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Haverford College

Course Catalog

Writing Program: 2009-2010

DescriptionFacultyWriting SeminarsDepartment Homepage


As a vital part of academic study, personal expression, and civic life, writing merits concerted attention in a liberal education. The Writing Program encourages students to become rigorous thinkers and writers who can construct arguments that matter, craft prose that resonates with their intended audience, and understand how writing and learning cannot be extricated. The Writing Program is affiliated with the Writing Center, and administers the first-year writing seminars.

All first-year students take one of these writing seminars. Taught by faculty from across the College, the seminars explore a particular theme or field of study while emphasizing writing as a means of inquiry, analysis, and persuasion. The courses come in three varieties: WS-D sections adopt the perspective of a particular academic discipline; WS-T sections focus on a given topic; and WS-I sections prepare students who need extra exposure to academic writing. To help students negotiate the demands of academic writing, courses include practice in critical reading, argumentation, style, and editing; they also stress writing as a process, where the first draft is not the last and where feedback from peers becomes crucial in revising.

Students interested in Creative Writing will find these courses listed under the English Department.

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Acting Director of the Writing Program and Assistant Professor of English Debora Sherman
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing and Consultant to the Writing Program Kristin Lindgren
Francis B. Gummere Professor of English Kimberly Benston
John Whitehead Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, L. Aryeh Kosman
Elizabeth Ufford Green Professor of Natural Sciences Judith Owen
Constance and Robert MacCrate Professor in Social Responsibility J. David Dawson
Professor of History Emma Lapsansky-Werner
Associate Professor of Independent College Programs Kaye Edwards
Associate Professor of English Gustavus Stadler
Assistant Professor of French Duane Kight
Assistant Professor of English Theresa Tensuan
Visiting Assistant Professor of Visual Culture, Fine Arts and Philosophy John Muse
Visiting Assistant Professor of English Rebecca Sheehan
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Joseph Benatov
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Sue Benston
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Peter Gaffney
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Barbara Hall
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing April Logan
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Steven Marr
Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Carol Schilling
Visiting Lecturer in Writing Josh Brooks


