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
Brains, Genes, and Lingo
Students will refine basic writings skills, prepare for the proficiency exam, and develop advanced rhetorical and research skills. Thematically, in keeping with John Dewey’s emphasis on student interest driven learning, students will be invited to pursue individual projects in brain-mind dynamics, investigate a particular type of organ cancer, and wrestle with aspects of the limits of contemporary free speech. As this is an introductory course in writing across the disciplines, no prior science background is required.
The course will explore how we use and abuse the land on which we live, including the Hofstra campus and surrounding area. Field trips will include the Bird Sanctuary and other Hofstra locales. Readings are designed to match the theme, as well as the student’s major area of interest.
Forgiveness: Issues and Perspectives
Should we always forgive those who have hurt us? What is empathy? How do our childhood dramas live on in adulthood generating empathy and/or enemies? Can we forgive our own insensitivities and betrayals? What enables us to reopen our hearts? What are the biological, psychological, and social effects of prolonged anger? How is forgiving others a mirror image of forgiving oneself? How can groups divided by prejudice and hatred come to live together in peace? Aside from imprisonment, how can criminals be rehabilitated? How can parents, spouses, teachers, business leaders nurture empathy and social intelligence?
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. You’d probably rather be doing it now than reading this, yes? So, to meet you half way, this semester our course theme is “Sleep and Dreams: An Inter-disciplinary Investigation.” Readings for our course 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 response, class discussion, and composition. The composition portion of our course will focus on students’ continued practice in developing thesis and
argument, through each stage of the composition process; discovery, organization, drafting and revision. All major assignments are designed to give students a proper grounding in the kinds of academic writing with which they will be engage during their Hofstra careers.
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. In WSC 002, we will explore the theme of travel in American life and how travel 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.
Parameters of the Mind
First and foremost, this is an advanced composition course in which I hope to help you improve your writing using a variety of essay topics from many different disciplines. You will be writing essays of different lengths and in a variety of styles, emphasizing comparison/contrast, analysis, and argumentation. Our thematic focus will be on the human desire to discover the many dimensions of the human mind, its imaginative voyages, and its hidden potential. To that end, we will begin by reading, discussing, and writing about the “fantastic,” first as it appears in fairy tales. Next, we will examine the “findings” in the field of parapsychology. Finally, we will look at the mind’s attempt to envision where science will lead us in the future. You will be reading and writing evaluations of essays by psychiatrists, anthropologists, linguists, medical doctors, novelists, etc.—and perhaps come to some conclusion on your own of what we want to believe, what we should believe, and what we may decide to disbelieve. Hopefully it will be an interesting journey.
Pop People, Words and Music
The goal of this course is to make a critical assessment of popular culture over the past 50 years or so. We will focus on lifestyles, technology, music, film, TV, art et al with a possible comment on the direction pop
culture is, will be and/or should be taking. There will be 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 Movies
If art reflects life, it does so with special mirrors. – Bertrolt Brecht, poet and playwright
The mirror is the imitation of life. What is interesting about a mirror is that it does not show yourself as you are, it shows you your own opposite. – Douglas Sirk, film director.
The cinema uses the language of dreams. - Federico Fellini, film director.
As the above claims might suggest, 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 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 the 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.
A work of art that has transcended the 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, “Do You Hear The People Sing?” places the same amount of weight on both of them. Silence, in both its implied and literal forms, is a concept with the power to inspire and transform literature, awaken society, and symbolize both the beauty and sadness found in the natural world. In this course, we will examine the concept of silence in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
Social Justice and Diversity
Multicultural perspective on advocacy for social justice and an affinity to identify the appreciative value of diversity are still imbued within marginalized ethnic, racial, and gender differences. This course examines how written discourse in the Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Humanities has contributed morally, legally, financially, politically, and
scientifically either to exacerbate or to preclude bias, and it explores how individuals can empower themselves as conduits of civility, civil liberty, and civil rights.
