WSC 002 - Composition
Semester Hours: 3
Fall, Spring, Summer
Continued instruction in expository writing, and an introduction to writing in the disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Reading and writing assignments are organized around a central theme.
Current Special Topics
Health, illness, Disease, and Somewhere In-Between
What contributes to health? What causes illness and disease? And how and why do we waiver in between? We will research immunological issues regarding our bodies and minds; we will address these findings through discussion and writing, and in doing so, consider how best to promote health and well-being for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
A variety of reading selections throughout the semester will focus on the theme of “Dangerous Reproductions,” a broad theme that encompasses the humanities and the sciences. Topics including sexual reproduction, scientific reproduction, artistic reproduction, historical reproduction, literary reproduction, and cultural reproduction are explored. Our discussions will evaluate the cross-disciplinary literature we read based on questions such as: What were the prevalent social attitudes during the period in which the literature was written? How did families, political leaders, writers, artists, scientists, and other individuals, live, dress, eat, and think during this period? What were the political and cultural views that influenced the author’s work? These issues will circulate around the major influential novel of nineteenth-century England written by Mary Shelley in 1818, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.
Sleep and Dreams: An Inter-disciplinary Investigation
Sleep. All living things require it in some form or other. By rough estimate, human beings spend 1/3 of their lives doing it. Next to love, but more than money, we crave it most. Readings for this class will consist of texts in the Natural Sciences (Biology, Neurology), Social Sciences (Anthropology, Psychology), and Humanities (Literature). We will engage with these texts through reading responses, class discussions, and written composition. This course will focus on students’ continued practice in developing theses and arguments through each stage of the composition process – discovery, organization, drafting, and revision.
Travel and Community in American Life
From the wagons of the western frontier to the building of the railways and highways, travel in America has taken many forms. We will explore the theme of travel in American life and how traveling for purposes such as recreation, business, education, or social escape affects individuals, communities, and the natural world. Through reading the work of various authors, we will discuss, question, and write about travel as an integral aspect of American life and identity.
Pop, People, Words, and Music
The goal of this course is to assess and write critically about American popular culture of the past fifty years. We will focus on lifestyles, technology, music, film, television, and visual art, and comment on the direction pop culture is, will be, and/or should be taking. Students will write
three (3) papers (in a way, one large paper in three parts) showing some logical progression/evolution/devolution of pop culture: a genesis, a turning point, and the current state of affairs.
Through a Glass Darkly: Viewing America Through Its Movie
We would be foolish to think movies offer us a realistic picture of our lives. In real life, folks can’t fly, heroes don’t banish evil-doers, and few of us find true love with sea monsters. And yet, would such movies really hold such a fascination for us if they did not speak to our real lives in some meaningful way? In this course, we will view movies as projections of our own cultural anxieties, values, beliefs, and ideals. Like a psychoanalyst interprets dreams (the “movies” we create in our sleep), we will examine how Hollywood films transform our fears, hopes, and desires into stories, images, and emotions that speak to us on levels we may not always be aware of. Through close film study, secondary texts, class discussions, and presentations, we will examine the complex relationship between our movies and ourselves, and consider how these powerful cultural products reflect, shape, and distort the social, political, and psychological realities of our lives.
Silence: A Deafening Sound
The Inspiration for the theme of this course, Les Miserables, a work of art that has transcended multiple, disciplines and forms, reminds us of an important power that silence has: “When the beating of your heart”/Echoes the beating of the drums,”/”There is a life about to start”/When tomorrow comes?” The first is a sound that remains largely unheard unless we seek it, and the second is a sound that is difficult to ignore. However, the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” places the same amount of weight on both ideas. Silence, in both its implied and literal forms, can inspire literature, awaken society, and symbolize both the beauty and sadness found in the natural world. In this course, we will examine and write about silence as it is considered in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
Social Justice and Diversity
Social justice and equity initiatives are saturated with marginalized ethnic, racial, and gender differences. This course examines how writing in the Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Humanities has contributed morally, legally, financially, politically, and scientifically to exacerbating or alleviating bias; it explores how individuals can empower themselves as conduits of civility, civil liberty, and civil rights.
