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The First-Year Writing Seminar

All students at NYUAD need intellectually rigorous writing classes that introduce them to the fundamentals of academic argument. The first-year Writing Seminar, the Writing Program’s signature course, is a place for all first-year students to engage in a semester-long study of academic writing. By participating in small writing seminars students develop a shared understanding of what we, as an international academic community, value in written argumentation — despite our many linguistic and cultural differences.

The Writing Seminar is an introduction to the academic work students will be expected to master as they advance through the Core Curriculum and into their majors: scholarly inquiry, elements of academic argument (e.g., thesis, evidence, analysis, and structure), critical reading, and the writing process itself. It is a course in college-level reading, writing, and inspired critical thinking taught by an award-winning, widely published interdisciplinary faculty.

Imagined Geographies: Course Description

We think of locales as something physical, something experienced. We know where we are (and where we are from) partly because we have physical experiences of those places: a grandmother’s kitchen, a smell of the city, the particular light on Scandinavian summer nights, or the sound of the jungle. However, what happens when geographies and their relation to identity—national and/or personal—are merely imagined in cultural products? In this seminar, we will read a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts in order to investigate how space and national and/or personal identity is imagined. Furthermore, we will investigate how texts open a space for the reader to imagine worlds personally unknown, thereby forcing us to also think about our own lived and imagined geographies.

We set out by thinking about essays, short stories, and poems that all attempt to capture an experience of self in relation to a locale. Writers will include Joan Didion, Richard Blanco, Tony Kushner, and Jamaica Kincaid. For the second paper we turn our attention to how the popular genre of crime fiction functions in the construction of imagined geographies. For the third paper, students choose a cultural artifact (poems, plays, monuments, films, memoires, paintings, newspaper articles etc.) and make an argument about the imagining of nation. Finally, students will produce an oral conference presentation of their research. Shared theoretical texts include Edward Said, Benedict Anderson, Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.


Dr. Ken Nielsen


Course Materials

● “They Say, I Say”: The Moves That Matter In Academic Writing, 2 nd edition.

● APA/MLA Guidelines for Students

● Little, Brown Essential Handbook, MLA Update Edition, 7/E. Jane E. Aaron. Longman, 2009.

● Homebody/Kabul, Tony Kushner

● The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know, Mary W. George

● Who Sings the Nation State, Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

● Additional readings to be distributed throughout the semester