Fall 2013 University Writing Seminars
Note: The Fall 2013 registration period opens on August 15. From August 15 through September 9, students wishing to switch University Writing Seminars may add, drop, or swap without needing the instructor's consent. Beginning September 10, students will need to complete a Special Permission to Drop UWS form and obtain the required signatures before handing it in to the Registrar's Office.
Click on the course title to view description.
• See the Brandeis University Bulletin for undergraduate writing requirements
• Further information and frequently asked questions regarding the writing program, including composition, can be found here.
Philip Roth made his debut on the American literary scene in 1959 with his collection of six short stories Goodbye, Columbus; Roth has since become one of the most prolific American writers. We will read each of the six stories and consider the juxtaposition of the diverse range of issues: from incisive critique of 1950s America; to the sardonic romance found in the title story; to the integration of Holocaust survivors in suburban America in Eli, the Fanatic; to the sacrilege of Ozzie, a Jewish day school student, in The Conversion of the Jews. Discussions will focus on Roth’s presentations of race, class, and otherness. What are the parameters of the boundaries that divide people in these stories? How is power negotiated and transferred between characters? A decade later, the reverberations of ribald humor in Portnoy’s Complaint extended beyond the literary scene, shaking communities across America. We will articulate and consider how this text reworks and extends themes brought up in Goodbye, Columbus. We will use Sigmund Freud’s theories of emotional ambivalence and the Oedipus complex to illuminate Roth’s texts.
There will be three required essays for this course: for the first essay, students will do a close reading of one of Roth’s short stories; for the second essay, students will use Freud’s theories of emotional ambivalence and the Oedipus complex to illuminate Portnoy’s Complaint; for the third essay, students will choose to read American Pastoral, The Plot Against America, or The Human Stain and write a research paper that analyzes a range of critical response to one of these works.
Although the 18th-century Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age novel, focused on male educational, social, and moral development, we will consider if 20th-century novels focused on female development continue to uphold the Bildungsroman as a genre or if such narratives break away from and undo the genre completely. In our evaluation of the female novel of development, particular attention will be given to narrative form, gender, race, and colonial/postcolonial contexts. We will read excerpts from Gwendolyn Brook’s Maud Martha (1953), Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970), Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John (1985), and Jean Rhys’ Voyage in the Dark (1934) as we develop our skills to closely read and explicate literary texts. Alongside these novels, we will read theories by thinkers such as Franco Morretti, Judith Butler and Jed Esty to help us productively complicate our interpretations of the novels. By the conclusion of this course, students will do independent research on one of the excerpted novels, which they will read in its entirety, in order to produce an original and analytical keystone paper that grapples with these highlighted concerns regarding gender, race, and genre.
Global warming. Nuclear apocalypse. The Rapture. Zombies. More and more, our relationship to the apocalyptic takes the form of a complex mixture of fascination, attraction, and horror. From family-sized nuclear fallout bunkers to do-it-yourself zombie survival kits, entire industries have emerged for the purpose of nurturing and exploiting our fantasies of an end-of-days event. But what do these fantasies reveal about us—about the economic inequalities, social injustices, political ideologies that characterize so much of Western culture? In this course, we will attempt to understand particular visions of apocalypse as symptoms of a set of deeper problems facing Western liberal democracy. We will begin by watching several episodes of The Twilight Zone, to examine how stories of nuclear holocaust serve to reaffirm ‘traditional’ American values. We will follow this by placing sections of Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen in conversation with Theodor Adorno’s arguments about the meaning of art after the holocaust. We will ask how the range of ethical frameworks modeled in the text struggle to understand a man-made apocalyptic event. Finally, we will use Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men as a starting place to research the emerging threats posed to Western culture by biotechnology, unchecked immigration, population explosion, and the totalitarian state.
Discussions of violence in entertainment circulating in society today tend to focus on visual representations of violence in movies, television shows, and video games, but what about verbal representation of violence in literature? This is a question we will take up in this course, particularly as it relates to the British novel. Throughout the semester we will focus our attention on three novels in which violence is a central concern. We will read Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, each written in and representing a different historical context. We will consider violence as it exists within each of these novels, and also what emerges in discussing violence in literature more generally when we consider these novels collectively. The guiding questions of our discussions will include the following: how is violence manifested within these texts? What are the levels on which violence can be represented in the novel? How should we contextualize our discussions of violence in the novel, and what should the terms of these discussions be?
