Spring 2014 University Writing Seminars
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• 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.
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.
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.
In this class, we will examine narratives from the last 20 years that make use of the stories, settings, and cultural forms of the Old West. We will ask why American culture continues to find the Old West--usually the West of the nineteenth century--an important site of meaning. To what ends are contemporary writers, filmmakers, and other cultural producers returning to the commonplace features of the nineteenth-century American frontier? We will investigate fiction, TV, film, and other media for answers to that question, and we will ask, more specifically, if the New Old West is a way to articulate or redress anxieties about global environmental degradation or discomfort with changing national understandings of racial, gender, and class difference. By the end of the course, we will articulate what makes the New Old West new and identify some of its central social aims or questions.
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.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the world’s largest population of Jews (5 million) lived within the Russian Empire. Following the October Revolution (1917), the Soviet state defined Jews solely as a nationality. But how did they define themselves? As an ethnicity? A religious group? Both? Neither? In this course, you will explore the ways Soviet Jews wrestled with questions of identity. In the Soviet era, Jewish men and women were revolutionaries, soldiers, victims, writers, leaders of the Communist Party, collective farmers, workers, intellectuals, professionals, dissidents, emigrants, and even converts to Russian Orthodox Christianity—each with their own perception of Jewishness. The writing in this course will force you to interact with the question of conflicted Jewish identity in the Soviet Union. You will first undertake a close reading of a text to determine how the Jewish author navigated questions of identity. You will then examine excerpts from Mary Leder’s memoir, My Life in Stalinist Russia, through the lens of a historical study of Birobidzhan—the controversial project to create a Jewish national homeland within the Soviet Union. Finally, you will research a particular event or period that had a lasting impact on the Soviet Jewish identity.
J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye holds a fraught seat within American high school English curriculums. Not only is Catcher’s place in English curriculums still in question, but readers’ personal reactions to Holden, the protagonist, tend to be mixed. Some readers find him to be a whiny, unlikeable teenager; others read him as a young man in mourning over the loss of his younger brother. This course will seek to give students a broader sense of Salinger as concerned with the impacts of war on individuals and families and images of mourning within families. We will begin with a reading of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and A Perfect Day for Banana Fish. We will then read a number of Salinger’s short stories and Franny and Zooey. Finally, we will end with a reading of Catcher. Many students will have read Catcher in high school; for others, this will be a first reading of the novel. The goal of this course is to come to a fuller understanding of Salinger’s work through class discussion and individual essays. We will use Sigmund Freud’s theory of mourning as presented in his classic essay Mourning and Melancholia as a lens through which to view the Glass and Caulfield families.
There will be three required essays for this course: for the first essay, students will do a close reading of a short story, for the second essay, students will conduct a reading of a text through the lens provided by Freud in Mourning and Melancholia, for the third essay, students will write a research paper that analyzes a range of critical work written on one of the Salinger texts read in class.
There are those who say that we are living in a golden age of satire. A survey of the local paper or the evening news certainly seems to reveal a world that is rife with satiric possibility, and if the widespread popularity of entertainment fare like The Daily Show is any indication, it seems as though audiences are hungry for it. These commentators point to the multiplicity of satiric forms that have emerged with the new century and the ease with which they find new targets and audiences. However, others claim that modern public discourse has become too arch and ironized for the satirist’s tools to have any real effect, and that productions like The Daily Show and The Onion are themselves symptoms of this trend. They claim that satire’s classic mission of moral correction has in fact fallen away, replaced by petty partisanism or total misanthropy. How did we ever reach this peculiar historical moment? How do contemporary forms like The Colbert Report really compare to the classic models of Pope and Swift? How do we go about defining a mode of expression that has adapted itself to nearly every available form, from the classical epic to the news broadcast, and that has attracted the talents of writers as different from one another as Dorothy Parker, George Saunders, Ambrose Bierce, and Langston Hughes? What is satire? Can we ever find a definition that can account for all of it?
This course offers the opportunity to investigate the mode of expression we call satire through a variety of readings in multiple media that stretch from satire’s modern reinvention in the early Eighteenth Century to the present day. Students will investigate a number of different theories of satire that attempt to define the genre in various ways. The rhetoric of satire and the never-ending quest to define it offers engaged scholars a good opportunity to sharpen and apply their own skills of argumentation and analysis, and that is precisely what students in this course will do as they read closely, apply theories of satire, and engage in original research over the course of three substantial essay assignments. The semester culminates in the opportunity for students to produce a well-researched satire of their own. Students should leave the course with an understanding of the nature and conventions of academic writing and prepared to begin their scholastic careers at Brandeis.
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.
