Fall 2014 First Year Writing Seminar Courses

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151. First-Year Writing Seminar.
Degree Requirement: F2s

A course that develops the ability to read and think critically, to employ discussion and writing as a means of exploring and refining ideas, and to express those ideas in effective prose. Individual sections of the course will explore different topics in reading, discussion, and writing. Topics are selected by individual professors and are designed to help students develop transferable skills of analysis and argumentation, applicable to the various disciplines of the liberal arts and sciences. Several papers will be required, at least one of which will involve use of the library and proper documentation. The seminar will emphasize successive stages of the writing process, including prewriting, drafting, and revision, and will provide feedback from classmates and the instructor.


FYWS 151. Dark Penmanship: African Americans and Writing.
In writing, “My feet have been so cracked with the frost, that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes,” Frederick Douglass captures the perverse relationship(s) African Americans maintained with the act of writing. “Dark Penmanship” is a course designed to expose the first-year student to the intricacies of critical writing/reading through a creative surveying of African American writers and the ways in which they composed their narratives for a larger American readership.

Section 01 MWF 09:00-09:50 am
Section 02 MWF 10:00-10:50 am
Professor Ernest Gibson


FYWS 151. Telling Contemporary Secrets.
In this section of the First Year Writing Seminar, students will consider the significance of secrets for instance, about sex, surveillance, or the state in contemporary American culture. Analyzing genres like the memoir, controversies like the NSA domestic spying program, and literary works like Chang-rae Lee¹s Native Speaker, this course explore how secrets are maintained or disclosed, and what such secrets reveal about life in the present-day United States. What role do secrets play in determining who belongs to families, ethnic communities, and the nation? What do representations of secrecy suggest about contemporary understandings of memory, betrayal, and security?

Section 03 MWF 11:00-11:50 am
Section 05 MWF 01:00-01:50 pm
Professor Amanda Dykema


FYWS 151: Oral History and Oral Tradition.
In today’s world with its dependence on print and electronic media, it is worthwhile to ask ourselves what roles the spoken word continues to play in our society and in our lives. In what ways are oral traditions embedded in historical sources, and how might history, in turn, derive from oral tradition? In what ways do our own traditions inform our responses to fiction, history, and the world around us? What ethical and social issues are involved in the collection of oral histories or traditional narratives? These and related questions will help guide our reading and discussion across four units, each of which will culminate in a tightly focused paper. Our first unit will involve work with the oral history collections of Crossroads to Freedom, a digital, multimedia archive sponsored by Rhodes College that documents Memphis in the Civil Rights era. Next, we will explore how works of fiction can incorporate concepts from oral history by reading Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. In the third unit, you will be asked to research oral traditions within your own families or communities, applying relevant approaches and concepts from The Oral History Reader (Routledge). Finally, you will research a specific oral tradition or oral history collection, drawing extensively on print and electronic library resources in the preparation of an annotated bibliography and research project. Throughout the entire semester, we will analyze various modes of oral and written communication with the primary goal of increasing awareness of the complex factors that guide our many choices as writers.

Section 04 MWF 12:00-12:50 pm
Professor Lori Garner


FYWS 151: Revolution at 33 1/3 : The Album as Text.
Over the past decade critics have posited the death of the album, with the rise of online consumption emphasizing singles, personal playlists, and Internet radio programmed via algorithm. Has the digital download brought an end to the immersive experience of putting on headphones and getting lost for an hour in a visceral text that has been painstakingly recorded and sequenced? Before we write the obituary and list the MP3 as the cause of death it is worth considering that the album has survived similar threats from the 45 RPM single, cassette tape, and compact disc. Providing a structure that can expand in scope and depth over the isolated song, the album format has been essential to how we have engaged the work of artists ranging from Frank Sinatra and the Beatles to Radiohead and Kanye West. This course will use chapters from the 33 1/3 book series to explore the aesthetic and cultural context of popular music through varying rhetorical strategies. The writing exercises will develop research skills and challenge students to think critically about the ways in which politics, history, and social values are articulated through the album form.

