WRDS 150A Topics – Term 2

WRDS 150A is offered in a wide variety of topics from departments and instructors across UBC.

Course topics and descriptions are subject to change depending on the instructor and their availability. Below is the schedule for the upcoming 2020/2021 Term 2 winter session.

Mon, Wed, Fri Course Schedule

Course Schedule

Please view the course schedule below to see what topics and sections are available. For a description of the course section, please review the Course Topic Descriptions section below.

TimesCourse Topics
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

  • Communication and the Environmental Imagination (Section 301)

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM

  • The City (Section 311)

  • Communication and the Environmental Imagination (Section 312)

  • TBA (Section 313)

  • Oil Cultures (Section 314)

10:00 AM - 11:00 PM

  • Transgender Studies (Section 321)

  • The City (Section 322)

  • Social Media (Section 323)

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • The City (Section 331) 

  • Nostalgia (Section 332)

  • Globalization, Identity, and Literacy for the 21st Century (Section 333)

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

  • Self-Control (Section 341)

  • Social Media (Section 342)

  • Thinking About Time (Section 343)

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

  • Social Media (Section 351)

  • Nostalgia (Section 352)

  • The City (Section 353)

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

  • Nostalgia (Section 361)

  • Behaviours, Norms, and Behavioural Change (Section 362)

3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

  • Celebrity Studies (Section 371)

5:00 PM - 8:00 PM

  • Shakespeare Phenomenon (Section 451)

Course Topics Descriptions

Below are course descriptions for each topic, as well as instructor and scheduling information.

Instructor: Rohan Karpe

Sections: 362

Available Times: 2:00PM

In recent months, you may have incorporated behaviours such as: Washing hands with soap or sanitizer more frequently and regularly than you did before; Maintaining physical distancing in public places, while also wearing face masks; working and studying from home; socializing virtually with friends, family and colleagues. These actions represent behavioural change at societal levels. We have voluntarily adopted some of these behaviours, some have been enforced, and still others have been influenced by those around us. This has resulted in new products, technologies, ways of doing things, and serving within our communities. With such changes come newer challenges. Considering the currency of this topic, in this WRDS 150B section we explore behaviours, norms, and behavioural change and how these have been investigated by non-Arts disciplinary researchers and scholars.

Our focus will be on peer-reviewed journal articles in disciplines including but not limited to Business, Hospitality, Design, Engineering, Computer Sciences, and Occupational Health and Safety Science

We will:

  • examine and practice the ways and means researchers employ to inquire into their chosen behavioural phenomena, express themselves, and communicate their findings, insights, and solutions.
  • learn to inquire into and model the creative craft of research and academic writing that enable us to contribute to scholarly conversations:
    • How do various researchers use language, expressions, images, diagrams, tables, figures, and numbers within their disciplines?
    • What kind of rhetorical moves do authors demonstrate to lead readers through their evidence, reasons, arguments?
    • How do they persuade their readers of particular facts and points of views?

Instructor: Andrew Connolly

Sections: 371

Available Times: 3:00 PM

It’s hard to get away from celebrity news. Whether it’s Kanye’s political stunts in the White House, Ariana Grande’s public split with Pete Davidson, Demi Lovato’s struggles with addiction, or Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leaving the royal family and moving to Canada, our lives seem saturated with information about the famous. To read an endless supply of commentary, analysis, and gossip about celebrities, all you need is an internet connection. So why do scholars study celebrities? What do academics do differently?

In this course we will look at articles about celebrities written by academic scholars. They ask questions like: Why do people develop attachments to celebrities? Why do celebrities share so much about their lives? Why do companies hire celebrities to endorse their products? Do celebrities actually have an impact on the way we think and talk about sex, gender, and race? What kind of impact do celebrities have on politics? These questions are framed by the disciplines that the scholars work in, including cultural studies, sociology, economics, gender studies, and media studies. Each of these disciplines has its own methods and conventions. In other words, a particular discipline influences what scholars ask questions about, how they phrase the questions, how they answer the questions, and how they present their findings. As a result, this course will not only introduce you to the academic study of celebrities, it will also introduce you to the various disciplinary approaches to research and writing in the arts and humanities.

