Current Course Descriptions

Explore FWIS Course Topics from Pop Music to Sports

Spring 2023 COURSES

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Whodunit? Investigating True Crime and Crime Fiction

FWIS 103, Els Woudstra, WF 4pm - 5:15 pm

It was Colonel Mustard, in the library, with a candlestick! In crime fiction, readers can investigate the crime alongside the fictional detective by following the clues sprinkled throughout the narrative. But while a crime fiction writer like Agatha Christie can plot her murders ahead of time, journalistic and legal investigations of true crimes depend on the careful, ethical examination and interpretation of forensic evidence. When we read or listen to crime stories, how can we know if the story accurately presents the facts? This course investigates the construction of evidence in crime fiction and true crime, by studying several classic crimes, and their adaptations in film, literature, and podcasts. By becoming familiar with the rules of evidence in true crime journalism and crime fiction, we will examine how the presentation of evidence in a crime story influences our understanding of the case, and navigate the distinctions between ‘truth’ and ‘accuracy.’

Image of neon green text welcome everything is fine

What We Owe to Each Other: the Ethics of Writing and Research

FWIS 104, Stephanie Parker, TTh 2:30pm - 3:45pm

Discussions of ethics are central to our current moment; between a global pandemic, tumultuous presidential election, and rampant disinformation campaigns online, we find ourselves in a challenging time. How will we meet it? How can we be “good”? What do we owe to each other? This course is designed to help you learn and practice critical writing and research skills as we investigate the ethical considerations of writing and research in the academy. Using The Good Place as our point of reference, along with readings by philosophers and theorists from Aristotle to Lao Tzu, we will discuss “what we owe to each other” across a range of contexts, from everyday communication and social niceties to issues of equity and access. Each student will research a different ethical question related to research methods or communication in their chosen field of study.

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Wanderlust: Where and why we travel

FWIS 108, Jerlyn Mardis, TTh 2:30pm - 3:45pm

This inquiry-based course will focus on travel from multiple perspectives: your own, including the places you have visited or want to visit; that of other people; sustainability; accessibility; and the impact on communities, economies, and environments. Topics will include: • Types of travel—ecotourism and wildlife tourism, study abroad, adventure, treks, pilgrimages, and, naturally, tourism; • Your own travel bucket list and why you want to visit those destinations; • One place you choose to research in depth; • Works of other travelers on their travels and reasons for traveling; • The positive effects of tourism, such as jobs, and the negative effects of overtourism, such as overcrowding; and • A range of travel literature. You will expand your critical thinking skills, develop your writing skills, deliver several oral presentations, work with peers, and participate in class discussions. Writing assignments may include a travel article, a personal reflection, a book review, and a short research paper.

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Contemporary Art and Environment

FWIS 109, Lina Dib, Section 1: TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm / Section 2: TTh 10:50am-12:00pm

This course delves into questions of environment, ecology and sustainability through the lens of contemporary art. From earthworks, to performance, to land art, activist art, and community-based practices, participants engage critically and creatively with various contemporary practices. We discuss works that put art and environment into conversation by using landscapes as raw material and by highlighting our relationship to local and global ecological systems. Throughout the course, we explore how art provides ways to rescript interactions with our environment. Students work to design and create their own projects. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of much of the work we view, discuss, and propose, we read across a wide range of disciplines, including media studies, design, urban planning, humanities, art and anthropology. The course involves excursions to landfills, museums, gardens and other visits led by experts.

Maye West and Gilbert Roland

Reading Innuendo: Representing Sexuality in Golden Age Hollywood

FWIS 110, Evan Choate, MWF 9am-9:50am

From 1934 until the early 1960s, the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, strictly prohibited all depictions of “sexual perversion”—such as homosexual or interracial romance—in Hollywood films. But could these desires and experiences ever be completely excluded from popular representations? If not, in what form might they be expressed? How can we read sexualities that were literally unrepresentable? What can such a reading teach us not only about the place of sexuality in the American cultural imagination but also about the nature of communication and interpretation in general? Did the Code shape the ways we express ideas about sexuality, or was the Code merely an expression of popular mores? In "Reading Innuendo," we will begin to answer these questions by exploring what the films produced under the Hays Code, from its origins to its eventual demise, can teach us about ourselves as writers and interpreters.

