Fall 2015 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 08:00-08:50 am
Professor Ernest Gibson


FYWS 151. Stereotypes in Advertising.  

The course explores the cultural implications of stereotypes usage in consumer and popular culture. This cultural studies course focuses on the stereotypical representation of other nationalities in American advertising, but includes other groups based on ethnicity, gender, age, and social status. It provides analyses, historical overview, and theoretical background. This is a Modern Languages Course and a writing seminar which fulfills the F2 requirement.

Section 02 MW 03:00-04:15 pm
Professor Felix Kronenberg


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 03 MWF 10:00-10:50 am
Section 06 MWF 12:00-12:50 pm
Professor Lori Garner


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 and controversies like the NSA domestic spying program, 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 04 MWF 10:00-10:50 am
Section 05 MWF 11:00-11:50 am
Professor Amanda Dykema


FYWS 151: Contemporary Film Directors.      

Since the introduction of Auteur theory in the 1950s, scholars and critics have shown a preoccupation with the director’s role in shaping a film’s meaning. Canonizing filmmakers like Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, and Alfred Hitchcock, auteur critics have played a central role in guiding serious consideration of cinema by aligning it with traditional notions of artistic practice. Complicated by the collaborative nature of film production, auteur status has been reserved for directors whose entire body of work exhibits a singular approach to aesthetic and thematic elements. In this course students will write papers focused on contemporary directors using a number of rhetorical strategies. Assignments will help develop research skills and challenge students to think critically about texts by considering the social, cultural, political, and aesthetic dimensions of cinema. Readings will inform discussions and written exercises, inviting students to enter into a critical dialogue with a wide array of scholars, fans, journalists, theorists, historians, and artists. Filmmakers featured in this course include: Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Wachowskis, Darren Aronofsy, David O. Russell, and Michel Gondry.

Section 08 MWF 01:00-01:50 pm
Section 09 MWF 02:00-02:50 pm
Professor Keith Corson


FYWS 151. Myths of Love: Ancient, Medieval, Modern.      

Love is pervasive, sorrowful, joyous. Regardless of one’s definition of it, love is undeniably a lasting obsession of humankind. Yet, we rarely reflect on the narratives and myths that undergird our conceptions of what seems to be a fundamental component of human life. Rather than attempting to identify love’s true nature or unchanging substance, this course explores prevalent and marginal understandings of love in order to explore what they can tell us about being human. Through interdisciplinary readings from literary, historical, philosophical, and religious sources, we analyze the driving assumptions that lay behind our most influential myths of love, as well as explore how and why other accounts of love have been marginalized. In this way, we shall use the theme of love to ask questions about human identity, desire, and purpose. Readings include Plato’s Symposium, medieval commentaries on the Song of Songs, the letters of Abelard and Heloise, Petrach’s poetry, and selections from contemporary theory, film, and literature.

Section 10 MW 03:00-04:15 pm
Professor Bradley Onishi


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 cheer Z-Bo, read a column by Geoff Calkins and laugh 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 “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo!” and you will surely text about it.

Section 11 TR 09:30-10:45 am
Section 13 TR 12:30-01:45 pm
Professor Anne Reef


FYWS 151. Reflections on Satire.        

In October 2009, Christopher Hitchens wrote, “the smug satire of liberal humorists debases our comedy—and our national conversation.” At the same time, however, popular opinion 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. Satire, Jonathan Swift observed, is a mirror in which one sees everyone’s face reflected but one’s own. We will look at satire itself and generate our own conversations about its place and purpose in cultural discourse.

Section 12 TR 12:30-01:45 pm
Section 14 TR 03:30-04:45 pm
Professor Seth Rudy


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 1st, 2015. You should have earned a B+ or higher in your senior English course.

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