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FWIS 100 Courses

Introducing students to an academic field of inquiry

Based on the Composition Exam evaluations, some first-year students may be placed in FWIS 100 in the fall semester (and FWIS in the Spring). FWIS 100 introduces students to academic conversation through topic-based courses designed to develop the reading, writing, presentation, and critical thinking skills necessary to be successful in a FWIS seminar and many other Rice courses. Typical assignments might ask students to prepare a summary of a text, to keep a response journal, to present research on a specific topic, or to write a defense of an original idea.

As a prerequisite for FWIS, FWIS 100 uses engaging topics to introduce students to an academic field of inquiry. The course descriptions below are designed to give you an idea of the texts you will encounter and the subject matter you will explore as you develop the reading, writing, and presentation skills necessary to participate in an academic conversation.



Global English: Diversity, Demand, and Dominance

FWIS 100, Vasudha Bharadwaj, Section 6: TTh 9:25-10:40 / Section 7: TTh 10:50-12:05 / Section 8: TTh 1:00-2:15

English is the most widely spoken language in the world, and twice as many people use it as a second language as there are native speakers. It has been called a “world language,” a “global language,” and an “international language” and its widespread use is the result of a varied set of historical circumstances. Why is English used so extensively? What are the different forms of English? How does the use of English in a non-native setting affect how other languages are perceived? How do non-native / bilingual speakers of the language negotiate between multiple cultural and linguistic histories and traditions? In this course, students will discuss these questions as we examine the political and economic forces behind the spread of English. We will also discuss the meaning and implications of the “standardization” of English, and how it affects one’s perceptions of “non-standard” or localized forms of the language. Students will learn to consider how sociocultural, political, and economic factors have historically influenced decisions about education and language use. In doing so, we will collectively practice different forms of academic communication, including writing, discussion, and presentations, and students will hone skills fundamental to their success as critical thinkers, readers, and writers.

Building Dread: The Idea of Place in Gothic Horror

FWIS 100, John Ellis-Etchison, Section 11: TTh 4:00 – 5:15

Gothic horror uses architecture to build and convey dread, uncertainty, and even terror. What is it about beautiful, but dilapidated old buildings that lends them to the genre? How is it that these structures become so intimately linked to the people who live in them—not only their original occupants, but also later ones—through the kinds of trauma they share either metaphorically or literally? Gothic horror is entangled with the ideas of both family and home, and when something disturbs or disrupts these idealized constructions, bad things can happen. That is, much of gothic horror revolves around the desecration or destruction of families and family lines, and mirrors this in the physical structures the families inhabit. Over the course of the semester, we will look at an array of texts (novels, short stories, films, and articles) so as to better understand the relationship between horror and place. We will also use our engagement with these texts to practice our skills as critical readers and to develop the ways we think, talk, and write about what we read. 

The Cultural Meanings of Motherhood

FWIS 100, Elizabeth Cummins Munoz, Section 1: MWF 10:00-10:50 / Section 3: MWF 11:00-11:50 / Section 4: 1:00-1:50

How do social ideas about motherhood shape our lives? How do mothering ideals differ across cultures? How are our assumptions about parenthood challenged by adoptive and surrogate mothers, lesbian and trans mothers, or migrant mothers who live apart from children they leave behind? Over the semester, students will learn how to answer these questions and others as they take part in a peer-inspired scholarly conversation around mothering and families in society. Through guided close readings, writing and revision workshops, and extensive self-editing, students will develop the skills they need to share their ideas with authority and credibility. Students will have the opportunity to work together to create a scholarly journal and to present their work to peers in an academic conference-style panel.

Speculative Fiction and Social Justice

FWIS 100, Brittany Henry, Section 2: MWF 10:00-10:50

From tales of life on other planets, to futuristic visions of life on Earth, to imagined alternate realities that in some way mirror our own, the genre of speculative fiction (SF) has proven fertile ground for writers seeking to interrogate social structures and question the status quo. In fact, a growing number of writers in recent years have turned to SF to agitate for radical political change, engaging speculative imagination both to illuminate existing structures of oppression and to boldly envision alternative possibilities. In this course, we will collaborate to analyze a range of SF texts that take on issues including immigration, environmental justice, racial violence, reproductive rights, and economic exploitation. In the process, we will consider the following questions: What strategies do writers use to connect their imagined worlds to contemporary issues? Is SF an effective tool for activism or does it run the risk of becoming escapist entertainment? Can SF play a meaningful role in cultural conversations about social justice? As we work to answer these questions, we will build skills in critical analysis and argumentation through guided close reading, discussion, oral presentations, and reflective and analytical writing.

Post-Apocalyptic Literature and Film

FWIS 100, Laura Richardson, Section 9: TTh 2:30-3:45 / Section 10: TTh 9:25-10:40

What would the world be like after a pandemic, nuclear war, large asteroid collision, or ecological disaster? The post-apocalyptic genre considers these very questions, often tracking a small group of survivors as they reconfigure human society while navigating new environmental dangers and devastation. Like much science fiction, the post-apocalyptic is a cultural laboratory for understanding humanity’s fears about our future in the face of often manmade apocalypses. Just as the zombie has become a shambling, brain-craving machine for the expression of political, social, and aesthetic concerns, so too do our visions of the world’s end reflect symptoms of anxieties that are already too realistic for comfort. In this course, you’ll learn how to interpret these anxieties by analyzing literature and film. You will also learn how to: communicate critical analysis through both argumentative academic writing and oral presentation; understand, summarize, and respond to peer-reviewed scholarship; and employ effective visual communication.

Interrogating Success

FWIS 100, Burke Nixon, Section 5: MWF 2:00 – 2:50

Is there a “magic number” of hours required to achieve extraordinary success in music or sports or computer science? Do elite colleges (and elite college students) focus too much on narrow, materialistic notions of success? Can students of all ages truly succeed in lecture-based learning, or is such learning actually “oppressive”? These are some of the questions we’ll be confronting in this section of FWIS 100. We’ll explore the notion of success from a variety of angles, scrutinizing and responding to arguments from writers in a number of genres, from popular nonfiction and fiction to philosophy and scholarly research. In the process, students will interrogate their own notions of success, and, more importantly, hone and develop the fundamental skills of successful academic readers, writers, speakers, and critical thinkers.