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Writing 160 Multimodal Composition

These courses emphasize an individualized approach to writing in a small seminar setting with frequent student-teacher conferences. They are designed to give you practice communicating in a variety of social situations and media; you will have opportunities to explore your own interests and ambitions as a writer. These courses will prepare you to adjust to new communication challenges you’ll encounter in your college courses, work, and life. In Writing 160 courses, you’ll address key features of college writing, including developing major compositions through multiple stages (planning, drafting, and revising); analyzing and composing a range of texts in more than one medium (papers, podcasts, videos, etc.); conducting research and integrating it into your compositions; and learning to use your own languages (multilingualism, varieties of English, and dialects) as valuable resources in your compositions. You will improve your ability to read critically and compose in a variety of media. At the end of the term, you will submit a portfolio of your compositions, prefaced by a reflection on your development as a writer.

Writing 160.001 - Artful Politics

What do Beyoncé, Banksy, Frida Kahlo, and Amanda Gorman all have in common? They bring together art and politics to hone their message and get their audience thinking. Is all art at some level political? Does politics need art? How do artists organize for social justice? Is there an art to political engagement? And what about our own artistic production or political action? These are some of the questions we will ask in this section of Writing 160 – questions that take on special relevance in this election year.

Writing 160 provides opportunities to practice composing in a variety of modes that will serve you well in college and beyond in your writing and critical thinking. In this section, we will look at the art of politics and the politics of art – through attending a UMS performance, visiting the Labadie collection of political art at Hatcher Library, and touring the UM Museum of Art collection. We will also pay attention to the artful political processes in our own communities as we engage contemporary music, political speeches and posters, social justice manifestos, and more, to tease out the complex interactions of politics and art.

This course takes an anti-racist, intersectional approach to the materials we will study and the compositions you will produce, inviting you to bring all of the dimensions of your artistic and/or political commitments into our class. You will learn to analyze political art, compose a manifesto, research and write about a political topic of your choosing, and create a multimodal/multimedia final project to present what you have learned. You will also get to know your class colleagues well in group labs and workshops, and you will meet with me regularly for individual meetings about your work and ideas.

Writing 160.002 - Picture Resistance

Photographs have a long history of showing the unseen, making human experience visible,
 changing minds, stirring resistance, and ultimately, challenging power. From worker conditions
to war atrocities, poverty to police violence, the power of the camera to frame, capture, and
show remains a vital form of communication -- especially in a world where images can so easily
be manipulated and convey untruths. In this multimodal composition class, we will study, learn
from, and make our own pictures. In our three projects, we will explore and write about
photographs from the vantage of resistance, and we will take our own photographs and think
about the ways our work can reveal, inspire, and change the ways we think by exposing truths,
communicating story, and showing us what is happening.

It is important to know that Writing 160 is a first-year writing requirement course that will allow
you to practice writing in a variety of modes and cultivate your skills in communication for
college and beyond.  This course centers the practice of anti-racist and abolitionist teaching. We
will practice a vigorous invention, drafting, and revising process that includes peer review,
whole-class workshops, and regular feedback, building critical thinking and reflection skills, to
clarify our writing voices and create our best work.  You will also receive personalized writing
instruction in regular 1-1 meetings with me through the term.

Writing 160.003 - Small Wonders

Writing 160 will provide you with ample opportunities to practice composing in a variety of modes that will serve you well in college and beyond. We will consider composition from the persona of a curious tinkerer. Our course will be an experimental lab where you will encounter different types of texts and try your hand at composing your own. You will learn how to summarize, analyze, research, and argue, and how to approach composition as a practice that requires deliberate attention. You will also have ample opportunity for regular personalized writing instruction in 1-1 meetings with me. 

This 4-credit course will be a making-centered class where we will explore the “bug world” as a framework from which you will respond to and create multimodal compositions. We will investigate these small wonders as both embodied material beings and as rich symbolic figures, in an abundance of different mediums and modes, like children’s books, comics, zines, podcasts, memes, infographics, and more! This course is designed with an antiracist focus: one aspect of that focus is that we will consider our positionality and biases as well as larger systems and institutions by interrogating the human/nonhuman hierarchy, and links between racism and speciesism. 

Writing 160.004 - When Science is Propaganda

In 2024, it's hard to get through a day without confronting some kind of scientific data or technical conclusion. We casually consume the work of scientists in weather reports, consumer data, economic trends, and poll forecasting, just as people getting through a day. But for manufacturers and corporations, science isn't just a convenience or passing interest; companies need a solid understanding of the science relevant to their industries if they're going to market good products and remain profitable. But what happens when the science doesn't go your way? Well, how about lying?

