TOPICS WRDS 150A – Term 1

  2022W Course Schedules & Course Descriptions

WRDS 150A is offered in a wide variety of topics for students in the Faculty of Arts
Course topics and descriptions are subject to change depending on the instructor and their availability. Below is the schedule for the upcoming 2022W Term 1 winter session.

Sections are scheduled in the following patterns.
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays – MWF
Mondays, Wednesdays – MW
Tuesdays, Thursdays, – TR
Tuesdays – T
Wednesdays – W


Scheduling Patterns and  Course Descriptions

Instructor: Tom Andrews

Section: 114, 142, 151

This section of WRDS150 is focused on Critical Thinking in the Digital Era. These modules cover issues including social networking behavior and privacy, climate change denial and hyper-critical thinking, and ‘slacktivism’ and bandwagon political engagement in the 21st century.  We will read articles from scholarly and non-scholarly sources from social science, political science, and humanities backgrounds as well as watching interviews, Ted Talks, and discussion panels.  In doing so, we will endeavor to answer such questions as: does the internet still offer users a place to share and consume information honestly?  Do the harms caused by social media use outweigh its many advantages in contemporary society?  How have internet communication platforms changed political engagement and awareness?  What biases or fallacies are perpetuated by an online world?

Instructor:  Kirby Manià

Sections:   EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4
These sections are reserved for BIE students

This course focuses on scholarly discourse published on the topic of environmental justice (EJ). It will consider discursive practices ranging from critical race theory, ecofeminism, social movement theory, media studies, geography, sociology, political ecology, and economics. Emerging as a movement in the early 1980s in the United States, EJ – now considered a global movement and a matter of global concern – recognizes the unfair distribution of environmental hazards on marginalized populations. Studies have shown that environmental harms disproportionately affect vulnerable social groups (which includes, but is not limited to, people of colour, indigenous communities, immigrants, women, minority groups, low-income communities, and climate refugees). EJ scholars research and monitor cases of socially produced environmental injustice and critically evaluate how multi-scalar policy decisions (such as neoliberal reform) continue to affect at-risk communities. EJ scholarship examines the social mobilization potential of communities against the uneven distribution of environmental hazards (or the lack of the fair distribution of environmental resources), and also considers how grassroots activists – in their campaign for greater recognition and participation in decision-making processes – hold governments and corporations accountable in their calls for justice. We will be tracing a number of scholarly conversations around the globalization of the Environmental Justice Movement (EJM) – looking at literature from the US, Canada, and other parts of the world – whilst discussing terms like environmental racism, climate justice, intersectionality, ecological debt, degrowth, food sovereignty, hydric justice, and environmentalism of the poor.

The course’s discursive approach invites students to engage with scholarly conversations and published research across a range of disciplinary perspectives. The course will entail writing about these research perspectives as well as producing research of your own.

Instructor: Gillian Carrabré

Sections: *001, 002
*Seats in these sections reserved for BMUS students

The theme of this section of WRDS 150A is mental health and self-expression in the arts. We will examine articles from a range of disciplines, including musicology, art history, philosophy, psychology, popular music studies, and more. How do scholars consider the topic of mental health across these diverse fields of artistic discourse? How do artists navigate the creation of their work while dealing with mental illness? And how do we write about these issues as budding academics? Through the artistic works of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Robert Schumann, Vincent Van Gogh, William Shakespeare, Hector Berlioz, Avicii, Edvard Munch, Chuck Palahniuk, Linkin Park, Oscar Wilde and others, we (as colleagues) will develop an understanding of the effects of mental health on the output of art and vice versa. Using the lens provided by our class theme, we will build comprehension, research and writing skills in academic genres, and learn to apply modern research techniques, think critically, and compose relevant academic papers in Chicago Style, the primary writing style in musical discourse. The classroom will embrace an inclusive mentality, cultivate respect among colleagues, and allow space for creativity. As a researcher of rave culture and its ideologies, I have adopted the famous Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect mantra as my classroom motto. I would like for WRDS 150 to embrace the concept of PLUR in both classroom and online interactions whenever possible.