A Walk In The Park
Edward Abbey’s 1956 comment about what was then Arches National Monument, Utah, is simple: “This is the most beautiful place on earth.” In 1971, Arches became one of 59 national parks out of 417 sites the US National Parks Service maintains throughout the United States. This semester we’ll visit some of the parks found in Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. These Western locations are culturally alive, rich in literature, and have become the natural backdrops for many artists, photographers, and filmmakers. As we take in the landscape, we’ll observe the physical history of these constantly changing rock formations. We’ll also discuss and write about the influences that led people to build their dwellings in the red sandstone canyon walls, making these deserts and canyons their home. So, this semester, let’s take a trip out west to learn as we discover.
In this course, students will explore the broad genre known as the Gothic by investigating the Gothic genre, and then critique and adapt their approaches and theories through writing. Students will view classic thriller films, read short stories by writers such as Angela Carter, and read articles on the psychology of fear.
Writing All Sides of the Brain
A man paints from his brain, not his hands. - Michelangelo It has long been considered that when we are being analytical, attentive, objective, and rational we are using the “left” side of the brain; our brain’s right side has been considered to be driven by feelings, beliefs, and imagination. We now understand the human brain in more complexity; our brains use maps to process information. Michelangelo’s insight that one paints from his brain, not his hands, prophesied our contemporary understanding of brain maps. Our course in Composition will explore ways to get to good writing through close reading and activities that call upon both our logical and intuitive intelligence, the two tasks essential to our survival.
The Business of Sports
The influence that sports have on world culture is the strongest it has ever been. Over the last 100 years, the world of sports has transformed from athletic competitions to a multi-billion-dollar industry. Students will examine how athletes have evolved from semi-professional individuals to purveyors of a global brand and how industries have been created to accommodate this new business world. Behind every sports hero, every winner, and every loser, is an army of people wrestling over dollars and television coverage. This section of WSC 002 will study and write about the sports world through interdisciplinary texts, media, and discussion of the industries that thrive in the sports world.
The Truth Behind The Facade
The class will concentrate on critical reading and critical thinking as well as include instruction in expository writing. The theme of the class focuses on the interactions of children and the choices children make. This will develop into consideration of the intricacies of human nature and the difficulty adults have in making ethical decisions. Through close analysis, critical thinking, discussion, and writing, we will explore the anomaly of the human conscience.
Sue Coe writes about the horrors of the slaughterhouse; Fly writes about the people living on the margins, squatting in abandoned buildings; Hubert Selby Jr. writes about the illusion of the American dream; Timothy “Speed” Levitch writes about the dark side of capitalism —all these writers are non-conformists and often labeled outlaws for daring to write about their truth. These courageous writers, using ink and fire, challenge the reader to remove the cataracts of conformity from their eyes and really see the truth. In this course, we will read some non-conformist writers and discuss why truth-telling is important in a land where, as Alan Watts so bluntly put it, “it’s taboo to really know yourself.” And at the same time, we will attempt to write our non-conformist essays. #truthtellers #non-conformity
Cultural Myths and Realities: An Exploration in Personal and Social Identity
What is identity? What directs who we are and the choices we make? Is it our environment or our internal “make-up” that directs us to make the choices we do? In this course, we will look at the historical, scientific, philosophical, and cultural factors that influence our thinking about who we are and our ideology. We will examine the cultural myths and realities that shape these decisions and consider whether some of these are our decisions at all. Through reading responses, class discussion, and the composition of a variety of texts, we will examine those intersections culturally and physically that define who we are. Students will have continued practice and developing thesis and argument through each stage of the writing process – discovery, organization, drafting, and revision – to learn the ways of critical analysis and argumentation.
Hacking the Climate: Geoengineering and the Coming Climate Crisis
With carbon emissions continuing unabated (even after repeated efforts to reach a global consensus on reducing them) scientists, economists, business leaders, environmentalists, and others are taking a hard look at intervening in natural processes on a global scale to avert what many see as an impending ecological disaster. Call it hacking the planet, playing God, tuning the weather, fixing the sky, or simply madness, the debate has begun. This course weighs the legal, ethical, economic, political, and scientific arguments made for and against geoengineering for its implicit assumptions, values, and rhetorical methods. Although the course addresses the scientific bases for various geoengineering proposals, its focus is on scrutinizing the logic and rhetoric of the arguments for and against geoengineering and on writing in response to these arguments.