John Belushi from the film "Animal House"

College Campus Culture

FWIS 111, Amanda Johnson, TTh 4pm-5:15pm

The American university is a funny place. One the one hand, it fosters world-changing scientific discovery, while on the other hand, it remains indebted to a medieval philosophy of higher learning. It can also be a petri dish for radical activism and social change, while still clinging to institutional traditions passed down through generations. Perhaps for these reasons, most U.S. college graduates still remember "college" as a uniquely transformative period in their lives and continue to identify with their alma mater years after graduation. Together, we will read texts that explore the wonderfully strange experience of university life in America, use our writing to tease out the significance of the university to us, and ultimately, take stock of how our time at the university has and will transform us, on and off the page. Click the following link for a video about this course from Dr. Johnson

Cultural Diplomacy in the American Century

FWIS 117, Sayuri Guthrie Shimizu, TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm

This FWIS course seeks to sensitize Rice freshmen to the hidden layers of the story of the Americanization of the world in the twentieth century. We will read, discuss, and analyze a variety of academic works and primary sources on U. S. cultural diplomacy in what journalist Henry Luce famously called the "American Century" (but particularly during the post-World War II era) in a spirit of critical inquiry about what motivated Americans engaged in cultural diplomacy and how each historical agent shaped her or his “America” for a variety of public and private reasons. I hope that not only potential humanities and social science majors but also freshmen contemplating majors in other academic disciplines (such as visual and performing arts and STEM fields) will benefit from this course. The topics to be explored in the class include the role played by private philanthropy in shaping and transmitting American cultural forms and practices, the impact of the Cold War on the diffusion of American culture and knowledge production in such diverse arenas as literature, visual arts, music (both classic and popular), dance, movies, TV programming and science and technology.


The Beauty of the Beast

FWIS 119, Nina Cook, MWF 9:00am-9:50am

There’s a reason “Beauty and the Beast” is called the Tale as Old as Time. It is a story that we, as a culture, keep telling and retelling: we are obsessed with the beauty of the beast. This course takes “Beauty and the Beast” as an object of study, examining its various adaptations in film and literature. We will engage with traditional adaptations, from Disney’s 1991 classic to the 2017 revision, and ask whether films such as Pride and Prejudice (2005), Jane Eyre (2011), and Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) can be read as interpretations of the tale. Close attention to form and content opens a space to discuss its propagandistic appeal and archetypal power. Using feminist and Marxist methods, we will think critically about how the story changes in response to cultural shifts, including ideas surrounding gender roles, toxic masculinity, and the tenuous fairy-tale conflation of goodness and beauty.

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Fiction and Empathy

FWIS 120, Burke Nixon, Section 1: MWF 2:00pm-2:50pm / Section 2: MWF 3:00pm-3:50pm

This course traces the history of Western interest in Muslim women, paying particular attention to how the figure of the Muslim women has been used by western feminists to make their own case for gender equality. These ideas about Muslim women have had very real consequences, serving as justifications for colonial policies in the nineteenth century, but also more recently for the US intervention in Afghanistan which was presented to the American public as a mission to save Afghan women from the blue burqas. Just this year, several French towns imposed a ban on modest swimwear, dubbed the burqini, on French beaches, describing them as unsafe and incontrovertible evidence of Muslim women’s subservience to Muslim patriarchy. Readings include the writings of different English and American feminists and feminist organizations as well as texts by Muslim authors from around the world for their take to Western efforts to “rescue” Muslim women.

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“Space, Speed, Cinema”: The Automobile in American Film

FWIS 128, Paul Burch, MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm

Be it the Joad’s first glimpse of Californian farmland in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), the gruesome deaths of the classic antiheroes in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), or Frances McDormand’s heartbreaking pilgrimage to her former home in Nomadland (2020), some of the most iconic moments of American cinema have taken place in the shadow of the motorcar. This class asks students to think critically about what it means to depict the automobile through film and to consider how these depictions, and their meanings, might change in accordance with different historical, artistic, and political contexts. As a field with a rich cultural and critical history, studying the automobile in American Cinema provides the ideal opportunity to think broadly about a wide variety of academic questions while gaining a depth of writing and oral communication experience in both academic and popular genres.