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Writing Seminars

  • 102 Justice: A Cross-Cultural and Cross-National Perspective HU
    An exploration of how concepts of justice and criminality are related to cultural and national identity. We will read fiction, philosophy, cultural criticism, and journalism on a wide range of issues - from the O.J. Simpson trial to principles of Islamic Law to motorcycles gangs in Japan - and then examine questions such as: Are concepts of justice universal? What constitutes a just punishment? Is the American judicial system fair? We will have discussions and debates to hone critical thinking and persuasive argumentation skills and examine aspects of the writing process critical for creating effective essays: from generating ideas and interesting theses, to making sure an essay is focused, to editing for clear and precise prose. This is a first-semester course with individual tutorials that prepares students for a second-semester topic-based or discipline-based writing. Prerequisite: Open only to members of the first-year class as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    106 Children of the Night and Their Music HU
    An examination of monstrosity in literature, film, culture and theory. By focusing on three monster figures that have drawn the attention of a number of authors and film makers the Vampire, the Creature, and the Double this course seeks to discover what monsters are, what kinds of fears they embody, how they can be read against each other, and why these figures and their relatives continue to fascinate us. Readings include three novels and a number of other texts (short stories, poems, films, theoretical essays). Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    109 Perspectives on Immigration and Education in the United States SO
    The primary goal of this course is to challenge students as academic readers, writers and thinkers while providing support for continuous growth. We will immerse ourselves in the historical, social, cultural, political, linguistic, and various other contexts of immigration to the United States, with a focus on salient issues relating to k-12 public education. What kinds of experiences, we will ask, have immigrant students had in American schools in the past century? Have schools served this population well? How are schooling and citizenship related? Does public education facilitate or hinder immigrant students in attaining the "American dream" of success and fortune? How do various kinds of educational practice (like bilingual education, English as a Second Language instruction, and contemporary multicultural education) marginalize or empower immigrant students? Readings for the course will include a wide variety of perspectives on these issues, and to that end will include academic articles, ethnographic texts, autobiographical writing, and fiction. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    110 Medical Narratives HU
    In "To Build A Case" Rita Charon asserts a polarity between the patient's oral tale and the doctor's written case history:  "They are opposing entities.  They are examples of language being used in fundamentally different ways.  Their goals conflict."  We'll test this pronouncement as we read across a spectrum of fiction and nonfiction texts.   How does medical language illuminate, and how does it obfuscate, the patient's individual experience?  Do the doctor's practices of "history-taking" and "case reporting" wrest narrative control from the patient-and, if so, what are the benefits and costs of a usurping authority?  Can we detect the patient's subjective dilemmas finding expression in the doctor's own struggle for solutions?  This course will attempt to place the two supposed narrative opponents into a larger context:  a rich assortment of medical story-tellers.  What types of medical narrative exist outside the consulting room and the "chart," and do they effectively reconcile the alleged conflict between patient- and physician-narrator?  We'll look at illness through a variety of lenses, taking our readings not only from standard case reports but from patient memoirs, physician memoirs, medical journalism, essays in philosophy of mind, and (last but hardly least!) literary fiction.  We will seek to understand the efficacy of each genre (even, one might say, its therapeutic implications) while training a clear eye on its inevitable evasions and oversights. Prerequisite: Open only to first year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    111 Versions and Adaptations HU
    Practicing the arts of writing and reading, speaking and listening, in relation to a number of works organized around the theme of adaptation.  How do short stories or novels, say, get made into movies, or movies into one another, or novels into one another? What kinds of theoretical issues about the nature of works of art, of genre, of performance, are raised by these works? Several short papers, several long papers, several oral presentations.  Works to be considered include: Jane Austin's novel Emma, Diarmuid Lawrence's movie Emma, Douglas McGrath's TV production Emma, Amy Heckerling's movie Clueless, Shakespeare's King Lear, Akira Kurosawa's Ran, Jane Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres, Jocelyn Moorhouse's movie A Thousand Acres, Apuleius' tale Cupid and Psyche, the French fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Jean Cocteau's movie, La belle et la bête, Walt Disney's musical Beauty and the Beast. Prerequisite: Open only to first year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    116 Illness, Medicine, and Storytelling HU
    K. Lindgren
    An exploration of the narrative dimension of disease. We will examine the forms that stories of illness take and the purposes they serve, and also how doctors such as Freud and Oliver Sacks have shaped the genre of the case history. Prerequisite: Open only to first year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    118 Disability and Difference HU
    An exploration of disability in a variety of genres and contexts. The texts for the course include memoirs that chronicle the experience of living with disability or parenting a disabled child; essays that examine contested definitions of impairment, disability, and normalcy; and representations of disability in case histories, works of fiction, and film. We will ask: How is the “normal” body constituted by discourses of disability and difference? What is the relationship between the disabled body and the rhetorics of medicine, democracy, gender, race, class and social justice? Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing       

