PAUL WATKINS

Location: Online
Class: VIULearn and Zoom
Zoom on Friday 2:30-3:30 pm (PDT)
Office Hours: Wednesday 2-4 pm on Zoom
(or by appointment)
Email: Paul.Watkins@viu.ca

“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are”
—Thomas King

This course introduces you to university level writing and research by exploring select books, essays, short stories, a documentary, and two films, and concerns a question of particular relevance to first-year students: what stories should guide how we design our lives? The major themes we will investigate in each text surround the importance of language and stories in our lives, which includes exploring how certain stories and myths can be dangerous. In this course students will develop a critical voice, analyze discourse, learn how to write a research paper and properly cite material, engage with pertinent social issues, such as the global environmental crises, feminism, systemic racism and Black Lives Matter, the coronavirus pandemic, and Indigenous issues in Canada, and learn how various rhetorical strategies, such as point of view, are essential to university writing. It is my hope that you will leave this course with a better understanding of academic culture and perhaps with answers to some of the pertinent questions about how you want to tell your own story, especially during these unprecedented times. Due to COVID-19, the course will be conducted through video/ audio lecture, email, VIULearn discussion, as well as optional Zoom discussion on Fridays for most weeks of the course.

Required Texts:

  • Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (Dancing Cat Books)
  • Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (Anansi)
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists (Anchor)

Free Writing and Citation Guides:

Evaluation:
Participation 10%
Surviving a Pandemic: Short Essay (600-750 words) 15%                       
Open-Book Essay on A Short History of Progress 15%
Research Essay
>>Annotated Bibliography and Intro 10%
>>Final Paper (1500-1700 words) 25%
Final Exam 25%

See VIULearn for the full course outline and a breakdown of assignments.

Introduction to my courses for 2020-2021

Schedule:

Please note that this schedule is subject to change as the term (especially with the shifting challenges of COVID-19) progresses.

Sept. 11             
Introduction; Course outline; Expectations; Departmental grading policies
Writing: Planning; Reading to form an interpretation
Home Viewing: Black Mirror, “Nosedive”

Sept. 18
Approaching an essay assignment; Begin discussion of short essay assignment due Sept 30; “Writing About Texts” (see Broadview Guide 47-52)
Writing: Using appropriate and inclusive language (see Broadview Guide 63-80); Summary versus synthesis
Discuss: Jonathan Gottschall, “The Witchery of Story” (VIULearn) and Thomas King, “You’ll Never Believe What Happened” (see VIULearn)

Play Adichie on The Danger of a Single Story (8:30-14:10)

Sept. 25           
Writing: Evaluating sources; Constructing reasonable arguments; Thesis Statements (see Broadview Guide 32-33); Avoiding plagiarism (Broadview Guide 175-77); Integrating sources using MLA-style documentation (skim Broadview Guide 190-243)
Pandemic-Themed Reading: Isaac Chotiner, “How Pandemics Change History”; Arundhati Roy: “The pandemic is a portal”; Robin D.G. Kelley, “On How Today’s Abolitionist Movement Can Fundamentally Change The Country”; Heather O Neill, “Art During the Time of Coronavirus”; David Byrne, “The World is Changing—So Can We” 

Oct. 2  
Library orientation (on Zoom)
Read sample student research papers on VIULearn
Discuss Annotated Bibliography 
Short Essay Due

Oct. 9                     
Writing: Paragraphing (see Broadview Guide 14-15) and Avoiding Fragments
Discuss: Ronald Wright Part I and Part II

Listening, Daft Punk, Harder, Better, Faster
See the Documentary, Seed on Kanopy GMO Videos: Bill Nye on GMOs; GMO OMG trailer; short breakdown of risks and benefits

Oct. 16   
Writing: The Comma (Broadview Guide 132-135)
Discuss: Ronald Wright Part III and IV 

Oct. 23   
Ronald Wright Part V
Home Viewing: Surviving Progress
Midterm Review
Stephen Hawking’s warnings: What he predicted for the future
Brinkman, “Gilgamesh

Extra Readings for consideration:

Millions attend global climate strike” (Sept 20, 2019)
Paul Ehrlich: “Collapse of civilisation is a near certainty within decades”” (March 22, 2018)
“‘Soon it will be too late’: Scientists issue dire ‘second notice’ to humanity” (Nov 13, 2017)
Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers” (Oct 18, 2017)
The Fate of the Earth” (Oct 12, 2017)
Record-smashing August means long-awaited ‘jump’ in global warming is here” (Sept 13, 2016)
Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse” (Sept 22, 2014)
Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?” (March 14, 2014)

Oct. 30   
Take-Home Midterm

Nov. 6                    
Writing: Evaluating arguments (Logical Fallacies)
Discuss: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists—See TED Talk (online); Lewis, “The Coronavirus Is a Disaster for Feminism” (VIULearn)
Discuss Research Essay (and checklist) 

Adichie on transgender controversy
Article, Brains aren’t actually ‘male’ or ‘female’ and here; opposing view (see here).

Nov. 13  Study Day [NO CLASS]

Nov. 20           
Reading: Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (1-153)
Secondary Reading: Please read “Introduction” (1-22) from Final Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (available on VIULearn)

Nov. 27           
Reading: Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (154-230)
Secondary Reading: skim “Calls to Action” (319-338) from Final Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (available on VIULearn)
Home Viewing: Indian Horse
Annotated Bibliography Due

Dec. 4                    
Writing: Review apostrophe usage (Broadview Guide 139-140)
Writing: Revising (Broadview Guide 14-15)
Discuss: Chiang, “Story of Your Life” (see VIULearn)

Dec. 11                     
Home Viewing and discussion: Arrival
Final Essay Due
Final Exam review