About WRI 101

Ghosts. Zombies. Vampires and werewolves. What is it about monsters? Why do they both terrify and delight us? Whether it’s the haunted house in Tananarive Due’s The Good House (2004), the walking dead in Colson Whitehead’s Zone One (2011), Native American werewolves in Stephen Graham Jones’ Mongrels (2016), or even white suburbia in Get Out (2017), monsters are always about more than just spine-tingling horror. This writing class explores monstrosity in the 21st century, paying particular attention to intersections with race and gender. Through a sequence of writing projects we will explore a central question: what do monsters mean? Our first project asks you to reflect on the significant of monsters in your own life. Our second project focuses on the home as a space of monstrosity. Our third project addresses the idea of the monstrous other. Our final project uses contemporary literary and media theory to understand how monsters expose the limits of humanity.

Intellectual Writing

A core belief of the liberal arts is that you can turn your critical lens onto any subject matter, even something like monsters. In this regard, horror is no different from any other genre of literature or film. What makes writing intellectual or not is not the subject matter, but rather, the analytical approach and argumentative moves of the writing. All intellectual writing—whether it’s about Moby Dick or The Purge—shares key characteristics:

  • It positions itself in relation to previous thinking about the subject
  • It strives to reveal something new about the subject
  • It addresses an issue that can led reasonable people to differing conclusions
  • It is attentive to the details and context of the object of study
  • It makes use of evidence and rhetorical moves to support its central claim
  • It recognizes its own assumptions and limits

This—informed, revealing, evidence-based writing about monsters—is what we aim for in Writing 101.

Goals of WRI 101

First year students enter Davidson with plenty of reading and writing experience. In Writing 101 you have the opportunity to take these skills to a new level, developing the analytical and argumentative practices you need on your intellectual journey through Davidson. Every section of Writing 101 embraces four goals:

  • Reading texts and artifacts closely and critically for analytical and rhetorical purposes;
  • Making fair and effective use of the works of others;
  • Drafting and revising arguments;
  • Drawing upon multimodal and archival resources to serve specific rhetorical goals.

The way we attain these goals include the following practices:

  • Drafting and revising texts—approximately 40 pages of prose throughout the semester, including informal writing, drafts, and revisions
  • Giving and receiving generous feedback on your writing from both your peers and me
  • Experimenting with various techniques for reading and writing critically
  • Encountering texts and artifacts that can be approached from multiple perspectives with varying intellectual stakes
  • Working with others to find materials—online and off—that can deepen your engagement and understanding of horror.
Learning Outcomes

By the end of the semester you will be able to:

  • Think about monsters critically, which means asking questions, attempting answers, and recognizing historical and cultural patterns of the horror genre
  • Identify a critical question raised by monsters that has intellectual, social, political, historical, scientific, or aesthetic significance
  • Locate authoritative resources that can help you answer or respond to a critical question
  • Compose an argument that articulates a core idea or question, situates it in a larger conversation, and asserts a clear, focused answer or hypothesis
  • Select, explain, and represent fairly and accurately relevant supporting and contradictory evidence
  • Adapt your writing style to various audiences and platforms.
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