Section 06 MWF 02:00-02:50 pm
Professor Keith Corson


FYWS 151. Reflections on Satire. 
Christopher Hitchens once wrote that “the smug satire of liberal humorists debases our comedy—and our national conversation.” At the same time, however, popular opinion has named Jon Stewart one of America’s most trusted newscasters. This class will focus on the features and functions of satire in the past and present as we use the linked practices of reading, writing, and discussion to develop your critical thinking and compositional skills. The syllabus will pair works by Horace, Juvenal, Jonathan Swift, and Mark Twain with pieces by modern practitioners like Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the writers of Saturday Night Live. What was changed? What hasn’t? What’s really at stake? Swift wrote that “satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody′s face but their own.” We will look at satire itself and generate our own conversations about its place and purpose in cultural discourse.

Section 07 TR 09:30 am-10:45 am
Section 11 TR 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Professor Seth Rudy


FYWS 151. Science and Value in the Ancient World. 
This course was designed especially for students who wish to explore how values—particularly those discussed in the “Search for Values” course—intersect with our understanding of the natural world. Our focus will be on the beliefs, practices, and technologies concerning nature that ancient civilizations embraced. We will consider a range of questions (e.g., “What does it mean to be human?” and “What relationships and responsibilities do humans have to non-humans?”) and practices (e.g., medicine, agriculture, and cosmology) that characterized early cultures up through Classical Greece. We will discover a rich variety of views about the connection between nature and values. While some peoples, for instance, believed divine beings determined human health and so relied on rituals to cure diseases, others (such as the Egyptian, Imhotep) carefully scrutinized physical conditions and sought to develop curative drugs and even surgeries. Though these peoples lacked what we would call the scientific method, they weren’t uninterested in or blind to the impact the natural world had on their pursuit of meaningful living. Students who take this course must co-enroll in Professor Shade’s “Search” course (HUM 101, section 8) so that we can pair our work with some of the classic texts on values, from Homer to the Bible and Greek thinkers. If you have questions, please contact Prof. Shade at Shade@Rhodes.edu.

Section 08 TR 09:30-10:45 am
Professor Patrick Shade


FWYS 151. The New Yorker 
Harold Ross, the first publisher of The New Yorker, once projected that his magazine would “hate bunk,” and sure enough, nearly 90 years later, The New Yorker still publishes writing unparalleled in its sophistication, currency, and craft. In this section of the First Year Writing Seminar, students will learn the craft of writing critically and creatively from some of the best prose stylists in the country. Each week we will read the latest copy of The New Yorker and decide, as a class, which articles we want to analyze. Favorite readings in the past include “You Belong to Me: How Taylor Swift made teen angst into a business industry”; “House Perfect: Is the IKEA ethos comfy or creepy?”; “The Face of Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg opens up”; and “The Story of a Suicide: Two college roommates, a webcam, and a tragedy.” We will read and write about such topics as shopping, art, crime, medicine, social networking, political campaigns, pop stars, and subjects heretofore unimaginable.

Section 09 TR 11:00 am-12:15 pm
Professor Rebecca Finlayson


FYWS 151. Text us… 
In daily conversation, the word “text” usually refers to a message sent from a mobile phone. However, the word, from the Latin textus, derives from a root that means “to make,” and it has a long history; in the form texere, it first meant “to weave.” Texts, from textiles to textbooks and text messages, are, and always have been, created or constructed.

In education, texts are the fabric of our lives—books, films, music, paintings, plans, reports, and records that others have “made” are indispensable. College students are expected to respond to these by “texting,” carefully constructing their own written responses that are in keeping with academic convention. For that reason, this class is designed to develop students’ abilities to read texts and contexts, and to become skilled critics and crafters of writing themselves.

During this course, students will experience, analyze, and respond not only to texts about texts, but also to verbal, visual, and sound material drawn from a variety of genres, including literature and pop culture. This is a forum in which you may read an essay by Zadie Smith and analyze a blog by Dave Zirin, think critically about a column by Geoff Calkins and giggle at Gaylord Focker, or read a story by Mark Behr even as you think about Sugar Bear. In this class, you will be prepared (in the many senses of that word) for texts that might include “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo!” and you will surely text about them.

