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English 102 Topics — Fall 2024

Jump to list of English 102 Topics

Each instructor’s section of English 102 is organized around a distinctive topic; please choose one that appeals to you and your interests. Topics for sections that currently do not have an instructor listed in Banner will be updated closer to the beginning of the semester, or as sections are assigned. All English 102 sections teach archival, qualitative, and secondary source research and writing.

All English 102 sections require 2 textbooks, Rhetoric of Inquiry, 5th edition, and The Writer’s Harbrace Handbook, 6th edition. Each section may have additional required texts; please check with the Bookstore to see whether additional texts are required for your section.

English 102 Inquiry Topics

Amber Albritton | Inquiry into Memoir

MWF | 8:00-8:50 & 9:10-10:00

English 102 advances the concepts introduced in English 101 and provides students with intensive writing instruction focused on inquiry and research of memoir.  Throughout the semester, we’ll focus on strategies for formulating and investigating questions.  We’ll locate and evaluate information, using varied sources and research methods.  We’ll develop positions on intercultural and interdisciplinary issues for diverse texts, all modes, and present research using appropriate rhetorical conventions.    

Hank Backer | Inquiry into Video Games and Popular Culture

MWF | 11:30-12:20, 3:00-3:50, & 4:10-5:00

This section of English 102 will explore the evolution of the gaming industry starting in the 1970s and moving forward from the arcade to the console. As we look at the evolution of the platforms and the games, we will also examine the social aspects of the gaming community and the increasing popularity of gaming over the last twenty years. You will have the opportunity to research the historical evolution of some of your favorite games or game series, examine gaming culture as it stands today, discuss representation of games and gamers in the media and in games themselves, and explore how gaming has influenced your own field of study. Like all 102 sections, we will engage in archival, qualitative, and secondary source research to investigate the course topic.

Brad Bannon | Inquiry into American Horror

MWF | 10:20-11:10

Why is Edgar Allan Poe’s face among the most recognizable in American Literature? Why are television shows, documentaries, films, and film franchises like American Horror StoryStranger ThingsConversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy TapesInsidiousGet OutNightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween so popular? What is the appeal of the American horror genre, and why is it so ubiquitous? In this section of 102, students will develop their research and writing skills while seeking to understand the socio-historical and cultural contexts of American horror as a distinct genre, as well as what continues to draw audiences to it as a form of expression in literature, film, and popular media. We will discuss classic and influential examples of the form and consider some more recent historical accounts as we trace the origins of American horror. These discussions will complement our investigation into the phenomenon of the genre as students learn how to conduct qualitative, archival, and secondary research.

Elizabeth Cooley | Inquiry into Disability and Design

TR | 2:30-3:45 & 4:05-5:20

In this section, we’ll question what “disability” really is, how history, scholars, and our contemporaries view and have viewed it, and what our assumptions are about both disabled and abled people are. We’ll also observe accessible designs and how they shapes our everyday lives. In group projects, we will research and propose solutions to problems with disability and design on the UTK campus.

Rachel Dunsmore | Inquiry into Myths and Monsters

TR | 9:45-11:00 & 11:20-12:35

Inquiry into Myths and Monsters examines the issues of myths and monsters in relation to cultural, social, and historical concepts. We will use this topic to develop research and writing skills. To accomplish this goal, we will conduct secondary source, qualitative, and archival research. We will start with secondary source research by examining and engaging with current academic scholarship about myths, monsters, and cultural significance. The qualitative research will require interviewing participants. The purpose of this assignment is to explore the experiences, feelings, and/or beliefs about myths and monsters. Then, we conclude with archival research, where we will explore historical representations of myths and monsters and what those representations mean for historical and cultural contexts.

Sarah Harshbarger | Inquiry into Food

TR | 12:55-2:10

This section of English 102 will explore issues related to food, a topic which is as relevant today as it has been for centuries, for reasons such as global hunger, environmental impact, food culture, and food technology. We will use this topic to develop research and writing skills. To accomplish this goal, we will conduct three kinds of research: secondary source, archival, and qualitative. In the secondary source project, we will conduct academic research to examine current debates about food. For instance, we can explore the environmental impact of various agricultural practices and assess potential food-related climate solutions. In the archival project, we will explore the historical significance of food, focusing on specific topics like the rise and decline of American fad diets. Finally, we will conduct qualitative research by interviewing specific populations in order to investigate their experiences with and/or beliefs about a particular food-related topic. A possible example would be to interview several business owners in Knoxville about how the Covid-19 pandemic affected the way they serve food and operate their restaurants. After the data are collected, we will work on finding underlying patterns among the responses to see what the respondents do or do not have in common. The aim of this course is to develop your academic research, writing, and communication skills. We’ll learn about our course topic through each other’s research and writing. You’ll be able to investigate the topic from any academic perspective that interests you (hopefully your major). Throughout the semester, you will present what you’ve learned to academic audiences in traditional discipline-appropriate papers and a poster presentation.