As we work to explore these issues, we will also be working to gain the skills necessary to write a successful college-level essay. Thus, this course will be structured around three major writing assignments, in each of which we will explore the relationship between violence and literature. In the Close Reading Essay, you will develop an argument about Oroonoko through a meticulous and sustained attention to the text. In the Lens Essay, you will develop an argument about Frankenstein using the writings of Sigmund Freud. And in the Research Essay, you will locate sources with whose arguments you wish to engage in your own about The Scarlet Pimpernel, learning to locate your own work within a critical conversation.
Since the attacks of 09/11, fundamentalist Islam has received wide coverage in the Western press. But the media tends to obscure the fact that Islamic fundamentalism exists in dialectic relationship with, rather than apart from, secularism. In fact, it has emerged in response to both Western and Muslim secularism. In order to understand contemporary radical religious movements, we need to understand the struggle between the conception of the secular modern state and religion. In this class, we will look at the case of Turkey, a state that significantly embodies the tension between secular European modernism and Islamic culture and history. Through a series of reading and writing assignments designed to enhance students' writing and critical thinking skills, this University Writing Seminar will begin by defining secularism and analyzing the history of secularism in Turkey by looking specifically at the founding of the modern Turkish state. In the second part of the course, we will examine closely the ongoing controversy over the headscarf in Turkey, which provides insight into the problem of religion, law, politics and gender. In the final third of the course, you will broaden your understanding of secularism by researching controversies over religious signs in other countries, such as France’s own version of the headscarf debate.
What does it mean to find something funny? When we laugh, must we laugh at something or someone? Why do I sometimes feel such keen discomfort when watching reruns of I Love Lucy or The Office? Such notorious killjoys as Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, and Immanuel Kant have given their attention to humor, and their evaluations haven't always been positive. Some claim that laughter must necessarily be an expression of contempt for another, that enjoyment of comedy encourages coarseness of feeling and deadens our sympathy for others. These thinkers say that comedy transforms our neighbors' pain and humiliation into entertainment. Certainly, racist or sexist humor seems to operate on this principle, and as the saying goes –– most often attributed to Mel Brooks –– "Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall down an open manhole and die." However, there are also those who claim that laughter encourages human sympathy and community. Comedy, they claim, can both unite us in common understanding and help us get outside of our petty jealousies and prejudices by giving us a new perspective on the world. Humor, it turns out, may make us more able to care about each other and to understand our world. It may even be one of the more valuable forms of intellectual inquiry available to curious and sympathetic thinkers.
This course sets out to investigate the relationship between our capacity to enjoy comedy and our ability to appreciate the experiences of others, and seeks to provide interested students the opportunity to sharpen their academic skills and to deepen their analytic habits of mind. We will examine the real and supposed tensions between comedy and sympathy by carefully considering key ideas from a variety of disciplines and by closely examining examples of humor from literature, the visual arts, and performances in television or film. The question of what we find funny and how we ought to regard that feeling offers ample opportunity to rigorously investigate examples of humor, to engage critically the often contentious scholarship that considers that question, and to produce original research suggesting some kind of answer to it over the course of three substantive essay assignments. Students will leave the course with experience in applying essential strategies for framing and working through analytic questions in writing, amply prepared to begin with confidence their scholastic careers at Brandeis.UWS 6b: Writing Mental Illness
Mental illness occurs in all groups, yet a very particular type of mental illness narrative became common – we could even say popular – in the twentieth century: stories of mental illness in young women. Almost always dramatic and frequently romanticized, the experience of mental illness as recounted in these books deserves to be examined. In this class, we will explore novels and memoirs that articulate and narrate experiences of mental illness while we interrogate gendered aspects of those experiences and narratives. Texts we may look at include “The Yellow Wallpaper,” The Bell Jar, and Prozac Nation. We will use critical theory to discuss the ways that mental illness functions as a metaphor. By the end of the course, students will have written three essays: a close reading essay; a lens essay (one that uses one text to analyze another); and a research essay. As a University Writing Seminar, this class’s primary goal is to prepare students for college-level academic writing. Students will develop a critical vocabulary for thinking about the process of composition and revision as well as cultivate crucial research skills that will help them make the most of the information resources available at Brandeis.
