Syllabus for Spring 2007: Advanced Writing: On the Natural Sciences and Technology

English 302N15 (Mon, 7:20-10:00 pm, Robinson A206)
English 302N17 (Wed, 4:30-7:10 pm, Robinson B124)
English 302N18 (Thurs, 4:30-7:10 pm, Enterprise 275)

Dr Ellen Moody. My homepage address:;
for Course Materials, go to course.htm
My email address is:

Course Description

This is an advanced writing and English course. In some ways it may remind you of the introductory college freshmen writing course you took a few semesters ago. We will talk about how to write plainly and clearly, about how to construct arguments, how to synthesize materials to compose a research paper, about punctuation, documentation -- in short, about everything we can think of having to do with writing essays.

The course will, however, differ from introductory courses in writing and English in that you will be asked to use these skills to read and to write about writing by scientists, about science and applied technologies, and about how these disciplines and their products are exploited. To do this, we will read and discuss full-length books. Since there is no science prerequisite for this course, our perspective and discussions cannot be too specialized or narrowly-focused on simply a single science or group of sciences, even if a fairly large number of students in the class are majoring in the same area of science. The background knowledge assumed is that of the typical generally-educated reader who has attained Junior status in a senior college.

Required Texts (in the order we'll read them)

Optional Book

Required and Possible Films (in the order we'll see them)

Audiocassettes Available

Required Writing:

You are required to write three essays outside class; to write book and film reviews in class (in lieu of a mid-term and final); to give one short talk in class. There will be one take-home test and one out-of-class film review. There will be no quizzes and no closed book exams.

First Essay (#1)

Writing About How a Machine or Scientific Process Works or About the Composition of a Objects which has been designed and built (or created) by people. The basic aim of the science essay is often explanation, and the basis of good scientific writing an ability to use scientific and technical or complicated English in ways that a reader can understand. So the first of our essays is an exercise in which you use technical language and/or scientific concepts in order to explain something in a clear and engaging manner. Here are some suggestions for suitable topics:

How an airplane flies; or why a building doesn't fall down (you can use any kind of building); or how some aspect of the Internet works or how to use a computer; or how any of the following work: a radio or TV or car or roller coaster or ferris wheel or bicycle or vaccuum cleaner or coffee-maker or microwave oven or zipper or other household or personal appliance (e.g., eyeglasses, hearing aids, a wheelchair, food-processor, thermometer, doorknob). Then there are fax machines, xerox machines, elevators, subway systems, the internal combustion engine and sewing machines. You can explain objects which need man at the helm to operate them, like sailboats or cranes, because to make these work the individual using them has to have mechanical and scientific knowledge of nature.

The sort of object or process you are to choose is something which is man-made or depends on knowledge, manipulation, or transformations of nature which are done by people. It can therefore also be an object that is the result of a mechanical, chemical or other artificial process initiated by man (e.g., glass or steel).

You can also describe the process by which the object has been made or its history. If you are a humanities or social science major or would prefer to try something less technically-rooted, you can also explain processes which use things which occur in nature and which we use with little transformation by man. Cooking is not only an art; it is based on knowledge of nature. How did people learn to brew beer? What's wine? There's an important history behind the invention and use of ropes; there's an equally revealing history behind the invention of uses of ice or cloth.

And remember a machine or man-made object need not be made of metal or plastic, and it can be used for aesthetic pleasure or emotional uplift: you can explain how any musical instrument works or the history of how it comes to take the form it does. A ballet-shoe is a man-made object which enables women to dance on the edge of their toes. Furniture and toys may be included.

Your object need not be something technologically sophisticated; it can be a light-bulb or a pencil or a fountain pen. You can look at obsolete or older inventions: the windmill or a medieval knight's armor; you can go to the beginning of the industrial revolution for objects like the spinning jenny You can explain the process whereby a book is made or history of book-making.

You can also explain intellectual inventions like calendars.

You can write this satirically. Pretend you are a person from a community with no knowledge or experience of such objects and use your description to criticize the society which uses such objects. You can write this personally: tell how you or other members of your household or school use the object. In all cases, you should have a thesis-statement and a context. You should in the essay include the reason why your reader ought to know how your machine or process works. You don't want your reader to be asking him or herself, 'why should I read this?'.

