Profile of a FWIS: The Artistry of Music, Film, and Graphic Novels

FWIS 137, Popular Music and American Culture

An Interview with Andy Klein, Instructor

How did you get interested in this particular topic?
I became interested in this topic because I love music and the ways in which people identify with it and talk about it. I've played in lots of bands over the years and have been an obsessive music fan for most of my life. The bands have never really worked out (yet), but the fanaticism is still there and, fortunately, there is an incredible amount of good writing about popular music these days. I've also found that it's an effective way of getting at some of the same big questions that people have always asked in the humanities: Why do we like what we like? What does it mean to be authentic? What is the relationship between a work of art and its historical context?   

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS this semester?
I'm especially excited about this new book called How to Write About Music, which breaks things down by topic: the album review, the live review, the band profile, etc. Each section has some really great examples--ie. Lou Reed reviewing Yeezus, Simon Morrison writing about dance clubs in Kosovo--and, best of all, great advice from working music writers. I'm also really excited to hear about what students are into as that tends to drive the course each semester. 

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
Beyond learning about different styles of music, different forms of music writing, and different interpretive frameworks, I hope that students will learn to to see writing as an exploratory process through which they can learn about themselves and the world.

FWIS 198, Family in Fiction and Film

An Interview with Burke Nixon, Instructor

How did you get interested in this particular topic?
I wanted to choose a topic that we all have experience with and that would allow me a chance to share and discuss some of my all-time favorite short stories, novellas, and movies with a group of first-year students. Stories about family are always fascinating to me, and they always seem to lead to other complicated and interesting topics (i.e. class, gender, race, love, religion, etc.). 

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS this semester?
I’m really excited to assign and discuss stories about family from some really incredible writers. Junot Diaz! J.D. Salinger! James Baldwin! Jamaica Kincaid! John Cheever! And those are just the ones whose names start with J…

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
I hope that we’ll use our topic as a springboard to learn how to communicate more clearly and effectively. I want students to leave the course with a clear sense of how to apply what they learned to the many other communication tasks they’ll encounter at Rice and beyond.

FWIS 108, Graphic Novels and the Art of Communication

An Interview with Dave Messmer, Instructor

What do you think is interesting/distinctive about this FWIS course?
Comic books!  More specifically, this topic really challenges us to consider/question the differences between the visual and the textual, popular culture and high art, and the social and the aesthetic.  

How did you get interested in this particular topic?
It all started with watching Lynda Carter play Wonder Woman when I was two.  As I've grown older I've found that the comics medium is so much more than superheroes, and the innovation taking place at the moment makes the medium an exciting and rewarding one to study.  But I still love Wonder Woman.

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS this semester?
This semester I've decided to focus on recent works - mainly books published in the last ten years.  That means I've included several books that I've never taught before, which is always a fun new challenge.  Also, for the second semester in a row we will have the privilege of welcoming Terry Moore - a world famous graphic novelist - to one of our classes for a discussion.

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
I hope every FWIS helps to improve students' writing skills.  In this FWIS in particular, I hope students learn to take comics seriously as art and as literature - even the ones featuring spandex clad people who can fly.

What advice do you have for first-year students (about FWIS or their first semester in general)?
Don't be afraid to ask for help.  There are a lot of resources available to you if you're struggling, whether those struggles are academic or personal.  If you need help and aren't sure where to get it, ask a professor or RA or Master, or even a friend.  Someone will point you in the right direction.  If you're struggling in FWIS specifically, talk to your professor (we're nice, I promise), and make use of the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication (CWOVC).