English R1A

Reading and Composition: Borderline Crooks

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Spring 2021 Walter, David
MWF 1-2

Book List

Erdrich, Louise: The Round House; Kushner, Rachel: The Mars Room; Slater, Dan: Wolf Boys; Sophocles (tr. Fagles): Oedipus Tyrannus

Other Readings and Media


Boys N the Hood, (dir./wr. John Singleton,1991); Sin Nombre (dir./wr. Cary Jôji Fukunaga, 2009); Cidade de Deus (dir. Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund/wr. Paulo Lins, Braulio Mántovani, 2002)

Selected Materials:

Aristotle, Robert McKee, Judith Weston, Anabel Hernández, Quentin Tarantino, Charles Bowden


A plague-ridden Thebes, an Indian reservation, a Rio slum, a U.S.-Mexico border town, the LA hood, a California women's prison. These are the settings for our examination of characters who run up against obstacles—from within themselves, their families and tribes, the economic and legal systems they live in—that lead them to make criminal choices. These choices, and the risks they provoke, taint the characters even as they dare us to care for them.

How do fiction writers, dramatists, journalists and filmmakers get us to invest our feelings in morally compromised characters? To answer this question, we will pull out the guts of their stories to examine their wiring—then try to put them back together again on our own. In the process we will examine classic attempts to say what makes an effective tale, and put to the test the idea that every type of story has "rules" that make it successful. A major segment of the course will be devoted to examining the structure of the feature film in relation to drama and the novel.

In order to prepare students for the writing typically required in college-level courses and in civic discourse, this class teaches the composition of thesis-driven argumentative essays. Students will gain practice in composing brief to medium-length arguments that are focused, clearly organized, well supported and based on accurate critical reading of assigned materials. Students will turn in one short essay of three pages followed by two larger ones of 16 pages total, all of which they will develop out of informal written reflections and drafts. In addition, they will make class presentations, and collaborate on final group projects designed to creatively tie together the themes of the class.

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