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Writing Across Borders

FWIS 134, Sophia Martinez-Abbud, MWF 2:00pm-2:50pm

Why do borders matter? This course will invite students to consider the political, economic, and cultural labor involved in the maintenance of borders around the world. In particular, we will explore how representations of geopolitical border crossings invite us to cross other kinds of borders, like the one between analytic and descriptive writing, or between qualitative and quantitative evidence. The texts assigned in this class are written through and across borders—of real and fictional places, public and academic genres. By reading narratives about border crossings in the form of novels, journalism, and film, as well as history and cultural criticism, students will develop a critical vocabulary and conceptual framework for analyzing contemporary issues of social justice around the borderlands.

Pop Music in American Culture - A vinyl record being played on a record player

Pop Music & American Culture

FWIS 137, Andrew Klein, Section 1: MWF 9:00am-9:50am / Section 2: MWF 10:00am - 10:50am

This course will explore the world of popular American music by looking at a number of recent albums and songs as well as many critical and journalistic writings about music. Ranging from Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love to Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, and from a novelistic portrayal of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality to a memoir of the Riot Grrrl movement, these texts will also allow us to think critically not only about music itself, but about what other issues (race, gender, sexuality, class, taste, etc.) we talk about when we talk about music. Assignments will include album reviews, song analyses, genre/region presentations, and personal essays.

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What is Writing?

FWIS 138, Amanda Barnett, Section 1: TTh 8:00am - 9:15am

What is writing? This course will examine the ways in which humans convey stories to elucidate that question. We will write, read, and discuss our way to answering questions such as What makes writing effective? How do we convey our stories? How do we interact with the stories of others? and more. We will begin and end this course by focusing on your own writing, starting with what writing has meant to you in the past and ending with how it will affect your future. In the middle, we will encounter the writings of others and will examine them to broaden our understanding of what it means to write, the vastness of ways there are to convey stories, and how the writing of others affects you and your own writing. Here, the texts we read will be broad in terms of time, genre, and author.

Technologies of Taste - Flavor wheel

Technologies of Taste

FWIS 141, Els Woudstra, WF 2:00pm-3:15pm

Does pineapple belong on pizza? Does red Gatorade taste better than blue? Many of our favorite flavors are produced and marketed by food science and the food industry, through technologies of taste ranging from taste tests that quantify the subjective experience of flavor and smell into objective measures, to food advertisements that appeal to our tastebuds. This course investigates how technologies of taste shape our palates and the ways we think and write about what we eat. Through case studies and in-class tasting sessions of tea, chocolate, and other flavors, students will learn to analyze the sensory experience of foods, and examine the ways in which presentation, packaging, and advertisement of food appeals to our tastebuds. With assignments that include a flavor journal, academic essays, and creative projects, this course invites students to examine how their sensory perceptions influence the language they use, and how language can shape their perception.

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Natural History of Texas

FWIS 143, Cin-Ty Lee, TTh 1:00pm-2:50pm

Observing and communicating what one observes are key skills to have in life. Observing is how scientists make discoveries, how writer’s find their stories, or how artists create. Even in business and politics, having keen observational skills is key. The ability to have empathy for others also requires the ability and willingness to observe. This course will hone your observational skills through direct study of our natural surroundings. Students will interpret and communicate observations through a range of writing approaches accompanied by illustrations. This course will involve several field trips to immerse oneself in the geology, flora and fauna of Texas.

Making Sense Of Ourselves

FWIS 151, Burke Nixon, MWF 1:00pm - 1:50pm

Before “essay” became synonymous with school assignments and college applications, it meant something very different. When Michel de Montaigne popularized the form in the 16th century, his "Essais" were an attempt to better understand himself and the world. His version of the essay wasn’t boring or formulaic; it was a vehicle for discovery, critical thinking, and self-scrutiny. Inspired by Montaigne’s example, this course will explore and examine the essay form in all its variety and flexibility. We’ll read the work of great essayists past and present, from Montaigne to 21st century writers like Kiese Laymon, Leslie Jamison, and Zadie Smith. And, of course, we’ll write our own essays, attempting to make some sense of ourselves and the world around us, while also investigating the key differences and surprising similarities between personal and academic essays, using this knowledge to become more thoughtful and engaging writers in any genre.