To those who are saying to themselves, 'I'm not a scientist, I don't know the first thing about how things work. I turn the key in my car and it goes, period', I say, come in at the level that is natural to you and that will be natural to a college-level reader.

Remember clarity is a special concern in the natural sciences and technical writing. Your aim is to transmit technical information accurately and in a way that the reader will understand sufficiently to be able to use what he reads. The intent here is to practice using language which is jargon-free and analogies which actually help readers to visualize and explain something.

It is suggested you do some minimal research, and, therefore, you must document your sources and all verbatim quotations or paraphrases. We will review documentation before this essay is due. You may of course do research, but if you do please make sure your source is reliable and respected e.g., the Encyclopedia Britannica or a specialized encyclopedia in the relevant field is a wonderful source, but junk like World Book , Colliers, are not acceptable. If you take information from the World Wide Web or an e-mail group of any kind, be prepared to verify the expertise of the person whose e- mail you are quoting or the respectability of the host of the website whose information you are relying upon. Length: minimum 3-5 double-spaced typed pages.

Second Essay (#2)

Observing Nature. To be a good scientist you must learn to observe accurately and with as little bias as possible; the conveying of information based on such observation is another basic aim of writing in the natural sciences. Thus our second essay.

You are given the choice of writing about how an animal, or a plant, or some species of natural phenomena behaves. The idea of this essay is to describe nature in an objective and unbiased way, to say in words what it is one observes, and in so doing to explain something which occurs in the natural world without any man-made intervention or transformation.

Suggestions: you might try to develop or confirm a hypothesis about an animal or plant. Here what you do is research patterns of birth or development and watch their strategies for survival, for, obtaining food, for sleep, for creating an environment for themselves, for mating, for interactions with one another. The reason it's good to start with a hypothesis is it can help you decide what to to look for as you watch and, if you like, questions for further research.

The same remarks about clarity, research and length that apply to Essay #1 apply to Essay #2.

Third Essay (#3)

The Science of Medicine. Le Carre's Constant Gardener, Danielle Ofri's Singular Intimacies, Margaret Edson's Wit and the essays by Atul Gawande and Marcia Angell are about the science of medicine as it is really experienced or exploited in human commmunities. This final essay and our reading in last part of the term are assigned to enable us to discuss -- with as much depth as we can -- a single area of science which is today a huge profit-making politicized industry in our society employing and affecting all people, not just the scientifically-, and technically-educated. I ask you to write our one required research essay about how a specific illness, or problem someone has which is treated medically, is experienced in our society, from both the viewpoints of the patient (or customer) and the physician (or anyone who practices some form of medicine). This will require that you understand the illness or condition the individual has, how it relates to what we define as health, its aetiology, and the treatments that are offered to help the individual cope or get better. Here are the options:

  1. You may write about how an illness has been treated in the past and is treated today. It need not be a lethal epidemic, but there is a good deal of literature on such illnesses. Examples: small pox, TB, influenza, cholera, measles, AIDS.
  2. You may write about a particular case history, kind of medical problem or condition. These include prolonging the life of someone who has permanently lost consciousness and procedures which are controversial. Examples: miscarriages (not well understood), artificial insemination, abortion, various kinds of very expensive procedures to replace organs and cancer therapies.
  3. The subject of your essay need not be a dramatic procedure or unusual condition. Just as interesting and perhaps more important are conditions people develop which they can live with for many years, but which require medical care, therapy, or surgical interventions. Such conditions include diabetes, diverticulosis, ulcers, all sorts of problems with the internal organization of the human body, epilepsy, migraine headaches.
  4. You may write some aspect of the medical profession. You can write about the way a hospital is organised; the education required of doctors and nurses or technicians. Questions you can ask yourself include: should nurse practitioners replace doctors in some aspect of daily care; if so, do they have to be better educated? what do we mean by better educated? You can also take what we discuss about cultural and social milieus and how people are treated in accordance with their perceived status and discuss how the class, race, gender, and status of someone or the perceived amount of money an individual is paying influences the quality of care that individual receives. You may also choose to discuss how our society should control and pay for medical treatment since it can powerfully affect individual lives and is expensive.
  5. I encourage students to write about their own experiences or those of close family members or friends in medicine. Part of the point of this part of the term's work is to encourage the student to think for him or herself, to take initiatives, and to consider science and technology in the context of real people's lives and the social and psychological and economical realities which impinge directly on real people.