    119 Becoming: Memoirs about Creating a Life in Science or Medicine HU
    Writing a memoir and doing science or medicine have more in common than might at first seem likely. They share the intellectual pursuit of making discoveries and the ethical value of creating trust. We’ll center our attention on four memoirs.  One will be James Watson’s The Double Helix, which describes the work he did in his early twenties that led to the co-discovery of the structure of DNA molecule. Another will be Pauline Chen’s Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality, which exposes her struggles to reconcile the depersonalization implicated in medical education with her moral growth. These and other selections (perhaps one that looks back at medicine from the perspective of being ill) will expose some myths about doing science and medicine as they create new ones, but mostly the memoirs will reveal how their writers became interested in their work and dedicated to doing it exquisitely well. These readings will also instigate ethical questions about life writing itself, especially about the responsibilities and complexities of representing one’s self and others to the world.  This project will ultimately invite us to explore relationships between composing a story and composing a life. Prerequisite: open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    120 Evolutionary Arguments from Darwin to GATTACA HU
    The capacious explanatory power of Darwin's concept of evolution depended upon the metaphors and stories that circulated in the scientist's cultural world to make a startling idea accessible and persuasive. Ever since their publication, The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man have, in turn, generated literary fictions representing disparate interpretations of evolution's meaning to human culture. We will trace these cultural exchanges between science and literature by reading selections from Darwin's writing along with literary works that have responded either explicitly or indirectly to his ideas. We will discuss the literary and cultural fate of some of Darwin's key words, such as "survival," "extinction," "adaptation," "fittest," and "progress." And we will speculate about how they enter certain constructions of abundant productivity or irretrievable loss, incremental alteration and catastrophic change, stunning beauty or grotesque horror, competition or cooperation, elegant design or universal chaos. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    122 Writing in Public Health NA (Cross-listed in Biology)
    The study of public health and the development of public health policy are multidisciplinary activities which engage students and practitioners in the areas of science, medicine, mathematics, public policy, economics and politics. This course will address both national and global public health issues. In the first half of the semester, students will read and write about the increasing rate at which Americans are afflicted with type 2 diabetes, analyze why it preferentially affects certain racial and ethnic groups and develop their own ideas about how to ameliorate this incipient public health disaster. The second half of the course will focus on the ongoing problem of infectious disease in America and in the countries of the third world. Despite more than a century of research, we have still not solved the global health problems associated with influenza, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. Students will learn about the biology of some of these diseases and study the mechanisms which are currently being used to minimize their impact on the health of different populations. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    126 Passion, Proof and Persuasion: The Nature of Scientific Inquiry NA (Cross-listed in Biology)
    An exploration of the narratives underlying scientific discovery. Using select scientific memoirs and biographies as a guide, we will explore motivations that drive scientists and scientific breakthroughs. We will then analyze the work of a single biologist from multiple perspectives and examine how scientific controversy is portrayed in the media and in fiction. Finally, by evaluating the writings of scientists and journalists, we will work together to determine the most effective models of communication of scientific advances. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    128 Reading Sacred Texts: In Quest of the Human HU
    Religions propose various ways of becoming "fully," "authentically," or "actually" human.  Non-religious humanists often counter that religions are not needed to achieve one's humanity, or--in the worst case--positively undermine or destroy it.  Taking Christianity as our test case, we'll examine this clash of perspectives and contemplate its implications through reading, discussing, and writing in response to four texts:  Augustine's Confessions, Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity, Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments, and Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals. Small group writing tutorials will be an important component of the course. Prerequisite: Open only to first year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing. [Carries credit for the Religion major.]

    129 The Lotus Sutra: Text, Image, and Practice HU (Cross-listed in East Asian Studies and Religion)
    An exploration of the Lotus Sutra, arguably the most important text in the history of East Asian Buddhism. We will examine its narrative and doctrinal dimensions, study artistic representations of its stories, and explore the practice and cult of the text. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    130 Themes in the Anthropology of Religion SO (Cross-listed in Anthropology)
    Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    132 Writing Beethoven HU (Cross-listed in Music)
    An exploration of Beethoven's life and works, considered in the context of changing aesthetic and cultural values of the last two centuries. Students will listen to Beethoven's music, study some of his letters and conversation books, and read some of the many responses his art has engendered. In their written responses to all of this material, students will think about Beethoven's music and artistic personality as well as about the ideas and assumptions that have guided the critical reception of art and life. They will learn to cultivate their skills as readers and listeners while improving their craft as writers. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