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The Science of Supplements

FWIS 152, Mary Purugganan, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

This course examines the science behind some of the most highly promoted nutritional supplements for preventing or treating disease. The supplement industry has recently grown to $33 billion per year, and more than half of Americans now take supplements regularly. Because nutritional supplements are not regulated like pharmaceuticals, consumers have begun to question the safety, purity, and efficacy of these products. Students will examine the challenges in regulating supplements, the role of supplements as alternative or complementary medicine, the biology of common but complex diseases such as cancer and depression, and the molecular mechanisms of supplements’ effects on the human body. Through writing assignments and oral presentations, students will explore this rapidly growing but poorly regulated approach to improving health.

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The Good, The Bad and The Border

FWIS 154, Elizabeth Cummins-Munoz, TTh 9:25am-10:40am

This course will explore portrayals of morality in cultural texts produced in the US-Mexico borderlands. Through film, literature, music, and cultural criticism, students will examine representations of right and wrong that often conflict and many times converge in unexpected ways. As we consider perspectives from within the borderlands and without, we will also explore the ways in which border dwellers employ artistic production to expose and make meaning out of these alternative moral codes. Through the study of a variety of texts, students will be introduced to the following concepts: the nature of representation in film, literature and ballad; the border as both a physical and theoretical construct; the concept of a moral code and its relationship to cultural context.

Writing Asian Food

FWIS 155, Sonia Ryang, MWF 11:00am-11:50pm

This course exposes students to the exercise of writing about Asian food. Students engage in the activity of "converting" multi-sensory experience, i.e. eating food, into writing on the one hand and think about transnational Asian food in the context of globalizing world.

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Global English

FWIS 160,Vasudha Bharadwaj, Section 1: TTh 10:50am-12:05pm / Section 2: TTh 9:25am - 10:40am

English is the most widely spoken language in the world, and there are twice as many people second language speakers as there are native users. 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. 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 histories and traditions? In this course, students will consider how sociocultural, political, and economic factors have historically influenced decisions about education and language use, particularly regarding English. In doing so, they will practice different forms of academic communication including discussion, writing, and presentation, and refine skills fundamental to their success as critical thinkers, readers, and writers.

Love Sick

FWIS 163,Randi McInerney, MWF 11:00am-11:50am

In this course, we will explore depictions of love and sexuality as a pathology in literature, medical discourses, media, and popular culture broadly. We will read about lovesick medieval knights, vampiric love affairs, love during times of plague, and even love as a madness-inducing disease of the mind. As we read, we will have the opportunity to evaluate our contemporary assumptions about love and how these assumptions animate human thoughts, feelings, and actions. We will also attend to the past, taking an interdisciplinary approach to understand how concepts and attitudes toward love, romance, and sexuality shift (or not) over time by considering persevering concepts: historical spotlights include medieval courtly love, legal efforts to regulate sexuality in the nineteenth century, early twentieth century medical discourses which designated abnormal kinds of love and sexuality, and more. .

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Books You Can't Put Down

FWIS 167,Elizabeth Cummins-Munoz, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

This class is about books you can’t put down, the ones you pull out on buses and rainy days and stay up late to read. What is it about these books that draws us in? To answer this question, we’ll consider what goes into books like these, what effect they have on readers, and how it feels to read them. Through the study of selected works of fiction and creative nonfiction, we’ll consider formal aspects of plot, character and literary style; the psycho-social functions of narrative; and the physical and emotional feeling of reading. We’ll also hear from a guest speaker or two who will tell us why they love the books they love. Along the way, students will develop as readers, writers, and researchers as they participate in critical conversations about what makes a book “good” and try their hand at their own creative narrative.

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Building Design Problems

FWIS 168,Alan Fleishacker, TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm

This course is not for the faint of heart or the timid. We will read and analyze case studies, project documents and other source materials on buildings that have experienced serious design problems and ended up in the news and in court. Some major buildings lose their high-rise windows inexplicably, others experience catastrophic structural failures, while others are saved from disaster through brilliant professional skill and sheer luck. You will write about what went right and wrong, why the situation happened, who caused the problem, and who should have acted differently. We will conduct a mock trial with students serving as the designers, constructors, clients and others involved, as well as their attorneys. Active participation in class is essential and a part of your grade. The broad goals of the course are to improve and refine your ability to think and write critically and powerfully, and to present a convincing argument on the written page and in person.