Dust, Depression, Drama – the 1930s
Think about the United States during the 1930s. What do you see: street-corner-storefronts crowded with out of work men selling apples and pencils? This was the time when “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” - the popular 1931 song expressing the hard times of the Great Depression and the broken spirit of American individualism - replaced the optimistic tune “Blue Skies” of the 1920s. In addition, 1930 saw the start to nearly ten years of an extreme drought that ruined midwestern farmers, decimated their farmlands, and forced families into sharecropping or tenant farming.
Our course, “Dust, Depression, and Drama: A look at the 1930s through the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, and a Decade of Film, Dance and Music,” investigates the events that dramatically changed America’s attitudes and expectations. And for some relief, we’ll view some of the entertainment that gave people a much needed emotional and spiritual escape from those difficult times.
The Rhetoric of Hip-Hop
Unlike any other subculture in American history, the Hip-Hop culture has transcended ethnic boundaries. We will examine the social conditions under which Hip-Hop emerged as a cultural force in American society. We will probe economic, social, and political controversies evoked by Hip-Hop culture. Students will also examine the shift in societal attitudes regarding these issues. The course will delve far beyond mainstream beats and mumble rap, and begin to frame Hip-Hop in a global and sociological context. Students will analyze its role as a voice for those subjugated by systematic oppression. This class requires students to independently research and write about many aspects of Hip-Hop culture.
Dangerous Reproductions Professor Reesman 002 20 20824 TR 9:35-11:00 WSC 002 furthers the writings skills established in WSC 001 and provides you with a more in depth study of language and its varied aspects. The purpose of this course is to develop critical and analytical thinking to improve writing on the college level. You will be engaged in conversations to discover how the humanities and sciences address ideas that are part of the human experience both in the past and present. An exploration of many genres will provide you with an understanding of how a variety of writers have found ways to express their viewpoints on cultural, social, and political issues
that influence our lives. A variety of reading selections will be presented on the theme of “Dangerous Reproductions,” a broad theme that encompasses topics on sexual reproduction, scientific reproduction, artistic reproduction, historical reproduction, literary reproduction, and cultural reproduction.
In this course, students will explore the broad genre known as the Gothic by attempting to define the term “Gothic.” Students will supplement their studies with critical analysis on the Gothic genre, critiquing and adapting 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 behind fear.
Identity, Memory and Molecules Professor Stein 002 26 20688 TR 11:10-12:35 002 27 21046 TR 12:45-2:10 This course asks the question: How do our memories contribute to the construction of our persona, our “self”? One way we will pursue the answer to that question is through an examination of a graphic memoir, the best-selling work Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. We will use Bechdel’s memoir to ask other questions: What can memoir tell us about the role of narrative in our daily lives? What is society’s influence on our memories? And what does actually happen, on a molecular level in our brains, when we remember something? In addition to Bechdel’s work, we will read and discuss texts by scientists and scholars who are working to understand human memory.
We will explore the theme of memory and personal identity while continuing to practice a variety of academic writing designed to improve students’ writing skills while at Hofstra and in their future careers.
Writing from Both Sides of the Brain
This composition class will examine the role of creative thinking in a robust society. Stanislavsky’s “Method” parallels Freud; Meisner’s work mirrors Autism research. The Arts tap into our collective unconscious. The Arts can reflect our society’s unfolding narrative, help us metabolize rapid changes, restore community, and help us decide what it all means. Readings will include Carl Jung’s “Man and His Symbols”, Joshua Foer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein”, and Kim Addonizo’s “Ordinary Genius”.
Wicked Problems: Solving Social Challenges Through Science and Stories
This section of WSC 2 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 as they wrestle with these and other problems. Ultimately, students will gain
exposure to different writing forms across the disciplines, and cultivate their own abilities in writing and analysis.
“By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange.”