This is to be a researched essay, but you are also encourged to use personal experiences. Length: minimum 3-5 double-spaced typed pages.

Four good sources are required. I ask that one of them be a book or essay from a reputable journal which you find in the library.

You can also use as one of your sources an expert (a medically-educated professonal) or individual who have had the illness you are writing about. The point is not to do original research (which you probably do not begin to have time for), but to learn to find and to integrate respectable researched materials into a cogent argument.

The Annotated Bibliography: As part of the researched essay, you will be asked to hand in an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography provides short summaries and evaluations of the books and essays used in a research paper. The skill of synopsis will be reviewed. Models will be provided.

An Abstract: You will also be asked to hand in an abstract of your own essay. We will in class learn to and practice the art of writing abstracts, of summarising, paraphrasing, and writing synopses.

The Short Talk

Talk is primary and writing secondary. I believe everyone can learn to write more clearly and enjoy writing more if he or she would only learn to talk on paper, to use the real language he or she might use in the classroom or any other natural situation which demands a certain coherence. Much of the advice you will find in John Trimble's Writing With Style is based on this belief. Most science and technical manuals advise the teacher to schedule short talks on topics taken from scientific issues or subject matter. A technical writer must learn to think of his material as something he is really communicating to someone else. The success of the communication of a technical writer is measured not only by how the reader or listener receives it, but by whether the reader or listener truly understands and can make use of what the technically-educated people say or write.

Thus, each student will be asked to prepare a coherent ten minute talk for classroom presentation on the readings from one of the four books which is due the day he or she is scheduled to talk upon. The talks will begin the third week of the semester. Fundamentally what you must do is invent a clear instrumental thesis-statement and develop it coherently and concretely.

The whole class will listen and try to respond; their response will tell the student whether he or she has made him or herself clear; the ensuing dialogue and the student's own later thoughts about either what happened when he or she or another student talked will (it is hoped) teach everyone something about the basis of writing -- again, clear thinking in clear language which comes naturally to the speaker-writer.

Each student is asked to hand in an outline or cards (hand-written or typed) which he or she used to talk from, and I will return this material with the grade for the talk in the following session. I have provided a model in the form of a typed-out transcript of the talk one student gave on "Richard Feynman's Definition of a Good Experiment".

In-Class Open Book Book Writing:

Analysing Science Writing. You will be asked to write book reviews in class in lieu of a closed book midterm and final. If you become a successful professional in any field, you will find yourself asked to review books, articles and (nowadays) films. These will be "open book" in-class essays. In other words, you can bring books, any notes and any drafts you like.

There is a specific format which is followed which we will learn about. For the mid-term (which will occur half-way through the term), the first review is to be on both Feynman books when we finish reading them and is to be written in class. You will be asked to hand in 15 short answers written at home to questions handed out (on a xeroxed sheet) on Trimble's Writing with Style and Dava Sobel's Longitude. For the final, you will be asked to write two in-class book reviews, one on Danielle Ofri's Singular Intimacies and the other on Steve Olson's Mapping Human History. You will asked to hand in 15 short answer questions written at home to questions handed out (on a xeroxed sheet) on John LeCarre's novel, The Constant Gardener, Mike Nicols' film, Wit, and Margaret Edson's stageplay, Wit.

These reviews are intended to provide practice on how to select, elaborate upon and judge books, films, essays and all research sources. They are also intended to make you think about what is the best way to convey scientific information and how science is presented to the general public. We will discuss how a good book review usually includes some or all of the following points:

  1. the book's context and intended audience;
  2. its thesis or theses;
  3. your evaluative statement about this thesis and the book's content;
  4. a synopsis or summary of its contents;
  5. an analysis of the book to reveal how the author's background or biases help or hinder the author and the quality of the evidence.

