114.02 Medicine, East and West (MWF 11:00)
James Flowers

When the western physician Vesalius argued for the importance of human dissection, he urged that anatomy was necessary to practice medicine, and he presented his treatise on the human body as the pinnacle of medical knowledge in the sixteenth century. Yet physicians in East Asia and elsewhere, familiar with Vesalian anatomy, emphasized other conceptions, such as qi, until the twentieth century. How was the eastern body different from that of the West? Are there legitimate conceptualizations of the body other than physical structure? In this writing class, we will examine both classic texts and scholarly essays as we consider these questions and pursue our answers. For the first essay, students will read a selection from Fabrica by Vesalius and will analyze his argument, including his concept of representing the body in images. For the second essay, we will read Shigehisa Kuriyama’s essay “The Imagination of the Body and the History of Embodied Experience: The Case of Chinese Views of the Viscera.” Students will evaluate Kuriyama’s argument for the importance of qi, alongside excerpts from the foundational text, the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor. For the third and longest essay, students will read Charles Rosenberg’s essay “Alternative to What? Complementary to Whom? On Some Aspects of Medicine’s Scientific Inquiry.” In it, Rosenberg asks why people seek medical care outside the western scientific model of medicine, and he offers a number of reasons. Drawing on the sources they have already read, as well as selected others, students will develop their own assessments of the tension between scientific and alternative medicines.

060.114.03 Defying the Limits of Knowledge (MW 12:00)
Sungmey Lee

What is more human than the desire to defy our own limits? The desire to know—to reach beyond the boundaries of the knowable world and to defy the gods if need be in the quest for infinite knowledge—is deeply human. This desire to transgress our own limitations has led to some of the greatest intellectual achievements in history. It has led humans to explore the earth, discover the stars, and investigate the depths of the human mind. And yet, since ancient times, the quest has been accompanied by great fear and dire warnings of disaster whenever humans attempt to defy what are seen as the finite boundaries of knowledge. From Biblical stories and Greek myths, to modern tales of scientists seeking to uncover the secrets of life, and even to anxious stories today about the potential of biotechnology to alter the nature of life itself, we see fear of the consequences of seeking forbidden knowledge. In this writing course, we will explore how the conflict between the desire for infinite knowledge and the fear of the consequences, should we achieve it, has been represented in a range of texts. We begin with the myth of Prometheus and the Biblical story of “the fall.” Students will choose one of these archetypal narratives to analyze for their first essay. For the second essay, we turn to Satan’s famous speech in Book I of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Refusing to obey God, Satan defiantly declares, “The mind is its own place.” Students will evaluate the interpretation of a secondary source and offer their own interpretation of the character of Satan. For the third and longest essay, students will interpret Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by entering into conversation with secondary sources to construct a distinct argument of their own.

060.114.04 Law and Revenge (MW 12:00)
George Oppel

According to the seventeenth-century essayist Francis Bacon, “Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.” Bacon articulates a dichotomy between law and revenge that has become familiar. On one side, revenge is understood to be a wild instinct of human nature, one that finds expression in excessive acts of violence. On the other side is the rule of law, a civilizing force that has the potential to tame the unreasoning passions of human beings in order to advance a nobler ideal of justice. But is revenge always wild and indiscriminate, and is law always reasonable and proportionate? Can revenge be weeded-out of the legal system, or does it serve some purpose there? In this course we deepen our understanding of the relationship between law and revenge through a sequence of three essay units. In the first, we read Jared Diamond’s account of a blood-feud in the highlands of New Guinea, and you write an essay that analyzes the complex nature of vengeance in this source. The second unit considers arguments made on behalf of the rule of law by two prominent philosophers. You test these arguments in relation to a decision of the US Supreme Court which allows victims to voice their fury at defendants during the sentencing phase of capital murder trials. In the third unit we read Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, which pits the villain Shylock and his insatiable demand for a “pound of flesh” against the more exacting demands of the legal system. You offer an interpretation of where justice resides in the play based on the ideas and arguments we have already considered. The overriding aim is to develop your ability to write persuasive arguments as you engage with these fundamental themes and diverse sources.