The Devil and the World

FWIS 171, Arina Zaytseva, MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm

Throughout the history of Western culture, the figure of the Devil has exerted a massive influence comparable to Jesus Christ and His divine father. The Devil has been with us for over two millennia and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. He has inspired some of the greatest works of art and literature: from the Book of Job to Milton’s Paradise Lost, and even modern works of cinema like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist.” In this class we will track the historical development of the figure of the Devil in Western thought. We will look at various representations of the Devil in ancient and modern literature and other media. The class will cover topics such as possession and exorcism, demonic pacts and witchcraft, satanic panic, and more.

Image of James Baldwin book cover

Contemporary LGBTQ+ Literary Classics

FWIS 173,Brooke Clark, TTh 4:00pm-5:15pm

At first glance, the terms “LGBTQ+”—as an underrepresented population shaped by an array of sexes, genders, and sexualities—and “literary classics”—as a set of traditional, timeless, and widely read novels—may not seem to mesh well together. However, novels written by and featuring gay, lesbian, queer, and trans individuals have become more visible along with the increasing public and political presence of the LGBTQ+ community. In this course, we will read American, African American, and Asian American novels from the 1950s to the present day that have had transformative impacts on art, public thought, and political activism. We will learn how to read and write critically about these novels' contents and styles as well as question how artistic portrayals of LGBTQ+ experiences and the idea of the classic can work together to create not only new stories to tell but new ways to tell these stories.

Sounding The City

FWIS 174, Andrew Klein, MWF 11am-11:50am

Sound surrounds us. And yet we often put little thought into what role it plays in our lives and the lives of our public spaces. This course aims to correct this oversight by offering an introduction to the field of sound studies focused on Houston’s audio environment, past and present. We will approach the topic in four ways. First, through an investigation into the audio epistemologies of sound studies. Second, through a cultural history of Houston’s musical legacy and the way in which aesthetic styles can be traced to local geographies. Third, through the production of a guided audio tour into one of Houston’s neighborhoods. And fourth, through a collaborative audio mapping project. In addition to developing students’ interpretive toolkits, critical thinking skills, and writing abilities, the course seeks to raise a number of key questions about the aesthetics, poetics, and politics of sound in the bayou city and beyond.

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Oh My God! Vampires, Ghosts, and Zombies: Examining Horror and Religion in Popular Culture

FWIS 175, DeAnna Daniels, TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

How and when is something articulated as horror? In what ways and for whom? Are horror and religion connected? If so, how is it expressed in popular culture? Horror and religion have always been interrelated, even if not critically addressed. Both horror and religion create spaces for people, writers, and artists to ask difficult questions about the who, what, and why of human existence. This class will examine the interconnections of religion and horror as articulated in the literature, film, and music in popular culture. Through an in-depth look at how religion is entangled with horror and simultaneously produced within culture, we will see how they utilize similar languages and how each possesses the narrative potential to transform our lives and culture.

Social Media Icons in stacked blocks

Writing Social Media

FWIS 176, Baird Campbell, MWF 4:00pm-4:50pm

Students in this course will become familiar with a variety of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, not just as users, but as critical thinkers. By pairing theoretical and social scientific analyses of social media with assignments based on real-world content and student production, students will come to understand how written and audiovisual communication works (and doesn’t) across these different platforms. As such, the overarching emphasis of the course is on the ways in which written and oral communication must change and adapt to fit the demands of particular media, audiences, or assignments. In this course, we will explore social media from a number of perspectives: we will learn its history; explore its technicalities; think critically about its content; and ultimately seek to understand why and how social media has quickly become a mainstream tool for written and audiovisual communication.


Buddhism in Popular Media

FWIS 177, Eric Huntington, TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm

This course explores the forms and contexts of storytelling in Buddhism, with a broad eye toward literature, visual arts, and performance. Students engage in both creative and academic writing to understand the importance of narrative in Buddhist cultures and different approaches to writing in the modern day.

Writing for social justice

Writing For Social Justice

FWIS 180, Baird Campbell, MWF 10:00am-10:50am

In this course, we’ll take a historical and anthropological dive into a variety of social movements from across time and from around the world. We’ll take seriously the role of media, technology, and infrastructure in the development of diverse strategies, as well as the importance of both individual and group identity formation. We’ll analyze advantages, risks, and affordances that vary along lines of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class. Along the way, we’ll think critically about the communicational tactics of each one, analyzing what worked, what didn’t, and why. Using this knowledge, students will choose an issue important to them, develop a communicational strategy for addressing this issue and—if they desire—put it out into the real world!

