Spring 2016 Courses

WRI 101 - Course List for Writing in the Liberal Arts

WRI 101 helps students develop the skills of writing in the liberal arts: critical analysis of texts, exploration of and deliberation about public and intellectual issues; familiarity with research strategies; understanding the conventions for using with integrity the work of others; and crafting inventive, correct, and rhetorically sophisticated prose. The subjects for writing in the course vary by instructors.

WRI 101 [A]: The Art of Prose 
TR 8:15-9:30
Nelson 
This course helps students develop the skills of writing in the liberal arts: critical analysis of texts, exploration of and deliberation about public and intellectual issues; familiarity with research strategies; understanding the conventions for using with integrity the work of others; and crafting of inventive, correct, and rhetorically sophisticated prose.

WRI 101 [B]: Luck and Chance 
TR 8:15-9:30
McKeever
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 [C]: Comics and Graphic Novels 
TR 9:40-10:55
Sample 

Comics and graphic novels build on artistic and narrative traditions stretching back hundreds-if not thousands-of years. Boldly combining images and text, graphic novels of recent years have explored issues often considered the domain of "serious" literature: immigration, racism, war and trauma, dysfunctional families, sexual identity, and much more. Informed by literary theory and visual culture studies, we will learn to analyze and write about both mainstream and independent graphic narratives. In particular, we will be especially attentive to the unique visual grammar of the medium, exploring graphic novels that challenge the conventions of genre, narrative, and high and low culture.

WRI 101[D]: Writing about Modern Physics and Technology
TR 9:40-10:55
Yukich
In this course we will study the fundamentals of several areas of twentieth-century physics and related technologies, including quantum physics and nuclear energy, with attention to public and social ramifications of technologic advances. The course focuses on writing concisely and clearly for the educated public who are not experts in science and technology. Readings include a book, book reviews, news reports, and journal articles. We will examine readings with various degrees of formality and professional expertise, and critique texts of varying quality. We will consider how good science writing depends on the complexities of calibrating special language, data, and experimental findings to the level of expertise of the intended audience. Writing assignments include a book review, a science news report, an op ed article or argumentative essay, an historical narrative, and a research paper.

WRI 101 [E]: Writing about World Music
TR 12:15-1:30
Weinstein
This course explores musical cultures from around the world through a focused study of how those cultures are represented in journalistic and ethnographic writing. While the course will obviously not be a comprehensive look at "world music"-this is not a survey course-it will nonetheless engage with a wide range of non-Western musical values and practices. Further, as a writing course, it aims to unpack the conventions of writing about musical cultures: how research is executed, how arguments are structured, and how the discourse of ethnomusicology unfolds historically and culturally. To that end, the course will be organized in four thematic units, each centered on an ethnographic monograph and supplemented with appropriate reading and writing assignments. 

WRI 101 [F]: Thinking Girls, Thinking Boys 
TR 12:15-1:30
Fackler
What is girlhood, and what is boyhood? How are they different from one another? Likewise, how are girlhood and boyhood different from adulthood? And how do the relationships and differences among girlhood and boyhood, and adulthood change from one time, one place, or one philosophy to another? This course emphasizes such questions as we examine the histories, representations, and theorizations of childhood and adolescence in a variety of global contexts. We trace ideas and figures of girlhood and boyhood across sites including novels, poems, films, performances, scientific case studies, and material objects. We also consider the ways in which "thinking girls" and "thinking boys" have a stake in such categories of experience as class, gender, race, and sexuality, and how "thinking girls" and "thinking boys" may have a crucial impact on social justice and political change. As the title of the course suggests, we will create a context both for thinking upon girlhood and boyhood and for pushing the thinking of young women and men. Think you know what it means to think as a girl or a boy, or to think about a girl or a boy? Think again.

WRI 101 [G]: Slave Testimonies
TR 8:15-9:30
Klehr
Historians have long struggled with how to interpret evidence about American slavery, not least because most slaves left no written records. In this course we will examine sources produced by slaves as well as sources through which voices of enslaved people can only be heard indirectly, including slave narratives, judicial records, and oral histories. Working with such documents, students will position themselves as critical researchers, commenting on the rhetorical strategies used in depicting slave life, identifying the rhetorical tensions found in the act of testimony, and exploring what these sources can, and can't tell us about slavery in the United States. We will move past simple discussions of biased and non-biased sources to ask what these sources can tell us, how they may mislead us, and what we can learn from them.

