Classics 496/Honors 398
Calderwood Seminar: Public Writing in the Humanities
Shift Happens: Moving the Humanistic Conversation in the Classics from the Classroom to the Public Arena
W 2:30-4:20 per Zoom
Instructor: James J. Clauss, Department of Classics
Office: M262F Denny Hall
Office Hours: TBA
Tel. 206 543-2266 (department office)
N.b. November 11, 26 and 27 are holidays
Modern science and technology have so overwhelmed contemporary society that lost among terabytes and google searches is a sense of our shared humanity, often threatened by the powers-that-be: wealthy oligarchs, powerful autocrats, brutal dictators, nationalistic institutions from whom the weak and the marginalized have no protection. Ancient Greek and Roman writers and thinkers observed first-hand the near impossibility of speaking to power. Their observations, demonstrate that nothing has changed except for technology, but they can help moderns see that, unless we learn from the past, we will continue to repeat mistakes. During the seminar, students will examine ancient texts—literary, historical and cinematic—with the goal of learning how to communicate what we observe among the texts in various forms of public writing with the following objectives:
- To develop an ability to write with greater clarity, concision, engagement and effectiveness and to acquire editorial skills that will help you achieve this goal.
- To reflect on what constitutes effective public writing and how such writing influences our perspectives.
- To gain a greater insight into what the humanities, in particular Classical antiquity, have to contribute to contemporary discussions of the difficulty of preserving our humanity in the face of political and technological power structures.
Before the class begins, everyone should read a synopsis of the “Melian Dialogue” and write a 200 word “letter to the editor” in MS Word demonstrating how the situation and mode of thinking favored by the Athenians and their violent take over of the island is worth reading as a reflection of how extreme power corrupts. Feel free to cite modern parallels. Please send them to me two days prior to the first day of class. These will not be graded but are meant as practice. I’ll read and edit as a way of illustrating the mechanics of the class. As examples, here are some letters that I wrote to the Seattle Times: Racism, Forgiveness, and Polarization.
All readings are available on-line in the Loeb Classical Library through the UW Library unless otherwise noted. But any translation is acceptable. Feel free to use Wikipedia for basic information that you might use in your writing (dates for the authors’/directors’ lives and the works you are writing about). For each assignment, do not write an essay for a professor, but a piece that is meant to tell a non-academic audience what the ancient work you are considering has to offer to modern readers/viewers.
Sept. 30 Introduction to the seminar and to the first reading. I will preview the readings and films at the end of each class. Two groups, A and B will be formed. When group A is the author, group B is the editor and the roles are reversed for the following week; we will thereafter continue the exchange in roles throughout the quarter and each week authors will have a different editor. NB all participants are expected to read all the texts and watch both films regardless of their role.
Oct. 7 Review of a translation of Euripides’ Medea. Group A: write a 700-word review of the translation you read for The Seattle Times, explaining to a general audience how Euripides’ play connects with, and effectively comments on, current issues and why it is worth reading.
Oct. 14 Review of a translation of Euripides’ Iphigeneia at Aulis. Group B: write a 700-word review of the translation you read for The Seattle Times, explaining to a general audience how Euripides’ play connects with, and effectively comments on, current issues and why it is worth reading.
Oct. 21 Movie Review of The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). All view the film and then Group A will write a 700-word movie review for the New York Times. The scenario is that the film was rereleased in Blue Ray and so you are revisiting an older movie that has been given new life. As part of your review, identify the issues explored in the film that resonate with the present? Is it worth seeing at this point in time?
Oct. 28 Movie Review of Gladiator (2000). All view the film then Group B: write a 700-word movie review for the New York Times. The scenario is that the film, a remake of The Fall of the Roman Empire, was rereleased in Blue Ray and so you are revisiting an older movie that has been given new life. As part of your review, identify the issues explored in the film that resonate with the present? Is it worth seeing at this point in time?
Nov. 4 Plato’s Apology. Group A: write an 800-word op-ed for The Seattle Times on the case against Socrates and what it teaches us about his verdict. Did the Athenian democratic judicial system get it right? How is this still relevant?
Nov. 18 Sallust’s War with Catiline. Group B: write an 800-word op-ed for The Seattle Times on whether the bitter divisiveness and raging anger seen among the Romans parallels the current political scene in the US and, if so, where it suggests we might be going.
