Fall 2014 Courses

WRI 101 [A] School in the Novel

TR  12:15-1:30 p.m.
Gay, R.
This course focuses on educational themes in five short novels: Buchi Emecheta's Double Yoke, a story featuring two undergraduates at a Nigerian University struggling with the demands a romantic relationship; Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North, a novel that was banned in the author's native Sudan and showcases the post-colonial struggle of a narrator employed by the Ministry of Education; Pat Conroy's The Water is Wide, a narrative based on the author's experience teaching at a small coastal school in South Carolina; Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, a coming-of-age novel set in a private girl's school in Scotland; and Donna Tartt's The Secret History, a murder mystery that documents the adventures of students at a small liberal arts college in Vermont.

WRI 101 [B] Russia and the West

MWF   9:30-10:20 a.m.
Ewington, A.
From the 2014 Sochi Olympics to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Russia and the West seem once again locked in a showdown reminiscent of the Cold War. In fact, Russian cultural anxiety and ambivalence toward the West is nothing new. On the contrary, it has played a central role in the development of Russian cultural identity for centuries. This course invites you to discover the great Russian writers, thinkers, and artists who grapple with Russia's identity vis-á-vis the West. We will begin with Peter the Great's reforms, progress through the Slavophile vs. Westernizer debate of the nineteenth century, Soviet xenophobia (and dissident prose), and continuing efforts to articulate a post-Soviet Russian identity. Reading and writing in English; no knowledge of Russian required or expected.

WRI 101 [C] Becoming an Academic Writer without Losing your Soul

TR  12:15-1:30 p.m.
Fernandez, R.
Any high school graduate can certainly put words on a page, but have you ever wondered why masterful, authoritative writing eludes so many people? Why can't learning to write be as straightforward as learning math or science? Who decides whether or not a person can write competently within a given discipline? Put differently, who controls these academic discourses? What power do we have over them? How do we become academic writers without sacrificing our voice and individuality? In this course, we will unpack the notion of academic discourse and the tensions it creates for first-year college students, particularly those from diverse backgrounds who sometimes find the demands of academic writing oppressive. During the first half of the course, we will develop a theoretical orientation for understanding academic discourse by analyzing the work of scholars who framed the discussion more than two decades ago, in response to the increased presence of ethnic and linguistic minorities in America's schools and college campuses. We will also examine this work against linguistic ethnographies on individuals acquiring discourses a cross institutional and community boundaries. Our first two writing projects will focus on traditional academic writing and the construction of arguments. During the second half of the course, we will conduct ethnographic research in Davidson classrooms both to understand academic enculturation among other students and to practice the sort of critical distance, authority, and foundational knowledge necessary to become more effective academic writers ourselves. Instead of relying exclusively on the work of others, we will use our own data as evidence for emerging hypotheses and positions about language socialization at Davidson. For the final project, we will revisit the academic literature and explore our findings further through library research. While the course topic applies to every Davidson student, multilingual students and those interested in anthropology, sociology, linguistics and education will find the course particularly engaging.

WRI 101 [D] Narrative and Conflict in the Middle East

TR  9:40-10:55 a.m.
Milligan, M.
There are more than two sides to a story.  Indeed, there are often "sides within sides."  To understand the sides, we must understand the many stories.
This class examines the role of narrative representation in a variety of political conflicts in the Middle East, such as: Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  The class analyzes the use of language and image to construct narratives of the conflicts through a variety of sources: academic writing, policy reports, governmental documents, novels, graphic novels, film, still image, music, as well as both print and broadcast journalism. Yet, the aim of the course is not only to train students to become critical consumers of narrative but also to train students to become careful producers of narrative.
Students are trained in several forms of narrative expression.  In the class, students are trained how to write a scholarly expository essay, a policy memo, and a creative "missing excerpt." The course also covers narrative presentation in visual text (e.g. graphic novels, photography, film) and students have a digital curation assignment.  Through their final assignment, students also have the opportunity to research a single conflict for their final assignment, a multi-perspective account.

