English R1A

Reading and Composition: Sports, Politics, and Protest

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2021 McWilliams, Ryan
MWF 1-2

Book List

Perec, Georges: W, or The Memory of Childhood; Rankine, Claudia: Citizen

Other Readings and Media

Because we will watch several 30 for 30 documentaries, you will be required to acquire subscription access to ESPN+; additional streaming purchases may be required.

Most readings will be available online as PDFs; authors are likely to include Sherman Alexie, Roland Barthes, Bill Bradley, Noam Chomsky, Don Delillo, Harry Edwards, Ralph Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates, Helen Ann Peterson, David Foster Wallace, and many more.


Playing fields might be designed to separate winners from losers, but they have recently become sites where privilege and disenfranchisement collide in volatile ways. In response, some have argued that sports should be a field apart: an escape that transcends political divisions. Others have complained that sports cannot truly be more than “bread and circuses”: distractions from the truly pressing issues. We’ll consider each of these arguments, but focus primarily on the compositional, rhetorical, and performative strategies athletes and their fans use to bring attention to injustice.

To contextualize the increasingly visible relationship between sports, politics, and protest, we’ll look to both past and present, considering examples as far afield as Roman gladiators, Teddy Roosevelt and the cult of masculinity, the tactics and style of rezball, Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show, and Lebron James’s remarks on Breonna Taylor. Most centrally, we will address the fraught relationship between race and sports in American culture. Other topics will include class and labor politics (including the question of NCAA amateurism), gender (in)equity, violence and nationalism, literary experimentation, and ability/disability.

Over the course of the semester, you will hone your skills in multiple written genres. You’ll learn to model your prose on works by sportswriters, literary luminaries, and literary critics (not to mention literary luminaries and critics moonlighting as sportswriters). In addition to refining analytic essays, you’ll conduct interviews and blog about an issue at the intersection of sports and protest that unfolds live over the course of the semester. By the end of the semester you will produce at least thirty-two pages of carefully edited work.


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