― Jane Jacobs In this WSC2 course we will consider the city. The city has often been a place associated with both excitement and danger. We will consider the fantasy of the city as depicted in film and literature as well as the documented reality of lived experience. The course will draw on readings from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences as we think about the ways cities are constructed and about the people who inhabit them. Our work will consist of critical reading and discussion and we will also begin our own process of drafting, writing, and rewriting as we develop our own arguments and analyses.
George Santayana famously wrote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” but can anyone remember all the past? Which past should I remember? Whose past? Maybe history isn’t one memorizable narrative but billions of individual stories and perspectives. If you told your own life story, which events would you include or leave out? Would you tell it as a tragedy? Comedy? Coming-of-age story? In this class, we’ll consider the distance between history and myth, story and storyteller, the event and how it’s remembered. We’ll uncover histories, doubt histories, and write our own.
The Business of Sports
The influence that sports has on the world is the strongest it has ever been. Over the last 100 years, the world of sports has transformed from simple athletic competitions to a multi-billion dollar industry. From the clothes and shoes children wear to the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies, the sports industry impacts people personally and globally. The Business of Sports will examine how athletes have gone from the semi-professional individual to purveyors of a global brand, and how industries have been created or modified 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 2 will study the evolution of the sports world through interdisciplinary texts, multiple forms of media, and discussion of the industries that thrive behind the veneer of the sports world.
Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!
The interactions and decisions of adolescents are often influenced by a combination of human nature, social interaction, and the physical environment. In this course, we will examine the complexities of human nature and how personal experiences and human interaction coupled with inborn characteristics often influence adolescents in the difficult task of making moral and ethical decisions.
Using readings and writings in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, we will concentrate on this central theme and focus on critical reading, thinking, and writing. Through written essays, creative projects, and research, we will explore the intricacies of the adolescent mind.
Sue Coe writing about the horrors of the slaughterhouse, Fly writing about the people living on the margins, squatting in abandoned buildings, Hubert Selby Jr. writing about the illusion of the American dream, Timothy “Speed” Levitch writing about the dark side of capitalism, etc—all these writers are known as non-conformists and are often even labeled outlaws for daring to write about the truth. These courageous writers, as well as many others, 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 you are and the choices you make? Is our environment or our internal “make-up” what directs us to make the choices we do? In this course we will look at the historical, scientific, philosophical, and cultural factors that might determine our thinking about who we are and what develops our ideology. We will examine the cultural myths and realities that shape these decisions and question whether some of these factors are our decisions at all. We will also investigate how social stereotyping can often lead to the misuse and abuse of power, how beliefs about culture, language, race, gender, and genetics play into our personal and social identities, and how historical and current political environments impact our ideas on who we are. To answer these questions (and many more), our readings for the course will consist of interdisciplinary texts examining the varied intersections culturally and physically that define who we are and what choices we make in our lives through reading responses, class discussion, and composition. The composition portion of the course will focus on students’ continued practice in developing thesis and argument through each stage of the composition process—discovery, organization, drafting, and revision. All major assignment assignments are designed to give students the proper grounding in academic writing, critical analysis, and argumentation.
The Art of Interpretation
Have you ever been moved by a film, story, painting, poem, song, dance or play? What happens when we are confronted by artistic achievement that deepens our humanity? This course examines how the experience, interpretation, discussion and de-coding of art changes us. The four graded essays will be drawn from readings in the Natural Sciences (Biology, Chemistry), Social Sciences (Psychology, Anthropology) and Humanities (Literature, Aesthetics) as well as encounters with many genres of transformational art.
Hacking the Climate: Geoengineering and the Coming Climate Crisis
With carbon emissions continuing unabated, even after repeated efforts to reach global consensus on reducing them, scientists, economists, business leaders, environmentalists, and others are taking a hard look at methods of 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 over its viability has begun. This course weighs the legal, ethical, economic, political, and scientific arguments being made for and against geoengineering for their 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 towards examining the varied.
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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