WRI 101 [H]: Building Stories
TR 1:40-2:55
Churchill
Architecture is not a passive structure we occupy; rather, it shapes our minds and imaginations, influencing what we do and how we do it. In this course, we’ll explore physical and virtual spaces, ranging from homes, prisons, and hospitals, to blogs, websites, and digital archives. We’ll also approach writing as a form of architecture, breaking out of the predictable 5-paragraph essay blueprint into order reimagine essays as more enticing dwelling spaces for your readers to inhabit. The course itself will inhabit the digital realm: the course hub will be a website; you will learn to write for web publication; and you will design a WordPress site on your own Davidson Domain to showcase your work throughout your career at Davidson. No previous technological training needed, but creativity, critical thinking, and a collaborative spirit are required.

WRI 101 [I]: Undesireables: Otherness and Belonging 
TR 3:05-4:20
Utkin

"I am alone, I thought, and they are everyone" is one of the many haunting utterances of Fyodor Dostoevsky's most famous antihero, the Underground Man. Like him, the other protagonists of this course are outcasts, dissidents, and strangers - jaded office clerks and repressed misanthropes, queer activists and "enemies of the state" - who refuse to conform to societal norms, disrupt conventions by saying the unsayable, and write and make art from the margins, the realm of undesirables. Focusing mainly on Russia and Eastern Europe, we will analyze representations of otherness and belonging in fiction, non-fiction, film, and photography. We will explore narratives of undesirability through the thematic prisms of exile, immigration, and guest laborers; gender and sexuality; bodily disability; mental illness; prison writing; anti-Semitism and ethnic difference; religion; and unrequited love. The concept of undesirability will also be our point of entry for constructing arguments about community, privilege, and a society without outsiders.

WRI 101 [J]: Leisure and Play
MWF 8:30-9:20
Campbell, S.
Have you ever filliped a toad? Been to a good bear baiting lately? Probably not, but you have probably played on playgrounds, attended summer camp or an after school recreation program, and you all have preferences about how to spend your leisure. In this writing class, we will explore the concepts of leisure and play as their definitions and manifestations have varied across time and culture. We will consider who has been given or had the right to leisure and play as well as how these concepts are defined or constrained by age, class, race, and/or gender. Readings will range from Plato and Aristotle to Thorstein Veblen and scenes from Parks and Recreation. Major projects will consider commercial representations of leisure, visions for and structures of local parks, analysis of student leisure at the college in the early 20th century, and non-profit attempts to "organize" leisure.

WRI 101 [K]: Justice and Piety
MWF 8:30-9:20
Shaw
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 [L]: Writing in and Out of Place
TR 1:40-2:55
Hillard

Who we are is in many ways a function of where we have been, where we are now, and where we long to be. Each of us occupies a geography, an architecture, a natural or built environment that, if only temporarily, contextualizes our existence. We are spatial creatures to such an extent that our key metaphors for thought itself-wandering, ranging, prospecting, circling, settling in-depend on movement within, across or through an imagined territory.

This course uses descriptive and conceptual writing to represent and to interrogate our relationship to place. Because most of us tend to take both natural and built environments for granted, we will use creative and critical techniques designed to defamiliarize the known, to bring the unseen into full view, and to recover the felt sense of being in place. We will read philosophers, cultural theorists, architects, naturalists, and anthropologists, all of whom theorize the experience of place. We will turn to the peripatetic tradition, where walking, wandering, and getting lost are thought to be liberating to the mind and body. We will also attend to the flâneur, the walker in the city who has come to represent a position of some abandon, at home in public space. The course reveals the techniques, sensibilities, and dispositions associated with academic writing, and invites students to fashion themselves as critical readers and engaged writers of intellectual discourse.

