Fall 2015 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]: Silver Linings Playbook
TR 8:15-9:30

Psychological functioning has a profound effect on one’s health. In recent decades, research has focused on the contribution of positive emotions on overall well-being. This course will explore the intersection between healthcare and positive psychology. How does optimism relate to health outcomes? Is humor an effective treatment for pain? How and why do individuals experience growth after diseases/injuries? We will explore these questions through the reading/viewing and discussion of empirical articles, memoirs, case studies, and videos.

WRI 101 [B]: True Crime
TR 8:15-9:30
This course uses forensics to study the more general process of evaluating evidence. Reading, many of which will come from sources like The New Yorker magazine, will consist of reporting on notable real-life mysteries, both solved and unsolved; actual characters who execute, offend, and elude the law; and current quandaries in criminal law. A few films will also be included. Students’ writing will largely, though not exclusively, involve reporting on real crime in its many facets and from various perspectives.

WRI 101 [C]: Strangers: Xenia and Xenophobia
TR 8:15-9:30

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.

WRI 101[D]: The Politics of Food
TR 9:40-10:55
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 [E]: Writing China/China Writing
TR 9:40-10:55
The rise of China from self-isolation to global economic, political, and cultural influence is one of the most powerful developments of our age. It is a fast-changing story; it seizes our attention and doesn’t let go. Easy answers elude us; complexity overwhelms certainty. Developing a comprehensive understanding of contemporary China is not our goal; rather, we will dive into this fascinating nation to discover as much as we can and to challenge what we discover. Students will ask what “the rise of China” means, both for China and for the world. They will weigh the costs and benefits of China’s rapid economic and social change. And they will make arguments about the causes and consequences of China’s rise. In this course, you will develop the skills and practices of good writing by reading good writing that takes China as its subject. Our texts will include the work of Chinese authors (in English translation) as well as writing about China by non-Chinese authors. We will read multiple genres and styles, including fiction, memoir, opinion, social science and journalism. Through a sequence of writing assignments, students will cultivate skills in reading, argumentation, research, revision, and editing.

WRI 101 [F]: Russia and the West
TR 12:15-1:30
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 [G]: Burden of Evidence
TR 12:15-1:30
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 [H]: Building Stories
TR 1:40-2:55
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]: Intellectual Science Writing
TR 1:40-2:55
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]: Twitter Problems: Rhetoric and Social Media
TR 3:05-4:20
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 [K]: Justice and Piety
MWF 8:30-9:20
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]: The Public Intellectual Writer
MWF 9:30-10:20

By critically considering a variety of discourses by such writers as Michele Foucault, Judith Butler, Walker Percy, Anthony Appiah, and Hannah Arendt, we will describe and define the roles and responsibilities of writers typically thought of as public intellectuals. Such writers challenge the status quo, propose new concepts and theories, identify problematic modes of thought and behavior, and invite us to assess the assumptions and ideologic values which enable us to take aspects of our social existence for granted. We will identify the rhetorical and writerly moves most commonly associated with intellectual discourses, and students will learn techniques for making sophisticated analyses and arguments.

WRI 101 [M]: Writing about World Music
MWF 10:30-11:20
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 [N]: Racism and White Privilege
MWF 11:30-12:20

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]: Writing about World Music
MWF 11:30-12:20

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 [P]: School in the Novel
MWF 12:30-1:20
Many "classic" novels assigned in schools are considered books for young people, although their content is far removed from what is today classified as adolescent or young adult fiction. For example, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is populated by big people, little people, and talking horses; however, the text itself offers far more than a fanciful tale. During this course, we will explore four such novels: the aforementioned Gulliver, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. In addition to reading the novels, we will evaluate critics' comments regarding the literary and pedagogic value of these texts, and fashion new arguments in response. Often calling into question or undercutting traditional judgments, we will tackle a perennial question of scholarly and public interest: "Should the study of literature focus on the classics?"

WRI [Q]: Writing Criticism
MWF 1:30-2:20

A recent essay in Britain's Guardian claims that, at a time of millions of anonymous online reviews, when users of Facebook are constantly invited to tell the world what they "like," the cliché has come true: everyone's a critic. This section of WRI 101 focuses on criticism written for purposes beyond expressing a preference among consumer goods. It emphasizes instead the close analysis of texts such as short stories, advertisements, films, television shows, on-campus performances, and essays by professional critics, with thegoal of understanding more deeply the texts themselves and the cultures that produce them. Throughout the semester, we will respond to one another's writing, those responses being an essential form of criticism for this section of WRI 101. By the end of the course, students will be more attentive readers of a range of cultural texts, including their own prose.

WRI 101 [R]: Love, Sex, and Friendship
MWF 1:30-2:20

Sex, love, and friendship are three of the most meaningful and important areas of our lives. Yet, there is significant and sometimes violent disagreement over the many important questions concerning them. For instance, some have thought that homosexuality is morally impermissible, indeed even going so far as to execute those who engage in homosexual activities, while others have thought that homosexuality is no more or no less morally problematic than heterosexuality. Alternatively, some think that abortions are morally permissible under any conditions, while others think that abortion clinics are engaged in something tantamount to genocide. Often enough, people who discuss these issues can do little more than cite slogans in favor of their views. In this course, we will approach a number of topics concerning sex, love, and friendship in a more sophisticated way. We will do so first by reading essays written about them by prominent philosophers, social critics, and other intellectuals, and then by composing considered argumentative essays concerning them. In so doing, we will work to uncover many of the unreflective assumptions, biases, and categories of thought that infect our thinking and strive for deeper and more coherently articulated positions. In addition to reading and discussing the assigned essays, we will also discuss many facets of writing, including attention to sentence structure, argument construction, the principles of good rhetoric, and sound reasoning.

WRI 101 [S]: Writing Climate Change
MWF 8:30-9:20
We read, watch, and listen to climate change stories all the time: scary stories, hopeful stories, stories that function on global and more intimate scales. And we can picture the images these stories conjure: polar bears on ice, shrinking glaciers, parched landscapes, displaced communities. In this course, we're going to focus on climate change storytelling. What stories do people tell about climate change, and what are the stakes of these stories? Do some stories, angles, characters, or genres work better than others? (And what kind of work can climate change stories do?) This course takes as a starting premise that there is scientific consensus around the reality of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. Though we'll read plenty about the science of climate change, we won't be studying the science; rather, we will explore climate change storytelling as a way to think about-and practice-constructing arguments, using evidence, and experimenting with form. Together we will examine how journalists, scholars, filmmakers, and scientists frame questions and construct narratives about climate change. We'll also grapple with the place of storytelling in the public sphere, and add our own voices, stories, and arguments to contemporary conversations about climate change.