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Spring 2019 Courses

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Expository Writing Courses for Spring 2019

African American Music: From Spirituals to Hip-Hop

Section 004 TR 9:00-10:15

Section 007 TR 12:00-1:15

Instructor: Timothy Bradford

African Americans created some of the richest, most vibrant musical genres in the world as evinced by spirituals, gospel, blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, and hip-hop. How did a relatively small group of people, who started in such difficult circumstances, survive, innovate, and even thrive in a country that was, and in ways remains, indifferent if not openly hostile? And what can we learn about African American and American history and culture by examining these music forms? 

With these questions in mind, we will explore this music and related literature from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century with an emphasis on their roles in survival, innovation, identity, pride, and leadership. Amiri Baraka’s Blues People, Kevin Young’s The Grey Album, selections from The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, a Spotify playlist, and various documentaries will serve as the main texts for the course and as inspiration for asking great questions that we will attempt to answer while developing critical reading, thinking, researching, and writing skills.

American Genius: Modernity, Identity and the Case of Gertrude Stein

Section 009: TR 1:30-2:45 (Honors)

Section 010: TR 3:00-4:15

Instructor: V. Nicholas LoLordo


Over a career path of twenty years, the American writer Gertrude Stein moved from celebrity, to obscurity, to celebrity again.  Along the way, she gained allies among the artistic avant-garde in New York City, the literary luminaries of the Lost Generation in Paris, and, ultimately, the general American public—including that of Oklahoma.  In 1935 a Daily Oklahoman reporter observed that “her accent is like that of your next door neighbor...[she] prides herself on being the most ordinary American, though she is the most extraordinary woman of letters.” 

Down-to-earth yet larger-than-life:  the reporter identifies the paradox of what this course proposes to call “American genius", which we'll use to explore contexts such as the impact of Cubism and other modern artistic movements on America, the relationship between democratic artistic publics and cultural elites, and the very idea of literary or artistic greatness. In each unit, Stein’s own voice will play a significant role; equally significant will be our selection of related texts, by figures ranging from Pablo Picasso to Ernest Hemingway.  We will examine the debates that Stein’s work catalyzed through the perspectives —to name a few!—of American literature, art history, gender & women’s studies, professional writing, and public relations/journalism.  Finally, this course will challenge students to self-consciously explore the relation between creative inspiration and the “professional” rules of expository prose. Who gets to break those rules?



Instructor: Catherine Mintler

Section 003: TR 10:30-11:45 (Veterans & ROTC)

“As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State "What does it matter to me?" the State may be given up for lost.” -Jean Jacques Rousseau

"Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." -John F. Kennedy

What is the role of the twenty-first century citizen? Does citizenship involve action or engagement, or is it merely an identity marker or state of being? Is being or becoming a citizen a privilege or an entitlement? Is it earned or bestowed? Who gets to be or to become a citizen and who decides? As citizens, to what or whom are we accountable? What rights and/or responsibilities should citizens have? Freedom? Equality? Work? Suffrage? Due process? Why is it that citizen status not only can be conferred, but also can be revoked or denied? What does it mean to be a second-class citizen? What does it mean to be a stateless person?

Reconsidering historical documents from the Constitution to the Voting Rights Act (and its repeal), while also revisiting historical periods of civic engagement, such as Reconstruction, ERA, and the Civil Rights Movement, we will explore key historical episodes and cultural forms in order to revisit the citizen as symbolic, as an identity marker, as involving the activity of civic engagement, etc.



Immigrant America

Instructor: David Long

Section 008: MWF 1:30-2:20

Travel bans, mass deportation, reduced refugee quotas, a proposed border wall, and DACA children in limbo—these have been the most controversial elements of reformed U.S. immigration policy since the presidential election of 2016. But the current political showdown between nativists and pluralists is nothing new, given the perennial debate in this country over how open (or not open) our borders should be. This debate revolves around questions of American identity: What does it mean to be a member in good standing of American society, and how does an immigrant go about attaining that status? Among specific ethnic groups, what have been the terms and conditions of  Americanization? Are U.S. citizens obliged to welcome the so-called “huddled masses” of the world, and what have been the objections to doing so? 