This is a special writing course taught across Davidson and Wellesley Colleges. Once a week, the course will be simulcast to Davidson and Wellesley. Writers at both sites will discuss the reading and writing assignments and will be given opportunities to comment on one another's written drafts so that students may experience the rewards of writing for a larger public. This special arrangement is supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

WRI 101 [M]: Immigration in the Americas
MWF 11:30-12:15
Crandall, B.
Immigration from Latin America to the United States has consistently captured public attention and framed political debate. Latin American immigrants comprise approximately one-half of U.S. immigrants, and have historically served as political lightning rods for their controversial contribution to national identity and economic development. Gaining an exhaustive expertise on all aspects of Latin-U.S. immigration is not the goal of the course. Rather, it is to dive into various aspects of immigration to gain a deeper understanding of the root causes, effects, and responses to this economic, social, and political phenomenon. The course will pay specific attention to the cases of immigration from Mexico and Honduras. It will cover historical as well as contemporary immigration policymaking by the United States government. Finally, the course looks at other issues related to immigration, such as the contemporary anti-immigration movement, immigration enforcement, and the immigrant experience in the United States. Films and novels will be used to supplement the themes of the course.

WRI 101 [N]: Racism and White Privilege
MWF 11:30-12:20
Foley

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 [O]: What is a Body?
MWF 12:30-1:20
Horowitz 

This course examines the ways in which we bring our own life experiences to bear on the texts we read and interpret, the topics we choose to study, and the manner in which we write. We will explore these issues through a guiding question that, like the acts of reading, writing, and research, may at first seem neutral or obvious but on further inspection gives rise to a more nuanced set of questions: Is the body a biological fact, a social production, or some combination of the two? Is it a subject, an object, or both? How do race, gender, class, sexuality, and disability affect the way a person experiences his or her own body, makes assumptions about other bodies, and is perceived by other people? Whose or what kind(s) of bodies are at stake in a given text? Why those bodies and not others? What are the ethics of writing about others' bodies? How do different academic disciplines think and write about the body? By negotiating these and other questions together, we will challenge each others' viewpoints; expand our socio-cultural knowledge bases; and become more thoughtful, informed, and responsible scholars.

WRI 101 [P]: What is a Body?
MWF 1:30-2:20
Horowitz
This course examines the ways in which we bring our own life experiences to bear on the texts we read and interpret, the topics we choose to study, and the manner in which we write. We will explore these issues through a guiding question that, like the acts of reading, writing, and research, may at first seem neutral or obvious but on further inspection gives rise to a more nuanced set of questions: Is the body a biological fact, a social production, or some combination of the two? Is it a subject, an object, or both? How do race, gender, class, sexuality, and disability affect the way a person experiences his or her own body, makes assumptions about other bodies, and is perceived by other people? Whose or what kind(s) of bodies are at stake in a given text? Why those bodies and not others? What are the ethics of writing about others' bodies? How do different academic disciplines think and write about the body? By negotiating these and other questions together, we will challenge each others' viewpoints; expand our socio-cultural knowledge bases; and become more thoughtful, informed, and responsible scholars.

WRI [Q]: Burden of Evidence
MWF 2:30-3:20
Fernández
A civil society depends, in part, on participants' ability to acknowledge their intellectual limitations and approach evidence with an open mind. Yet in our age of increasing polarization, appeals to reason often go unheard. How do we come to know what we know? What kind of evidence do we privilege? Why do we struggle to accept evidence that does not conform to our expectations? What is the role of error and failure in the process of knowing? In this course, we will examine these and other related questions through scholarly and public writings on important debates of our time. By the end of the course, students will be able to conduct a well-researched and analyzed case study on an error with far-reaching public consequences. 

WRI 101 [R]: The Ethical Diet
TR 3:05-4:20
Jankovic
What is good food? The first thing that comes to mind is that good food is simply food that is tasty and healthy. However, our dietary choices have wide ranging consequences. Our eating habits affect non-human animals, local and non-local economies, the environment, and other people. We should seriously consider the idea that in deciding what to eat we make important moral choices.

In this course, we will aim to acquire tools and information that will help us think clearly about our food choices. We will ask questions such as: Does the suffering involved in the industrial farming of animals make it immoral to consume animal products? Do we have moral obligations to non-human animals? To what extent do our food habits contribute to social injustice? Is the amount of food waste produced in rich countries immoral, given that billions of people are hungry? We will look at several contemporary movements that try to address the ethical problems with the standard American diet: vegetarianism, veganism, locavorism, urban foraging (dumpster diving), and the anti-GMO movement. We will aim to clearly articulate and assess the conception of good eating developed by these movements. We will consider whether, given the different cultural and religious values that influence our food choices, there can be a reasonable food policy that would apply to a large number of people.

I hope that by writing and thinking about these issues you will come appreciate the variety of esthetic, cultural, and moral values that can be reflected in our conception of good food.