Course Descriptions for WRI 101 & WRI 102
WRI 101: First Year Writing
Offered Every Semester
Prerequisite : Placement
First Year Writing offers writing support for FSP First Seminar and WRI 102 Academic Writing. A two-credit studio course, First Year Writing must be taken concurrently with FSP or with WRI 102. May be repeated.
WRI 102: Academic Writing
1 Course Unit
Academic Writing offers students the opportunity to develop, advance, and practice skills in the production of academic prose. Within a framework of sophisticated readings, highly coordinated writing workshops, and instructor feedback, students practice the modes of writing necessary to succeed in college. Students read critically, cultivate habits of effective and ethical research, practice conventions of documentation, and use information technologies. Topical readings may vary among sections.
Perspectives of The “Green” Movement
WRI 102-01, TR 5:30 – 6:50pm
WRI 102-02, TR 7 – 8:20pm
What happens when the concept of sustainability becomes “big business”? As Americans we understand that what we buy gives us power and a sense of identity; yet, this social pressure to consume is increasingly in competition with environmental concerns and the need for sustainability. In this section, we will look at these competing forces and their effects in both the public and personal spheres.
The Postmodern Superhero
WRI 102-03, TF 8:30 – 9:50am
WRI 102-04, TF 10 – 11:20am
This section will explore the culture’s fascination with superheroes and their representations of the hopes, fears, and aspirations within the American culture. We will explore our favorite superheroes (classics such as Batman, Superman, and Iron Man and the newer heroes like Kick-Ass, Katniss, Finn and Jake, and Dexter) and the concept of the superhero through a semiotic lens. Assignments and readings will focus on cultural identity, as well as issues of gender, race, and class. Aside from superheroes with household names, we will take a look at America’s new breed of superheroes who struggle with personal identity, fear, trauma, and terrorism in a post 9/11 world. Why do we still need our super-heroic icons? How have they changed to fit the needs of a “what’s-next” world? The course will use academic journals, newspaper articles, graphic novels, comic books, and visual texts (films, advertisements, commercials, sitcoms, and documentaries) to investigate America’s resurgence of comics culture and why superheroes have decided to go mainstream. As a class, we will determine not only what the culture is trying to say with its heroes, but also how and why this message represents who we are in the 21st century.
Body Image and Visual Media
WRI 102-05, TF 8:30 – 9:50am
WRI 102-06, TF 10 – 11:20am
How does visual media (especially advertising, television, and film) shape the way we look at our bodies and our ideas about what is physically “ideal,” “normal,” “feminine,” and “masculine”? In what ways might some visual texts be said to be advertisements “for” gender? Can media images “cause” eating disorders? By directly analyzing visual media as well as by examining claims made by others about the representation of bodies in American culture, students will develop their own arguments about the complicated relationship between media images and how we regard our bodies.
Are Big-Time College Sports Too Big?
WRI 102-07, MR 8:30 – 9:50am
The transition of intercollegiate athletics from extracurricular activity to multibillion-dollar business has created challenges and problems for many years, leading some people to question whether big-time college sports have become too big to control. In this course students will examine some of the issues created by the increasing commercialization of college sports, particularly Division I football and men’s basketball. Students will read a variety of articles and essays that address these problems, examine the ideas presented and the rhetorical strategies employed in these works, and write argumentative papers defending their own position on the issues.
Young Adult Romantic Fiction
WRI 102-08, MR 2 – 3:20pm
WRI 102-09, MR 4 – 5:20pm
In this section, we will examine the increasingly popular genre of Young Adult romantic fiction in its various forms, paying special attention to novels by writers such as John Green and Sarah Dessen, and TV programs such as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries. We will also consider how readers respond to the genre by looking at, among other things, coverage of the stars, books and shows in magazines such as Seventeen, as well as readers’ blogs. What do these books suggest about the romantic fantasies of teenagers, particularly teenage girls, and about gender and sexuality? Why is this genre so popular? According to these books, what do young women and men find attractive in others, and how do the books define romantic relationships?