In Immigrant America we will study immigration in the history and practice of civic life in the United States, with a focus on the period from 1875 to the present. Mindful of recent developments in our national dialogue about immigration policy, we will consider the ways in which immigration has often been viewed as more problematic than promising for the health of our democracy, despite the many contributions that immigrants have made to both the culture and the economy of this country. Course texts will include landmark legal documents, newspaper articles, various ethnographic studies, a novella and a novel, and OU-archived photographs, as well as songs, poems, and films.  

Gender, Sex & Science

Section 020: TR 1:30-2:45

Section 021: TR 3:00-4:15

Instructor: Margaret Gaida

In her seminal 1980 work The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, Carolyn Merchant proposed that the mechanization of the world picture that occurred during the Scientific Revolution established men as the epistemological center of scientific theory and practice, resulting in the domination and subjugation of both nature (i.e. the environment) and women. While Merchant’s argument has been the subject of much scholarly debate, her main thesis has persisted and resonates with contemporary ecofeminists and feminist philosophers of science. In this course, we will interrogate the “sexing of science,” that is, science as a historically predominantly male enterprise and as an essentially masculine epistemology. We will think and write about the role that gender plays in scientific outcomes, and deeply question one of our core scientific values: objectivity. In addition to reading selections from The Death of Nature and important articles on the history and philosophy of science, we will look more specifically at contemporary research in ecology/environmental science and primatology. Throughout the course, we will immerse ourselves in the digital environment by contributing to online discussions, writing collaboratively, and creating digital content.


Modern Monsters

Section 011: MWF 10:30-11:20

Instructor: David Long

Our world and our minds have always been populated by monsters.  Not only do they both horrify and fascinate us, but monsters may be said to shape and express the lives we lead—socially, politically, and psychologically.  From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Nazi death camps to 70s horror films and beyond, this course will investigate the birth and career of the modern monster in the Western world.  What is a monster?  In what ways are the monsters of a scientific, technological age different than their ancestors?  What do those differences reveal about the times in which we live?  How does our sense of what’s monstrous change as we move from fictional narrative and to actual history?  Why are monsters indispensable to our culture?  And why, no matter how fast we run or how carefully we bolt the door, can we never really escape them?


Myth and Hero

Section 001: MWF 12:30-1:20

Section 002: MWF 1:30-2:20

Instructor: Liz Locke

After discussing some of the ways in which scholars define and think about the word “myth,” we meet two classical heroes, Theseus and Luke Skywalker, leading us to discover the iconic American Cowboy Hero. We then explore the significance of comic book superheroes (especially Superman, Black Panther, and Hancock) in our popular, moral, and political cultures: How do “truth, justice, and the American Way” figure in our current narratives about American identity, power, law, vigilantism, masculinity, heroism, and race? Finally, we look at representations of women superheroes, still asking: How do both our new and traditional hero myths mold our thinking about power, leadership, individual autonomy, community, suffering, justice, violence, and virtue? How do they influence our behaviors and attitudes about gender, ethnicity, class, citizenship, conflict, and peace? In addition to regular class attendance, we’ll be viewing five films: Shane (1953), The Black Panther (2008),      Hancock(2008), Wonder Women! (2012), and Miss Representation (2012).

Truth to Power

Section 014: TR 1:30-2:45

Section 015: TR 3:00-4:15

Instructor: Eric Bosse

This course focuses on the work and writings of past and contemporary civil rights leaders and social justice activists. In particular, students will explore issues related to human rights, overlapping social identities and systems of oppression (intersectionality), the deconstruction of "toxic masculinity," the roles of allies in social movements, and the implications of protest and dissent for those involved. Through a sequence of short and longer writing assignments, students will be challenged to move beyond their initial thoughts toward more fully developed arguments, and to examine what it means to take a stance, no matter how controversial it may be. 