We will discuss how a film review usually includes some or all of the following points:

  1. the film's producer, director, intended audience, and (if applicable) screenplay;
  2. its perspective (or "message");
  3. your evaluative statement about this perspective;
  4. a synopsis or summary of the story or literal content of the film;
  5. an analysis of the film's techniques (presentation of characters, use and juxtaposition of scenes, use of music), dialogue, use of real actors, and particular ending to discuss how well or poorly the film conveyed its perspective.

It is difficult to educate the general public about the natural sciences and applied technology. One way to do it is through film. We will discuss the difficulties of translating science, its techniques, realities, as well as politics, as topics into commercially-viable or entertaining movies and what are the means used by film-makers to overcome the technical problems as well as the problem of attracting audiences who are not well-educated. We will also discuss how a film review usually includes some or all of the following points:

The requirement to write detailed reviews and answer questions are intended to find out whether you read all the books with care, watched the films with attention, and to reward those who read the books, attended class and listened to the short talks.

Take-home test and (extra credit) out-of-class film review

The midterm will consist of an in-class book review plus a take-home set of questions on Trimble's Writing with Style and Sobel's Longitude. will have to cancel one class this term (in order to go to a conference). Unfortunately this conference occurs the week after our spring break so there will be two-week break during the term. I will therefore ask everyone to watch one of the films we are to watch during one of those two weeks on their own at home. It will be the award-winning commercially-available The Constant Gardener. I will also ask students during those weeks to do a good deal of the reading of one of the books during this long break off: from Steve Olson's Mapping Human History. As part of the final (a portfolio of writing in effect) you will be asked to answer at home 15 short answer questions on Olson's Mapping Human History, the film, The Constant Gardener, and any online essays we may read. You may also be asked to write an out-of-class film review on one of the films we see. The choice will depend on how many we manage to watch. Instructions on how to write it will be handed out in the last class, and I have made available to those interested (optional) the screenplay of the film (see "Optional Books", Jeffrey Caines, The Constant Gardener: Shooting Script above).

Reading and Class Attendance:

Assumptions behind this course : I think that 1) something is to be gained by coming to class, and that we all can learn a great deal from one another; 2) good writing can be discussed in simple words, and exemplified, learned, practiced, and improved through imitation of models; 3) people who write well are often people who read a lot; and 4) the only way to improve one's writing is by much practice over a long period of time; so:

  1. Classwork : I want everyone to attend class faithfully, to read all the books, and to participate in class discussions. I ask that you limit your unexcused absences to a minimum; I regard weeks of absence as one basis for a failing grade.
  2. Writing Assignments: I have allowed ample time for 1) writing and revision of each essay; for 2) discussion of student models to help you see what is expected and give you ideas on how to go about a particular task; and for 3) the class as a single group to listen to, analyse and comment on one or more of the essays someone in the class has written. I will try my best to write comments on your essays which can help you how better to organize your thoughts, correct your grammar, and write lucidly and engagingly.


By the end of the term there should be seven grades for each student on my roster. These I will average together to form the final grade. I should have six major grades: three for the three essays; one for the short talk; one for the midterm (an average of the short answers handed out on the take-home test on Trimble and Sobel and in-class open book book reviews); and one for the final (an average of the short answers handed out on the take-home test on Olson, LeCarre, Angell, Gawande, Edson and the in-class open book book and film reviews). I also give minor grades for the plans; they tell me how much thought and work you are putting into the paper; if you are working on it; at the end of the term, I will average them and then factor them in as "class work" with any in-class writing we do (for which you get a check), and this becomes what I weigh to give you the benefit of the doubt when your average comes out between grades.

The short talk is due on the day set; if you miss an in-class writing, you must make it up at home (but it must be printed out, not hand-written); if your essay is late for four sessions, the grade will be pulled down one element for every session. You will not be permitted to hand in a paper five sessions (basically three weeks) after one is due; then you must take an F. You must give your talk on the day cited on the short talk schedule so as to ensure only one person will talk on a given day. If you do not give your talk, you must take an F and that will be factored into your final grade.

For the final grade for the course also I take into account 1) your attendance record; 2) your participation in class; and 3) if you came for help if you needed it in planning the essay, thinking up a perspective; organizing and revising it. I have no way of producing a number or letter grade for this; rather if you have come to class, participated, done the reading, worked hard on the papers, I will give you the benefit of the doubt if your average for the six grades comes in either above or below a specific grade. A teacher can tell when an essay or short talks is done with care, is something really thought about, something for which a genuine self-educational effort was made. I actually respect serious hard work and reward it when I see it. I will reward someone whose writing improves. In my courses, process as well as product counts.