Often regarded as one of the most efflorescent periods in modern human history, the vibrancy of the culture of Weimar Germany (1918-1933) was matched only by the stark political and economic realities of its time. This relatively brief period witnessed the genesis of Bauhaus architecture, the dramas of Bertoldt Brecht, and the decadent cabaret culture of 1920s Berlin. The vibrancy of Weimar culture is made even more curious by its precarious historical location, sandwiched between Germany’s disastrous end to World War One and the even more calamitous rise of National Socialism (1933-1945).
Why, at a time when German democracy was arguably at its zenith, did an originally small right-wing fringe movement (National Socialism) eventually gain political control and establish a fascist genocidal regime? Was the Weimar period a “failed experiment in democracy”, or was the Third Reich a probable development with clear antecedents in Germany’s cultural and political past?
This course will specifically focus on Bertoldt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera (1928), Ernst Junger’s memoir Storm of Steel (1924), and excerpts from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, as well as some of the more well-known National Socialist publications. As a University Writing Seminar, frequent classroom discussion, peer review sessions, and intensive written revisions will refine the skills required for competent university-level writing. The semester will culminate in a research essay on a course-related topic of your choosing that will represent your own personal contribution to scholarship.
Stephen Sondheim’s musicals represent the pinnacle of American musical theater as an art form in the second half of the twentieth century yet they almost belong in their own genre. Sondheim’s musicals speak to a breadth of human experiences, many previously untouched by song and dance: a series of fractured fairytales; the fate of retired showgirls; a writing partnership gone sour; presidential assassins; a bachelor on his 35th birthday and an artist at a crossroads in his professional and personal life. Through a close study of production history, characterizations, lyrics, music, movement, plot and script, this class will investigate three examples of Sondheim’s work – Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George and Company – as well as excerpts from other productions. We will also listen to relevant soundtracks and view production videos as well as examine responses to the works studied. Throughout this class, students will be required to produce thoughtful, well written responses in clear academic English. Over the course of the semester, researching, writing, and editing skills essential to the Brandeis undergraduate curriculum will be developed. Students do not need any prior drama or musical training; however, an interest in music and/or music theater is strongly encouraged.
In the decades since World War II, American cities have faced challenges of unprecedented scale, including racial and social inequality, crime and drug problems, economic breakdown, and environmental degradation. How have elected officials and community leaders sought to ameliorate these problems, and how successful have such reform efforts been? In short, what makes for effective urban policy? In this seminar, students will explore these questions while learning to master the fundamentals of university-level academic writing. In our first unit, which will focus on urban school reform, students will craft their own arguments about the effectiveness of charter schools for improving urban education. In our second unit, we will tackle the issues of crime and drugs in American cities by watching episodes from season three of the acclaimed original HBO series The Wire. Here, students will evaluate the consequences of a fictionalized attempt at de facto drug legalization on the streets of West Baltimore. Finally, in our third unit, students will research a topic of their own choice, analyzing an attempt to fix a specific problem in an American city, and assessing its effectiveness.
Protest has always been an integral part of the American social/political atmosphere, and music has always been an integral part of American protest (and protest in general). From the Revolutionary War to Occupy Wall Street, songs have been sung – but why? In this course, we will attempt to find answers to this question by analyzing protest songs from different eras in American history. In our readings, we will supplement our understanding of these songs through historical context and musicological theory. The first major assignment will be a side-by-side comparison of a protest song and the song to which it is reacting and/or parodies. The next assignment will focus on the Great Depression, where we will consider a Woody Guthrie song about the Dust Bowl with regard to one author’s theory about the types and functions of American political music. Finally, the third assignment will be a research paper, in which each student will choose an American protest song of any era and genre as their topic. The research will synthesize the various interpretive aspects from semester, including musical and text analysis, historical context, and theories about the characteristics and goals of protest song.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a mainstay of theatre seasons and English curricula alike and with good reason: the story of a forbidden love between teenagers, of jealousy, passion and tragedy has maintained its appeal across generational and cultural divides since 1597.The play has been re-imagined, adapted and appropriated countless times for different media including musical theatre, comic strip, Hollywood blockbuster, teen-rom-com and even a song by the British rock band Dire Straits. In this course, we will examine the source text via a close reading of selected scenes, as well as a number of adaptations and appropriations including the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story, the film adaptations by Franco Zeffirelli (1968) and Baz Luhrmann (1996) and consider a variety of other, perhaps lesser-known versions of the original. As we analyze these, we will ask questions about artistic appropriation, intellectual property, and artistic innovation. In the final unit, students will have the opportunity to complete an original piece of research on an appropriation of a Shakespearean work of their choosing. Throughout this class, students will be required to produce thoughtful, well-written responses in clear academic English. Over the course of the semester, researching, writing, and editing skills essential to the Brandeis undergraduate curriculum will be developed. Students do not need any prior training in theatre, music or film studies - however, an interest in one or more of these areas is encouraged.