Kristen LeFevers | Inquiry into Food

MWF | 11:30-12:20 & 12:40-1:30

In this section of English 102/132, students will explore readings and conversations related to food, a topic that yields itself to all sorts of rich discussions on different issues and experiences. Because food is often a reflection of family, community, and/or culture, this course theme will be well suited to our cross-listed section of 102/132. Students will have the opportunity both to write and inquire into their own cultural experiences with food and heritage, as well as to learn about other cultures and lived experience through this course theme. Other food-adjacent issues we will examine in this class will include food deserts and food insecurity, food as fuel for the body as well as care for the mind and soul, family and community recipes as a site for archival research, family and community traditions and rituals surrounding or involving food, and more. Because food is written about and studied in a wide variety of disciplines, students are encouraged to think outside the box and consider how this course theme will connect uniquely and effectively with their own majors or interests.

Julia P. McLeod | Inquiry into Food and Culture

TR | 11:20-12:35, 2:30-3:45, & 4:05-5:20

If we are what we eat, then what do the choices we make on a daily basis say about us? This writing and research course is an investigation of the complex relationship that humans have with food. We’ll look at what, when, with whom, and how we eat and what these choices reveal about ourselves and our culture.

You’ll formulate your own research questions about the collective and individual effects of food on culture, which you’ll then investigate through qualitative, archival, and secondary source research. For the qualitative project, you’ll gather your own data through interviews to examine how a food or food practice has impacted a specific group of people or aspect of society. You’ll continue that line of inquiry with your archival project by creating a digital museum exhibit that highlights and examines a food or food practice’s effects upon a particular community. In the secondary source project, you’ll locate and analyze scholarly sources to explore a food-related line of inquiry relevant to today’s culture.

English 102 advances the concepts introduced in English 101 and provides students with intensive writing instruction focused on inquiry and research. Throughout the semester, we’ll focus on strategies for formulating and investigating questions, locating and evaluating information, using varied sources and research methods, developing positions on intercultural and interdisciplinary issues from diverse texts (print, digital, and multimedia), and presenting research using appropriate rhetorical conventions.

Josh Moore | Inquiry into Pop Culture: Genre Fiction

TR | 8:10-9:25 & 9:45-11:00

Inquiry into Pop Culture: Genre Fiction will provide students with an opportunity to reflect on Genre Fiction as a cultural force and its broad influence within various forms of media and art. Students can focus on a specific genre, art form or text in their research; they can also study the economic, social, or political impacts of this cultural shift.

Through various modes of research, including secondary source, primary source, and qualitative, students will discover the ways in which various virtual cultures function in contemporary society. By filtering academic research questions through familiar mode, students will come to a greater understanding of the significance of academic study in the day-to-day, and will thus begin to view other aspects of their lives through an academic lens.

The point of this course is to develop your academic research, writing, and communication skills. We’ll learn about our course topic through each other’s research and writing. You’ll be able to investigate the topic from any academic perspective that interests you (hopefully your major). You’ll learn how to conduct archival, qualitative, and secondary source research and will present what you’ve learned to academic audiences in traditional discipline-appropriate papers and a poster presentation.

Amanda Platz | Inquiry into Myths and Monster: Monsters in Pop Culture

MWF | 1:50-2:40

You’ve likely heard of the story of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley—the first novel of its kind in English literature—and the monster that Dr. Frankenstein created. Frankenstein was not the first piece of literature to feature monsters, nor was it the last. In the medieval period, travel narratives and bestiaries recounted tales of horrifying monsters that were said to occupy the unexplored spaces of the world. Internet lore is fascinated by tales of Bigfoot haunting the forests of the Northwest or Appalachia. Creepypastas haunt our memories with images of Slenderman. True crime podcasts recount the horrors of the human monstrous that we encounter in serial killers. Humanity is obsessed with the monstrous. In this 102 course, we will explore questions relating to monsters and the monstrous in culture, whether that be literature that influences our current culture, films, television, video games, art, or the vast internet culture we’ve come to know and love all too well. Using secondary, archival, and qualitative research, we will explore different facets of the monstrous in popular culture.. This course will feature three major projects, a secondary source paper, an archival project, and a qualitative research paper, which will help you learn how to research both this topic and any other topic you may research in your future in academia. You will use skills such as drafting, peer review, and revision to improve your work over the course of the semester and will review your knowledge of rhetorical principles from English 101 to help you present your research in a rhetorically effective manner.

