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Writing 160 Multimodal Composition

These courses emphasizes 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 - Deconstructing Travel

What does it mean to travel? Is a traveler the same as a tourist? Is a migrant, immigrant, or refugee a “traveller”? Is study abroad “travel”? Is it responsible to travel in the face of a global pandemic, climate change, and increasing economic inequity? Do the benefits of travel outweigh its negative impacts?

The benefits of travel are often framed in terms of personal enrichment, but travel can also have positive impacts on destination communities. Travel can bring financial incentives in the form of job formation, increase travelers’ awareness of global inequity, and promote understanding, education, and collaboration between cultures. However, overtourism can have severe negative consequences on travel destinations. Citizens of Barcelona have long lashed out at increasing tourism in their city, complaining of overcrowding, vast amounts of waste, and high noise levels, among other concerns. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, national parks in the US were overrun with record levels of visitors, leading to damage to natural landmarks and overflowing garbage receptacles. Those who chose to travel internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic put citizens of their destinations and hospitality industry employees at increased risk of illness.

In an increasingly globalized and digital world, physical travel is becoming less necessary for commerce, education, and communication. Is there still value in travel despite issues of sustainability and harm done by overtourism? Students in this section of Writing 160 will explore the definition of travel, the benefits and negative impacts of travel on the world, the inequities inherent in travel, and the ways travelers seek to mitigate those impacts. They will also inquire whether travel can be undertaken responsibly in the modern age.

Course assignments will include:

  • A travel narrative in which students compose a narrative essay about how their travel experiences and how those have informed their current views of travel.
  • A remediation of the travel narrative in a different modality (for example, a video or infographic).
  • A multi-modal critical reading of a text on the subject of travel that incorporates written text with visual elements.
  • A final multi-modal digital research paper that must incorporate photos, videos, or other media as evidence to support an argument about the role of travel in the world today.

Writing 160.002 - DIY Writing and Making

Do-it-yourself (DIY) culture values sustainability, community, expressiveness, and fighting to operate outside of oppressive systems. DIY includes many communities of practice--like grassroots social activists, riot grrls, and pirate radio operators--who compose (i.e., create, make, produce) to exercise DIY values. Some DIY multimodal compositions include music, performance art, experimental film, fashion, and zines. 

In this course, we will explore DIY culture and its discourses (i.e., communication) as a framework from which you will respond and create your own multimodal compositions. One aim of the course is for you to consider the contexts from which multimodal compositions emerge--e.g., what event is a DIY composer reacting to when they create a text, who is their audience, what is their purpose, and what media do they use in light of these contexts? You will create and engage with multimodal texts that are print and digital, so we will reckon with what DIY culture means when we use various tools (e.g., copy machines, free design software, and pen and paper) to create texts within a university context, thus challenging some DIY principles.

Writing 160.003 and 160.004 - Translation and Adaptation

This small seminar emphasizes individualized instruction and gives students practice communicating in a variety of social situations and media, as well as opportunities to explore their own interests and ambitions as writers. Students will improve their ability to understand various modalities and compose in a variety of media.

Previous Topics

Artful Politics

What do Trevor Noah, Grace Lee Boggs, Beyoncé, and Diego Rivera 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.

Writing 160 fulfills the first-year writing requirement. It 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 performances (such as Trevor Noah’s UMS performance “Back to Abnormal” on Friday, September 16), visiting the UM Museum of Art, and possibly taking a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts to visit the Diego Rivera “Detroit Industry” murals. We will also engage contemporary music, political speeches and posters, late-night comedy shows, and more, as we 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 compose a manifesto, research and write about a political topic of your choosing, and create a Trevor Noah/Steven Colbert/John Oliver-type news segment. 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.

Adaptations and Transformations

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. Our Writing 160 class will be a kind of writer’s lab where you will encounter different types of texts and experiment in composing your own. While we will read and explore traditional texts such as stories and essays, we will also consider video, photography, screenplays, podcasts, and more. Our section will explore adaptation as a framework from which you will respond to and create your own multimodal compositions. Each project will allow you to adapt texts into new forms, for example, story into screenplay or poem into music video, creating and transforming them in the process. We will practice a vital invention, drafting, and revising process that includes peer review 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.

Little Big World of Zines

Do you like making things? Are your ideas waiting for a way to be expressed? Maybe you love typewriters? Or think you might.

You may be ready to make some zines.

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. This course centers the practice of anti-racist and abolitionist teaching. In this section, we will use the making of zines as a way to experiment with multimodal composition. You will get to know your class colleagues well in group labs and workshops, and you will also meet with me regularly for individual meetings about your work and ideas.

Our making-centered course will include a brief overview into the history of zines and why they matter. We will explore zines from DIY culture, science fiction and punk, and for movements like Riot Grrrl and Black Lives Matter. Then we will build our own zines in a series of experiments, using images, sound, interviewing, drawing (stick figures too!), text, collage and design. Our class will focus on process and reflection, with lots of feedback and revision, as we work toward self-publishing our own class’ zines.

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, a playground of sorts, 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 your own 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 zines, podcasts, memes, analytical writing, 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.