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WR 101 - An Introduction

WR 101 - STP 2011 Intro
by

E. Leigh McKagen

on 15 January 2014

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Transcript of WR 101 - An Introduction

Welcome to ERH 101
Spring 2014
Mrs. Leigh McKagen
In this course, we will be learning to read, write, and think critically and refine your writing skills.
Using the textbooks - and popular culture. Specifically:
Fantasy (and Science Fiction)
Why?
(You'll realize quickly I love this question)
We will read selected essays from the textbook
"Writing About Writing" that explore concepts
like language, communication, communities, culture, education, images, and photography.
In addition, we will watch videos from a variety
of fantasy and science fiction television shows (and
the occasional movie) to demonstrate that:
THIS STUFF MATTERS
and to make it more fun
Plus, I love the genre(s)
And studying something your teacher loves is awesome.
A brief introduction to the genre:

In her book "Why Buffy Matters," Ronda Wilcox answers the question implied by her title:
And while "Fantasy can, of course, be carried to excess," it
"Remains a human right"
"It is a work of literature, of language …; it is a work of visual art …; it is a work of music and sound …. The depth of the characters, the truth of the stories, the profundity of the themes, and their precise incarnation in language, sound, and image – all of these matter."
"Last and first of all, Buffy matters for the same reason that all art matters – because it shows us the best of what it means to be human." - Wilcox


In other words ... it isn't very different from everything else you have ever read in an English classroom!
Famous 20th century British fantasy author Terry Pratchett talks about the genre in his essay entitled "Let There Be Dragons":
"I now know that almost all fiction is, at some level, fantasy. What Agatha Christie wrote was fantasy. What Tom Clancy writes is fantasy ... But what people generally have in mind when they hear the word fantasy is swords, talking animals, vampires, rockets (science fiction is fantasy with bolts on) and around the edges it can indeed be pretty silly. Yet fantasy also speculates about the future, rewrites the past, and reconsiders the present. It plays games with the universe."

Everything is fantasy ...
"Why does James Bond manage to disarm the nuclear bomb a few seconds before it goes off rather than, as it were, a few seconds afterward? Because a universe where that did not happen would be a dark and hostile place. Let there be goblin hordes, let there be terrible environmental threats, and let there be giant mutated slugs if you really must, but let there also be hope. It may be a grim, thin hope, an Arthurian sword at sunset, but
let us know that we do not live in vain."
And finally, Pratchett tells us that "All human life is there: a moral code, a sense of order, and, sometimes, great big green things with teeth."
So ... what's the point?
The fantasy and science fiction genres (in books, on television, on the big screen, etc.) offer insight into all of the things teachers value in a composition classroom:
language, communication, communities, technology, culture, social awareness, writing...
Also, studying contemporary popular culture allows us to ask insightful and necessary questions relating to our culture and our cultural values.
I believe it is vitally important to understand the culture in which we live in order to be a part of that culture in a meaningful way, either in ones personal life or a professional career.
Which is ultimately why everything we will do in here MATTERS.
Time for a small disclaimer:

"I think it’s the title of the show. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. There’s like a line in the sand and unless you appreciate irony and are somewhat sophisticated you’re not going to watch that show. Which means I didn’t watch it until I got on it.” - James Marsters (Spike)

"When in the real world am I ever going to need to know chemistry or history or math or the English language?" - Buffy, 2.21
"English is a complex language; a hybrid of many different influences, much like the culture it represents. To understand it is to gain an insight into that culture and the process of integration that created it."

In this course, we will focus on writing (the written language) and - by extension - our culture and how we communicate.
"English is a complex language; a hybrid of many different influences, much like the culture it represents. To understand it is to gain an insight into that culture and the process of integration that created it."
Remember that quote?

It was spoken by Dr. Daniel Jackson, a character in the show Stargate SG1. Even science fiction shows understand the value of language - and the connection to culture that we will explore in depth this semester.

Stargate SG-1 first aired in 1997. Lasting 10 years, it is (almost) the longest running SF TV show produced to-date. Scholar Jo Storm tells us in her book "Approaching the Possible" that:

"A Colonel, a scientist, an archeologist, and an alien step through a huge grey ring and end up on a distant planet: it sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s not. That’s actually the premise of Stargate SG-1 … [which] tells of the adventures of a team of explorers who travel to alien planets to rid the galaxy of the evil Goa’uld. … And though it might sound like a hokey premise for a show, the steady mix of humor, adventure, and multifaceted characters have made it a cult hit" (5).

Season 7:5 (Aired July 11, 2003):

"Revisions"

As we watch this episode, please take notes on and think about the following: (Jot these down, too!!)

What is the basic plot of the episode?
Why is writing important, in this episode and context?
What, if any, technologies are present?
What is the overall message of this episode?
Full transcript