Part of this introduction will be training you to participate in scholarly discourse. You will learn how to do scholarly research: how to find the information you are looking for, how to understand it, and how to evaluate it. You will also learn how to write and present your findings in a way that engages with scholars in a particular discipline or disciplines. In addition to instruction in the classroom, you will have multiple written assignments that will give you a chance to experiment with different aspects of academic research and writing, and receive attentive feedback on your work. This training will help prepare you to succeed in your academic career.

Instructor: Connor Byrne

Sections: 311, 322, 331, 353

Available Times: 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM

This course explores the city as an object of scholarly investigation in order to introduce you to the rigours of academic writing and research. By reading academic research articles from a range of disciplines, you will become familiar with the conventions and goals of academic criticism: novel, evidence-based research; critical dialogue; argumentation and analysis. As engaged readers and writers, and through a series of scaffolded assignments and workshops, you will become adept at the genre of research-driven writing: summary and citation, literature review, research proposals, conference papers/posters, peer review, and the research paper.

Guiding this work will be investigations of the city—of urban phenomena and experience but also, crucially, of key technological advancements that have shaped and continue to shape urban experience—carried out by the six research articles that model the kind of research and writing for which this course serves as an apprenticeship. In response to course material and discussion, you will reflect on your own evolving positions as modern city dwellers and ultimately develop a novel research project that contributes to scholarly conversations about technology and the city.

Instructor: Darren Fleet

Sections: 301, 312

Available Times: 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM

In this course we learn the unique features and characteristics of scholarly expression and how to familiarize ourselves with various scholarly genres. Through writing and reading exercises, students will become acquainted with the culture of academic research and learn how to express themselves within a scholarly context. We will exam how knowledge is mobilized through different scholarly forms and practices to produce observations and stories about our world. In particular, we investigate the ways our topic can be interrogated through various academic lenses. Throughout the course, students will engage in peer review knowledge production and learn to identify the distinctions and boundaries of varied research communities.

In The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh argues “the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination.” What does Ghosh mean by this? What are the implications in terms of environmental communication? Drawing upon the Canadian experience, we journey through various genres of scholarship and communication to explore competing visions of the environment. In particular, we pay close attention to how discourses of progress, sustainability, and consumption intersect with broader political and environmental theories of social, political, and cultural transformation. What role does information and awareness play in theories of behaviour change? In what ways do fossil fuels structure the cultural landscape? How is energy production gendered through promotional discourses? How do our values inform our thinking about natural and built environments? Are fear-based messages helpful or hurtful when it comes to communicating ecological urgency? Addressing these questions and others, we critically assess differing theories, perspectives, and concepts about the role that information plays in directing environmental behaviours and understandings.

Instructor: Nazil El-Bezre

Sections: 333

Available Times: 11:00 AM

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: Kimberly Richards

Sections: 314

Available Times: 9:00 AM

Oil is a fulcrum around which many of today’s most pressing social, economic, and political issues can be analyzed and understood. In the twenty-first century, we are finally beginning to realize the degree to which oil has transformed modern life while entangling us in unsustainable colonial systems of extraction and dispossession. The increasing recognition of oil’s central role in modernity is met with the awareness that over the next decade we need to transition to new energy sources and new ways of living that enable us to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of droughts, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Extracting ourselves from our dependence on oil amounts to a social transformation of an unprecedented scale and scope; it entails not only to change the kinds of energy we use and depend on, but also a transformation in values. In this course we will consider some of the social and political challenges of the energy transition we face, and the accompanying cultural transformation.

Instructor: Jennifer Cowe

Sections: 332, 352, 361

Available Times: 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM

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: Tom Bittner

Sections: 341

Available Times: 12:00 PM

One interesting fact about human behaviour is that a person can know that it is best for her to do something and yet be unable to get herself to do it. This fact has been investigated in a variety of ways by scholars in psychology, philosophy, and sociology. We will examine the different approaches that are taken to the study of this phenomenon. What kinds of questions are interesting to researchers in these different disciplines? How do their research methods serve the production of knowledge in the scholarly tradition? Students will use what they learn about this tradition of inquiry to conduct their own research on a topic related to self-control.

