Profile of a FWIS: Past, Present, and Future

FWIS 167, The Five Gospels: How Were They Written?
FWIS 183, Famous Fakes in Early Christian Literature

An Interview with Grant Adamson, Instructor

What do you think is interesting/distinctive about this FWIS course?
I think my courses are interesting because they are puzzling, in the best way. The mind craves definitive answers. But in The Five Gospels (FWIS 167), we start out with a problem in biblical studies known as the synoptic problem that is liable to induce continued head-scratching. While there are only a few viable solutions to the problem, none of them readily accounts for all the evidence. So it becomes a matter of deciding which is the least unsatisfactory. It’s the same with my other course. Certain texts that we study in Famous Fakes in Early Christian Literature (FWIS 183) could have been forged, or they could be genuine. There are supporting points on both sides.

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS this semester?
In my fall courses, for the first time I’m going to teach students to prepare and present Weekly Writing Tips. I’m going to do this in addition to my regular instruction in the aspects of argument and evidence, organization and flow, introductions and conclusions. These will be brief, individual oral presentations. Students will each have a turn to read a chapter from a book on writing, identify a tip they want to try in their current paper, then present the tip with examples in class. I’m excited for these presentations.

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
I hope students come away from my courses with an inquisitiveness and a confidence – the former, so that they will ask how we know what we know, whatever the subject; and the latter, so that they will stand on their own two feet as critical thinkers able to make evidence-based arguments.

FWIS 160, Life Narrative/Narrating Life

An Interview with Joanna Fax, Instructor

How did you get interested in this particular topic?
I first got interested in life narratives as a writer. The genre’s versatility – the range of experimentation it offers to writers of nonfiction – really inspired me. As an avid reader of life narrative, I am fascinated by the way these texts attempt to represent different ways of thinking about and seeing the world.  

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS course this semester?
I’m really excited for the unit on digital life narratives – facebook, personal blogs, dating websites, and the like.  Each of these formats tells a story, but it’s an open question, I’d say, as to what it means to consider them a part of the life narrative genre. I’m looking forward to hearing what students think about that.

What is one thing you hope students will draw from this FWIS?
There are infinite ways to represent the true details of a life.

FWIS 189, Post-Apocalyptic Literature and Film

An Interview with Laura Richardson, Instructor

What do you think is interesting/distinctive about this FWIS course?
In one word? Zombies. In many words? Post-apocalyptic texts have a rare combination of excitement, prescience, and targeted cultural commentary that make the study of this genre both fascinating and rewarding to the careful analyst. But also, zombies. 

How did you get interested in this particular topic?
I’ve always been an avid SF (science fiction) fan, and have presented papers on George A. Romero’s films (Night of the Living Dead, etc.) at conferences. Post-ap fiction has particularly interested me because it’s currently in its heyday—the surge in this genre’s appearance in movies, novels, comics and graphic novels, and TV shows in the past decade alone evinces that post-ap is the genre of our time.

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS this semester?
I’ve redesigned the course for this fall, and have included a few new texts. I can’t wait to talk about one new text, in particular—Ben Marcus’ The Flame Alphabet. Whereas previous sections of FWIS 189 have spent equal time among monsters, nuclear disasters, and disease, this semester will be more cerebral. We’ll spend more time talking about communication, in the many senses of the word (including contagion). But rest assured, there will still be plenty of monsters.

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
The number one focus in my FWISes is always writing. Come December, every student in my class will be a better writer and will be proficient in college-level composition. Beyond that and a general appreciation for post-ap and SF, I hope students learn from my course the importance of getting to know their professors. One of Rice’s best attributes is its strong community, and this strength extends from the collegiate system to the classroom.

What advice do you have for first-year students (about FWIS or their first semester in general)?
College makes you smarter by challenging your intellect and ideas. Make time to take courses that interest you and push you out of your comfort zones. Even if you have to take some of your core credits in the summer or rethink that double major, take art, dance, computer science, economics, religious studies, and/or English courses that sound compelling to you.