This course is a University Writing Seminar. As such, its primary goal is to prepare students for college-level academic writing. Students will learn the standards of academic writing, practice those standards, cultivate vital skills for performing academic research, and develop a critical vocabulary for thinking about the process of composition and revision. At the same time, we will habitually reflect on the ways that academic standards for argumentative writing overlap with those found in other writing contexts.
A man walks into a room wearing a spandex body suit and a cape. Is he a superhero? A supervillain? A particularly troubled fashion victim? In the world of the Superhero, everything depends on being able to successfully make the call, but how is this decision made? What is it that marks the difference between the good guy, the bad guy, and the random guy on the street? More importantly, what makes these traits so important? In this class, we will engage with a series of texts, from comic books to film, in order to interrogate the markers of good and evil, and what these markers tell us about how we conceptualize ourselves. From Lex Luthor to Dr. Horrible, Superman to Sylar, we will interrogate how notions of good and evil form along the boundaries of race, class, gender and sexuality. Questions we will address will include, what is a hero? How do notions of masculinity impact our perception of “goodness” and the heroic? How does a Superhero register differently from a Superheroine? Why can’t the villain get the girl? And lastly, can you have a gay superhero? Ultimately, this class proposes to explore how we use these “Super” characters to define the limits and the possibilities of our own existence.
To this end, and as the course is a University Writing Seminar, students will use critical theory and cultural texts to develop their own readings of these characters while developing their analytical writing skills within the university. This course will help you cultivate the necessary faculties for writing successful academic essays, which will serve you throughout your career at Brandeis. You will develop a critical vocabulary for thinking about the process of composition and revision, and cultivate crucial research skills that will help you make the most of the information resources available at Brandeis.
I will stress that this course, though focusing on non-traditional genres of text, will emphasize a strong theoretical ethic and a rather heavy reading load. Please be prepared to be challenged in terms of the reading and the dedication to the production of strong academic writing.
Whether it is the ongoing civil war in Syria, the epidemic of violence against women, or classroom bullying, violence permeates seemingly every aspect of human relations. Justifications for this violence are almost as omnipresent as violence itself. Arguments from human history, evolutionary biology, and political theory have been used to maintain the violent status quo. For nearly as long as there has been human violence however, thinkers and political activists have embraced theories of nonviolence – the rejection of violence in thought, speech, and deed – as productive ways to change their societies. The course will begin by defining nonviolence and its relationship to state-sponsored violence. In the course’s second movement we will examine how nonviolent philosophies can inform debates on social issues such as domestic violence, animal rights, and immigration. The final third of the course will orbit around a research paper in which students will apply philosophies of nonviolence read in class to a contemporary political, social, and cultural conflict of the student’s choice. Authors we will read in this course include Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Peter Singer, A.J. Muste, and Leo Tolstoy. We will also watch two films: Le Havre (2011) and Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008).
Adam and Noah, Gilgamesh and Odysseus, the destruction of the world and the discovery of human sexuality: these stories live in our memories, inform our cultures, and even define what we call the human experience. But how did these central myths, which ultimately became the foundations of Western media, develop? In this writing seminar, we will explore a sampling of ancient myths and legends from the ancient Middle East and Classical Greece and Rome. We will read some of the most provocative stories in Western culture including: Noah’s flood, Circe’s enticing of Odysseus, and Gilgamesh’s heroic exploits. We will explore how these stories were constructed in the past and how their themes, (and sometimes their very words), are repeated in legends across languages and cultures. Although our initial focus will be to understand how these texts formed in antiquity, we will then turn our attention to their prominence in modern media, particularly cinema. The course will culminate in a paper that investigates how one of these sexy, chaotic, and bloody episodes appears in a contemporary film.