Enrollment in this course will privilege students seeking a multinational classroom experience.

Section 10 TR 11:00 am-12:15 pm
Section 13 TR 02:00 pm-03:15 pm
Professor Anne Reef


FYWS 151. White Trash, NASCAR, and Fried Chicken: Constructions of the American South. 
This class will look closely at the American South, and investigate the myriad ways this region is represented in our popular culture. By looking at a cross section of texts, including literary works, pieces of journalism, music, films, documentaries, and photographic images, we will explore not only how the South is viewed today, but also the ways in which it has been scripted throughout American history. Over the course of the semester we will consider stereotypical portrayals of the Land of Dixie alongside texts that work to develop a more nuanced understanding of the American South. How do these texts work to complicate, dismantle, or reinforce previous assumptions regarding the region? By addressing these questions and many more, we will begin to form an understanding of how and why the South is scripted and remembered in very particular ways. This class is designed to develop your ability to write clear and effective argumentative prose. We will approach writing not as a product, but as a process that involves recognizing, developing, and effectively expressing our most interesting questions as compelling arguments. Requiring the analysis of not only assigned readings, but also each other′s writing, this class emphasizes revision as an indispensable part of the critical-thinking process.

Section 12 TR 12:30 am-01:45 pm
Professor Jessica Maxwell


FYWS 151. “God Bless America: Contemporary Ethical Issues and Religion in the U.S." 
Why is same-sex marriage both a religious and political issue? Is it the job of religious communities or the government to legislate marriage? How can one church take a pacifist stance on all forms of violence while another supports war as a necessary means of political force? How do religious communities view issues related to global warming and sustainability, and how do these views affect energy policies across the country? Religion continues to exert an incredible influence upon contemporary American culture. This course will explore the complex interplay among cultural, religious, and social forces in light of contemporary ethical, political, and moral issues. Throughout the course, students will both examine and develop arguments related to issues such as same-sex marriage, climate change, war and violence, healthcare, and social welfare.

Section 14 MW 03:00 pm-04:15 pm
Professor Brad Onishi


First Year Writing Seminar 155
Daily Themes
(A Special Section of the First-Year Writing Seminar)

An alternative to FYWS 151 offered to outstanding first-year writers, by invitation from the Director of College Writing. The course is limited to 12 students who meet as a class once a week and individually with the instructor or in small groups with the Writing Fellow once a week. Students will turn in 4 one-page themes each week. Some research and writing will be required, and students will use their daily themes as the basis for two longer papers: one at mid term and the other at the end of the semester. Students may not take both FYWS 151 and FYWS 155.

Degree Requirement: F2s

The New Yorker

Harold Ross, the first publisher of The New Yorker, once projected that his magazine would “hate bunk,” and sure enough, nearly 90 years later, The New Yorker still publishes writing unparalleled in its sophistication, currency, and craft. Each week we will read the latest copy of the magazine and decide, as a class, which articles we want to analyze. Students in the class write critical reactions daily, and few prompts are given, allowing students to explore the subject and rhetoric most provocative to them. Students receive substantial feedback on their daily written work and spend the semester developing both their writer’s voice and rhetorical skills, all the while reading and analyzing some of the best prose stylists in the country. Favorite readings in the past include “Trial by Fire: Did Texas execute an innocent man?”; “The Borrowers: Why rent when you can buy?”; “Drinking Games: How much people drink may matter less than how they drink it”; “The Mask of Doom: A nonconformist rapper’s second act”; and “Getting In: The social logic of Ivy League admissions.” We will read and write about such topics as crime, music, neuroscience, social networking, presidential candidates, celebrities, shopping, and subjects heretofore unimaginable. You should have earned a B+ or higher in your senior English course. FYWS 155 meets once each week.

To be considered for FYWS 155: Daily Themes, please email a brief letter of interest and a writing sample to Finlayson@rhodes.edu no later than July 15th, 2014. You should have earned a B+ or higher in your senior English course.

R 02:00-03:15 pm
Professor Rebecca Finlayson