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Fall Seminar (FP 0003)

FP 0003 is a听4-credit course offered in the fall term. The course focuses on writing and provides the same enrichment activities that FP 0001 offers, including:听

  • Diverse activities that complement the theme of the seminar, including those that introduce you to the city and its cultural resources;听
  • Enrichment experiences such as film screenings and lectures by faculty; and听
  • Opportunities for group study.听

Class themes for听are listed below:

Borders, Barriers, and Bridges

Who decides the location of a national border?听 How are borders amended as political contexts shift?听 What are the implications for porous or firm borders for the communities that surround them?听 How do borders and barriers influence our thinking and our connections to one another?

In this seminar you will read, write and engage with visuals that help you to consider the role of borders, barriers and bridges in your own experience of the places that matter to you.听 We will consider their influence on you, your thinking and how you understand aspects of local and national concepts of community in relation to what separates and connects us as individuals and as groups.听 听You will write essays from your own experience, your own research and undertake collaborative work with your peers, as we explore written, visual and theatrical explorations of how borders, barriers and bridges affect our past, present and future.

In Pittsburgh, we will visit the Hill District.听 We will explore university neighborhoods impacted by legacies of 鈥渦rban renewal鈥 and the slow expansion of the university corridor.听 We will view murals and consider how artists offer windows in the walls that we build to protect ourselves and to keep others out.听 You will read and view States by Edward Said, a Palestinian exile whose work pairs photographs by Jean Mohr with his own exploratory writing, as he considers what it means to be a citizen of a nation without a state.听 We will consider installations like Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello鈥檚 Teeter-Totter Wall, along the border between the United States and Mexico.听 听We will read their meditations on these designs and what it means to build a practice that insists on connections, rather than differences, between neighboring nations.听 We will view films like Mair茅ad McClean鈥檚 Making Her Mark and consider the absurdity of borders, alongside their dire implications when such borders are not respected.听 听We will also view Laurence McKeown鈥檚 The Green and Blue, a portrayal of policing along the Irish and Northern Irish border, to consider what it means for an individual to represent a state in patrols, wearing particular uniforms and maintaining a firm barrier between nations and regions.听听

The Urban Idea

What is a city? The Urban Idea: Reading and Writing the City is a seminar-style course, designed specifically for First Year Students, that will explore the many possible answers to that question. We鈥檒l consider the city in its past, present, and future incarnations, looking closely at urban issues related to class and culture, history and politics, urban planning and architecture, and sustainability and the environment. We鈥檒l examine these issues through a series of at least five experiential explorations of the city of Pittsburgh (walking tours, class fields trips, and self-guided explorations), coupled with related reading/writing assignments. The course will utilize both individual research and group collaboration to develop our curiosities about cities and connect our academic community to the diverse communities around us, as we try to better understand our city and our place in its future.

What's Food Got to Do with It?

Food is everywhere. And not just on our plates. It is intertwined with identity, gender, power, memory, entertainment, and pain. This course examines Toni Morrison鈥檚 Paradise along with various essays and a film to spur discussions around representations of food in literature and popular culture. Alongside our readings, we鈥檒l experiment with different writing styles and strategies to create impactful, purposeful work with personal and cultural significance. We鈥檒l learn how to leverage our connections to food to craft meaningful prose around topics of students鈥 choosing. Abundance, scarcity, representations of the body, othering, nostalgia, cultural celebrations, entertainment, and more are all fair game. In the words of the ultimate American gourmand, M.F.K. Fisher, 鈥渨ith our gastronomical growth will come, inevitably, knowledge and perceptions of a hundred other things, but mainly of ourselves.鈥 Bon app茅tit, and cheers to discovering a hearty appetite for writing!