Instructor: Meredith Beales

Sections: 451

Available Times: 5:00 PM

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: Diane Burgess

Sections: 323, 342, 351

Available Times: 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM

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: William Green

Sections: 343

Available Times: 12:00PM

WRDS 150 prepares you to understand, and participate in, the discourse practices employed by the university community in disseminating the results of research activities. Research writing exhibits a number of characteristics which are shared across disciplinary boundaries, constituting a distinct genre. This course will provide you with experience in recognizing the genre conventions and expectations of research writing through reading published professional scholarship in a range of fields, and in practicing deploying the rhetorical features of research writing through creating communications which detail the results of your own research project. This section of WRDS 150 focuses on the calculation of time. We will read a range of papers concerning the calculation of time from a variety of fields. Over the course of the term, you will complete a series of assignments, each building upon the next, to complete a research project dealing with the language and rhetoric of papers in a discipline of your choosing.

Instructor: Mary Ann Saunders

Sections: 321

Available Times: 10:00 AM

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?

Tues, Thurs Course Schedule

Course Schedule

Please view the course schedule below to see what topics and sections are available. For a description on the course section, please review the Course Topic Descriptions section below.

TimesCourse Topics
8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

  • Representations in Popular Culture (Section 401)

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM

  • It’s No Game: The Idea of Competition (Section 411)

  • Representations in Popular Culture (Section 412)

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

  • Academic Laugh Tracks: Reading and Writing Research on Humour (Section 421)

  • Gender and Feminism Today (Section 422)

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

  • Gender and Feminism Today (Section 431)

  • Academic Laugh Tracks: Reading and Writing Research on Humour (Section 432)

  • The Anthropocene (Section 433)

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

  • The Anthropocene (Section 441)

Course Topics Descriptions

Below are course descriptions for each topic, as well as instructor and scheduling information.

Instructor: Jaclyn Rea

Sections: 421

Available Times: 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM

In this section of WRDS 150, we will focus on the commonplace but nonetheless complex phenomenon of humour from a number of disciplinary perspectives, including but not limited to psychology, media studies, sociology, and political science. We will consider how researchers in these disciplines study the effects and functions of humour. More importantly, we will consider how the methods researchers use to study humour shape their writing about it.

Instructor: Sang Wu

Sections: 433, 441

Available Times: 2:00 PM, 3:30 PM

This section of WRDS 150 will investigate 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: Jennifer Gagnon

Sections: 422

Available Times: 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM

Why study feminism and gender today? Didn’t the feminist movement achieve all its goals? Haven’t gays, lesbians, and transgender folks achieved equality? Gender inequality is everywhere, all around us, and yet we seldom take the time to directly recognize and confront it. This course examines the goals and struggles of feminism from the perspectives of multidisciplinary scholars. We will examine the interconnectedness of various concepts important to feminism: male, female, gender, race, sex, and power. We will examine forms of discrimination and oppression through feminist, gender, and queer critiques of inequality, family, work, health, sexuality, identity, and politics. This course strives to arm students with the critical and analytical skills needed to start seeing, thinking about, and ultimately combatting gender inequality and oppression in our world. This course takes an interdisciplinary perspective that draws upon research methods of the disciplines of English, philosophy, political science, and sociology.

Words 150 focuses on developing student skills at critical thinking, writing, and reading. The goal of this course is to arm students with the academic skills needed to write analytical, clear, critical, and persuasive prose for successful university writing. The delivery of this course will be highly participatory and collaborative, rather than lecture-based. Students will work with one another and their instructor to improve academic writing practices such as notetaking, research, critical reading, drafting, revision, as well as appropriate giving and receiving of feedback. Students are expected to actively participate in class discussion and activities and be willing to share their writing with one another. All students are expected to be active and engaged learners, willing to develop and practice their academic skills through activities and assignments that culminate in a persuasive, critical, compelling, sophisticated academic writing.

Instructor: Michael Schandorf

Sections: 411

Available Times: 9:30

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.


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