  • 133 The American West in Fact and Fiction SO
    An examination of the imagery of the American West. Using visual and verbal images, this course explores such diverse aspects of the West as cowboys, cartography, water rights, race and social class, technology, religion, prostitution, and landscape painting. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    134 The Politics of Pop: Culture, Capital, Consumption and (the) Clash SO
    This course in contemporary social and political theory addresses the political implications of popular culture. Melding theory with specific case studies, the course situates music, consumerism, and television in the context of power, capitalism, citizenship, and the practice of democratic politics. Primary questions the course interrogates include: Are democracy and consumption incompatible? Is consumption political or de-politicizing? Is there a distinction between high/low culture? What are the social, moral, political implications of such a distinction? If “pop” has a politics, what is it? Readings include essays from Karl Marx, Pierre Bourdieu, Benjamin Barber, Zygmunt Bauman, Mary Douglas, Jean Baudrillard and Philip K. Dick. Prerequisite: Open only to first year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    136 Myth & Society HU
    B. Mulligan
    Why did Vergil turn to the myth of Troy to comment on the rise of Rome s empire and the fall of its republican government? How did Freud use the myth of Oedipus in formulating the principles of psychoanalysis? Focusing on the mythologies of the ancient Mediterranean in particular those of Greece and Rome we will explore the roles that myth can play in society. In the process of investigating variety of approaches individuals and societies can take to myth, students will hone their abilities at critical reading and writing. Whenever possible, we will draw connections and comparisons to the mythologies of other cultures (including our own). Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    138 Critical Issues in Education: Politics and Practices SO (Cross-listed in Education)
    An examination of major issues concerning educational reform through readings, discussions, writing, and 3-4 visits to a school context. Among the issues to be explored are the complexity of U.S. education; the meaning of childhood, culture, freedom, and difference; and the possibilities for educational reinvention and empowerment. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

  • 139 Prostitution/Sex Work Debates SO
    There is, perhaps, no social phenomenon as steeped in controversy, confusion and mythology as prostitution. For some prostitution is the ultimate symbol of women's sexual exploitation in a patriarchal society whereas others differ by arguing that not all prostitutes are exploited victims but rather agents with control over their actions. Some see prostitution as a timeless phenomenon, the oldest profession that holds mirror to some essential dynamics between the sexes. Others describe it as an economic transaction that has taken different forms throughout history. How do we understand the interplay of money, morality and gender/sexuality at the center of prostitution? What kinds of policies are needed to address the conditions of people living in prostitution? In this course we will explore these issues seeking help from the writings of feminist thinkers, activists and prostitutes. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    140 The Language of Argument HU
    J. Muse
    In this course students will learn how to analyze arguments, compose arguments of their own, and write clear, concise, and elegant prose. The first half of the course will relate principles of argument and composition to principles of textual analysis. A good reader can analyze the logic of an argument, the style of its presentation, and the way it solicits its audience. Similarly, the good writer understands her audience, adopts a style appropriate to the situation, and crafts an argument that establishes grounds for possible agreement. A good writer is a better reader. For example, in Act II, scene ii of Hamlet, Polonius wastes time while saying he won’t: “…since brevity is the soul of wit / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes / I will be brief…” He can’t even speak briefly of brevity but follows his aphorism with a redundant flourish of his own. Like Polonius, when you present your reader with tedious prose you present yourself as tedious. And though few occasions warrant such a presentation, this course will supply students with the power to suit their words to different occasions and the power to read how others in turn both craft themselves and either succeed or fail to convince. The second half of the course will consider the relation between experience and language, between our world and our words. Using the analytic tools assembled during the first half, we will examine works of philosophy and literature that seek to define this relation. Texts will include, Plato’s Gorgias, Friedrich Nietzsche’s early essay, “On Truth and Lying in an Extra-moral Sense,” and Toni Morrison’s novel, Sula. We will evaluate these works on the basis of their claims about language and on the basis of the language of these claims. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    142 Excursions in the Void: Existentialism, Nihilism and Radical Doubt HU
    This course will explore the ethical, political and aesthetic implications of existentialism with reference to other "moments of doubt" in philosophy and literature, including nihilism and radical doubt. Writing assignments and class discussion will aim at answering questions like the following: What is existentialism good for? Does it constitute a plausible strategy for engaging the complexity, difficulty and ambiguity of everyday experience? Prerequisite: Open only to members of the first-year class as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    144 In Harmony with Nature: Quaker Perspectives on Sustainability SO
    K. Edwards
    How are Quakers, through their individual lives and group efforts, answering the moral challenges posed by growing economic inequalities and the continuing degradation of the earth's environment? This seminar will speak to the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, integrity, equality and community, asking how they might inform and help realize more just relationships among peoples and more sustainable living on our planet. We will explore current initiatives by Friends to bear witness to these issues through the political process, appropriate uses of technology, and alternative ways of living with the world. The course will draw on historical and current interpretations of Quaker faith and practice as well as on arguments advanced by Quaker economists, environmentalists, lawyers and lobbyists.