The Problem of Plagiarism:

DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Plagiarism is defined by the GMU English Department as follows:

'"Plagiarism means using words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving that person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books and articles consulted is not sufficient."

If I discover you have plagiarised, I will follow the guidelines of the English department which require that I fail or report you to the Chair of my Department.

Without an appointment:

Write to me by e-mail. My address is Be sure to type the e-mail address to which you wish me to send my reply at the end of your message. Please feel free to write me. I will provide thorough commentary on any drafts of essays that you send me through my e-mail addresses.

You can call the phone in the office I use (703-993-1171) or leave a message in my box in the English Office, which is in Robinson Hall on the fourth floor. My office is Robinson A455. I have no voice mail, and there is no way you can fax me. Remember that I am scheduled to be on campus only on Tuesdays and Thursdays; the secretaries will not call me and simply put notes in my box. Also, leaving essays in my box is a chancy business because materials get lost this way: no-one stands guard over the boxes. If you send an essay through an attachment, it doesn't always come through. The surest speediest way to get a late essay to me is still to bring it to the next class and give it to me warm hand to warm hand.

With an appointment:

Private conferences are available by appointment on Wednesday, 3:20-4:20 pm. and Thurs, 3:20-4:20 pm, Robinson A455. I will be happy to stay after class at 10:00 on Monday nights for half an hour. Sign up on the stenography pad which will be placed on the corner of my desk every time the class meets.

Other Help Outside Class

The College of Arts and Sciences runs a University Writing Center where you will find tutors to help you with writing. Their phone number is 703-993-1200. Here is a description of the place and its services:

"The George Mason University Writing Center is a writing resource open to the entire university community, offering free tutoring in a comfortable, supportive atmosphere. During face-to-face and online sessions, trained graduate and undergraduate tutors form a variety of disciplines assist writers at all stage of the writing process. Tutors emphasize positive attitudes and stratgies that help writers at any level learn to evaluate and revise their work in order to be more confident and effective writers."

To find out more and to start to use the services offered, go to


Mon/Wed/Thurs, Jan 22nd/24th/25th

In Class: Course introduction. Explanation of syllabus. Short Talks introduced; Essay #1 explained. The class watches Ralph Leighton's The Last Journey of a Genius.

Outside Class: For next week, go to my homepage (see above for URL), hit "Teaching", then print out, read and bring to class "The Great American Scream Machine" and "The Golden Gate Bridge"; "The Moving Scala", and "A Tool of Art Work", plus a typed-out transcript of two short talks, one on "Richard Feynman's Definition of a Good Experiment", and the other "Space and Time in the 17th Century". Also read Trimble, Writing with Style, Chs 1-5 and 8; also Richard Feynman, Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! , Part One (pp 1-97), and What Do YOU Care What Other People Think?, pp 1-59 (Preface through "It's As Simple as One, Two Three")' bring Dava Sobel's Longitude to class. Read, print out and bring to class model for plan for Essay #1. Be prepared to be assigned one talk for the term from one of the books (see Short Talk schedules for choices and dates).

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Jan29th/31st/Feb 1st

In Class: Short Talks Given Out. What is a plan? We'll discuss Trimble: What is a Thesis; Line of Argument; Openers; Middles; Closers. How to Write and Fill a Paragraph; What is a Paragraph; How to Link Them. In-Class Describing a Machine. We'll discuss what is science writing. I'll introduce Mr Feynman and give some sense of scientific history as background for Longitude

Outside Class: For next week read Richard Feynman, Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! , Parts Two and Three (pp 98-163) and from Part Four (pp. 165-74, "The Dignified Professor", 199-219, "O Americano, Outra Vez!" and 232-36,"An Offer You Must Refuse"), What Do YOU Care What Other People Think?, the rest of Part One (pp. 63-113), and Trimble, Writing with Style, Chapters 6-8, and 10. Plan for #1 is due on Mon/Wed//Thurs, Feb 5th/7th/8th.

