VA231: Introduction to Non-Fiction                  

Fall 2003 (Last updated 3 September 2003)

Dr. Anneliese Watt








COURSE TEXTS (all required and available in paperback in the campus bookstore)

q       The Best American Essays 2002, ed. Steven Jay Gould  (BAE)

q       The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002, ed. Natalie Angier  (SN)

q       Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, by Dava Sobel

q       Hiroshima, by John Hersey


Tentative Schedule of Readings


Note: This schedule indicates the days on which readings are due and will be discussed.

Key for abbreviations of course texts: BAE=Best American Essays 2002

                                                SN=Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002

Titles of book-length course texts are underlined.

Names of topic units are given in bold.


WEEK 0          Sept. 4-5

R: Course Orientation, Reading Nonfiction

Before, During, and After 9/11/01

F: “The Lion in Winter” BAE 144-64



WEEK 1          Sept. 8-12

M: “Fire” BAE 165-87.  Preferences for research groups expressed.

T:  “Wall Street Losses, Wall Street Gains” SN 185-196, and “Word on the Street” BAE 267-75

R: “The Price We Pay” BAE 213-18, and “For Patriot Dreams” BAE 137-43

F: “Who We Are” BAE 124-36


WEEK 2          Sept. 15-19

M: *Response #1 due* “Turning Point” BAE 13-21, and “How Islam Won, and Lost, the Lead in Science” SN 210-17.

Human (vs.?) Human

T: “Saving Us from Darwin” SN 34-57

R: “The Dramaturgy of Death” BAE 331-43  

F: “Inside the Bunker” BAE 280-94


WEEK 3          Sept. 22-26

(Watt away at conference Sept. 20-24)

M:  No class meeting.  Work on group research, on response paper, and/or on reading Hiroshima.       

T:   No class meeting.

R: *Response #2 due* Group research presentations on holocaust deniers, and on the film Hiroshima Mon Amour. 

F:  Hiroshima, Chs. 1-2 (at least).  Fact sheet from Hiroshima research group.


WEEK 4          Sept. 29-Oct. 3

M: Hiroshima, Chs. 3-4

T: Hiroshima, Ch. 5. 

R: *Response #3 due (on Hiroshima)*

Human (vs.?) Nature  ‘The Sting of the Assassin” SN 255-64.

F: “Mothers and Others” SN 148-60 (Class will not meet; email to Watt indicating your highlight passage and why you chose it, worth an in-class writing grade.)



WEEK 5          Oct. 6-10

M: “In the Realm of Virtual Reality” SN 24-33

T: “Is That a Mountain Lion in Your Backyard?” SN 114-23, and “A Little Reminder of Reality’s Scale” SN 218-20 

R: “One Acre” SN 281-91.  *Response #4 due*

Food Issues

F:  “Braised Shank of Free-Range Possum?” SN 10-20


WEEK 6          Oct. 13-14

M: “Why McDonald’s Fries Taste So Good” SN 221-233.  Group research presentation on the regulation of food additives.

T: “Ripe for Controversy” SN 181-84.  *Response #5 due*



WEEK 7          Oct. 20-24

Paradigm Shifts

M: Longitude, Chs. 1-5

T: Longitude, Chs. 6-10

R: Longitude, Chs. 11-15.

F: *Response #6 due, on Longitude* Group research presentation on Longitude.


WEEK 8          Oct. 27-31

M: “Mind over Matter” SN 21-23, and “Very Dark Energy” SN 292-300. 

Group research presentation on currently shifting astronomy/physics paradigms. 

The Brain

T: “My Father’s Brain” BAE 88-110

R:  “As Good as Dead” SN 101-13

F: *Response #7 due, on any Oct. 27-30 reading above*

 Choose one: “Merced” BAE 237-52, or “Shock and Disbelief” SN 234-54


WEEK 9          Nov. 3-7

Other Medical Matters 

M: “Moonrise” BAE 344-65

T: “’I Have Seen Cancers Disappear’” SN 198-209.  Group presentation, update on recent cancer research.

R: Final Cut” BAE 111-23

F:  *Response #8 due*  “Out of the Ordinary” BAE 232-36, and skim


WEEK 10        Nov. 17-21


M: “Examined Life” SN 89-100.  Course evaluations.

T: “Matriculation Fixation” BAE 276-79, and “Dumb, Dumb, Duh Dumb” SN 196-97

R: “College: The End of the Golden Age” BAE 219-31.  Group research presentation on the “No Child Left Behind” legislation.

F: *Response #9 due* Read your choice of at least one unassigned essay from BAE or SN.