060.114.05 Law and Revenge (MW 1:30)
George Oppel

Please see the course description listed above for Section 04 at MW 12:00.

060.114.06 Science Fiction, Gender, and Sexuality (MW 1:30)
Joseph Giardini

In faraway galaxies and futuristic societies, the imaginative world of science fiction has often replicated features of our own world, particularly gender norms. Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, that recently the Hugo awards—the event that bestows science fiction’s biggest prizes—has been a site of controversy, with fans lobbying against what has been called the “subversive switcheroo”: texts that seem to promise familiar sci-fi narratives yet instead explore issues of gender and sexuality. But are such issues so alien to the genre? How does science fiction, historically dominated by male protagonists, explore questions of gender and sexuality as political and moral problems? In this writing class, we will pursue this question by examining science fiction classics that place gender and sexuality at the center of their narratives. In the first essay, students will analyze one of two mid-century short stories, Philip K. Dick’s “The Father Thing” or Judith Merril’s “That Only a Mother.” For the second essay, we will read short stories from the late 1960s by Samuel R. Delany (“Aye, and Gommorah…”) and Ursula Le Guin (“Nine Lives”) alongside critical sources. Students will respond to a critic and develop an argument about one of the stories. Our final and longest essay will focus on George Miller’s film Mad Max: Fury Road, released in 2015. Using selected critical sources, students will build an argument that examines how the film represents gender and sexuality as entangled with other political issues, such as race and freedom.

060.114.07 Understanding Scientific Explanation (TTH 9:00)
Genco Guralp

A key aspect of scientific knowledge is its power to explain diverse phenomena we observe in the world around us. But what is a scientific explanation? And what makes one explanation better than another? Can science explain everything? In this writing course, we will examine how leading philosophers of science respond to these questions. We will begin with a classical essay by Carl Hempel, which set the stage for subsequent developments in the philosophy of explanation. For their first essay, students will analyze Hempel’s argument, which puts laws of nature at the center of explanation. We will then move to Wesley Salmon’s model, which argues that causality is the defining factor in explanation. In their second essay, students will examine to what extent Salmon’s model corrects Hempel’s and will identify flaws within Salmon’s causal approach as well. Next, we will turn to the contemporary debate on scientific explanation, with a reading of Philip Kitcher’s account, which claims that science explains the world by providing a unified view of a range of phenomena. In their third and largest essay, students will evaluate Kitcher’s argument and will draw upon the authors they have already examined as they develop their own ideas about the question of scientific explanation. Note: No specialized knowledge is required for this course.

060.114.08 The Olympics and Politics (TTH 9:00)
Evan Loker

Since its inception in1896, the modern Olympic Games has become the most visible and influential international sports competition in the world. In the words of the International Olympic Committee, the goal of the Games is to “contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” In the popular view, the Olympics provides an occasion for nations to put aside “politics” and celebrate the world’s athletes. And yet, historically, the Olympics has been an arena in which politics are contested, in particular, ideas about race, gender, and national identity. In this writing course, we will analyze how documentary films represent three such significant moments in Olympic history. In the first unit, we watch Leni Reifenstahl’s controversial 1938 documentary Olympia about the1936 Olympics in Berlin, where Jesse Owens won four gold medals. Students write an essay analyzing how the film constructs notions of white and black racial identity and national belonging. Next, we watch Black Power Salute, the 2008 documentary about Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’s “black power” gesture at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Students evaluate the view of a secondary source and offer their own interpretation of the film. For the final essay, we turn to the 2005 film Dare to Dream, which depicts the successes and obstacles experienced by the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team en route to consecutive Olympic medals and World Cup championships. In the context of selected secondary sources, students develop an argument about gender and sports in response to an issue raised by the film.