Torchy Brown, African-American graphic novel

African-American Graphic Novel

FWIS 181, David Messmer, TTh 10:50am-12:05pm

This course examines the struggle for black representation in comics and graphic novels. We will discuss the unique opportunities that sequential narratives present to creators as they represent race on the page and we will examine the history of black artists working in the comic book industry.

Crossing Borders - Brad Spencer Relief Sculpture

Border Politics: Migrations and the Meanings of the Nation

FWIS 182, Hubert Rast, MWF 11:00am-11:50am

In the midst of a global climate and migration crisis, the safeguarding of borders has become an increasingly contentious issue worldwide. Borders demarcate territories, establish differences, and constitute sites of division and violence that are linked to the existence of states. In this course we will explore the perilousness of the human condition, as experienced in the crossing of real and imaginary borders, and in the traumatic loss of homeland and self. We will examine the ways in which environmental crises have uprooted people and probe how climate change and migration pressures may redefine existing borders and boundaries of states. Borders also arise within major cities, through the building of highways, the politics of zoning and real estate investment, creating urban borderlands along economic or racial lines, which this course will also explore. The city of Berlin offers a contrasting example of urban borders: divided into East and West sectors by the Berlin wall (1961-89), the city became the frontline of the Cold War. Finally, we will delve into the changing meaning of the border between the US and Mexico through a range of testimonies, stories and films.

Eng Design & Communication - Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen

Eng Design & Communication

FWIS 188, Deirdre Hunter, Section 1 TTh 9:25am-10:40pm / Section 2 TTh 10:50pm-12:05 pm

First-year students learn the engineering design process and use it to solve meaningful problems drawn from clients such as local hospitals and medical facilities, other local and international companies and organizations, and the Rice University community. Students work collaboratively on a team to design an engineering solution to meet the client’s need, and they use the resources of the OEDK to construct innovative solutions. Documentation is an essential element in the engineering design process. Engineers must be able to communicate the need for a novel design, numerical design objectives, ideas for solutions, and the success or failure of a project. During the engineering design process, students interact and communicate with teammates, the project client, instructors, and potential users. This course covers the same technical content as ENGI 120, Introduction to Engineering Design. This course places additional emphasis on an individual’s development of the written and oral technical communication skills necessary for professional practice, especially results-oriented technical memos and oral presentations.


Gender Bending in Popular Culture from the Renaissance to RuPaul

FWIS 190, Evan Choate, MWF 10:00am-10:50am

In 2019, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year was “they,” fueled by an increasingly mainstream questioning of gender binaries and gender roles. At the same time, the political right has escalated legislative attacks on trans and nonbinary people. These are urgent conversations in the present, but they are not new. “They” has been used as a gender-neutral pronoun for six hundred years, and popular culture has always been fascinated with challenging, subverting, and pushing the limits of traditional notions of gender. This course will read the long history of gender bending—both in expression and identity—in popular culture from crossdressing thieves in Renaissance plays such as Thomas Middleton’s The Roaring Girl to modern hits such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. By attending to ways that gender has been explored and expressed over the centuries, we will reflect on how our own writing can respond to and even shape our world.

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The Art Of The Short Story

FWIS 191, Laura Richardson, Section 1 TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm / Section 2 4:00pm-5:15pm

The best short stories leave you with a strong emotional response and a sense of awe at how quickly and masterfully a deft writer can create a world and connect you to its characters. What techniques help authors achieve these effects? And what, beyond word count, defines the unique, dynamic genre of the short story? How exactly does the length of a piece of writing connect to its expression as a work of art and our interpretation of it? In this course, we’ll consider “shortness” as a challenge authors undertake, investigating the ways they weave complex tales into brief, often pithy, masterpieces. Reading a global array of short stories, including selections from the U.S., Great Britain, Latin America, and Russia, we will also seek to understand the short story gene within its national traditions. What kinds of similarities and differences emerge when we make cross-cultural comparisons of twentieth and twenty-first-century short stories? We’ll investigate the ways genre and culture converge to shape the stories we tell and the way we tell them.