The precise aesthetic, economic and cultural meanings of “Indie” are elusive. Used to describe artists ranging from the experimental and obscure, to some of the biggest stars in rock, Indie Music has become a ubiquitous umbrella term, encompassing a wide range of musical styles. Both within the larger category of Indie Music and outside of it, affinity and affiliation with musical subgenres can often be vehicles for the projection of distinction, by both artists and audiences. In this course we will consider how musical aesthetics and categorization become agents of the construction and sustenance of personal and group identities.
Assignments in this course will offer the opportunity to analyze documentary films made about artists including Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, Radiohead and LCD System, albums chosen by students, and arguments that offer frameworks for understanding Indie Rock. The course will draw upon Pierre Bourdieu’s seminal sociological text, “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste” (1979), as well as articles including Ryan Hibbett’s “What is Indie Rock?” (2005) and David K. Blake’s “Timbre as Differentiation in Indie Rock” (2012).
To foster the development of personal ideas about the readings, recordings and films covered, this discussion-based seminar will emphasize drafting, revising, and teacher-student conferencing. Through deep engagement with personally inspiring topics, students will progressively refine the critical thinking and writing skills necessary for successful academic prose.
Most of us recognize magicians as characters in children's fantasies such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Grimm's fairy tales, and Disney’s animated films. But a few centuries ago, magicians in Renaissance Europe were real people of great learning and influence. Their expansive knowledge included virtually everything: astronomy, mathematics, geometry, music, navigation, chemistry, herbal medicine and other varied topics. They even designed airplanes, submarines, robots, and methods of telecommunication which we mistakenly believe, are the inventions of our modern times! Many of these magicians, however, also suffered due to their unquenchable desire for knowledge. Many risked their lives attempting to know things that had been forbidden by the Church of the time. To understand these paradoxical figures, we will read the works of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, William Shakespeare's Tempest, and Francis Bacon's New Atlantis. As we consider the representations and arguments of these magicians, we will have ample opportunity to sharpen our habits of close reading, analysis, and discussion. The course culminates in an opportunity to produce original scholarly research that follows from the course content we will discuss over the semester.
When we think about artists such as Lady Gaga, Prince, Rihanna, or Marilyn Manson, we think of glamour, theatricality, sexual ambiguity, and lots of make-up. All of these artists and many others have their roots in Glam Rock. Emerging out of the European art rock and the English psychedelic scenes, Glam Rock pushed the limits of rock and roll both musically and socially. Glam Rock challenged the conventional ideology of rock and roll and brought numerous issues to the limelight such as gender, homosexuality, and theatricality in rock music. This course will explore the history behind the conception of Glam Rock and its impact on pop music by looking at various artists including: David Bowie, Lou Reed, Queen, the Velvet Underground, just to name a few. This course is designed to develop critical thinking skills through discussions, listening, and writing. Throughout this class, students will be required to develop thoughtful, well written responses in clear academic English. Over the course of the semester, researching, writing, and editing skills essential to the Brandeis undergraduate curriculum will be covered. Students do not need any prior musical training: however, an interest in music is strongly encouraged.
In her essay on feminist film theory “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Laura Mulvey argues that classic Hollywood’s male-bodied characters have long occupied the position of the “lookers,” while the women have been vested with what she names “to-be-looked-at-ness.” This course aims to find out what happens when the male gaze is inverted––where women (and other-gendered persons) become lookers and male bodies become those which are objectified. As a class, we will explore “the crisis of masculinity” so often discussed in recent studies on manhood through a close reading of traditional and non-traditional representations of men and the male body in films since classic Hollywood. We will pay close attention to male relationships to feminism, the domestic, queerness and the struggle with rugged individualism in the post-modern age as we analyze such films as Hitchcock’s Rear Window, The Matrix, Basic Instinct and Fight Club. Our work with gender and film will be focused on the process of composing concise and compelling essays at the college level as well as fostering critical thinking and effective argumentation.
