Cruelty, pain, and Upsetting Things Seminar in Academic Writing ENGL1010-002

Welcome to A Seminar in Academic Writing. Your section is ENGL1010-002.

Our class will be held in GENT119E.

Instructor: Micah Goodrich

  • Email:
  • Office Hours: Tuesday 10:00am - 11:00am, or by appointment
  • Office: Medieval Studies Library in the Austin Building, Room 152
  • Pronouns: He/Him/His

Course Objective

What is the objective of a seminar in academic writing? In this seminar we will use writing as a means of critically engaging with academic inquiry. This means that writing is our main tool in communicating, thinking, and grappling with texts and topics and entering a wider academic conversation about these texts and topics. Throughout the semester we will work to refine our skills in academic writing and thinking that prioritizes producing new knowledge in ethical and responsible ways. A fundamental component of a writing seminar is peer review and writing workshops – we will be reading and thinking through each other’s work throughout the semester. Ultimately, you will work through the texts we read in divergent ways, developing your thinking through the exploratory and recursive nature of writing. Because writing is not a practice that can be severed from purposeful exchange, your writing projects here will be grounded in a semester-long inquiry of a fairly specific topic (see Course Inquiry below). But the course is designed, above all, to provide you with opportunities for practicing and reflecting on your work as an academic writer. As a student enrolled in an ENGL1010 course you are required to write 30 pages of revised academic prose, which means that we will be incorporating writing prompts, peer review, conferences, and class discussions into the course in order to work toward this goal. Simply put, a student will not pass this course if they do not generate and revise 30 pages.

Course Inquiry

In order to begin writing we must have a topic of inquiry. The theme of our seminar is “Cruelty, Pain, and Upsetting Things.” Lionel Trilling has remarked of cruelty, “It is possible that the contemplation of cruelty will not make us humane but cruel; that the reiteration of the badness of our spiritual condition will make us consent to it.” Cruelty is seen everywhere: in the news, advertisements, social media, video games, art, literature, movies, television, commerce, food industry, sports etc.; the list is endless. What is the impact of contemplating cruelty? In what ways does cruelty or pain expose, challenge, or reflect social values? In this seminar we will use cruelty as our main topic of inquiry, and the semester will be broken up into four distinct parts: “Pain”: How is cruelty, pain, upset textually expressed? “Empathy”: What is the role of empathy in relation to pain? “Entitlement”: Who is entitled to be violent? Be cruel? Feel pain? “Erasure”: How is pain erased? By whom? For whom? What are the effects of silencing, disguising, or repurposing cruelty and pain? We will investigate the effects of cruelty, pain, and other unpleasant things through lenses of gender, class, sexuality, race, disability etc. to determine when cruelty is valuable.

Important Warning: As a warning, the readings in this course have the potential to provoke uncomfortable discussions; talking about cruelty and pain in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, bodies etc. may put some of us outside of our comfort zones. As adults, I believe we can engage with these texts productively, but if you feel that the material may make you uncomfortable, please talk with me beforehand so we can arrange alternatives.

Required Texts

  • Selected readings, articles, handouts, websites, etc.
  • The texts we will be using frequently are listed below. You are welcome to purchase these texts if you work better with your own hard copy, however, I will be providing these readings.
  • Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. (Utah state University Press, 2006).
  • Kinney, Alison. Hood. (Bloomsbury, 2016).
  • Nelson, Maggie. The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning. (Norton, 2011).

Note: Our class has a HuskyCT page. This will host all of our electronic documents. Please get familiar with that interface and if you are uncertain how to access it or use it get in contact with me stat.


Photos variously by: Poodle kicking dirt (Catherine Ledner, NYMag), Lady Gaga's meat dress (Jim Ruymen), Every Day the Same Dream screencap, Ex Machina screencap, Abu Ghraib (LA Times), Undertale screencap

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