Instructor: Adrian Lou

Section: 153

Traditionally, metaphor has been understood as a stylistic device that poetically decorates language. Metaphorical expressions (e.g. my love is a rose) are thus thought to be statements that do not reside in the realm of everyday speech. However, contemporary research in cognitive linguistics has shown that many conventional expressions are inescapably metaphorical. Consider, for instance, how we rely on metaphors to talk about abstract concepts, such as love (e.g. you’re breaking my heart), illness (e.g. the patients are battling cancer), and time (e.g. we’re running out of time). In this course, we will read academic articles that evaluate the use of metaphors in biology, healthcare, psychology, Indigenous studies and politics in order to have a better understanding of how metaphors shape the way we think about the world around us. Ultimately, students in WRDS 150 will learn how to read academic papers in a critical way, identify the rhetorical strategies used in academic writing, and write an original research paper that draws upon ideas and concepts from the course.

Instructor: Jennifer Cowe

Sections: 121, 133, 152, 162

This course will aim to explore how different academic disciplines engage with the concept of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a word, or more usually a feeling, that most people have used or felt; however, very few understand its constant presence in everyday life. We will study nostalgia from its earliest appearance in academia as a form of mental illness in the seventeenth century and follow its growing influence over, and manipulation of, contemporary ideas of national identity, consumerism, class, lifestyle choices and LGBTQ histories. Through the study of academic journal articles from a variety of fields (psychology, history, marketing, politics, media) we will examine the research and writing techniques used by different disciplines to understand such an esoteric concept.

Instructor:  Katie Fitzpatrick

Sections: 122, 131, 161

Today, we often hear that “privacy is dead.” Some blame growing surveillance by governments and by Silicon Valley tech companies, while others blame an increasingly confessional culture, characterized by constant “over-sharing” on social media or on reality television. In this course, we will read scholarly articles from disciplines like law, anthropology, and psychology in order to gain a wider perspective on contemporary privacy. We will consider, for example, the privacy rights of poor mothers, RCMP surveillance of Indigenous movements, and the privacy implications of COVID tracing. In addition to reading and analyzing these articles, students will join the scholarly conversation by producing their own original research on privacy and surveillance.

Instructor: Diane Burgess

Sections: 112, 132, 141

From hashtag activism to meme communities to micro-celebrity influencers, social media networks have transformed our daily interactions, impacting how we gather and disseminate information. By definition, social media are both information conduits and networking technologies. Social media platforms (e.g.: Twitter, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok) facilitate content sharing — fostering connections, community formation, and virtual patterns of influence. At the same time, social media have altered the public sphere, challenging journalistic norms and impacting potential forms of political engagement. Drawing examples from media studies, marketing, journalism, and political science, this section of WRDS 150 explores how scholars approach the qualities of social media networks, their uses and their users.

Instructor: Mary Ann Saunders

Section: 171

We will focus on transgender studies, a multidisciplinary research field which investigates the increasing visibility and importance of transgender people in contemporary culture. A fundamental premise of trans studies is that ethical research in this area must be attentive to and prioritize the voices and knowledge which trans people have about themselves and their experience. We will, therefore, cultivate such an attentiveness in our course. By studying trans research representing several academic disciplines you will develop a sense of how different disciplines approach this research area, and then apply this knowledge to research and writing projects of your own. What do trans people say about themselves and their lives? How can you, as apprentice researchers, ethically translate that lived experience into research scholarship of your own?

