“The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical processes to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory.”
-Antonio Gramsci, Italian philosopher and social critic
This course is designed to hone the skill of metacognition, or self-reflection, through writing. That is, it is designed to help students inventory the historical and social processes that leave an “infinity of traces” on their lives, so that they better know themselves. We will use the theme of the heroic to critically engage those influences: we will investigate what makes heroes and heroines compelling, and what that reveals about the ways we are influenced by people, systems, institutions, and ideas.
To that end, we will explore heroic figures in history, on television, and in film. We will read critical work on the formation and impact of such figures. In writing assignments students will seek to discover the ways they have been shaped by such figures, and what our preoccupation with these figures tells us about the society in which we live. Through this process, you will learn how to develop a credible, informed voice as a writer, and how to use written and audio-visual texts to write convincing arguments that matter in the university classroom and in real life.
My classroom and course are built around my high expectations for students. This course is reading- and writing-intensive. We will examine these texts deeply and critically and you will be required to conduct rigorous independent research into a particular hero or heroine. This course will help you to think critically about your writing “voice”—and how that voice carries the influences that have shaped you. You will learn how to substantiate your claims with compelling reasoning and evidence rather than relying on inaccurate assumptions and generalizations. The classroom will provide a forum for dynamic discussions that will require a high level of thinking and participation from all students.