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Dr. Marion Wrenn

The First-Year Writing Seminar

In all NYUAD First-year Writing Seminars you will grapple with profound and enduring questions about the human and social condition while learning the techniques and strategies of academic argument.  Each FYWS is interested in varied modes of thinking and forms of human creativity, analysis, and expression.  You may engage with rich texts from fields including science, history, politics, art, literature and philosophy, depending on the course’s topic and its locus of investigation and inquiry.  All FYWSs will give you innovative and sometimes controversial material to consider and we ask you to engage these materials critically.  

Our classes emphasize many of the same principles as the NYUAD Core curriculum, but unlike the Core our focus is on the project of developing your skills as a college-level thinker, writer, and communicator.

You will write often in class and should expect to have lively discussions about written and visual texts.  In other words, the FYWS is designed to help you practice and develop your reading and writing skills as well as hone your skills as a listener and speaker. These modes of communication and rhetoric are central to the FYWS and your success as a college-level writer. You will complete three persuasive essays, all with an extensive drafting and revision process. You will also be required to deliver oral presentations about class readings, drafts, &/or your final papers. Central to the FYWS is the belief that every writer needs a reader and every writer must learn to be understood—across differences in discipline, convention, and culture. 


“There’s no accounting for taste,” the old saying goes, implying that we like our favorite shoes, cars, and paintings for reasons that simply can’t be explained. In this class, we challenge that assumption. Taking contemporary popular culture as a point of departure, we delve into debates from history, sociology, and literary studies in order to better understand the construction of taste, giving special attention to the complex role that “good taste” or “bad taste” can play in perpetuating social hierarchies.  You will have the opportunity to further develop your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills while examining how ideas about “taste” are constructed, interrelated, and how they can inform, limit, or inspire the way we see ourselves in our social worlds.  

We begin by working on the art of close reading by analyzing the role of taste in a work of art or a cultural practice.  The first brief essay will analyze such a text, making an argument about its embedded ideas regarding taste. Then, we consider key 20th century theories regarding the social construction of taste. In the second paper students will reckon with a theory of their choice by making an argument about its limits and/or enduring legitimacy by applying it to a specific film.  Finally, for the 3rd paper, students conduct original research on an independently designed topic, investigating “taste” in a case study of their choosing.  (Possible topics include fashion in Japanese youth subcultures, controversial interpretations of Bach's music, Starbucks coffee as a status symbol, and the changing tastes of NYU Abu Dhabi students themselves.

Our weekly work will consist of reading a range of texts, writing in a variety of modes, and collaborating closely with one another.  Class time will be devoted primarily to discussion, reading, and writing as we build towards the four major assignments.  In addition to our class meetings, every week you will meet individually with a writing instructor. 

This First Year Writing Seminar, will give you innovative and sometimes controversial materials; ask you to revel in the world of ideas and debate; give you practice speaking about your ideas in public; and most importantly help you build a solid foundation of writing and critical thinking skills that will serve you well in the university. Some of the material might be offensive to you.  If that is the case, please never hesitate to reach out to me.  While being provoked (and sometimes offended) is part of engaging materials critically, the First Year Writing Seminar classroom should be a productive space for you, and it is my job to make sure that that’s the case—reach out!


Dr. Marion Wrenn


The WritingCenter

The Writing Center is an excellent resource for you to use throughout your university career.  Consultants will meet with you to discuss your writing for any writing project.  They don’t do the work for you—they don’t edit or proofread your work, or give you ideas—but they can help you figure out what you need to do in order to improve your writing. To register as a client and to schedule an appointment, go to  It is wise to schedule appointments well in advance of anticipated need, as appointment slots fill up.