060.114.09 Revenge and Morality (TTH 9:00)
Alexander Lewis

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” the law of retaliation first appears nearly 4,000 years ago in the Code of Hummurabi, and nothing seems to make more emotional sense than exacting revenge against those who have wronged us. Yet we are also taught that revenge is wrong. Questions about the morality of revenge underlie many issues of national importance, from the death penalty to anti-terrorist operations. Is revenge necessary to right a moral wrong, to restore the moral balance of the community? Is revenge moral? In this writing course, we will examine a number of works both classic and contemporary which explore the morality of revenge and its potential costs for both the individual and society. In the first unit, we will read two classic short stories, “Killings” by Andre Dubus and “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell. Students will write a brief essay analyzing one of the stories and its portrayal of revenge. For the second essay, we will watch Stephen Spielberg’s controversial film Munich (2005), which depicts the Israeli government’s secret retaliation against the perpetrators of the Munich massacre of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Students will evaluate the interpretation of a secondary source and offer their own interpretation of the film. For the third and largest essay, we will read Shakespeare’s Hamlet, one of the most famous tales of revenge in world literature. In conversation with a select group of critical sources, students will argue their own interpretation of how the play speaks to us about the morality of revenge.

060.114.10 The Ethics of Spying and Surveillance in Film (TTH 10:30)
John Sampson

“The movies make us into voyeurs,” Roger Ebert once said. “We sit in the dark, watching other people’s lives. It is the bargain the cinema strikes with us, although most films are too well-behaved to mention it.” Film is a medium of watching: audience members sit, transfixed or bored, as images of violence, heartbreak, and comedy play across the screen. Some films, though, call attention to an audience’s gaze, often through the figure of the voyeur—a character who watches others, personally or professionally—and thus pose difficult questions. Should we feel guilty after watching scenes of violence? Should a voyeur step in and prevent violence, or is intervening in the lives of strangers always a bad idea? Does the one-way viewing experience of film make us more likely to accept that our trip to the theater was captured on closed-circuit television? In this writing course, students will answer such questions relating to the ethics of spying and surveillance in film. For the first essay, students will analyze a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Next up is Following, the first film by director Christopher Nolan, which explores how a writer’s life is turned upside-down when he intervenes in the lives of strangers he follows on the streets of London. For the second essay, students will evaluate the view of a secondary source as they offer their interpretation of the film. For the third and final essay, students will enter a critical debate centered on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, a film about a surveillance expert who fears the subjects of a conversation he has taped are in danger.

060.114.11 Contemporary American Short Stories (TTH 12:00)
Donald Berger

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.” And 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? How does the writer, as Abrams suggests, draw us into other lives? 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. For our first essay assignment, students will analyze one story from among a small set of stories by considering a question the story raises. 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. Our readings will feature the work of some of the masters of contemporary American short stories including Raymond Carver, Grace Paley, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Ford, Denis Johnson, ZZ Packer, George Saunders, Lorrie Moore, Edward P. Jones, and Lydia Davis.

060.114.12 Violence and Macbeth (TTH 10:30)
Marisa O’Connor

In London in 1605, a group of conspirators plotted to blow up the English Parliament on its opening day—when all the political elite of the realm, including the king, would be present. Called the Gunpowder Plot, the conspiracy failed, but it generated powerful responses of fear and trauma across the realm. Allusions to it thread their way through Shakespeare’s violent play Macbeth, written shortly afterward. In this writing course, we will consider what we can learn from Shakespeare’s sustained exploration of violent thoughts and acts in Macbeth, especially within a context in which the threat of violence that endangers the social order is so real and pressing. What can Macbeth tell us about why such violence happens and what, if anything, might authorize it? In the first essay, students will focus on moments early in the play when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth wrestle with the idea of murdering the king. For the second essay, students will evaluate the view of a critical source on how the play associates Macbeth’s murder of the king with witches and witchcraft, with transgression and desire. In the third and most extensive essay, students will engage various critical sources on the play that raise questions about how the play represents kingship and tyranny, including what, if anything, distinguishes Macbeth’s violence from the violence that restores order and legitimate rule at the play’s end. Students will assess these sources and develop their own arguments.

