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Spring 2021 Courses

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Expository Writing Courses for Spring 2021

Myth of the American Dream

Section 001: T/R 1500-1615

Instructor: Catherine Mintler

“But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” --James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (1931)


The American Dream, arguably the “national ethos” of the United States of America, has been central to cultural narratives of Americanness and American identity from the Declaration of Independence to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The question is: whose dream? This course will investigate the American Dream as a cultural narrative and interrogate it as cultural myth, questioning its aspirational foundation in ideals involving democracy, equality, freedom, and rights. In theory, the American Dream purports and promises to welcome and include all, regardless of difference. In practice, however, history reveals other stories about how the American Dream has excluded, denied, or dispossessed both individuals and entire communities (whether American citizens or immigrants lured by the promise to become Americans), preventing them from ascending to the zenith described by its myth, let alone ever reaching its ephemeral horizon.

Wolves of Wall Street

Section 002: TR 1700-1815

Instructor: Catherine Mintler

In this course, we will examine Wall Street historically and as a construction of the American cultural imagination tied to the American Dream and American class identity. Our exploration will include several historical and fictional “wolf” figures that have represented, influenced, and continued to haunt our understanding of Wall Street not only as a place but also as an institution of capitalism: fictional wolves like The Great Gatsby’s Meyer Wolfsheim and Jay Gatsby, Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko, and American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman; and historical wolves like Charles Ponzi, Bernie Madoff, and the self-named “wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort.

Historically seismic financial events, like the 1929 Stock Market Crash, the 1921 burning of Black Wall Street, and the 2008 crash and recession will provide stopping points on our historical timeline. Of course, Wall Street has also inspired economic critiques and inspired social and economic progress.  Along this path of inquiry, we will research, analyze, and write about Wall Street as a symbol of and trigger for protest movements found in fictional stories like “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street “—arguably the first occupation of Wall Street—which inspired, in reverse, the ethos of the Occupy Movement.

Science Fact, Science Fiction

Section 003:  TR 1100-1215

Section 005:  TR 1300-1415

Instructor: Al Harahap

Academia and science are under attack.  How and why is this happening? How do scientific ideas become accepted or rejected by society? Why have the dieas of climate change, round Earth, vaccinations, and the current pandemic (among many others) become so controversial? How does society negotiate science with other truth and belief systems such as religion and the American pioneering, do-it-yourself mentality? And what is the role of the academic/scientist in the public's understanding of these ideas and their trust in the scientific process?

Inclusive of natural and social sciences and the arts, as well as arts and humanities as cultural sciences, we will read and watch scientific studies and science fiction to look at the various ways the scientific imagination has been helped, doubted or outright denied by cultural, economic, political and other social forces, both throughout history and in current events. Using specific topics of their own choosing, students will learn how to communicate niche ideas both in academic/scientific communities as well as for public spheres.

American Writers in Paris

Section 007: TR 1500-1615

Instructor: Timothy Bradford

Paris, The City of Light, has long attracted crowds of American writers and artists hungry for artistic freedom, inspiration, and camaraderie, as well as cheap food and lodging. This course will examine specific push and pull factors related to individual writers and artists, their experiences with the bourgeois and bohemian poles of the city, and the influence of its society and culture on their work. George Catlin, Mark Twain, Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Sidney Bechet, Ernest Hemingway, Josephine Baker, Sylvia Beach, Man Ray, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Dorothea Tanning are some of the figures we will encounter, and primary and secondary sources, including art monographs, maps, and films, will be used to explore the terrain while developing critical reading, thinking, researching, and writing skills.



American Genius: Modern Identity and the Case of Gertrude Stein

Section 009: MW 1530-1645

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?


Poetry from Page to Stage

Section 010:  MW 1730-1845

Instructor:  V. Nicholas LoLordo

In “Poetry from Page to Stage” we’ll explore traditions of poetic performance, ranging  from classical bards to beat poets, from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe to the Instagram poets of today, from freestyle battles on the corner to slam competitions in front of judges, from orality to print and back again.

Considering relationships between page and stage, speech and music, poem and oratory, and tracing episodes in the history of poetry’s connection to the human voice and body, we’ll explore the past to inform our thinking about how and why poetry matters now.

Rebel Music

Section 012: MWF 1545-1700 (?)

Section 013:  MWF 0930-1020

Instructor: Robert Scafe

“When the mode of music changes, the walls of the city shake.”  Allen Ginsberg wrote these words at the beginning of the 1960s, that famous decade of upheaval—but the revolutionary power of music had been feared since ancient philosopher Plato wrote his Republic.  This course invites students to critically examine the long association of music with rebellion, from early rock and roll and the folk revival to more contemporary styles such as hip-hop, punk, reggae and dub, and electronic (dance) music. How have music subcultures informed protest movements? What’s behind music fans’ criticism of “sell-out” artists? When is borrowing music from other cultures an expression of solidarity—and when is it theft? 

Truth to Power

Section 014: MW 1545-1700

Section 015:  MW 1745-1900

Instructor: Eric Bosse

This course focuses on intersectional identity, representation in higher education, and contemporary justice issues. In particular, students will explore human rights, social identities and systems of oppression, the deconstruction of masculinity, the roles of allies, and the implications of protest and dissent. Through a sequence of essays, students will move beyond initial thoughts toward more fully developed arguments that examine the power of taking a stance and making a stand for justice.

From Spirituals to Hip-Hop

Section 900:  TR 1715-1830

Instructor: Timothy Bradford

African Americans have created some of the richest, most vibrant musical genres in the world as evinced by spirituals, gospel, work songs, 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.