Outside the world of concerts, rehearsals and hours in a studio perfecting a seemingly imperfectable craft, musicians are often depicted as enigmas, mad geniuses or prodigious superhumans. Fictional accounts of musical life frequently employ this rhetoric of wonder and mystery surrounding musicians. In this course, we will examine some roles attributed to musicians in works of fiction through discussion of stories by Anna Maria Dell-Oso, Norman Lebrecht and perhaps Robert Ford, a novella (Goldsworthy’s Maestro) and film (Zilberman’s 2012 A Late Quartet) each with a musician protagonist. Throughout this class, in addition to discussing, dispelling and perhaps even reinventing previously established representations of musicians, students will have the opportunity to complete an original piece of research on a relevant text. Over the course of the semester, students will be required to produce thoughtful, well written responses in clear academic English and researching, writing, and editing skills essential to the Brandeis undergraduate curriculum will be developed.
The power behind one of the most memorable curses from Shakespeare's plays stems from its invocation of a terrible and deadly disease: the bubonic plague. As a virulent contagion, the plague continued to capture the imagination of writers well after its epidemics had abated in Europe. From the 16th century onward, these authors chronicled the social and ethical ramifications of cure versus containment, fighting an enemy which would remain unseen until the invention of the microscope. During this course students will take a closer look at narratives of disease, paying particular attention to the relationship between disease, language, and writing. Although initial readings will focus upon early modern writers such as William Shakespeare, Thomas Dekker and John Donne, the latter half of the course will center upon more modern texts, such as Albert Camus' The Plague and Steven Soderbergh's film, Contagion.
As a University Writing Seminar, this course requires the completion of three major assignments: a close reading essay, a lens essay, and a formal research paper. For the first assignment students will engage more directly with a text discussed in class, producing a perspective which is fresh and unique. The lens essay will demand a more theoretical approach— for this we will be looking at the writings of Susan Sontag and Sander L. Gilman. The final essay for this course requires students to undertake a research project based upon the texts discussed in class. Students will be asked to participate in an ongoing dialogue between works which substantiate an original (and plausible) claim. Freshmen from all disciplines are encouraged to enroll, as course discussions can only be enriched by the participation of multiple voices from varied backgrounds; however, all students must be aware that UWS courses move at a rigorous pace! Our goal is to ensure that students come away with a solid understanding of how to construct a cohesive, persuasive argument of considerable integrity while asking critical questions of every text regardless of its medium.
Literary texts were an important vehicle of spreading and maintaining British dominion in the era of high of colonialism--colonizers credited the English book with the power not only to educate, but to "humanize" and "civilize" colonized people. In this course, we will briefly discuss this history of literature's role in British colonialism, and we will spend the majority of the course examining different literary responses from colonized or formerly colonized spaces in the 20th century. Among others, we will consider the following questions: In what ways do postcolonial writers respond to an inherited colonial tradition? What conceptual problems of identity, literary form, migration, and history of trauma must postcolonial writers grapple with in their twentieth century texts? When, why, and how is the question of liberation far more complicated than it seems? How do postcolonial writers work on a project of "decolonizing the mind"? As this course is a University Writing Seminar, we will explore these questions through foundational practices of critical reading and academic writing.
Did you know that West Side Story was originally going to be on the story of a Jewish girl and a Protestant boy, whose Romeo and Juliet-style tragedy would come to a head over the Easter-Passover holiday season? By replacing these characters with street gangs who represent different ethnic groups, librettist Stephen Sondheim and composer Leonard Bernstein modified the subject of their musical, though not its political message: prejudice, in every case, leads to destruction for both the bearer and the object of irrational hatred. In this way, this dramaturgical transformation illustrates the nature of political messaging within the musical-theater forum, a power that impacts the viewer through its use of various scenarios of time, place, and dramatis personae to convey its universal moral messages.After an introduction to basic musical vocabulary (the ability to read musical notation is not required), this course considers West Side Story in detail, focusing primarily on Sondheim's use of political messaging, as well as the musical devices and structures by which Bernstein expresses the conflicts through which these messages are manifested, in order to sway the hearts and minds of the listener. Our study of this great musical will begin with a close reading and analysis of one song from the musical (students' choice). Next we will discuss the issue of Puerto Rican identity in this work through the lens of France Negrón-Muntaner's essay on the subject, as well as the topic of youth-authority conflict, manifested in the gang members' interactions with the police force, in particular the "beat cop," Officer Krupke. Finally, students will develop a research project on a subject related to the use of persuasive methodology in the Broadway musical (students may focus on West Side Story, or they may choose another musical, pending instructor approval).
In this course, we will consider literary depictions of India’s independence from British colonialism in 1947. This was accompanied by the “partition” of the country into India and Pakistan, and it led to the displacement of millions of people from their homes to what had now become their “official” country: Pakistan for those of the Islamic faith and India for the rest. A source of immense trauma, this bifurcation has spawned a plethora of print material, ranging from literature in the vernaculars to Anglophone literary texts and political treatises, and filmic depictions.
