Brainstorm is the Expository Writing Program's journal of student writing. All Expo students are invited to submit an essay from their Expository Writing class for possible inclusion in Brainstorm. At the end of each term, a selection committee will choose 3-5 of these submissions and invite the authors to revise their essays for publication.
Expo 1113: Keepin' It Real
Section 001: TR 12:00-1:15
Instructor: Nick LoLordo
“I have chosen subjects from common life, and endeavoured to bring my language near to the real language of men.” In 1800, poet William Wordsworth describes his artistic project in terms that remain immensely influential; two hundred years later, rapper Ja Rule asks: “You know what keeping it real is?” These quotations bookend a long history, from which this course will examine a series of episodes.
We will look at genres ranging from poetry to gangsta rap to science fiction to political oratory, reading through the analytical and philosophical lenses of race, class, gender and national identity. Our writing, from short responses to full-scale academic essays, will engage with the various, ongoing conversations these works provoke.
Be yourself. Find your voice. Follow your passion. Stay gold, ponyboy.
Section 018: TR 3:00-4:15
Section 900: TR 4:30-5:45
Instructor: Rachel Jackson
Is Oklahoma a red state? If so, how red is it? This course will examine the various meanings and connotations of “red” in Oklahoma’s public discourse, political identity, and popular culture history. Beginning with an examination of Oklahoma City’s globally popular, radical music phenomenon the Flaming Lips, the course will inquire into several other topics related to “red.” These topics will include Native history and experience, “red state” politics & economics, women's history, racial equality, and the Red Scare. Texts will include scholarship in rhetoric and Oklahoma history, films and music, and primary (archival) sources. Students will be encouraged to question the contradictions and ironies of Oklahoma’s unique political histories and to consider the crimson depths of the state’s identity in public discourse.
“Beyond Fake”: The Rhetoric of Authenticity in Modern Life
Instructor: V. Nicholas LoLordo
Section 001: TR 10:30-11:45 (Honors College students only)
"I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent and which, once complete, will have no imitator. My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature, and the man I portray will be myself… I know my heart, and have studied mankind. I am not made like anyone else I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature did wisely in breaking the mold with which she formed me, can only be determined after having read this work."
With these words, and with the work they are drawn from, his Confessions, Jean-Jacques Rousseau created the framework for selfhood that remains dominant today. The idea that an authentic self-understanding is something of inherent value, yet difficult to achieve, is central to modern ideas of personhood. Debates about this belief invariably approach paradox. The authentic creative self is uneasily poised between nature and culture—is the true self found or fashioned?— and cultural products of all kinds come to be viewed through the lens of authenticity.
After beginning with an introduction that samples a variety of literary and philosophical texts from the Romantic period, we will go on to explore, in the course’s later units, more recent “authenticity-debates.” These will include artistic controversy (gangsta rap’s contradictory embrace of realism and theatricality), political argument (populism and the problem of “real Americans”), and cultural politics (the desire for “authentic” consumption, as exemplified by the commodification of ethnic cuisine) Throughout, we will read through the lenses of race, class, gender and national identity, coming to “authenticity” as a protean force shaping judgments across widely different contexts over the past two hundred years.
Instructor: David Long
Section 008: MWF 1:30-2:20
Travel bans, mass deportation, threatened sanctuary cities, reduced refugee quotas, and a proposed border wall—these are the most controversial elements of reformed U.S. immigration policy as of spring 2017. But the current political showdown between nativists and pluralists is nothing new, given the perennial debate in this country over how open (or not open) our borders should be. This debate revolves around questions of American identity: What does it mean to be a member in good standing of American society, and how does an immigrant go about attaining that status? Among specific ethnic groups, what have been the terms and conditions of Americanization? Are U.S. citizens obliged to welcome the so-called “huddled masses” of the world, and what have been the objections to doing so?
In Immigrant America we will study immigration in the history and practice of civic life in the United States, with a focus on the period from 1875 to the present. Mindful of recent developments in our national dialogue about immigration policy, we will consider the ways in which immigration has often been viewed as more problematic than promising for the health of our democracy, despite the many contributions that immigrants have made to both the culture and the economy of this country. Course texts will include landmark legal documents, newspaper articles, various ethnographic studies, a novella and a novel, and OU-archived photographs, as well as songs, poems, and films.
Love and Sex in the Middle Ages
Section 016: MWF 10:30-11:30
Section 017: MWF 11:30-12:20
Instructor: Margaret Gaida
In this course we will examine love and sex in the Middle Ages from several different angles. First, we will study and write about medieval courtly love and romance through troubadour poetry and songs. Turning to female sexuality and marriage, we will consider how women’s lives were shaped by gendered expectations, particularly with respect to the Catholic Church. In the second part of the course, we will learn about different conceptions of reproduction and reproductive health in the Middle Ages, including the roles of midwives versus physicians, and learned versus practical knowledge. Lastly, we will look more broadly at women in society, understanding how gender shaped women’s lives. In this part of the course we will study women’s writing and women’s roles in family life, at court, and in the culture at large.