In this section of WRITING 160, we'll take a look at examples of scientific propaganda pushed by companies who needed alternative facts to continue marketing bad products. Much of this class will be drawn from the book Merchants of Doubt by historians Erik Conway and Naomi Oreskes, which discusses the manufactured controversy around cigarettes and cancer, pesticides and cancer, and other episodes of health data getting in the way of big industry. Part of what made these ill-intentioned efforts successful was their complete communications strategy; propagandists entered our homes through newspaper, television, and radio, and knocked on the doors of all of our senses.

The phrase "multimodal composition" describes communications that make use of more than one method of conveying information, for example via the combination of images and spoken word in a TV newscast. We will study the complexities of multimodal composition by reading, analyzing, and creating with images, sounds, video, and text. This section of the course is directed at any student looking to fulfill their first-year writing requirement (FYWR) and looking for a flexible, adventurous, and self-directed atmosphere for composition. Our section examines some ways in which science has been used as a tool to perpetuate environmental destruction and systemic racism in the name of corporate profit. 

Writing 160.006 - DIY Cultures

What do Detroit activists, riot grrls, anarchist gardeners, and "outlaw" bicyclists (among other groups) have in common? These are communities that often exercise do-it-yourself (DIY) values, like sustainability, community, self-expression, critiquing consumer culture, and fighting oppression. Another critical part of DIY culture is creating multimodal compositions, including music, performance art, experimental film, fashion, and zines. 

This course takes an anti-racist approach to the materials we study and the compositions you will produce, meaning we will discuss how racism exists and is resisted in DIY spaces and the university where we learn; read/view/listen to texts created by people that occupy multiple identities; collaboratively create a zine convention built upon anti-racist principles; and more. 

In this course, you will analyze and compose a zine, research and write about a DIY topic of your choosing, and create a multimodal project (e.g., comic, video, audio essay, etc.) presenting your research findings. You will also get to know your class colleagues through in-class group activities and peer review workshops, you will meet with me regularly for individual meetings about your work and ideas, and you will explore the campus and Ann Arbor community through field trips.

Writing 160.007 - Food for Thought

Claire Saffitz is on a quest to make the best desserts on the planet. Binging With Babish has cracked the Krabby Patty formula. The Bear takes a surreal dive into Chicagoland kitchens. Food-related content is in a golden age, often being about more than cuisine.

Does a loved one’s memory live on through a recipe? How do our families, friends, cultures, and languages celebrate nourishment?This section of Writing 160 will grant you opportunities to write and make digital works surrounding food—preparing it, eating it, and gathering around it. We’ll focus on multimodal composition, meaning we’ll study and express ourselves through a variety of different art forms. You can expect to watch TikToks about New York City bodegas, read poems about food sensitivity and essays about the Filet-O-Fish, or discuss comedy sketches where the customer is never right. We’ll break bread, crafting creativity and arguments that will prepare us for the rest of college and outside of it.

Writing 160.008 - Writing and Walking

In an era of constant connectivity, what can we gain by getting out of our brains, mostly away from tech, and into our bodies? Rebecca Solnit says, “Exploring the world is one the best ways of exploring the mind and walking travels both terrains.” And there’s a long tradition of writers walking as research, walking as invention, writing about walking, and writing pieces that explore and encourage, even facilitate walking. We’ll explore connections between walking and writing and make some for ourselves in this course. Countless memoirs, like Wild and The Electricity of Every Living Thing, tell stories of people coming to understand themselves and the world through the act of walking (or hiking). Christian Cooper–an avid birder and queer Black man–was famously threatened by a white woman with calling the police when she saw him in Central Park with binoculars. He wrote: “[Birds] are for everyone to enjoy and belong to no one group of people. And best of all, the wonders they offer are always available, freely given, to anyone willing to partake. All we have to do is step outside and listen.” But for some people, as Cooper’s experience illustrates, stepping outside isn’t as reliably safe as for others.

This course has an anti-racist focus, and in part that means exploring questions of who gets to walk safely and/or without fear in public spaces, as well as who gets to make the rules around those spaces, whose knowledge and experience matters, and how those spaces constrain or expand our movements. Our active engagement with walking and writing will task us with writing a variety of types of projects, from local walking tours, ArcGIS StoryMaps, field guides, virtual races, zines, podcasts, etc.

Assignments will require getting out into the world and walking (immersive and embodied research!), observing, analyzing, even creating visual or performance art pieces. As a part of my commitment to anti-racist pedagogy, I use a labor-based grading system. 

Writing 160.009 - Communicating Science

This section of Writing 160 will explore ways to communicate science. Communicating science can take varied forms, and we will consider ways in which science is communicated in academic settings as well as how it is communicated in multimodal texts - such as YouTube videos, cartoons, infographics, and posters - and the ways in which these texts respond to their likely audiences. We will also investigate different ethical issues in communicating science, and how these shape what, and how, science is communicated. We will begin the semester exploring one or two topics; as the semester progresses, students will be able to write about topics of their own choosing. This course incorporates anti-racist perspectives, approaches, and educational practices.