The communal and border politics of this region have engendered particular “truths” about the past. We will read the novel Train to Pakistan along with a few short stories and watch several films on partition to gain a sense of how this seminal event has fashioned a literary and cultural imaginary. What does this particular case of literary depiction have to do with a contemporary understanding of religious representation? How do people in India and Pakistan understand each other through the prism of this representation? This course will examine fictional and cinematic narratives about the partition of India in an attempt to better understand cultural representation and expressions of gender, religion, and ethnic identity.
In Joseph Swetnam’s hotly contested seventeenth-century pamphlet about women, he declares that “Women are all necessary evils.” His pamphlet sparked a flurry of polemical debates about the nature and role of women in society, issues which continue to be debated in news media today. This course will examine short writings ranging from the early modern pamphlets to periodicals to current print media that engage in public debates over issues of gender. Pamphlets and periodicals have held an important role in shaping public opinion and often provide a forum for debating contested issues, giving them a unique position in the long-running gender controversy. We will examine the ways in which women’s role in society has been debated, and whether or not the terms of that debate have changed as we move from early modern to contemporary material.
Most importantly, in this course students will be introduced to the art of the college essay. A range of writing activities will teach students to read critically, craft complex arguments, evaluate and engage with scholarly sources, and articulate their ideas in graceful prose. We will engage in a series of targeted writing exercises, workshops, and conferences, and produce three major essays over the course of the semester in order to explore the themes, rhetoric, and issues involved the pamphlets and periodicals we will read.
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.
UWS 6a: Politically-Charged Music
What do Beethoven, Bob Dylan, the Zhejiang Song-and-Dance Troupe and The Sex Pistols have in common? They all have composed or performed politically-charged music: anti-establishment songs, anti-war songs, or songs for patriotic campaigns. The connection between music and politics, particularly in political expression in music, has been seen in many cultures throughout history. This course will explore the social impacts and historical impetus for politically-charged music, from classical and contemporary art music to forms of popular music such as folk and rock. For the close reading, we will learn about the aims of politically-charged music-- nationalism, hero worship, political commentary -- and the societal stimuli such as war, revolutions and movements that caused composers to write such music. The lens essay will explore popular music of Bob Dylan and John Lennon with or against Adorno's social theory, while the research topic will focus on the modernization of traditional folk tunes to unite a nation, using case studies from the Cultural Revolution period in China and the African-Americna Civil Rights Movement in the USA. This course is designed to develop critical thinking skills through discussions, listening and writing, and to develop clear cohesive arguments.
Works of art and music of the Minimalist movement are stripped bare of any non-essential details, leaving only the essence of a concept, process, or experience. With its roots in the early twentieth century, Minimalism rose to prominence in the 1960s and remains an important part of the dialogue in contemporary art and music. Minimalist works are repetitive, process oriented, and are often without overt emotions, using the absolute minimum amount of material for maximum impact. How do we relate to art once overt emotion is removed? How do we respond to art whose depths are on the surface? How do we discuss, evaluate, and share our experiences and understanding of a pared-down creative product that straddles the line between philosophy, craft, and experience? In this writing seminar, we explore these questions by critically evaluating and writing about process-oriented works of visual art and music from the Minimalist movement. Through a series of written assignments, we will focus on honing skills in critical evaluation, reasoning, research and revision by engaging with works and writings by Alvin Lucier, La Monte Young, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Robert Morris and others. The class will culminate in a research assignment that focuses on contextualizing and evaluating one artist’s work and aesthetic position.
Sexual deviants, tormented geniuses, and mad scientists, all pushed to the brink by their thirst for dangerous knowledge. This is what we think of when we think of Romantic literature. Why did the irrational become a virtue during the Romantic Era? In this seminar, we will explore why and how Romantic artists and philosophers thought about madness (including insanity, irrationality, and inspiration). We will also explore how the idea of madness itself shaped Romantic (and contemporary) ideas about reason and knowledge. We will begin by reading some of the texts that influenced Romantic thought on the subject, beginning with Socrates' speech on madness in the Phaedrus, and continuing Diderot'sRameau's Nephew, and excerpts from Kant. We will then read some of the Romantic works that deal with and/or were conceived in heightened states of consciousness, including writings by Friedrich Hölderlin, William Blake, Gérard de Nerval, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Nietzsche. We will also read critical works from authors including Lionel Trilling and Michel Foucault.
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.