Section 011: MWF 10:30-11:20
Instructor: David Long
Our world and our minds have always been populated by monsters. Not only do they both horrify and fascinate us, but monsters may be said to shape and express the lives we lead—socially, politically, and psychologically. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Nazi death camps to 70s horror films and beyond, this course will investigate the birth and career of the modern monster in the Western world. What is a monster? In what ways are the monsters of a scientific, technological age different than their ancestors? What do those differences reveal about the times in which we live? How does our sense of what’s monstrous change as we move from fictional narrative and to actual history? Why are monsters indispensable to our culture? And why, no matter how fast we run or how carefully we bolt the door, can we never really escape them?
Myth and Hero
Section 001: MWF 12:30-1:20
Section 002: MWF 2:30-3:20
Instructor: Liz Locke
After discussing some of the ways in which scholars define and think about the word “myth,” we meet two classical heroes, Theseus and Luke Skywalker, leading us to discover the iconic American Cowboy Hero. We then explore the significance of comic book superheroes (especially Superman, Black Panther, and Hancock) in our popular, moral, and political cultures: How do “truth, justice, and the American Way” figure in our current narratives about American identity, power, law, vigilantism, masculinity, heroism, and race? Finally, we look at representations of women superheroes, still asking: How do both our new and traditional hero myths mold our thinking about power, leadership, individual autonomy, community, suffering, justice, violence, and virtue? How do they influence our behaviors and attitudes about gender, ethnicity, class, citizenship, conflict, and peace? In addition to regular class attendance, we’ll be viewing five films: Shane (1953), The Black Panther (2008), Hancock(2008), Wonder Women! (2012), and Miss Representation (2012).
Truth to Power
Section 014: TR 1:30-2:45
Section 015: TR 3:00-4:15
Instructor: Eric Bosse
This course focuses on the work and writings of past and contemporary civil rights leaders and social justice activists. In particular, students will explore issues related to human rights, overlapping social identities and systems of oppression (intersectionality), the deconstruction of "toxic masculinity," the roles of allies in social movements, and the implications of protest and dissent for those involved. Through a sequence of short and longer writing assignments, students will be challenged to move beyond their initial thoughts toward more fully developed arguments, and to examine what it means to take a stance, no matter how controversial it may be.
Violence and the Sacred
Section 003: TR 10:30-11:45
Section 004: TR 12:00-1:15
Instructor: Robert Scafe
Beginning with Biblical human sacrifice and extending to the contemporary phenomenon of suicide bombing, this course examines how human communities have used symbolic violence to forge a common identity and to establish boundaries between themselves and others. Why do cultures create "scapegoats" in times of crisis? Why do religions of peace produce prophets of terror? Why do secular states cloak their wars in sacred language? We will address these questions by reading first-hand accounts and literary interpretations of violent episodes such as the medieval crusades, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and Jihadist terrorism.
Course texts include Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, the legend of Romulus and Remus in Livy’s History of Rome, the accounts of Cain & Abel and Abraham & Isaac from the Book of Genesis, and films such as Hotel Rwanda and Apocalypse Now.
Space Invaders: Filling the Non-Existent Void
Section 006: MW 3:00-4:15
Instructor: Anna K.Trevino
Have you ever wondered why you act, feel, or think in certain ways in particular spaces? When you think of the word space what comes to mind? NASA? The 1996 movie Space Jam? Your dorm room? The boundaries of your personal space? Furthermore, have you ever questioned what space is and why should we study how interpretations of space impact our everyday life?
Sheehy and Leander (2004), in Spatializing Literacy Research and Practice, define space as a product and process of shifting relationships. Understanding space as a relationship rather than as a static or empty place or thing allows us to examine not only how we are all implicated in the process of creating spaces, but also the socio-cultural practices and processes that currently define and/or restrict what is possible for, real to, and experienced by people.
Through class discussions and writing assignments about selected readings and films, you will have the opportunity to explore concepts that determine and fill space, including but are not limited to investigations of boundaries/borders (us/them, here/there, either/or binaries), hybridity (both/and), access (who gets to go where), agency (who gets to make and enforce decisions), literacy, and identity.
Education, Race and Power
Section 009: MW 3:00-4:15
Instructor: Ebony C. Pope
Power is created through the construction of a value system that communicates who is the standard by which everyone must be measured. It proves to be affirming of some at the intended expense of oppressing others. This course focuses on dynamics of power that support and maintain inequity in educational spaces. Who is taught they matter (are valuable)? Who is taught they are expendable? Through a progression of writing assignments, students will be challenged to distinguish between personal/individual and systemic knowledge of power, and encouraged to consider the motives, contradictions, and sustainability of such systems.
Expo 4890: Independent Research
Any student interested in taking an Independent Study course led by one of the Expository Writing faculty should contact the faculty member in question by the middle of the semester BEFORE they want the study to take place. The student and the instructor will then complete a learning contract that will determine the student's goals and responsibilities for the term.
Independent Study courses can be taken for 1-3 credit hours, and are arranged at the discretion of the individual faculty members. Expo faculty members have no obligation to agree to an Independent Study.