Space Invaders: Filling the Non-Existent Void

Section 006: MW 3:00-4:15

Instructor: Anna Trevino

Have you ever wondered why you act, feel, or think in certain ways in particular spaces? When you think of the word space what comes to mind? NASA? The 1996 movie Space Jam? Your dorm room? The boundaries of your personal space? Furthermore, have you ever questioned what space is and why should we study how interpretations of space impact our everyday life?

Sheehy and Leander (2004), in Spatializing Literacy Research and Practice, define space as a product and process of shifting relationships. Understanding space as a relationship rather than as a static or empty place or thing allows us to examine not only how we are all implicated in the process of creating spaces, but also the socio-cultural practices and processes that currently define and/or restrict what is possible for, real to, and experienced by people.

Through class discussions and writing assignments about selected readings and films, you will have the opportunity to explore concepts that determine and fill space, including but are not limited to investigations of boundaries/borders (us/them, here/there, either/or binaries), hybridity (both/and), access (who gets to go where), agency (who gets to make and enforce decisions), literacy, and identity.

Subculture & Counterculture

Instructor: Al Harahap

Section 016 MWF 10:30-11:20

Section 017 MWF 11:30-12:20

What are the roles of subcultures and countercultures? How does a new culture start? How does it borrow elements from others and turn them into something else? In this course, we will look at punk culture as a shared example: how it has been inspired by glam rock sexuality, Native American warrior hairstyles, and working class British steel worker clothing into a hybrid culture and eventually stand on its own; how it evolved into something commodified and produced for mass consumption; how it too then created subcultures such as the LGBT-oriented queercore and the Islamic taqwacore. We will do so specifically through elements such as economics, politics, fashion, language, and practices. Students will conduct research projects on a specific culture of their choice, as well as the academic culture of their majors to help effectively professionalize in their fields.

Music, Sound & Noise

Instructor: Robert Scafe

Section 012 TR 1:30-2:45

This course examines political and social struggles over music and the sonic environment. Students will be asked to tune into the music, sounds, and noises of their daily lives, and to write about how their experience is shaped by the “soundscape” in ways that often go unnoticed. Assisting us in this effort will be the anthropologists, historians, and sociologists who have written about music from its folk origins through classical and contemporary “pop” and “alternative” genres. Why do people identify so strongly with their musical tastes—and react so strongly to music they dislike? How has music informed social movements and regimes of oppression? Who owns the soundscape, and how should we negotiate disputes over public “noise”? 


Violence and the Sacred

Section 013: TR 9:00-10:15

Instructor: Robert Scafe

Beginning with Biblical human sacrifice and extending to the contemporary phenomenon of suicide bombing, this course examines how human communities have used symbolic violence to forge a common identity and to establish boundaries between themselves and others.  Why do cultures create "scapegoats" in times of crisis?  Why do religions of peace produce prophets of terror?  Why do secular states cloak their wars in sacred language?  We will address these questions by reading first-hand accounts and literary interpretations of violent episodes such as the medieval crusades, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and Jihadist terrorism.

Course texts include Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, the legend of Romulus and Remus in Livy’s History of Rome, the accounts of Cain & Abel and Abraham & Isaac from the Book of Genesis, and films such as Hotel Rwanda and Apocalypse Now.

Why Black Lives Matter

Instructor: Ebony Pope

Section 005 TR 9:00-10:15

The #BlackLivesMatter movement has awakened a sense of agency to radically resist state sanctioned violence against Black bodies. Although it is most widely referenced as a “new” and current movement, the movement itself does not acknowledge racist violence ahistorically. Instead, it testifies that Black liberation movements have historically developed in response to perpetual systematic violence against Black bodies. This course provides an expansive historical-through-contemporary lens that explores why Black lives matter and interrogates the overarching course questions: “Who is taught they matter (are valuable)?; Who is taught they are expendable?; By what means?” Through a progression of writing assignments, students will be challenged to question the motives, contradictions, and pervasiveness of systematic racism and encouraged to understand their relation to the proclamation that Black Lives Matter - beyond the hashtags.