A 2012 study by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network reports that 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, a significant increase from 2006 estimates of 1 in 110 children. It is no wonder that many have described this rise as an “autism epidemic”! Without a clear etiology (cause/origin), autism invites a range of interpretations concerning its cause and treatment—some blame environmental factors, others argue genetics, and a few claim that it is merely a different way of being. Given autism’s uncertainties and growing population, this is an apposite time to study the conversations and contestations that are taking place. Autism well illustrates the complex role of illness in our society. In this course, students will use autism as a vehicle to explore the social and cultural conceptions of illness. How do we define and speak about illness? Is it individuals who are sick or is it society that fails to accommodate difference? What does it mean to be diagnosed? In addition to reading works by Michel Foucault, Irving Zola, Talcott Parsons, Susan Wendell, and Peter Conrad and Joseph Schneider, students will examine contemporary discourse on the illness of their choice.
We often take weight-related claims, representations, and statistics for granted, not considering the meaning or the impact of such constant discussions and ideologies. In this course we ask: What is obesity? What is fatness? Is all fat “bad”? What does it mean to refer to obesities in the plural? What role do fat references play in our understanding of health, wellness, and disease? What is the relationship between health and fat? What does fat mean in different contexts? In what ways does fat disgust and why? This course uses theoretical perspectives derived from the anthropological study of the body and the emerging interdisciplinary field of Fat Studies in order to look at stigma, inequality, activism, embodiment, and media. The course examines how fatness and obesities ideologies permeate our everyday lives in both political and personal ways. This course uses theoretical perspectives derived from the anthropological study of the body in order to look at the health and wellness issues, stigma, and social life of body size. We will “close read” images of bodies, examine the film Precious, and read selections from Erving Goffman, Nikolas Rose, and Julia Kristeva. We will also explore the work of anthropologists including Susan Bordo, Susan Greengalgh and other scholarship disciplines including the work of Kathleen Lebesco and Paul Campos. Over the course of three units – close reading, lens analysis, and research – these investigations will be the fodder for our primary work on critical thinking and essay writing, including thesis, structure, analysis, and argumentation.
Bob Dylan. Dmitri Shostakovich. Tupac Shakur. For centuries, musicians have used their art as a vehicle for social and political demonstration. Musicologists and historians debate at length the complex roles of composers and songwriters and their effect on cultural movements. Why is music such a prevalent form of protest? How have the counterculture and establishment alike exploited musicians and artists for their political ambitions? At what point does music shift from entertainment to polemics? Be it the ‘60s Hippie culture, the anti-communist movement of Czechoslovakia, revisionism in the Third-Reich, South African anti-apartheid music, or the Rock Against Bush punk movement; with deeper inquiry, we find that no artistic faction is as simple as it is often historically portrayed. By analyzing various forms of music as well as the writings of musicologists and critics, we will explore the role of the musician as activist. Through continual writing, revision, group discussion, and student conferences, we will gain a better understanding of how the arts define culture and develop the writing skills crucial for your academic and professional success.
This course is organized into three units with the main purpose of developing academic writing. From Classical to Country, from Rock to Hip-hop, subject matter for writing assignments will deal with the music and political statements from various genres and styles. Prior formal musical training or knowledge of music is not a requirement for this course.
Slavery dominated society on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Resistance to this long-ingrained institution that subjected millions to bondage slowly developed due to a collection of moral, ideological, and socio-political concerns. We will explore how slavery was transnationally understood, rationalized, despised, and ultimately abolished over three centuries. This class examines how the abolitionist movement developed—not just in America but also in Europe, South America, and Africa.
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 slavery and abolitionism, as well as from the historical works of Philip Morgan, Christopher Brown, etc., it will feature a close reading assignment on an emancipationist 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 a transnational abolitionist topic. Emphasis will be placed on style, tone, grammar, and organization. Through individual conferences and peer reviews, this course will enhance your academic writing.UWS 2a: Dangerous Knowledge: Magic and Magicians in Early Modern English Literature
Byeong Kee Yang
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.
Henry David Thoreau declared “I stand in awe of my body,” expressing a sense of the body as a source of delight, wonder, and even artistic inspiration. Conversely, the body can also be a source of embarrassment, dismay, and disgust. Both the pleasure and the disgust the body can evoke are brought together in the concept of the “grotesque body,” which will be the theme of this writing seminar. Mikhail Bakhtin claimed that exaggeration, hyperbolism, and excessiveness are “fundamental attributes of the grotesque style,” and that, as a mode of representation, the grotesque comments on and critiques social realities. In this class we will read, discuss, and write about the grotesque body as it is represented across a variety of cultural texts, including poetry, short stories, and television, in order to ask what critical functions those representations serve. What can the spectacle of a grotesque body convey that an ordinary one cannot? For what reasons and on what occasions is the grotesque appropriate? Is the grotesque ever “appropriate”? We will consider the function of the grotesque body with respect to issues of gender, race, and class, drawing examples from the past, as well as from our own historical moment, as we work together to write three major essays, each developing skills that will be crucial throughout your college careers.