MW, TR  & T
Scheduling Patterns and  Course Descriptions

Instructor: Nazih El-Bezre

Sections:  011, 021, 031, 041

This section of WRDS 150 focuses on the relationship among globalization, identity formation, and the literacy practices needed in the 21st century. In today’s technologically-interconnected world, people, ideologies, food habits, fashion, and movies flow easily through borders with a speed unforeseen in the recorded human history. Due to the shrinkage of our world—which has been called a global village—we are faced with questions concerning the knowledges or literacies required to succeed in a highly competitive world, and the impact of these knowledges on our own identities. The focus on the 21st century literacies operates in conjunction with crucial life literacies, such as health literacy, ecoliteracy, second/additional language literacies, religious literacy, financial literacies, and even food literacy studies. As a result of these multiliteracies, individuals in the 21st century are now required to possess and use a variety of literacy competencies that span across various academic disciplines. Individuals’ literacies are thus multiple, dynamic, adaptable, and multidimensional. Due to the significance of these literacies on identity formation, researchers, including novice university students, explore literacies to improve knowledge transmission at every stage of individuals’ lives.

Instructor:  Michael Schandorf

Sections:  222, 231

The idea of competition is so fundamental to Western culture that we often take it for granted as a natural good. Nearly every aspect of our lives involves competition: we compete in school and for jobs, we compete both socially and at work, we compete in games for fun, and when we’re not competing ourselves we spend much of our time enjoying watching others compete. But our obsession with competition has complications. For example, a world divided into winners and losers is an inherently inequitable world: there will always be more “losers” than “winners”. Competition also has interesting relationships with our need for social cohesion. Attempting to disentangle cooperation from competition, in fact, can undermine both: a lack of either can lead to unproductive stasis, and worse, but a complete integration of cooperation and competition can lead to us-versus-them thinking and even war (which American rhetorical scholar Kenneth Burke called “the ultimate disease of cooperation”). This seminar will explore some of the ways that competition has been investigated in recent scholarship, and students will design and produce a research project of their own contributing to that scholarly conversation.

Instructor: Rebecca Carruthers den Hoed

Sections:   232

Together, we will explore the idea of resilience and how it is conceptualized and measured in different academic disciplines (engineering, economics, ecology, psychology). While resilience has been studied by scholars for centuries (the word can be traced back to the work of Francis Bacon in the 17th century), it has become especially popular since the mid-20th century, when the concept was used to study the behaviour of different complex systems: e.g., ecosystems, technical systems, cities, communities, developing human minds. While definitions vary, the term resilience generally refers to a complex system’s ability to bounce back to normal after a disaster or disruption, or a complex system’s ability to bounce forward to some ‘new normal.’ In either case, resilience is often (but not always) considered a good thing: a desirable quality, process, or goal that helps humans recover quickly and adapt productively after a shock or trauma— like a flood, hurricane, drought, power failure, financial crisis, disease outbreak, violent assault, forced relocation, terrorist attack, or even colonization, systematic oppression, symbolic violence. In response to readings, lectures, and class discussion, students will reflect on what it means to survive and thrive in the face of adversity and develop a research project that contributes to current scholarly conversations about resilience.

In this section of WRDS 150B, we will use a multi-modal approach blending lecture and active learning practices that will involve students in working collaboratively on academic writing for computer scientists. We will explore not only the how to, but also the why of academic writing. Students will explore the genres of academic writing by comparing, exploring, and critiquing different discourses of writing in the Sciences, Arts, and popular media – all through the discourse of video games. Our work will focus on effective modes of written and oral communication for computer scientists to use in presentations, writing, and other ways to communicate academic research to a variety of academic and non-academic audiences. In pursuit of becoming better science writers who can shape material effectively for communication, students will pursue their own literature reviews on the theme of video games and diversity, and will present their work at a class-wide conference presentation to their peers. The literature review and final presentation will provide the opportunity for students to combine their increasingly sophisticated skills as science writers and critical thinkers to communicate their findings in a variety of modes including written reports, research analysis, responding to questions, and even the visual design of their presentations.

Instructor: Deo Nizonkiza

Sections:  201, 221

Everybody has a story to tell! In this section of WRDS 150B, students examine the questions related to storytelling across disciplines. By examining the way such questions have been explored by scholars from different disciplines, such as Information Communication Technology, Health Sciences, and Engineering, students are expected to learn and familiarize themselves with scholarly practices through this topic of storytelling. Among other things, students will explore the nature of research questions scholars from different disciplines ask, the methodologies devised to answer them, and how they report the results. Through readings and related writing tasks and discussions, students will get used to writing conventions and principles. Students will then develop their own writing strategies which they will apply as they develop their own research projects as the course progresses.