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Feb 5th/7th/8th

In Class: PLAN FOR #1 DUE. Short Talk 1: RFeynman, boy and young man: The Qualities that Make up the Good Scientist (SYJ, Parts 1 & 2, WDYC, Chapter 1); Short talk 2: RFeynman's criticisms of counterproductive uses and abuses, particularly at Los Alamos (i.e., his stories about counterproductive uses of secrecy), but you may include stories exemplifying this theme from elsewhere in the book thus far (so from SYJ, Parts 2 & 3, especially "Los Alamos from Below" and "Safecracker Meets Safecracker"); Short Talk 3: RFeynman's ideas on what is real scientific learning: what ought to go on in a classroom, be in a book &c (e.g.,"O Americano Outre Vez" and "Judging Books by Their Covers" in SYJ and relevant Letters in WDYC)

Outside class: Read for next week: Feynman, SYJ, Part Five (pp. 237-346); WDYC, Part Two (pp. 113-254). Work on Essay #1.

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Feb 12th/14th/15th

In Class: Short Talk 4: RFeynman's Adventures in Areas Outside Physics: Biology, Psychology (Investigations into the workings of his mind), Art, Music and Anthropology ("A Map of the Cat", Always Trying to Escape", "But Is It Art?"; "O Americano Outra Vez!," "Bringing Culture to the Physicists", "Found Out in Paris", "Altered States" in SYJ, and "It's as Simple as One, Two, Three " and relevant "Letters" in WDYC). Short Talk 5: Mr Feynman Goes to Washington: Why some NASA officials are driven to delude themselves and mislead the public ("Mr Feynman Goes to Washington" and "Appendix F" in WDYC, pp. 113-227); Short Talk 6: A World of Pseudo- and Corrupt Science and the Value of Science (Feynman's "Cargo Cult Learning" and "The Value of Science," SYJ, pp. 338-46, WDYC, pp. 239-48)

Outside Class: For next week read the rest of Trimble (Chs 9-13, plus skim chapters on "tips" and "quotations"), and 3/4s of Dava Sobel's Longitude (Introd, Chs 1-11). Work on Essay #1.

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Feb 19th/21st/22nd

In Class: Tues, 2/21: I will hand out the take-home test on Trimble and Sobel. Short Talk 7: 17th Century Needs and Troubles (Chapters 1-4 of Sobel's Longitude); Short Talk 8: Solutions to the Problem and young John Harrison goes to London (Chs 5-8 of Sobel's Longitude). Short Talk 9: The Instruments and the Ordeal (Chs 9-11 of Sobel's Longitude). Review how to write bibliography & when to make a note. The class watches Peter Jones and David R. Axelrod's Lost at Sea: The Search for Longitude.

Outside class: For next week: finish Dava Sobel's Longitude (Chs 12-15); finish writing Essay #1, due Feb 26th/28th/Mar 1st; print out, read and bring to class student models for the book review, one on Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle and Mark Ridley's Darwin Reader and the other on the two Feynman books, and the on-line popular book review by Michael Swaine.".

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Feb 26th/28th/Mar 1st

In Class: ESSAY #1 is DUE. Short Talk 10: The politics and money to be made; intellectual property issues; and the story of Rupert Gould (Chs 12-15 of Sobel's Longitude). How to write a book review; we will go over (and I'll assign) Essay #2 from the models. Introduction to Mapping Human History: Darwin's theory of natural selection reviewed; how study of the genetic composition of people today (DNA in genes, mitochondrial DNA, nucleotide sequences, blood types, haplotypes, haplogroups) demonstrates the origin of homo sapiens in Northeastern Africa; the unity of humankind, and, together with the affinity of languages, enables us to study the migrations of peoples over the earth, and the interaction of their mutations and adaptations to local climates and geological/geographical change.

Outside class: Prepare for midterm for next week. Read, print out and bring to class , and the student models for Essay #2, "Some Observations on the Orangutans," "The White-Tailed Deer", "Night Life", and "The Hard Working Life of Cows: Making Diary Farms Make Money. Make a start on Olson's Mapping Human History, Introduction," "The Human Pageant," pp. 1-89, "The End of Evolution, "Individuals and Groups," "The African Diaspora" "Encounters with the Other" (Chs 1-4).