Humor, Storytelling & Critique

In this course we will read, watch, and analyze personal essay writing and recorded performances by contemporary humorists, comedians, and cultural critics from a diverse range of backgrounds, including David Sedaris, Anne Lamott, Scaachi Koul, Damon Young, and Cathy Park Hong. As we laugh, we will consider: what are possible personal and cultural uses of humor? What is the potential for humor and satire to comment on serious social and political issues? What are the limitations and controversies surrounding humor and satire in popular culture and social media? The course readings provide models and inspiration for our own personal and critical writing, which will consider the complex power dynamics of humor and storytelling in everyday life. Students will experiment with playful techniques and stylistic moves in interdisciplinary, personal essay, and multimodal writing. To generate their own stories and cultural commentary, students will write from previous experiences in search of unusual, playful, and humorous ways to reconsider everyday life.听

Writing the Body

The story of the body鈥攊n art, literature, religion, philosophy鈥攈as been notoriously fraught. Whereas the ancients regarded the human form as something to be celebrated, Biblical accounts of creation depict embodiment as the primary source of sin and shame, ever threatening to disrupt the mind and corrupt the soul. In Writing the Body, we'll study the work of writers who use the body to look squarely at the culture and the self鈥攖o raise questions, to process trauma, illness, and joy, to explore identity and grief, to celebrate. In the company of personal essayists and poets, students will write both analytically and autobiographically, exploring Ross Gay鈥檚 notion that 鈥淭he body is an instrument of thought.鈥澨

On a Quest听

What does it mean to go on a quest? Going on a quest can lead to asking important questions. Where am I going? What do I want?听 What answer am I looking for? From representations of quests in early medieval stories to contemporary TV and films, quests and the questions they raise can be seen as a way humans discover, learn, and find out about themselves and the world around them.听 In this seminar we鈥檒l read old stories about quests, look at modern examples of quests in TV and film, and consider what makes these examples interesting. You鈥檒l write essays which draw on what you read and watch and relate these quest narratives to your own personal experience.听 This seminar will be a kind of quest itself - asking important questions and searching for answers through reading, watching, discussing, and writing.听

Rereading Popular Culture

This seminar uses contemporary popular culture as its subject matter.听 We are all immersed in popular culture, both experiencing it and authoring it.听 Through an examination of the history and contexts of popular culture in the United States, we鈥檒l discover how it has been formed into this all-pervasive construct.听 听We will explore film, television, video games, fashion, food, and other cultural phenomena that tell us a great deal about who we are individually and as a society.听 We will also examine the extraordinary impact the digital age is having on our world, even as the Internet and the myriad devices we access it with continue to evolve at a rapid pace.听 Through a series of reading and writing assignments, as well as out-of-class explorations, we will develop new lenses and ways of seeing the dynamic world we live in with the aim of becoming more curious, critical, and active participants in culture.

Capitalism: Do You Buy It?

We make choices about what to do with our money every day. Businesses invest millions of dollars every year to gain our money and trust, via advertising and marketing campaigns.听 The profits we help generate are then used to make decisions that affect our lives, communities, and planet. How can we be more aware of our role in this process? In this class we will investigate the rhetoric of corporate capitalism through readings, documentaries, and exploration of the ads we see and hear daily. We will also study how activists work to expose and critique the rhetoric of corporate capitalism. Together we will investigate the marketing messages we receive and our responses to them, in order to discover: Why do we buy what we buy?

Idle Hands: Devil's Workshop

Most of you are in college with the goal of getting 鈥済ood鈥 jobs. We all must rise and work, and we expect to work eight hours a day, if not more. But why? The answer isn鈥檛 as simple as 鈥淭hat鈥檚 the way it is.鈥 Why do we Americans work as hard as we do? What makes a wage 鈥渇air鈥? What makes a job meaningful or menial? Are people right to look down at layabouts? In this first-year seminar, we will discuss your experiences and the roots of your beliefs, and we will dig deeper into the politics and culture of work by reading essays, oral histories, and short stories. You, too, will write essays that argue, explore, and narrate. In your own oral history project, you will interview family members, friends, and strangers about what work means to them.

Doctoring the Story听

In 鈥淒octoring the Story鈥 we use the figure of the medical doctor in graphic memoir, fiction, and archival documents to explore themes of transition, medical ethics, individuality, and community. How has the archetype of the troubled doctor been used to explore ethical dilemmas and ambiguity in literature and popular culture? How have physicians themselves told and 鈥渄octored鈥 their own stories using creative and journalistic modes of composition? How does the abundance of doctor narratives in popular culture inform how we talk about community and public health at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, and (dis)ability? We will practice interdisciplinary and creative essay writing in response to these questions.