Projects in Reading and Writing

W170 — Spring 2019

Days and Times
Multiple days/times
Course Description


IUB GenEd English Composition credit - COLL (CASE) English Composition credit


TOPIC: "With Whom We Share the World: Human and Animal Companionship in Art and Culture"

Instructor: Nathan Schmidt

7363 (MWF: 9:05-9:55, BH 321) / 2541 (MWF: 10:10-11:00, BH 221)

Have you ever looked into the eyes of a beloved dog, cat, or goldfish, and wondered what they saw when they looked back at you? Science has offered a number of interesting answers to this question, but poets, prose writers, filmmakers, and artists have been asking this question since long before the advent of modern animal psychology and physiology, and they continue to ask it today. In this course, we will consider cultural and artistic representations of non-human animals and their relationship to the human species. What is the nature of these relationships, and what can they teach us about ourselves and the animal others with whom we share the world? We will learn what it means to see a text as a unique and limited representation, and we will learn a number of new analytical tools that will help us think and write about the interconnected relationships between humans and animals on our planet in a rigorous, fruitful, and exciting way. We will read, write, and think about domestic animals, wild animals, and animals that are facing endangerment and extinction, considering a diverse array of texts from the memoirs of Mark Doty to the short fiction of Italo Calvino, and watching films by Guillermo del Toro and Werner Herzog.


TOPIC: "The Devil Made Me Do It"

Instructors: Kortney Stern/Maggie Gilchrist

Stern: 6504 (MWF: 10:10-11:00, WH 106) /13064 (MWF: 9:05-9:55, WH 109)

Gilchrist: 5564 (MWF: 1:25-2:15, SYC 0009)/ 13063 (MWF: 2:30-3:20, BH 015)

Whether as dealmaker, seducer, or sympathetic monster, the devil is a figure that has preoccupied readers, writers, and viewers since Eve’s first bite. Never out of style, Lucifer is a figure that not only uses individuals but also one that gets used for multifaceted contextual needs. The list of references for the devil are almost infinite, showing that the devil is deeply connected to and intertwined with the ways in which we, as people both past and present, understand consequences, limitations and pleasures of the human experience.  This course will grapple with the complex purpose that the devil serves and how it bridges cultural explorations and questions about desire, gender, embodiment, corporeal limitations and anxieties.  By engaging with sources like the recent film The Witch; television series Lucifer and Supernatural; music videos and songs by the Rolling Stones and Ariana Grande; primary sources such as Benét's "The Devil and Daniel Webster"; and secondary texts such as Sweeney's "Hell Is a Myth--Actually, a Bunch of Myths," we will be able to unite past and present through the figure of the devil.


TOPIC: "All You Need is Love?: Representations of Romance in Popular Culture"

Instructor: Samantha Tett

2543 (TR: 2:30-3:45, SYC 004)/ 13536 (TR: 4:00-5:15, SYC 004)

From Jane Austen to Call Me By Your Name, this course traces representations of romantic love in popular culture. In investigating the enormous cultural pull of romantic love, we will ask questions like: where do our ideas of romantic love come from? What are its identifiable features? How has it been subverted? And what are the implications--personal and cultural--of our long-lasting obsession with it? Paying particular attention to the ways in which gender and sexuality intersect with representations of romance, we will consider these questions through a range of cultural objects, such as films, TV shows, magazine articles, love poems, legal definitions, song lyrics, TEDTalks, and music videos.


TOPIC: "Why Fairy Tales?"

Instructor: Grace Schmitt

4621 (TR: 9:30-10:45, SYC 212)

Cinderella. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. These are stories we all know and think we understand. But what are fairy tales, and why do we tell them? How do they change over time? These constant, yet ever-evolving cultural touchstones help us think through social concerns like gender, class, and politics. This course will utilize both classic and modern retellings of fairy tales to teach basic composition skills, including comparison/contrast, visual analysis, and research fundamentals fulfilling the English Composition requirement. Over the course of the semester, we will consider some of the major tropes of fairy tales, analyze both textual and visual adaptations of fairy tales, and grapple with both how and why we continue to rewrite fairy tales. At the end of the semester, students will complete an independent research project centered around a text of their own choosing.


TOPIC: "It's Alive: Representations of Science in Literature and Film"

Instructor: Christie Debelius

5563 (MWF: 11:15-12:05, BH 206)

What do Frankenstein’s monster and Eleven from Stranger Things have in common? For one thing, both characters are the subjects of terrifying scientific experiments and technological innovations. But why does fiction so often represent science and technology in this light? Are we really that afraid of science, or do we just use depictions of science as way to explore other concerns, like gender, class, race, and power? In this course, we will explore how we use fictional representations of science to explore cultural anxieties--both about science and about other social issues. Throughout the semester, we will examine representations of science in literature and film through multiple perspectives, beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and traveling up through contemporary film and television. Who, according to these pop culture texts, gets to practice and benefit from science? To what extent is a creator obligated to their creation or to a larger community? What makes depictions of science an ideal venue for exploring a variety of cultural fears? Texts for analysis will likely include the novel  Frankenstein, the films Ex Machina and Black Panther, and the television show Stranger Things. Through our exploration of these ideas, students will gain considerable practice in college-level writing by completing a variety of analytical writing assignments. At the end of the course, students will complete an independent final research project on a course-related text of their own choosing.