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Mar 5th/7th/8th

In Class: Midterm. A Book Review of Feynman's Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! and What Do YOU Care What Other People Think?. Hand in take-home test on Trimble and Sobel at the same time. Return and discussion of #1. Go over models for Essay #2.

Outside Class: Get started on or do your project for Essay #2. Plan is due Mon/Wed/Thurs, Mar 26th/27th/. Essay #2 is due Mon/Wed//Thurs, Apr 2nd/4th/5th. Read Olson's Mapping Human History, Read Olson, pp. 90-105, 124-36, 157-74, 193-207, "Agriculture, Civilization and Ethnicity," "The Great Migration," "Who are the Europeans?" and "The Settlement of the Americas" (Chs 5, 7, 9, 11). If you are planning to listen to an unabridged version of LeCarre's novel read aloud, you should have your tape or CD in hand by this time and begin listening.

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Mar12th/14th/15th

Spring Break!

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Mar 19th/21st/22nd

Class Cancelled: Everyone is expected to work on the project (visit wherever you have planned; do your observation or experiment) towards Essay #2; watch the film The Constant Gardener during this week and read Olson's Mapping Human History, Prologue, Chs 1-4, 5, 7, 9, 11). Write plan for Essay #2.

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Mar 26th/28th/29th

In Class: Plan for Essay #2 is due today. Short Talk 11: Early history of modern people: from Olson, Mapping Human History, "The African Diaspora" and "Encounters with the Other" (Chs 3-4, pp. 54-89). Short Talk 12: Development of agriculture and anatomically modern people spread across the globe: from Olson, Mapping Human History, "Agriculture, Civilization and the Emergence of Ethnicity" and "The Great Migration" (pp. 90-105, 124-36); Short Talk 13: The importance of climate and geography and puzzling questions: from Olson, Mapping Human History, Who are the Europeans" and "The Settlement of the Americas" (pp. 158- 74, 194-207).

Outside class: You should finish Essay #2,due Apr 2nd/4th/5th; finish Olson's Mapping Human History Mapping Human History, "Sprung from a Common Source," "The Burden of Knowledge," "The End of Race," pp. 158-74, 207-238 (Chs 8, 12, 13); begin and read the first third of John LeCarre's Constant Gardener (the aim is to finish around mid-April, between the weeks of Apr 9th/11th/12th and 16th/18th/19th). Read it the way you do any novel: for the story and characters and enjoyment too. It's what's called a page turner. If you have trouble understanding what you read, be sure and have seen the film during the break or rent (or buy) audiocassettes or CDs of the book read aloud.

Mon/Wed//Thurs, Apr 2nd/4th/5th

In Class: ESSAY #2 IS DUE. Short Talk 14: The Complicated Politics of Tracing Our Real Histories: "Sprung from a Common Source," "The Burden of Knowledge," "The End of Race" (pp. 158-74, 207-238). Final class discussion of Olson; introducing LeCarre's novel. If you have bought it, bring to class Jeffrey Caine's The Constant Gardener: Shooting Script I will review in class Marcia Angell's two online essays about the drug trade in the US and abroad: "The Body Hunters", "Your Dangerous Drugstore". The class watches Christopher Hale's In Search of the First Language.

Outside Class: You should be more than half-way through LeCarre's Constant Gardener. Print out and bring to class models for Essay #3: "Improving Life with Arthritis"; "The Real Afteraffects of Abortion"; "Ritalin and ADHD"; "The Use of Leeches in Modern Medicin,", "Cesarean Childbirth: A Modern Convenience?"; "Female Circumcision", and "Unraveling the Mystery"; andInstructions on How to Write an Abstract.

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Apr 9th/11th/12th

In Class: Short Talk 15: Describe the characters of the different narrators of the story: Sandy Woodrow, Justin Quayle, Ghita Pearson, Tom Donahue, Gloria Woodrow, and the omniscient narrator (aka the author or LeCarre himself); Short Talk 16: Describe the effect of learning the story gradually from the police people's questioning and reports; from emails and records and documents and letters left by Tessa Quayle and Arnold Bluhm; from investigative reporting in conversations by Birgit, Lara Emrich and Dr Lorbeer and reports given (to Justin Quayle, the novel's prime reader); Short Talk 17: The quest and landscapes: how is Africa a central character? with comparisons of how London, Italy, Germany, and Canada are made to appea (compare the landscapes in the book Quayle travels to). Return and discussion of Essay #2. Essay #3 is explained and assigned; how to write an annotated bibliography and abstract. We begin going over models.