The Argument of Fairy Tale
WRI 102-10, TF 12:30 – 1:50pm
WRI 102-11, TF 2 – 3:20pm
In this class, we will analyze from various critical perspectives traditional and modern fairy tales in prose, poetry, and film, including Disney productions such as Cinderella and Shrek. Delving into the shifting meaning of tales, from the literal to the metaphoric, we’ll also examine imbedded sociocultural values and the impacts they have on audiences. Through close reading, discussion, and structured papers, we’ll argue the validity of classic tales, and whether or not retellings should reflect cultural traditions, provide readers with more relevant messages, and/or offer an alternative vision of a more socially equitable world.
Dilemmas of the Digital Domain
WRI 102-12, MR 10 – 11:20am
WRI 102-13, MR 12:30 – 1:50pm
We text while we drive, sleep with our cell phones and digitally share images of our most mundane moments. We’re hooked and there’s no turning back. But is the technology that allows us to instantly connect with the world harming us more than helping us? To paraphrase Shakespeare, are we being consumed by that which nourishes us? In this course, we will examine the ways in which technology is shaping our lives—the possibilities as well as the problems.
The Meaning of Work
WRI 102-14, MR 8:30 – 9:50am
WRI 102-15, MR 10 – 11:20am
As we aim for a college degree and prepare ourselves for the professional world, most of us focus on a particular career by asking ourselves, “What will I do?” This course will explore questions about our work that go deeper, and ask us “How will I work?” How does the physical environment—the architecture and design of the workplaces in which we spend so much of our time—affect our performance and sustainability? Does the trend towards collaboration in the workplace stimulate our individual professional growth? Is a distinct personality type required to be successful in certain professions? Or are there viable ways for a variety of personality types—the creative, the artist, the extrovert, or the introvert—to find expression and productivity in any profession? We will read and discuss the current research and debates about these work-related issues and formulate our own arguments in response to them, with the hope of considering “work” as more than just a career type or a job name.
Race: Not Just a Physical Condition
WRI 102-16, TF 2 – 3:20pm
In this section, we will approach race by means of various lenses. Through the utilization of narrative and the historical divide, race was and is categorized based on different criteria. In an effort to analyze race critically, yet not rigidly, one must look toward this multiplicity of defining factors and not just skin color as a means of classifying such a complex and broad topic. We will explore race not just as a physical condition, but as a term that conveys the exactitude of a historically changing political construction according to time period, area of origin, and political and religious beliefs. Students will engage in readings on current events related to race/racism and short scholarly essays and will respond by redirecting their a priori conception of race and crafting critical essays of their own.
Gender and Sexuality in Popular Music
WRI 102-17, MR 10 – 11:20am
WRI 102-18, MR 12:30 – 1:50pm
Is it possible for music to challenge traditional notions of gender and sexuality while remaining popular, i.e., palatable to a broad audience, or is such music bound to be relegated to the outer fringes of the listening public? We will examine the ways in which popular music reinforces and refutes social definitions of gender and sexuality. In conjunction with critical articles and essays, students will analyze albums that span various genres, including rock, punk, country, and rap, to discover how the music we listen to helps to shape our perceptions of what it means to be masculine, feminine, gay, straight, and all of the areas in between.
Food, Glorious Food
WRI 102-19, MR 10 – 11:20am
WRI 102-20, MR 12:30 – 1:50pm
Affordable, plentiful food is now more readily produced and available than it ever has been; formerly, tending and procuring enough food for one’s family took up huge portions of a person’s life and resources. Students will write argumentative papers that examine the current cheap abundance of food and its costs to society and individualism in terms of health, pollution, and social abuses.
The Rhetoric and Representation of American Law
WRI 102-21, MW 7 – 8:20pm
This course explores the rhetoric used in the American legal system and investigates how the system has been represented in the media and popular culture. We will analyze the rhetoric used in texts like legal arguments, legal journalism, fictional television programs, film, and political commentaries and will cover a variety of questions, including what types of legal argument are most persuasive and/or accurate given the context in which one makes them? How does media bias affect journalists’ presentation of emerging and continuing legal news stories? How do representations of lawyers, law firms, and the criminal justice system in popular, fictional television programs inform and/or skew our understanding of the American justice system and the role of legal professionals in it? How does film or political commentary present an argument about the American legal system and governmental policy? The goal of this section is to help students, through an inquiry about the American legal system and popular representations of it, to develop and sharpen their analytical thinking, reading, and writing skills essential for college work.