    145 The Culture of War HU
    This course takes a close look at cultural production about or during times of war, with an aim to understand the way particular authors, artists and filmmakers negotiate discourses of nationalism, terrorism, hypermasculinity, the rational and the irrational, and the role of the media. The course will focus on WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War, but will also consider similar themes from the post-Cold War era, including the war in the Balkans, and the Gulf and Iraq War. Some of the questions we will consider include: What have been the motivations and justifications for war as represented in these texts and other media? What have been the effects of war on soldiers and on those who remain at home? How does the rhetoric of war shape society and its institutions, even during times of peace? Prerequisite: Open only to members of the first-year class as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    146 Freedom and Power in the Information Age NA
    An exploration of the impact of information technology on our ability to create a balance between conflicting rights, e.g. does the government have a right to wiretap our phones? How can we balance copyright protection with our right to free speech? We will examine arguments that have been made for various balances at various times and enter into the fray with our own essays, sharing drafts with each other and using feedback to produce work that is clearly written, logically consistent, and relevant. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    147 A History of Mechanized Thought NA/QU (Cross-listed in Computer Science)
    An exploration of the history of computer and information systems, from early number systems to binary arithmetic, and from the abacus to the modern computer. Includes a laboratory which explores aspects of digital and analog computing. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    148 Innovation, Rebellion and Dissent HU
    What motivates people to rebel? This course examines the notions of originality and dissent from both a social and an aesthetic perspective. Our readings and analyses during the semester will demonstrate that there is no clear-cut separation between these two spheres and that artistic and social idiosyncrasy are mutually constitutive elements. Readings include: Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener”; Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”; Philip Roth, “The Conversion of the Jews,” “Eli the Fanatic”; J.D. Salinger, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” “Teddy;” Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Pulp Fiction Dir. Quentin Tarantino; Adaptation, Dir. Spike Jonze; Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    150 Introduction to Literary Analysis HU (Cross-listed in English)
    K.Benston, R. Sheehan, D.Sherman, G.Stadler, T.Tensuan
    Intended like other sections of the Writing Program to advance students’ critical reading and analytical writing skills, this course is geared specifically towards introducing students to the discipline that studies the literary traditions of the English language. One of its aims is to explore the broad range of thematic interests inherent in these traditions, sharing as they do common roots in the history of our language and its influences. The powers and limits of language; ideas of “character” and “community,” and the relation between person and place; heroic endeavor and the mystery of evil; loss and renovation—these are among the themes to be tracked through various strategies of literary representation and interpretation in a variety of genres (epic, narrative, and poetry) and modes (realism, allegory, and romance), and across a range of historical periods. Our goal is to develop the vocabulary, skills, and knowledge necessary to understand not only how we decide what literary texts “mean,” but also how literary texts generate and contemplate “meaning.”
    Courses 2009-10: Benston, "Monstrous and Marvelous Passions of the West from Homer to the Holocaust;" Sheehan, "The Gaze of Narcissus;" Sherman, "The Use(s) of the Past;" Stadler, "Encountering the Unknown;" T. Tensuan, "In the Wake of War: Literary Representations of Violence and Its Aftermath." Introduces and carries credit toward the English major. Prerequisite: Open only to first year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing.

    480 Independent Study HU

    (These courses do not fulfill the writing requirement of Haverford College but are open to Haverford students as space is available.)

    English 125 Writing Workshop
    English 126 Writing Workshop for Non-Native Speakers of English
    English 220 Writing in Theory/Writing in Practice: The Study of the Teaching of Writing (Also listed as Education 220)

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