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PWR 2LSA: Writing about Cities

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Fall 2021: Section 1 TTh 11:30AM-1:15PM, Section 2 1:30PM-3:15PM

Winter 2022: Section 1 TTh 11:30AM-1:15PM, Section 2 1:30PM-3:15PM

Spring 2022: Section 1 TTh 11:30AM-1:15PM, Section 2 1:30PM-3:15PM

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

An estimated 30% of Americans live in urban centers with another 50% living in the surrounding suburbs. With the expansion of the internet, concentrated job growth, and changing global climate, the centrality of cities will continue to grow. This class invites you to explore the meaning of cities: What do cities represent? What challenges do cities face? Who belongs in cities? What is the future of cities?

Possible topics to research include challenges cities face (such as affordability, gentrification, zoning laws, education, crime, sustainability, transportation, infrastructure, parks) or the design and representation of cities (architecture, film or TV representations, street art). You are encouraged to draw on your personal experiences, majors, and areas of interest to identify a topic to research.

To frame your research, our class will consider concepts related to urbanism. You will explore cities’ challenges and representations in range of media sources, including newspaper and magazine stories, podcasts, social media posts, film, and documentaries. Then you will assess the current scholarly research in rhetoric, history, urban studies, sociology, or public policy on the topic. For example, students interested in air quality in Oakland may investigate an article about the history of highway construction in The New York Times, childhood asthma rates from the Center for Disease Control, and a community-based organization website by New Voices are Rising. For students interested in studying monument row in Richmond, Virginia, research in rhetorical studies and cultural commentary may be relevant. Ultimately, your writing and speaking will investigate the ways different audiences (policymakers, researchers, community members) frame and communicate the topic in order to develop a thoughtful, research-based argument.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5 minute live oral presentation; written text of 600-1200 words) Your task will be to propose an investigation into a challenge faced by a city or an aspect of the design or representation of a particular city. In your proposal and presentation, you will examine the scholarly and public literature on the topic and offer a set of questions that will contextualize and drive your research. You also will identify a primary source to rhetorically analyze.

Sample projects might include examining representations of Los Angeles on televisions shows like Insecure or City of Ghosts or investigating challenges like sewer water overflow in South Bend, Indiana.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) Then you will research your topic to develop a well-researched, persuasive argument. Your research will be framed by a rhetorical analysis of your primary source.

Delivery of Research

(10 minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) In your final presentation, you will develop a logical, well-organized argument on your topic about cities for an undergraduate symposium of your peers. You will rehearse the delivery of your research in class, practicing a variety of effective presentation techniques.

Genre/Mode Assignment

(600-900 words, 2 pages) You will write a short rhetorical analysis of your primary source (a current project, policy proposal, twitter feed, community meeting, blog post, image, tv show or film). This analysis will provide the framing for your research-based argument and research talk.