In the popular imagination, Los Angeles is not only a major metropolis but also a metaphor for the American Dream and the Western Frontier. Among cultural commentators, writers, artists, and scholars, two opposing pictures of the city persist. In one, Los Angeles is a laboratory for exchange and negotiation, in which a plurality of races and ethnicities contribute to a rich and diverse polycultural landscape. In the other view, the city is an intellectual wasteland, characterized by striking socioeconomic and racial exploitation and exclusion, environmental destruction, and the end of public space. This seminar aims to explore – and complicate – this “sunshine vs. noir” perspective, by examining secondary and theoretical texts from Mike Davis, Kevin Starr, Michael Sorkin, and Eric Avila, and by investigating the ways Los Angeles has been “envisioned” in memoir, fiction, film, and television, which will serve as our primary sources. Students will gain a sense of the ways that historians write about cities in general, as well as an idea of what makes Los Angeles culturally distinct from other urban American spaces.
Did the Philistines kill King Saul, or did David have him assassinated? Did an angel save Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege, or did King Hezekiah pay-off the Assyrians using treasure from the Temple? Who really killed Goliath – David or a nobody named Elhanan? In this course, we will discover firsthand that history does not write itself. People write history. Like other types of writing, history writing is a creative endeavor. But unlike modern historians, the biblical authors had little interest in the past for its own sake. An ancient author may have written about the past for a plethora of reasons, many of which had nothing to do with reporting what really happened. By using modern critical approaches to the Bible, we will explore the beliefs, biases, and aims that shaped the biblical authors’ depictions of the past. Reading a variety of “historical” texts from Deuteronomy, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, as well as from ancient Assyrian and Babylonian sources, you will develop an understanding of why biblical authors wrote about the past. More importantly, you will learn to craft a college essay: to engage critically with texts, organize and develop your thoughts, interact with outside sources to enhance your arguments, and articulate your ideas in beautifully-crafted sentences.
Slavery is bad. Seems fairly obvious, but abolitionist reformers in the first half of the nineteenth century spilled a great deal of ink illustrating that point through a variety of means. These men and women worked to overcome an American culture whose attitudes towards slavery ranged from ambivalence to sympathy, and a Southern intelligentsia increasingly committed to portraying slavery as a positive good. This course will explore those methods, from rhetoric to fiction to dramatic slave narrative. We will begin by reading Harriet Beecher Stowe’s tremendously influential novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and exploring the impact it had as a sentimental antislavery tract. Students will discuss how Stowe used fiction as an antislavery tool. We will then read several narratives of escaped slaves who put their autobiographies to work for the antislavery cause. The second major assignment of the course will ask students to critically examine one of these narratives through a literary criticism lens. Finally, we will turn to the rhetoric deployed by slavery’s most vocal and radical opponents, the abolitionists, in order to sway their audiences. The final assignment of the course will be a research paper in which students seek out contemporary abolitionist literature and critically examine their argumentative tactics.
In 1775, riding quickly atop his horse from Boston to warn of the coming danger, Paul Revere shouted, “The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!” The following day at Lexington the “shot heard around the world” was fired in the shadow of the city. One year later, atop Bunker Hill faced by onrushing British soldiers, William Prescott ordered his men, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” Even earlier James Otis contended, “Taxation without representation was tyranny.” These immortal words, some of the most famous in American history, were all uttered by the voices of Boston’s citizens. The city of Boston has been nicknamed “the cradle of Revolution” for its crucial role in the American War of Independence. The city led the charge for freedom that culminated in the American Revolution. The battles that took place in and around Boston helped define and establish the United States. Bostonians, including such notables as John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, led the ideological charge against Great Britain. This course will follow the initial “battles” for liberty (the Stamp Act Riots, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Powder Alarm) to the true military battles (Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston) that helped spur independence. By examining these events, we will learn how Boston became inescapably intertwined with the history and memory of not just the war, but the spirit of America.
This course will be based on writing and research, and is designed to improve your historical knowledge and composition skills. Drawing from period papers on these battles, as well as from the historical and literary works from their centennial era and the modern day, it will feature a close reading assignment on a primary text. A subsequent essay comparing a primary document to a piece of secondary historical literature will follow. The culmination of the semester will center on an original student-selected research essay about one of Boston’s battles. Emphasis will be placed on style, tone, grammar, and organization. Through individual conferences and peer reviews, this course will enhance your academic writing.