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The Roaring 20’s

FWIS 192, Laura Richardson, Section 1 TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm

The 1920s were about new possibilities, aesthetic experimentation, and frenzied expression. We’ll examine iconic ’20s literature by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Woolf, and others, as well as the linchpins of ’20s culture: jazz, Prohibition, the Harlem Renaissance, and modern art. Highlights include lessons on the Charleston and a Roaring Twenties soirée.

Law and its trangression

The Rule of Law and the Pursuit of Justice

FWIS 193, Hubert Rast, MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm

Democratic societies claim to be based on the rule of law. This course examines what is required of a society that treats every individual equally regardless of a person´s status or influence. Presently, concerns arise that the courts, which are supposedly independent in their adjudication of the law, increasingly rely on ad-hoc “rule-making” to accommodate powerful individuals or interest groups. We will analyze the relationship of politics and the law in the distinct historical and national contexts of the contemporary US and post-war Germany. We will consider instances in which the judiciary has been politicized in the United States and its repercussions for the rule of law. Furthermore, we will explore the topics of crimes, guilt, punishment and vigilante justice in selected literary texts and films (Schirach´s Crime/Guilt and The Collini Case, as well as Franz Kafka´s The Judgment). We will also scrutinize the sordid judicial history of Germany in the aftermath of the Third Reich drawing on Bernhard Schlink´s The Reader.

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Business in the American Imagination

FWIS 196, Scott Pett, MWF 9am-9:50am

Because the world of business is so full of glass ceilings, corporate ladders, backroom deals, black markets, and human resources, it has always been a culturally rich site for national and self-reflection. In our analyses of literature and film, we will continually ask: what can these texts teach us about the ethics of pursuing happiness and success? How have such types and tropes as the working class, the self-made man, the con artist, and “the art of the deal” shaped our notions of the so-called American Dream? How do work-life and work-place narratives address and shape issues of opportunity, especially in terms of class, education, gender, immigration, and race? On the road to discussing such questions and improving our written and verbal communication skills, we will consider an array of allegories, motifs, and plots about the profits and pitfalls of American commerce culture.


Science Or Psuedoscience?

FWIS 197, Michael Cone, MWF 3:00pm-3:50pm

Is anthropogenic climate change real? Do vaccines cause autism? Are genetically modified crops safe? What is homeopathy? Questions like these illustrate the difficulty that so often arises when dealing with the plethora of complicated topics and issues that are pervasive in modern culture. We can’t be experts in every field, so how do we tell good science from pseudoscience? This course aims to address this issue by focusing on the application of scientific skepticism and critical thinking to questions like those mentioned above, and many others. We will discuss the inherent fallibility of human perception and memory, as well as the cognitive biases and logical fallacies that we so often fall victim to. We will apply these concepts to various examples of pseudoscience. The topics will range from the absurd (astrology, flat earth theory), to more sophisticated and controversial examples that have significant societal impact (climate change denial, alternative medicine).

Image of climate change demonstration placard

From Climate Change to Climate Justice

FWIS 198, Kelly McKisson, MWF 10:00am-10:50am

For the so-called “climate generation” the need to take action and address dire outcomes projected by climate science is clear, especially given environmental effects we are already facing. What makes climate change so difficult to act on, however, is that it is not only an environmental problem but also a social, economic, and political one. In this seminar, students will learn about these elements of climate change, ask how environmental issues intersect with ideas of justice, and investigate various appearances, contexts, and critical uses of the term “climate justice.” Varied examples of climate communication will help us to see the climate crisis as a moment for action and will provide us with models of actionable strategies to join in the discussion.

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The Social Life of Data

FWIS 199, Gebhard Keny, MWF 11:00am-11:50am

The Social Life of Data is an introduction to the discipline of social-cultural anthropology and its engagements with data as both a topic of study and key figure animating contemporary human life. The course will immerse students within the everyday political realities in which data is made meaningful to human actors as well as the technical and ideological frameworks that further such processes. Students will join in pressing and timely debates from questions of data sovereignty to artificial intelligence and automation and will be asked to situate such debates within historical and genealogical frameworks. Additionally, through course readings and conversations with invited data professionals, students will learn to identify connections between big data and the reproduction of long-standing structures of social inequality, particularly structures of racism and heteropatriarchy.


FWIS 100 Course Topics

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