ENGL 298 C: Intermediate Interdisciplinary Writing - Social Sciences

Meeting Time: 
MWF 1:30pm - 2:20pm
SAV 136
Ryan Helterbrand

Syllabus Description:

English 298 C: Intermediate Writing in the Social Sciences (linked with JSIS 201)

Spring 2019

M/W/F 1:30-2:20


Dr. Ryan Helterbrand


Office hours: After class and by appointment


Multiple Modernities: The Making of the Modern World(s)


This course, linked with JSIS 201, "The Making of the Modern World," is an interdisciplinary writing course that aims to give the students a sense of how the modern world came to be, the cultural, social, political, and economic forces at play in it, and a sense of the various contexts and futures of global modernity. Working closely with the material from JSIS 201 and supplemental readings chosen by the instructor, students will work through the various forms and phases of modernity from the end of World War II to the present. This course begins with the assumption that we live in a time of unprecedented social, cultural, political, economic, and technological change. The forces that surround us are so varied, so numerous, and so powerful that we all feel in different ways a sense of perpetual crisis and transformation; most of us also feel a sense of powerlessness in the face of these explosive, dynamic, unpredictable forces. But we are not the first to experience a feeling of vertigo in the face of rapid social and technological change, nor the first to sense the unprecedented possibilities for living and acting that our time in history opens up. In fact, our historical period – modernity – is predicated on just this kind of objective social change and subjective psychological turbulence. In order to understand our present moment, then, this class will investigate its beginnings and the intellectual, political, and economic leaders that gave voice to the profound sense of peril and possibility that has shaped our collective understanding of ourselves from the 19th through the 21st centuries. In particular, we will investigate the following questions: what makes our current historical period different from all others? What has produced the series of radical changes that have led not only to the modern world but to the present moment in which we live? What are the possible futures of the modern world? And how can critical thought and careful writing help us to reflect on and navigate our way through the modern world in which we find ourselves? 

While we will focus on these questions in small and large group discussion, in informal writing assignments, and in more structured essays, our class will also function as a small workshop-style writing seminar, designed to create a supportive learning community where you will develop skills and confidence in reading, research, writing, revising, and editing by working on assignments based on readings, lectures, and writing assignments in JSIS 201. A large portion of English 298 is devoted to helping students prepare, draft, and workshop the major paper assignment in JSIS 201, helping to build links between the work and content of the two courses. 


Evaluation: You will produce in this class a series of writings that will ask you to engage with the ideas and texts of our course and of JSIS 201 in depth and detail. However, I want to point this out: Because we will cover so much terrain in class every week, and because each movement we study will lay the groundwork for the ones that come after, your active, engaged participation, over and beyond the work of your writings, is particularly important to the success of our class. While we will cover a lot of territory that might be unfamiliar to you at first, I encourage you to commit yourself to taking on the challenge of engaging fully with our readings, even if they strike you as difficult or strange, of getting your voice and ideas out into the open, and of asking for help or clarification if and when you need it. Put another way, this class will ask you to develop both your positive and negative capabilities: you will actively develop your ability to read carefully, think carefully, and write carefully, but you will also develop your capability of “being in uncertainties, mysteries, [and] doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason,” as Keats once put it. It’s ok to be wrong, it’s ok to be confused, it’s ok to be frustrated, but commit to putting in the work and trying your hardest. The more we work together through our material, the richer our class will become. To that end, your work in our course is weighted as follows: 

Participation and in-class writings: 35%

Essay 1: 20%

Essay 2: 20%

Essay 3: 20%

Cover letter: 5%


Course Materials and Texts: I would like you to purchase a notebook with pages that you can tear out for in-class writings and freewrites. The majority of our readings that we will work together on will be readings drawn from JSIS 201. Other readings will be available as PDFs via Canvas; these I would like you to print out and bring with you to class on the days we are scheduled to discuss them.  


Course Units and Readings: 

Unit 1: Introduction to Modernity; Intellectual, Economic, Political Contexts; 1850-1950

Writing Focus: Developing the Research Project; Fundamentals of Research

Weeks 1-3: Marshall Berman, "Modernity: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow"; Robin Varghese, "Marxist World"


Unit 2: The Cold War, Beginnings and Endings: 1950-1990

Writing Focus: Research, Evidence, Structure, Form

Weeks 4-7: Major texts from JSIS 201, particularly Sen, Rodrik, Lowe, Slaughter 


Unit 3: What Comes After Modernity? 1990-2020

Writing Focus: Peer-review, Editing, Revision

Weeks 7-10: All readings will be excerpted and provided as PDFs. Jean-Francois Lyotard, "The Postmodern Condition"; Gilles Lipovetsky, "Time Against Time, or The Hypermodern Society"; Robert Samuels, "Auto-Modernity after Postmodernism"; Alan Kirby, "Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure our Culture"  

Catalog Description: 
Expository writing based on materials presented in a specified social science course. Assignments include drafts of papers to be submitted in the specified course, and other pieces of analytical prose. Concurrent registration in the specified course required. Offered: AWSpS.
GE Requirements: 
English Composition (C)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 10:30pm