Love, Marriage, and Friendship
Love, marriage, and friendship: which of these ideals is most important to us as human beings? Can love for one’s partner be compatible with deep friendship with one’s friends? Does marriage require love? What historical, scientific, philosophical, and cultural factors might determine our thinking about these ideals? To answer these questions (and many more), our course takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining the varied intersections and tensions among love, marriage, and friendship.
Wicked Problems: Solving Social Challenges Through Science and Stories
This class seeks to improve students’ writing abilities through the analysis of “Wicked Problems.” This term refers to social ills that are so tangled and complicated that they defy our attempts to solve them. A few examples include Poverty, Inequality, Crime, Addiction, Family Dysfunction, Historical Trauma, and Housing Insecurity. Our class will examine how scientists, artists, and leaders use writing, rhetoric, and argumentation to wrestle with these problems. Ultimately, students will gain exposure to different writing models across the disciplines and cultivate their own abilities in writing and analysis.
Fear & Terror: Literacy, Cinematic, and real-Life Representations
What scares us? Who are the monsters? And who are the creators of monsters?
Where do these monsters lurk? This class examines the social and cultural sources of fear and terror. We begin with an examination of the emergence of nineteenth-century Gothic monsters in literary texts and then look at the manifestation of Apocalypse narratives and how the end of the world is cinematically envisioned. Lastly, we will examine real-life events that have evoked terror such as the Holocaust, Genocide, and War through the autobiographies or memoirs of survivors. This course is divided into three units; each unit will culminate in a responsive essay.
This writing course takes a cross-disciplinary approach to ask, answer, and question again the essence of what it means to be human. Spanning from early written history and into imagined futures, the class examines sciences (biology, technology), social sciences (anthropology, sociology), and the humanities (literature, poetry, film, television) to seek and define, complicate, and challenge the very concept of humanity. We will examine texts old and new, poetic and scientific, fictional and real as we examine the myriad ways, we have gone about investigating who we’ve been, and are, and the possibilities for what we may become.
Investigating Experimental Ideas & Compositions
Initial reactions to experimental pieces would point to their “radical,” “nonsensical,” or “difficult” nature and these descriptions can certainly be true. Nonsensical? Perhaps, because they distort or defy entirely the narrative structures we have grown accustomed to. Difficult? Sure, because they confront or even attack our accepted values. Radical? Of course, because they aim for a reconfiguring of our worldview. This is the thrill of the experiment: to subvert or diverge from traditional expectations. In this course, we will grapple with such sources, experiment with language, and explore dangerous ideas to test the limits of the academic writing process and our ability to craft distinct written arguments.
From Chicken Nuggets to TikTok: The Implications of Impulse in Modern Society
This class dares you to consider the choices we make today and the impact of those choices on our tomorrow. From the food we eat to that Amazon order we just have to have today to not reading that user agreement on our tech apps, to our conscious choice to sacrifice liberty for safety, we will weave our way through a variety of texts in mixed media, assessing our present moment and the state of our collective future. And in our wide consideration, we will evaluate and write about what we might still choose to do – if we care – to correct our course.
Guilty Pleasures & Serious Business
Our section will explore – via readings and films – themes including otherness, gender, race, violence, and comedy. I look forward to creating a respectful and lively class community. In order to be prepared for class discussion, students must keep a journal whose writing will evolve into longer, developed essays.
Understanding and Analyzing Perspectives
The skills required to perform close reading and effective writing translate across genres and disciplines to communicate powerfully about the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences demand unique skills. These learned skills can improve a student’s ability to communicate in a variety of contexts. Students will develop the analytical skills necessary to identify rhetorical strategies and understand how to deploy those strategies in writing. To this end, our readings, discussions, and assignments will focus on recognizing perspectives—through memory, attention, focus, description, and revision. The authors on our syllabus have honed their voices and oriented their readers to engage with the complicated subject matter. We will read travel memoirs of borderlands, social science ghost stories, and nature essays mourning the death of glaciers, each of which will use familiar techniques to persuade their target audiences. In the process of reading and analyzing these texts, we will strive to emulate these authors’ techniques in writing our own essays.
WSC 001 . May not be taken on a Pass/D+/D/Fail basis. The Writing Proficiency Exam is given as part of the course.
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