Writing and Research: Social Disasters

“There’s no such thing as a natural disaster.” – Neil Smith

“Disasters don’t just happen. They are always made possible by a series of often-invisible societal choices that implicate more than just those being drowned or buried in rubble.” – Junot Diaz

“I always have the same thought when I read about disaster zones. Who are the people on those early flights out?” – Zadie Smith

Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, droughts, epidemics, floods, wildfires, explosions, poisoned water… these are some of the social disasters we’ll be exploring in this Writing and Research class. What are the environmental, cultural, and political factors that contribute to disasters? What can we do to prevent or mitigate future disasters? Can we still distinguish between a state of emergency and the normal state of affairs?

Great Wave off Kanagawa

(Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1829-32)

Course Texts

  • Elaine Scarry, Thinking in an Emergency (Norton, 2012)
  • ISBN: 978-0393340587
  • Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina (University of Georgia Press, 2012)
  • ISBN: 978-0820343112
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) Available for rent online
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Available for purchase online or rental via Redbox
  • Snowpiercer (2013) Available on Netflix streaming or for rent online
  • Other course texts available online

Assignments and Expectations

  • Research Proposal: 50
  • Annotated Bibliography: 100
  • Literature Review: 150
  • Research Paper: 200
  • Presentation: 100
  • Final Exam: 100
  • Participation: 100
  • Pop Quizzes: 90 (best 9 out of 10+)
  • In-Class Writing: 100
  • Course Evaluation Completion: 10

Total: 1000 points

Course Calendar

(All readings should be completed before class on the day they are listed. Please make sure to bring all readings to class with you!)

DISASTER THEORY

8/29

Introductions

8/31

IN-CLASS DIAGNOSTIC ESSAY

9/2

Neil Smith, “There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster”

9/5

NO CLASS – LABOR DAY

9/7

Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons” (PDF on Blackboard)

9/9

Elaine Scarry, Thinking in an Emergency, 1-34

9/12

RESEARCH PROPOSAL DUE

Scarry, Thinking in an Emergency, 34-80

   

HURRICANE

  9/14

Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina 1-29

9/16

Trethewey, Beyond Katrina 33-67

9/19

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY PART 1 DUE

Trethewey, Beyond Katrina 71-93

9/21

Trethewey, Beyond Katrina 97-125

9/23

Beasts of the Southern Wild (watch before class)

9/26

Edwidge Danticat, “Another Country”

9/28

Alice Fothergill and Lori A. Peek, “Poverty and Disasters in the United States: A Review of Recent Sociological Findings” (PDF on Blackboard)

 

EARTHQUAKE

    9/30

Kathryn Schulz, “The Really Big One”

10/3

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY PART 2 DUE

Junot Diaz, “Apocalypse”

10/5

Christine L. Marran, “Seeing Double: Visibility and Legibility in Photography of 3-11” (PDF on Blackboard)

10/7

Gregory Clancey, “Disasters as Change Agents: Three Japans” (PDF on Blackboard)

PESTILENCE

10/10

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death”

 

10/12

Junot Diaz, “Monstro” (first half)

10/14

Junot Diaz, “Monstro” (second half)

10/17

LITERATURE REVIEW FIRST DRAFT DUE IN CLASS

Peer review workshop

10/19

Contagion (watch in class)

10/21

Contagion (continued)

10/24

LITERATURE REVIEW FINAL DRAFT DUE

Discuss Contagion

   

WATER CRISIS

  10/26

Evan Osnos, “Chemical Valley” (first half)

10/28

Osnos, “Chemical Valley” (second half)

10/31

INTRODUCTION & THESIS STATEMENT DUE in class

Peer review workshop

11/2

Amy Davidson, “The Contempt that Poisoned Flint’s Water”

11/4

Mad Max: Fury Road (watch before class)

11/7

LAST DAY TO WITHDRAW

RESEARCH PAPER FIRST DRAFT DUE in class

Peer review workshop

11/9

NO CLASS – INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES

11/11

NO CLASS – INDIVIDUAL CONFERENCES

CLIMATE CHANGE

11/14

Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Sixth Extinction”

11/16

Margaret Atwood, “It’s Not Climate Change—It’s Everything Change” (first half)

11/18

Zadie Smith, “Moonlit Landscape with Bridge”

11/21

RESEARCH PAPER FINAL DRAFT DUE

Snowpiercer (watch before class)

11/23

NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING BREAK

11/25

NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING BREAK

WRAP-UP

11/28

Final exam review activities

11/30

PRESENTATIONS

12/2

PRESENTATIONS

12/5

PRESENTATIONS

12/7

PRESENTATIONS

12/9

PRESENTATIONS