060.114.13 Violence and Macbeth (TTH 12:00)
Marisa O’Connor

Please see the course description listed above for Section 12 at TTH 10:30.

060.114.14 The Challenge of Climate Change (TTH 12:00)
Christopher Westcott

The science is emphatic: global environmental conditions are changing dramatically; the effects on life will be considerable; and humans have everything to do with it. But who—or what—is responsible for these changes? Why do so many remain skeptical about their significance? And in the midst of rising emissions, what kind of response might actually limit their effects? This writing course examines competing accounts of global climate change, foregrounding recent debates over capitalism’s role as both cause and possible solution. We’ll begin with two brief essays on climate-change skepticism. Students will analyze either George Marshall’s psychological interpretation of skepticism or Naomi Klein’s political interpretation. Next, we’ll consider two leading accounts of what lies at the root of climate change. In the first, Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen traces our predicament back to humankind’s mastery over fire; in the second, Andreas Malm, author of Fossil Capital, portrays climate change as an outcome of capitalist development. Students will select one of these texts to evaluate. For the third and longest essay, students will enter a debate sparked by An Ecomodernist Manifesto, a collectively-authored text that advocates for nuclear energy and capitalist growth as solutions to climate change. Alongside the manifesto, students will engage with a response, “A Call to Look Past An Ecomodernist Manifesto: A Degrowth Critique,” as well as an essay by Vandana Shiva, who examines the ecological implications of growth within an uneven global landscape, and excerpts from Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on climate change.

060.114.15 Family Matters (TTH 12:00)
Aliza Watters

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. How do we understand and reconcile the shaping power of family—a power that can both fortify and confine us? In this writing course, we will examine what family narratives can teach us about the formation of individual identity. To help answer our central question, we’ll explore diverse examples of family narratives, including fiction, memoir, and a contemporary case study. We’ll begin with a variety of origin stories whose central characters grapple with family legacy: the original 1939 Batman, “The Very Rigid Search” by Jonathan Safran Foer, and “North” by Aria Beth Sloss. Students will write a brief essay analyzing one of the stories and offering an interpretation. Next, we’ll examine how auto-biographical authors Maxine Hong Kingston and Sherman Alexie shape their own identities by re-shaping their family narratives in memoir. Students will evaluate the view of a critical source as it pertains to either Kingston or Alexie. In the last and most extensive phase of the course, we’ll investigate how new scientific research can compete with conventional views of what defines us to reshape our understanding of family. Students will read excerpts from Andrew Solomon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity alongside other critical sources to develop an argument of their own about the power of family and its boundaries.

060.114.16 Family Matters (TTH 1:30)
Aliza Watters

Please see the course description listed above for Section 15 at TTH 12:00.

060.114.17 The Challenge of Climate Change (TTH 1:30)
Christopher Westcott

Please see the course description listed above for Section 14 at TTH 12:00.

060.114.18 American Gothic (TTH 1:30)
Mande Zecca

From Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” to the Twilight series, the Gothic imagination is one of the signature modes of American expression. How do we explain our sustained cultural preoccupation with the supernatural and the macabre? To help us understand why this genre has adapted so well to the American environment, we will consider how representations of horror in American literature (and film) express anxieties about the unknown and the irrational and how they serve as compelling allegories for political and social realities. For our first essay, we will read two short stories by Edgar Allen Poe, paying particular attention to patterns of transgressed boundaries between self and other, life and death, sanity and madness. For the second essay, we turn to Henry James’s famous novella The Turn of the Screw. Based on evidence found in the primary text, students will evaluate James’s claim that the novella is nothing more than a simple ghost story. For our third and final unit, we will watch Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out. Students will make use of several secondary and theoretical sources to develop an argument about the relationship between horror and social allegory in the film.