Instructor: Sang Wu

Sections:  211

This course will introduce you to the knowledge-making practices of scholarly communities, such as particular academic disciplines and research fields. You will begin to participate in scholarly conversations within those communities by performing the actions of apprentice academic researchers, scholarly communicators, and peer-reviewers. You will also produce work in several scholarly genres and familiarize yourself with the conventions of communication of specific academic disciplines. In doing so, you will begin to develop your own scholarly identity as a member of academic research communities.

We will begin by focusing our investigation on climate change and other global crises, and issues of responsibility concerning them, in the epoch of the Anthropocene. Coined at the turn of the 21st century, the word is compounded from the Greek anthropos (“human”) and kainos (“new”). The Anthropocene is the new epoch of humans: one in which planetary conditions are shaped by human activity rather than vice versa, humankind as a force of geological agency has overtaken physical geography and natural history, and the familiar distinction between man and nature no longer holds. A closer look at the scientific and semantic implications of the term, however, reveals it to be less straightforward than initially appears. Currently not officially recognized as part of the Geologic Time Scale, what should be understood or measured as the basis for the Anthropocene means different things to different disciplines. How do scholars from fields as diverse as geology, climatology, sociology, history, anthropology, and psychology, engage with the common idea of the Anthropocene? Do studies of pre-industrial greenhouse gas emissions, critiques of environmentally unsustainable trends of industrial, socioeconomic, and technological acceleration in an age of world capitalism, and theories of the end of human history at the limits of human “meaning” and modernity, ask similar research questions despite starkly contrastive methodologies? How are the discursive challenges posed by referring to singular abstractions (e.g., humans as a “species,” the sense of a “universal” history or geostory, the “Anthropocene”) represented across multiple disciplines, reflective of the conceptual difficulties which arise in accessing or preserving a nature no longer distinguishable from the human interventions that create and destroy it? How is our sense of what it means to be natural objects or human subjects, and what it means not to be, informed by how our discourses produce meaning?

Instructor: Meredith Beales

Sections:  251

In The Lion King, on the BBC, on stages and classrooms around the world—the work of William Shakespeare is often encountered as a classroom text, theatre, or film.  But Shakespeare is now also used as inspiration for academic research ranging from history and film studies to archeology, mathematics, and cognitive science.  In this class, we will examine how this one sixteenth-century English playwright has galvanized research in a variety of disciplines beyond the traditional starting point of English literature.  We will ask why this particular writer has such a large impact on academic study, and whether, in research on, for example, supernovae or twenty-first century Afghan politics, Shakespeare has much to do with the research at all.  Does simply adding the name Shakespeare make it more likely to be taken seriously?  Does it matter that the motivation for an archeological dig comes from trying to prove Shakespeare wrong?  What, if anything, does Shakespeare have to do with the research done in his name?

No prior knowledge of Shakespeare is expected, nor will we be reading his literature (the plays or poems themselves) in WRDS 150.


Instructor: Jennifer Gagnon

Sections: 191 - T /  241 - TR
These sections are scheduled to be taught online using synchronous and asynchronous components.  Online Attendance is required for this course.

Video games are neither “just for kids,” nor simple escapist entertainment. Indeed, video games are fast becoming one of the most profitable and innovative forms of creative and artistic expression today. Deeper study reveals that video games as a genre are heavily influenced by social and political understandings of ability, gender, race, sexuality, and identity. Issues related to diversity and inclusion such as who gets to play, whose stories are told, and who is represented, have taken centre stage in recent explorations of the future of gaming at the intersections of fun, profit, and politics. While video games let the player be in control, not everyone’s stories are represented. The theme of this course will explore how aspects of identity such as gender, race, ability, and sexuality, influence the ways that we experience and respond to the genre of video games as a media making and political practice.


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