Carrie Sheffield | Inquiry into American Culture

MWF | 1:50-2:40 & 3:00-3:50

English 102 advances the concepts introduced in English 101 and provides students with intensive writing instruction focused on inquiry and research. Throughout the semester, we’ll focus on strategies for formulating and investigating questions, locating and evaluating information, using varied sources and research methods, developing positions on intercultural and interdisciplinary issues from diverse texts (print, digital, and multimedia), and presenting research using appropriate rhetorical conventions.

To do so, we will examine American culture. While this might sound like an enormous undertaking, we will focus on three specific facets of American culture: power, fear, and belief in the paranormal, conspiracy theories, or similar concepts.

As you investigate these facets, you will perform three kinds of research: primary source, archival, and qualitative. The Archival Research Paper will challenge you to find and analyze archival documents such as historical photographs, letters, and newspaper articles. This paper will challenge you to investigate the role power played in American culture prior to 1950. While writing the Secondary Source Research Paper, you will use primary and secondary sources to investigate how fear shapes contemporary American culture. It will develop the research skills you learned while writing the Archival Paper. Lastly, the Qualitative Research Paper will expose you to the world of human-based research. You will delve into how and why people believe in things such as the paranormal or conspiracy theories as well as how these beliefs function in American culture today.

Joshua Sorrells | Inquiry into the Portrayal and Perception of Artificial Intelligence

MWF | 8:00-8:50, 9:10-10:00, & 10:20-11:10

About the future of Artificial Intelligence Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (the company behind ChatGPT) is quoted saying, “The bad case — and I think this is important to say — is, like, lights out for all of us” (Insider, 2023).  Kelsey Piper writes in a recent article for Vox, “This is not because it [Artificial Intelligence] hates humans and wants us to die, but because it didn’t care and was willing to, say, poison the entire atmosphere, or unleash a plague, if that happened to be the best way to do the things it was trying to do” (Vox, 2022). This fearful apprehension seems to be a large portion of the public discourse surrounding the induction and rapid progression of Artificial Intelligence. And while caution is important to carry with us into this new future, is it the only conversation worth having?

Artificial Intelligence is here to stay, there’s no denying it. With programs like ChatGPT, Google Bard, Character.AI, etc. advancing literally by the second, our focus should be on understanding the nature of these programs rather than demonizing them. In his latest novel, Klara and the Sun, Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro poses questions about the nature of intelligence in an era of machine learning and automation, circumventing the narrow view of AI’s future and exploring the more abstract and philosophical natures of this new phenomenon. In this seminar we will take up those questions:

Can there be as such? Can a machine think? What is the nature of intelligence? How do we define our intelligence in contrast/comparison to machine intelligence? What is consciousness? Where is the line between human and nonhuman? What does a posthuman world look like?

Course readings will be balanced between primary sources (we will work with fiction, representations of AI in visual media, articles on the implications of AI and machine learning in cultural and scientific texts, etc.) and scholarly work in: Pop Culture Studies, Performance Studies, Cultural Studies, and film scholarship.

Kendyl Wadley | Inquiry into Popular Culture

Online Asynchronous

For this section, we will be using the theme of popular culture (broadly, culture available for mass consumption) to form the backdrop of our research. Pop culture is an ever-mutating maelstrom of media and genres: from printed works, through the image (still and moving), via music and performance, even gaming. You encounter it and consume it every day, perhaps without thinking about it or its pervasiveness. Given that, I want you to ask yourself: what goes into cultural production? What forces shape the art and entertainment media we enjoy on a daily basis? And to what extent do these cultural objects reflect, challenge, or stimulate our interests, values, and identities? This is your chance to scrutinize popular culture and how it intersects with the things that excite you.

Hayley Wilson | Inquiry into Pop Culture- Fashion

MWF | 11:30-12:20 & 1:50-2:40

This section of English 102 will investigate the pop culture significance of fashion–how we style ourselves, our own individualism, our collective expression, and how media and other influences may dictate what we wear or how we express ourselves. Every student should be able to find a personal line of inquiry within this topic to explore further, whether that be investigating a beloved brand, a current trend, a historic moment, a cultural belonging, or how fashion is tied to other expressions–musical, political, artistic, or counter-cultural and resistive. Students will explore the course topic using three research methods common to university-level writing and research: using recent secondary sources, using historical archival materials, and conducting independent, qualitative field research.

Kate Wright | Inquiry into Memoir

MWF | 10:20-11:10

Inquiry into Memoir will provide students with the opportunity to develop and practice skills in various modes of research while investigating an unlikely subject—themselves! This course aims to help students gain a deeper understanding of the things (places, people, experiences, etc) that shape who they are and how they interact with and understand the world. While exploring their past, students will build necessary research skills by completing primary source, secondary source, and qualitative research projects. Encouraging students to engage in research-driven self-reflection will lead students to a better understanding of themselves as well as a practical understanding of how to apply research techniques to a wide variety of subjects.