WRI 101 [E] White Privilege and Racism

MWF   11:30-12:20 p.m.
Foley, T.
Citizens and scholars have long argued that the persistence of racism is America's most pressing moral problem. Woven deeply into the very roots of America's economic, cultural, and political history, racism's blunt realities mark the lives of us all. The course (offered in two sections of Writing 101) examines the role of language, writing, and moral reasoning both in structuring racism as a lived reality and responding to its social force. We will examine personal and intellectual discourses offering sociological, experiential, ideologic, ethical, and historical perspectives on racist harms in order to evaluate how various rhetorical strategies have been employed in the service of understanding, persuasion, and social action.

WRI 101 [F] Representing the "Other" in Images and Texts

TR  8:15-9:30 a.m.
Hillard, V.
This section of Writing 101 invites students to examine multimedia representations of marginalized Americans offered public documents that combine photographs with texts. Beginning in 1890 with Jacob Riis's photographic and discursive representations of tenement life in Manhattan's Lower East Side, extending to the 1930s photojournalistic projects used to document the lives of the poor during the Great Depression, and reaching to our current moment, the genre of the photo-essay has garnered significant public and scholarly attention. First considered an objective record of poverty that would inspire middle-class Americans to advocate for social change, the photo-essay has been critiqued for the way in which, by combining political and aesthetic interests, it intruded into the lives of vulnerable people for the sake of public recognition. Drawing upon their analyses of these multimedia documents, and sorting through the Library of Congress archives, students will produce their own digital exhibitions of Depression-era photographs, chosen to illustrate a contestable claim about the ethics of representing others' lives. Students will also create a PSA-style audio file to advertise their exhibitions to a wide public. 

WRI 101 [G] The Trial of Jesus

MWF  12:30-1:20 p.m.
Krentz, P.
This course will focus on the historical question: Why was Jesus executed? We will examine the canonical and non-canonical evidence for Jesus's life, as well as the history of Roman Palestine. The course aims to engage students as active learners, emphasizing the close reading of texts, extensive writing and revision, and meaningful conversations with each other both in and out of class. You should improve your ability to read critically, think analytically, and articulate your ideas clearly, confidently, and creatively. You will gain experience critiquing other written work. You will write, in various formats, for almost every class, and in many classes as well. Some assignments will ask you to prepare to write. Others will ask for various kinds of essays, including a researched paper on some aspect of the trial. Still others will focus on revision

WRI 101 [H] Luck and Chance

TR  9:40-10:55 a.m.
McKeever, S.
Our lives are shaped by luck and require us to manage chance and uncertainty. Our talents and abilities are due to, among other things, our genetics, our parents, and the economic and social circumstances into which we are born. Yet none of these things are within our control, nor can they be awarded on the basis of desert. Those born healthy to loving parents and times of peace and plenty can count themselves lucky; not everyone is.  And however lucky we should count ourselves, navigating the world requires managing chance and uncertainty. In this course, we will explore the practical significance of luck and chance; we will touch on issues of psychology, philosophy, ethics, mathematics, and public policy.

WRI 101 [I] Intellectual Science Writing

TR  1:40-2:55 p.m.
Miller, P.
The fields of science and technology need public, cogent writing for readers who aren't scientists. Scientific and technological innovations are potent forces not just in our economy and environment, but also in art, ethics, politics, and education. We will study public intellectuals writing about topics such as medicine (Atul Gawande);  bioweapons (Richard Preston); pesticides (Rachel Carson); car wrecks (Malcolm Gladwell); computers (Ian Parker); highway design (Langdon Winner); and the history of technology and society (Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel).  Students will work to assemble a repertoire of strategies for writing in academic and public settings.

