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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.



Post-Apocalyptic Literature and Film

FWIS 100, Laura Richardson, Section 909: TTh 9:00PM-10:40PM

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 905: MWF 1:30PM-2:25PM

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.

Global English: The History and Politics of English as a Global Language

FWIS 100, Vasudha Bharadwaj, Section 906: TTh 9:40AM-11:00AM / Section 907: TTh 11:20AM-12:40PM / Section 908: TTh 1:30PM-2:50PM

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.

Comics and the Art of Communication

FWIS 100, David Messmer, Section 904: TTh 10:30PM-11:50PM

From Medieval churches adorned with “The Stations of the Cross” to the instructions that come with every piece of IKEA furniture, sequences of wordless images have been a crucial medium for conveying information for centuries.  This course will investigate the evolution of this medium with a sharp focus on the ways that visual narratives both revel in the freedom of storytelling without the constraint of language and struggle against the limitations of only using pictures to communicate meaning.  We will discuss the benefits of a medium that can transcend barriers of language and literacy, and we will interrogate the ways that visual vocabularies are culturally specific.  The comics that we will read in this class will challenge us to think about the assumptions we bring to visual storytelling and what techniques artists use to teach us new conventions even as we “read” their work.

The American Dream

FWIS 100, Elizabeth Cummins Munoz, Section 1: MWF 9:45-10:40 / Section 2: MWF 11-11:55 / Section 3: MWF 2:45-3:40

What is the American Dream? What is its relationship to this country’s past and present? How has it been imagined and invoked by immigrants, and by communities seeking a fuller claim to the rights of citizenship? In this course, we will explore these questions and others as we examine the idea of the American Dream in essays and stories and popular culture. Through guided readings, writing and revision workshops, and extensive self-editing, students will develop the skills they need to refine their research questions and participate in scholarly conversation. 

The Powers of Horror

FWIS 100, John Ellis-Etchison, Section 910: TTh 11:20-12:40 / Section 911: TTh 1:30-2:50

Narratives of horror can rob us of the safety we find in institutions like the family and the home. The feelings these evoke force us to confront what makes us vulnerable. However, horror is also a powerful tool for calling attention to broader forms of injustice and helping us to see through other people’s eyes and glimpse their lived experiences. Makers of horror have used the genre to explore questions of race, gender, class, and sexuality. This course will examine literary, graphic, and filmic expressions of horror from its radical queer beginnings in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, all the way to Jordan Peele’s unflinching examination of racism in Get Out. Along the way, we will grapple with cadaverous and cannibalistic aristocrats, hellish and possessed houses, fearsome werewolves, haunting instances of time travel, and stupefying creatures from beyond the stars. We will also use our engagement with these materials to practice our skills as critical readers and to develop the ways we think, talk, and write about what we read. In this course, students will learn to: recognize and evaluate arguments; anchor their ideas in textual evidence; examine a wide variety of texts including literary pieces, articles, and websites; refine their writing and editing abilities; and leverage all these skills in the production of engaging and thought-provoking informative presentations.