Nov. 25 Pericles’ Funeral Oration in Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War (2.35-46). Group A: write an 800-word introduction to the speech that will be presented orally at a local community center sponsoring a series on the issue of empire and democracy. How does Pericles’ representation of these compare and/or contrast with American values and what can we learn from this famous speech?
Dec. 2 Cicero’s Speech Pro Archia (On Behalf of Archias). Group B: write an 800-word introduction to the speech that will be presented orally at a local community center sponsoring a series on the issue of of citizenship. How does Cicero’s representation of the topic compare and/or contrast with American values and what can we learn from this famous speech?
Dec. 9 Final reflective piece for all students: compose an elevator speech in which you have 5 minutes to persuade Bill Gates to make a major contribution to the Department of Classics at the UW because of the importance of Classical literature in the understanding of the human condition and the empathy that such understanding generates. Make sure you time yourselves! These will be delivered in class on the final day. No editing required for this assignment. You are on your own!
Rules of Engagement
Each piece of writing (except the last) will go through a five-stage cycle:
- First drafts by authors that will be read and edited by assigned editors.
- Annotated drafts by editors that will be returned to and revised by authors; please copy me on these annotated drafts.
Each week authors and editors will establish mutually-agreeable deadlines for exchanging drafts. Edits should be returned to writers to allow sufficient time for redrafting before the Tuesday deadline (Noon).
- Revised drafts by authors are due no later than Noon on Tuesday, to be submitted through Canvas. At this point all members of the class will read all revised drafts in preparation for discussion and workshopping on Wednesday.
- Revised drafts will be workshopped in class on Wednesday afternoon. Everyone should be prepared to discuss all drafts written for each class, offering 5-6 minute commentary on the strengths of the writing, noting those areas that could use improvement; these can also be sent to the author. Please note: you own the final draft and so are not obliged to incorporate every suggestion; but you will find it interesting to observe how your ideas come across. I constantly learn from suggestions. Following this discussion, we will review the process of writing, editing and rewriting, observing what was challenging and what was learned in the process. I will then introduce the following work to be read/viewed to give everyone a jump start on the material, pointing out issues for consideration.
- Final drafts by authors are to be sent to me alone the following Wednesday. I will read and grade these. Each student then will have four graded submissions that undergo this process.
All writing should be done in Word, and editors should use the track changes and comment functions for their annotations. Editors should also write one or two paragraphs at the end of each piece with a general assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the draft and how it might be improved. All writing should be given titles by the author (editors may comment on these), and word counts should be placed at the end of the piece. Use a 12-point font, double spacing, standard margins and page numbers.
I will read and comment on all final drafts to which grades will be assigned. Editors will send me annotated drafts at the same time as they are sent to the author (these are not graded). Your final grade in the class will take graded final drafts into account but will also reflect other forms of engagement with the course, such as class preparation, attendance, participation in class discussions, the editing process, and the final elevator speech presentation.
Final Reflections (ungraded)
Your reflections (due Friday of Exam week) should include observations on how your writing and editing skills developed over the quarter. Also comment on what you consider your best piece of work this semester and why, and what you considered to be your most challenging piece of work and why. Finally, discuss how the Calderwood practice of writing for the general public has changed the way you think about and approach your studies and academic work; more specifically, can you tell us about an “Aha Moment” you may have had in doing your work for this course, a moment of sudden insight or discovery that is tied to the practices and protocols of the Calderwood Seminar? If you wish, you can also discuss how your “takeaway knowledge” from this course will be utilized after college. (500-700 words)
Important UW policy-related things to know:
- The UW's Religious Accommodations Policy:“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (Links to an external site.). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (Links to an external site.).”
- The UW's Student Conduct Code: "The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at https://www.washington.edu/studentconduct/."(Links to an external site.)
- Access and Accommodation: Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.
If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or firstname.lastname@example.org or disability.uw.edu. (Links to an external site.)DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.
- Academic Integrity: University of Washington students are expected to practice high standards of academic and professional honesty and integrity as outlined here:http://depts.washington.edu/grading/pdf/AcademicResponsibility.pdf (Links to an external site.)