Spring 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. American Suburbia.  

This writing seminar focuses on the culture of American suburbia, paying particular attention to suburban life after 1945, when the suburbanization of America really took flight. Today roughly half of the nation lives in the suburbs, a phenomenon that has resulted in city abandonment, social segregation, environmental havoc, and the reorganization of political power. Are the suburbs, as critics have argued, a place of robotic conformity and racial division? Or are they heterogeneous and human, with a complex cultural fabric of their own? Who lives in suburbia and who doesn’t? How has the mythology of suburbia changed over time? Why are these havens, which epitomize the American dream, often a place of nightmares? What does the geography of suburbia say about those who live there? Is suburbia, as some scholars suggest, declining as people move back to the city? To explore these and other questions, we’ll consider the divide between cities and suburbs; the politics of race, class, and gender in suburbia; suburbia’s impact on national identity; religion’s role in suburban life; suburbia as a teenage wasteland; and several other issues. Prompts for critical thinking and writing will include essays, advertisements, artwork, newspaper articles, music, television, photography, literature, and film.  

Section 01 MWF 09:00-09:50 am
Professor Jason Richards


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 personal approach to aesthetic and thematic elements. In this course students will use a number of rhetorical strategies to write papers focused on contemporary directors who fit the auteur model.  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: Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Tyler Perry and Todd Haynes. 

Section 02 MWF 10:00-10:50 am
Section 03 MWF 11:00-11:50 am
Professor Keith Corson


FYWS 151: Adam Smith Goes Shopping

In the current aftermath of a financial crisis, now is a better time than most to give careful consideration to the work of Adam Smith, one of the first and still most insightful theorists of capitalism. In this course we will consider significant questions addressed by Smith from the vantage point of our own twenty-first century society: Do consumer goods improve our lives? Does the division of labor make us smarter or dumber? Does capitalism promote virtue? Does free trade promote political freedom? Our focus throughout will be on the philosophical and ethical questions that Smith emphasizes in his work. We begin by reading substantial portions of Smith’s two major books, Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and Wealth of Nations (1776). We then consider works by later writers who take up aspects of Smith’s argument, including contemporary economists such as Deirdre McCloskey and Nancy Folbre.

Section 04 MWF 12:00-12:50 pm
Section 06 MWF 02:00-02:50 pm
Professor Gordon Bigelow


FYWS 151: Thinking About Violence, Writing About Peace: A History of Non-Violent Resistance.

What should people do when others bring violence upon them? Do humans have a right to self-defense, even if that means meeting violence with more violence?  When we turn to history for answers, the most common opinion from the societies of the ancient Mediterranean world to Medieval Christendom to contemporary America is that force must be met with force, whether individuals suffer violence from a single assailant or fall victim to violence from their own governments.Yet, some dissenting views exist, most notably those of Socrates, Jesus, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. In this course, you will examine the various forms of non-violent resistance that these thinkers espoused. By confronting the radical nature of their political, social, and (sometimes) religious projects, which vigorously challenged the status quo of their societies, you will develop your own views about violent and non-violent resistance, all the while sharpening your critical thinking skills and enhancing the quality and persuasiveness of your writing.   

Section 05 MWF 12:00-12:50 pm
Professor Joseph Jansen


FYWS 151. God Bless America: Contemporary Ethical Issues and Religion in the United States.

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 07 MW 03:00 pm-04:15 pm
Professor Bradley Onishi


FYWS 151. Native Americans and Gender in Fiction, Photography, and Film: Flute Music Prohibited. 

We will begin with narratives about Native Americans and gender writ large in popular culture of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century United States. We will analyze fiction, photography, and films that gave rise to tropes like the noble savage, the depraved savage, the vanishing race, the Indian princess, and the squaw. We will place these images within the context of historical developments like Indian slave-holding, white migration west, industrialization, anti-modernism, and post-colonialism. At the same time, we will explore counter-narratives created by Native diplomats, authors, and filmmakers from these same periods. How did Native voices challenge, subvert, and redefine tribal and gendered identities? How did they disrupt colonial assumptions and reposition themselves in the world? Whom and what did they mark as crucial to their communities? You will write early and often. Critical reading of sources, clear argumentation, and development of your own voice will be emphasized throughout.  

Section 08 MW 03:00 pm-04:15 pm
Professor Dorothy Garceau-Hagen


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


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 October 31st, 2014. You should have earned a B+ or higher in your senior English course.

R 12:30 pm-01:45 pm
Professor Rebecca Finlayson