The Argument of Film
WRI 102-22, TF 10 – 11:20am
In analyzing films, we will explore how screenplay, camera angles and shots, editing, acting, and direction help form story and particularly our response to it. How we engage with a film shows us the impact of the argument the filmmaker is making. That argument might be about how we see each other, how film provides an escape, how it engages us, or the impact of oppression and the possibility of change. What ingredients make a film compelling? How can an audience’s response to a film make a difference in the world? Focusing on the implicit visual arguments that films make will allow us to create our own explicit written arguments about these films.
Recent History on Film
WRI 102-23, TR 5:30 – 6:50pm
WRI 102-24, TR 7 – 8:20pm
How did the United States end up fighting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan so soon after Russia invaded that country (the war lasted from 1978 through 1989)? The story of Russia, Afghanistan, and the United States is dramatic, violent, and passionate, with elements of religious and social ideals, especially around the role of women. In this class we will read The Looming Towers (Wright) and view a variety of films, including Charlie Wilson’s War, Osama, and Zero Dark Thirty. We will explore the particular issues around the war, as well as the ability of journalists and filmmakers to interpret “the truth,” which often has so many disparate points of view.
Morality as Seen in Breaking Bad
WRI 102-25, MR 4 – 5:20pm
A common question we often ask about morality is usually is a variant of something such as, “If your family is starving, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed them?” However, in today’s America, starvation to the point of death is exceedingly rare, which renders the question faulty. A proper (and more exciting) question would be, “If you’re diagnosed with terminal cancer, have been drastically underappreciated in all aspects of life, and don’t have any wealth whatsoever to leave your family, is it wrong to start manufacturing crystal methamphetamine?” This course will examine key choices Walter White has made in his life and discuss the morality behind those decisions.
Male Heroes in Film and Literature
WRI 102-26, MR 2 – 3:20pm
In this section, we will examine male gender expectations and their depiction in literature and film. The point of departure for our exploration will be Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the context of Terry Lee’s article, “Virtual Violence in Fight Club: This is What Transformation of Masculine Ego Feels Like.” We will discuss the ways that Hamlet exemplifies the “sex-role stress” that Lee refers to and also look for similarities in Tyler Durden, a character from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. We will then begin to explore this theme in both the literature and film versions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman and in the films American Beauty and Magnolia.
We’re Off to See (and Read) the Wizard!
WRI 102-27, MW 7 – 8:20pm
Since its original printing in 1900, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has delighted audiences and inspired myriad films, cartoons, novels, short stories, and television shows. In this course, we will read and analyze Baum’s novel, watch and read some of the works that it inspired, and discuss a range of issues related to each. Some of the topics we’ll cover: Is this a children’s story? Or is it historical commentary? Or is it an atheist allegory? Which witch is the wickedest? Is the wizard really all that wonderful?
Creativity & Rhetoric
WRI 102-28, MR 8:30 – 9:50am
WRI 102-29, MR 10 – 11:20am
In this section, we will explore a variety of different artistic outlets (such as fiction, poetry, film, visual art, television, and music) to see how creative minds use their medium for rhetorical purposes. Rather than simply entertain us, these artists ask us to consider complex, sometimes controversial ideas while reflecting on the world around us. For example, the novel Fight Club explores issues of masculinity, consumerism, materialism, sexuality, psychology, and cultism, while The Who’s Quadrophenia acts as a musical sibling to The Catcher in the Rye, as both house statements about disenfranchised, rebellious male youth. We will examine many complex issues (including isolation, materialism, conformity, sexuality, and racism) through the works of many iconic figures, including Langston Hughes, Chuck Palahniuk, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, The Who, Pink Floyd, Ben Folds, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Lee, Norman Lear, and Alan Ball, to see how these creative minds express social commentary through stimulating (and sometimes entertaining) forms.
The Right to Read Freely
WRI 102-30, MR 4:00 – 5:20pm
“The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom reported 464 challenges — attempts to ban books or other materials — in libraries and schools in 2012. While gone are the days of seizing books and burning them en masse, and most of the challenged books aren’t banned, these challenges are still an attempt to remove material from a school curriculum or library, preventing access to others. Classics such as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye have been joined by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson’s And Tango Makes Three (a true story about a male penguin couple who hatched a “fostered” egg together) and John Green’s Looking for Alaska. In this section, we will focus on frequently challenged children’s and young adult books, successful and unsuccessful challenges in libraries and schools and how they are handled, and what limits (if any) there ought to be and who should set them, on the freedom to read.