TOPIC: "Performing the News: Journalism, Parody, and the Culture Industry"

Instructor: Daniel O’Keefe

2542 (TR: 2:30-3:45, SYC 0009)/ 6952 (TR: 5:45-7:00, SYC 004)

Long before the phrase “fake news” took on its current significance as politically motivated misinformation, the hosts of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” used the term to describe the then-new genre of joke-telling disguised as a network news broadcast. Today this form dominates late night comedy, and the comedians who write and perform it are looked to for commentary, critique, and information almost as often as journalists are. But when did this become their job? Drawing on media theory and debates about the culture industry, this course asks: how do we tell the difference between news and entertainment? Can we distinguish between them based on the responses they’re meant to elicit? Are we skeptical of news that seems designed to prompt certain responses? Who’s authorized to report the news or to comment on it, and how do the technologies they use influence our reactions? To answer these questions we’ll be looking at genres of news and news parody in print, on television, and online, as well as films about journalism and the media. We’ll explore how these concerns intersect with broader questions about democracy, free speech, and the public sphere.


TOPIC: "A Pirate's Life for Me? Investigating Pirates"

Instructor: Jennifer Lopatin

13062 (MWF: 2:30-3:20, WH 203)

From the hit Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to "Talk Like a Pirate Day," the figure of the pirate abounds in the popular imagination. A grizzled sailor usually represented with an eyepatch, a cutlass, and a parrot, the pirate embodies freedom and revelry, but he or she also represents lawlessness and treachery. Why are we so drawn to these outlaws of the sea, especially in light of recent events like the attacks by the so-called Somalian pirates? How do modern discourses of Internet piracy reinforce or push against classic representations of pirates? This writing course seeks to interrogate primarily Western representations of pirates and piracy to explore how the image of the pirate is deployed for various ends.  Course texts will range from historical accounts to modern representations like Pirates of the Caribbean and Black Sails, and the course will culminate in a research-based analytical essay on a course-related text of each student's choice.


TOPIC: "So Extra: Representations of Minor Characters in Media"

Instructor: Samantha Demmerle

33640 (TR: 2:30-3:45, EDUC 3105)

To what extent is Pikachu a minor character or a major character in Pokémon? Is Chewbacca jealous of the attention Han Solo gets? Does Loki envy Thor because Thor gets more screen time? Is Patrick Star the "sidekick" of Spongebob? This course aims to explore the way that media organizes, frames, and uses "side" or "minor" figures in media and pop culture. In Western societies, narratives often include side or minor figures that complement their protagonist counterparts-- Robin to Batman, or Chewbacca to Han Solo-- but don't receive as much screen time or celebrity. This class will explore how television and film narratives define these characters, as well as the purposes they serve. The class will ask: What are the purposes of minor characters? How are minor characters represented in their narratives? How do race and gender affect the representation of minor characters? We will answer these questions by discussing shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Rick and Morty, films like Rogue One and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, as well as many others! The course will culminate with a student-driven analytical research project on a minor character of the student's choosing.


TOPIC: "Fairy Tales Rated R: the Uses, Abuses, and Cultural Meanings of Fairy Tales"

Instructor: Bianca Perez-Cancino

13539 (MWF: 9:05-9:55, BH 105)

Is there sex in fairy tales? Can fairy tales be violent or even gruesome? Are the fairy tales we love sexist? If you are intrigued or surprised by these questions, then this is the class for you. This course challenges the perception that fairy tales are merely for children, anti-academic, or unworthy of serious study. Instead we will take an analytical approach to fairy tales to investigate their role as ideological tools in past and present cultures. We will explore the origins and meanings beneath these deceptively simple stories as well as the ways different societies have used them to promote or undermine particular norms and beliefs. This course invites students to think of fairy tales in two ways: as cultural objects that are capable of reflecting, perpetuating, and challenging a culture’s ideologies and as rhetorical objects that aim to deliver their particular cultural messages through specific authorial choices.  Throughout the course students will read an array of classic fairy tales, for example, "Briar Rose" (or "Sleeping Beauty" as it is now known), "The Little Mermaid”, “Bluebeard," and "Beauty and the Beast," and view modern interpretations, like the live-action Beauty and the Beast and Maleficent. These texts will help us explore some of these stories’ darker, more unexpected themes. Through our examination of fairy tales, students will also develop the writing skills that are essential for a successful college career. We will complete a variety of writing assignments that culminate with an independent research project on a course-related text of the student’s choosing.