WRI 101 [J] The Politics of Food

MWF  9:30-10:20 a.m.
Poland, L.
The Politics of Food explores contemporary issues concerning the production, distribution, and consumption of food through multidisciplinary lenses. Topics include agricultural subsidies, eating meat, the local food movement, and agribusiness monopolies.

WRI 101 [K] The American Dream of Success

MWF  9:30-10:20 a.m.
Roberts, S.
This course explores an essential aspect of American culture, the American dream. What are the origins of the individual and national faith in success? Has the dream changed over time? To what degree is it shared by various ethnicities? How does it influence our policy expectations? 

WRI 101 [L] Justice and Piety

MWF   8:30-9:20 a.m.
Shaw, B.
An examination of the nature of political justice and its relation to religious faith in works by Homer, Thucydides, Sophocles, Plato and Lucretius.

WRI 101 [M] Noise: A Course in Listening and Writing

MWF   2:30-3:20 p.m.
Weinstein, G.
We are surrounded by sound; we cannot help but encounter it as we move through the world. Our ability to make sense of the sounds around us-to act as informed listeners-can help us to interpret and understand the world more broadly. This class will explore different ideas about listening as a meaningful, socially-engaged act. Is listening an active process, or can one listen passively? Where are the boundaries between music and noise, and why is the former often privileged? How can the act of listening be used as a device of social order and discipline? Is it possible to not listen?
In the first unit of this course, we will explore theories of "noise" as both a musical and a social construct. In the second unit, we expand our study to the soundscape, examining how sound and listening can produce order in a social space, such as a concert hall, a city, or even a nation.
Finally, we move to the rhetorical and methodological strategies adopted by ethnographers of sound. Throughout the semester, students will demonstrate understanding sound through formal writing assignments and personal blogs, and they will incrementally develop a study of a local soundscape based on the theories and methodologies from the class. While we will occasionally discuss musical topics, students need no musical experience to take this course-just a desire to engage with the world of sound around them!

WRI 101 [N] Twitter Problems: Rhetoric and Social Media

MWF  3:30-4:20 p.m.
Horowitz, K.
Over the last two decades, digital technologies have fundamentally reshaped human interaction. Routine elements of daily life that today's college students take for granted-hybrid courses, online dating, texting, instagramming your dinner-were inconceivable, edgy, or taboo ten years ago. This course explores the ways in which the omnipresence, instantaneousness, and accessibility of social media have molded Americans' understandings of reality, friendship, consent, publicity, privacy, individuality, and intention. We will ask how digital culture has changed both how we communicate and what it means to communicate. How, for example, has the emergence of texting, like buttons, hashtags, Vine loops, and 140-character limits altered the way we speak and write? What motivates us to tweet, post, snap, upload, update our statuses, and otherwise share the details of our private lives with friends, acquaintances, and the general public? In what ways is digital culture gendered, classed, and racialized? How has technology changed in response to human social behavior, and how has our social behavior changed in response to technology?

WRI 101 [O] Imitation of Life

MWF  8:30-9:20 a.m.
Dawson, B.
Aristotle writes that the human is "the most imitative creature in the world, and learns at first by imitation." This course will puzzle over what it means to be such an imitating animal. From the classical era to the present, imitation has been considered an essential technique through which humans learn to become complex reasoning beings. And yet, for an equally long time, there has been anxiety toward people's desire to imitate, particularly when the disempowered imitate the dominate culture. We will look at some famous examples of such fears, from the eighteenth century's concern over women addicted to novels, to the twentieth century's fascination with murderous impersonators. Why fear imitation? If imitation is how one learns to become human, does that imply that there is something not quite human about imitating? The interest and anxiety that imitation arouses suggest that it is a complex social act, a means through which individuals engage with, respond to, or question the texts and practices surrounding them. In developing the skills to become engaged writers and intellectuals ourselves, we will be considering, over the course of the semester, how our own distinctive voices emerge in writing through imitating and responding to the texts that precede us. We will read from Plato's Republic, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Austen's Northanger Abbey, Highsmith's Talented Mister Ripley, and others, while glancing at debates over the role of imitation in contemporary society.