Outside class: Read, print out and do Practice 1. Read three New Yorker online essays by Atul Gawande: "The Bell Curve: What happens when patients find out how good their doctors really are?", "Piecework: Medicine's Money Problem", "The Score: How childbirth went industrial",

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Apr 16th/18th/19th

In Class: Short Talk 18: Does Justin atone and recover his soul; or has he gone mad: the pessimistic ending and political inferences. Introducing the topic of the science of medicine as subculture: we carry on going over student models for research essay (#3); do our first in class abstract. Short talk 19: On Atul Gawande's three online articles: Mistakes, Money, and Technology in Medicine "The Bell Curve: What happens when patients find out how good their doctors really are?", "Piecework: Medicine's Money Problem", "The Score: How childbirth went industrial"

Outside Class: Find two sources and write your plan for Essay #3, begin reading Ofri, Singular Intimacies, Prologue, "Possessing Her Words," Chapters 1-5, pp. 1-88 ('Drawing Blood" through "In Charge") plus "Common Ground" online). Print out and do Practice II for Abstracts.

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Apr 23rd/25th/26th

In Class: PLAN for ESSAY #3 IS DUE. Short Talk 20: The doctor and patient's responsibilty (Ofri, Singular Intimacies, Prologue through Chapter 4, plus "Common Ground" online). We go over Practice 2. The class watches as much of the film, Wit as we can.

Outside Class: Finish reading Ofri, Singular Intimacies, Chs 5-end, pp.70-129 ("Time of Death" through Epilogue, "Possessing Her Words"). Read, print out and bring to class student models for book and film reviews, "A Half Composed Puzzle" "The Difficult Profession of Medicine", "Spellbinding and Entertaining", "The world of medicine and patient treatment", "Combining two genres".

Mon/Wed/Thurs, Apr 30/May 2nd/3rd

In Class: The class finishes watching the film, Wit. Short Talk 21: When Technical Knowledge doesn't help: from Ofri's Singular Intimacies, Chs 5-9, pp. 70-129 ("July 1st" through "In Charge"); Short Talk 22, Chs 10-13, pp. 138-207: Tortured patients and doctors, Chs 10-14 ("Immunity" through "M&M"; Short talk 23: The Neglect of Vivian Bearing (from both Mike Nichols' film and Margaret Edson's stage play, Wit). Review for final; we'll go over models for book reviews and film review; I'll hand out short answer questions.

Outside class: Write Essay #3, complete with abstract and annotated bibliography; answer short answer questions on John LeCarre's novel, Constant Gardener, Margaret Edson's stageplay, Wit, the films Lost at Sea, In Search of a First Language, and what we saw of Longitude. Prepare for in-class final: two in class book reviews, one on Ofri's Singular Intimacies and one on Olson's Mapping Human History..

The Final: Thurs/Tues,

Section 302.N15: The day, time and place of the final: Mon, 5/14, 7:30 p.m. - 10:15 p.m, class room not set yet, possibly Innovation 333

Section 302.N17: The day, time and place of the final: Wed, 5/9, 4:30 p.m. - 7:15 p.m, Robinson B124

Section 302.N18: The day, time, and place of the final: Thurs. 5/10, 4:30 p.m. - 7:15 p.m, Enterprise 275

Bring with you printed out Research Essay #3 (it should have an abstract and annotated bibliography). The final will consist of an two in-class book reviews, one on Danielle Ofri's Singular Intimacies and one on Steve Olson's Mapping Human History. You may be asked to write at home (type it) a film review on one of the films we see in or out of class. The choice will depend on which one we see. I will also hand out a sheet of 15 short answer questions on Olson's Mapping Human History, the film, The Constant Gardener,and any online essays we may have read. Bring the answers to the questions handed out the final session.

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 1 January 2007