WRI 101 [P] Strangers Among Us: Xenia and Xenophohia

TR  8:15-9:30 a.m.
Ford, G.
This course seeks to develop skills in written argumentation, the most important form of intellectual engagement in university discourse. We will hone our argumentation in accordance with rhetorical methods. These methods will help us bring into view the conventions and constraints that shape contextualized communication in a variety of settings. In addition to these rhetorical considerations, the course will attend to the structural, stylistic, and logical facets of successful written argumentation and will engage a variety of strategies for persuasion. The end goal is the development of a distinct and convincing written voice that is competent in a range of registers and adept in several compositional techniques.
Interwoven with our compositional aims, the course's theme "Strangers Among Us: Xenia and Xenophobia" will add conceptual depth to our rhetorical and compositional studies. We will consider the conventions, taboos, and risks that inhere in encounters among strangers in a variety of times and places, including our own. These encounters are often structured by unarticulated preconceptions and protocols. Throughout the course, we will examine the ways that these structuring ideas guide the interactions among guests, hosts, travelers, drifters, pariahs, foreigners and enemies. Our wide-ranging inquiry will lend us insight into the hospitality and hostilities of our own culture. It will also help us to develop the empathic depth necessary to be successful rhetorical writers, as writing itself might fruitfully be conceived of as a kind of stranger encounter.

WRI 101 [Q] Writing Medicine

TR  3:05-4:20 p.m.
Vaz, 0.
In this course, we will explore the knotty, ethical issues that emerge in the patient-physician relationship and in the application of certain medical technologies. To this end, we will learn through practice the importance of critical thinking, reading, and writing, and how to combine the three in coherent and well-organized essays that fully grapple with the implications of our topics.

WRI 101 [R] How Stories Work

TR 8:15-9:30 a.m.
Denham
How does fiction work? What characteristics define fictional stories as not other kinds of stories or narratives? What are the characteristic building blocks of stories and how do we know how to put them together to arrive at an interpretation? Where does a story actually reside – on the page, in the author's mind, in the reader's mind? How do readers and scholars write about the phenomenon of fiction? Can there be a normative empirical method of reading fiction? Do stories have a universal structure and grammar? Though the primary purpose of this course, like all other WRI 101 courses, is to teach students the methods and ethos of college writing, students in "How Stories Work" will be especially well-prepared for the further study of literature through one of the literary and cultural studies majors or through the concentration in Global Literary Theory. If you love to read narrative fiction, to get lost in a novel, to get into the head of a character, and if you have an analytical bent and enjoy reading the book review sections of papers and magazines, this course will be a good match for you.

WRI 101 [S] Imitation of Life

MWF 11:30-12:20
Dawson, B.
Aristotle writes that the human is "the most imitative creature in the world, and learns at first by imitation." This course will puzzle over what it means to be such an imitating animal. From the classical era to the present, imitation has been considered an essential technique through which humans learn to become complex reasoning beings. And yet, for an equally long time, there has been anxiety toward people's desire to imitate, particularly when the disempowered imitate the dominate culture. We will look at some famous examples of such fears, from the eighteenth century's concern over women addicted to novels, to the twentieth century's fascination with murderous impersonators. Why fear imitation? If imitation is how one learns to become human, does that imply that there is something not quite human about imitating? The interest and anxiety that imitation arouses suggest that it is a complex social act, a means through which individuals engage with, respond to, or question the texts and practices surrounding them. In developing the skills to become engaged writers and intellectuals ourselves, we will be considering, over the course of the semester, how our own distinctive voices emerge in writing through imitating and responding to the texts that precede us. We will read from Plato's Republic, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Austen's Northanger Abbey, Highsmith's Talented Mister Ripley, and others, while glancing at debates over the role of imitation in contemporary society.