Courses Offered

This course examines the many ways in which the idea of health is morally constructed in American society and culture. Students investigate health as a moral value and study the ways in which our conceptions of health affect individuals, shape culture, and organize society. 

Choosing from topics such as addiction, diet, cigarettes, chronic illness, disability, genetic testing, sex, obesity, and others, students write analyses and create final multimedia projects that unpack the ways in which moral constructions of health shape and are shaped by media, science, history, capitalism, politics, race, gender, and class.

This interdisciplinary course examines the communication of bioethical issues in American media and in public discourse. Beyond simply evaluating how well bioethical issues get conveyed to the public, the course analyzes the complex relationships among media, science, medicine, moral norms, and politics. 

We spend the first several weeks exploring general issues in media criticism: the roles of social media and journalism in democracy and in capitalism; contests in journalism around “objectivity” and providing “both sides”; and challenges in communicating science to the public. 

For the rest of the semester, we examine particular bioethical issues through this media lens, including abortion and other reproductive technologies; old age and end-of-life care; climate impacts and climate science; healthcare policy and access; race and social identity; mental health and chronic illness. 

At the end of the semester, each student will choose a particular bioethical issue and produce a multimedia project that offers accessible yet rigorous documentation and analysis. (This course is in development.)

This course examines and practices the skills and elements that constitute narrative journalism, a form of creative nonfiction. Students learn about the components of good narrative writing, including evocative scenes and description, compelling narrative voice, and clear, engaging structure. We also cover the ethics of journalism—why the term “nonfiction” is so critical—and basic journalistic techniques, particularly observation and interviewing. 

Students practice these craft and reporting techniques by writing often about a set of universal human concerns: illness, healthcare, and the ways in which society, groups, and individuals respond to these. They write about their own and others’ behavior, thoughts, and feelings; and/or our cultural mores and values, healthcare policy, and institutions. We aim for writing that is at once engaging, informative, and enlightening. Students meet with me several times during the semester, learning that “writing is revising”–and discovering what it takes to revise well.

In this course, we consider some fundamental questions: What is journalism? What is it for? What is news, and who decides? How is the news constructed? How does it influence and shape society? How is it influenced and shaped? And how can/do journalists affect how their readers/viewers/listeners perceive and understand the world? The words “critical” and “criticism” point not to bashing journalism and journalists, but to getting below the surface, to analyzing, and to developing tools for scrutinizing what journalism does and its role in society. 

This course asks students to look more deeply at the media, primarily journalism, using questions they may never have considered before. They develop a more critical lens, reading theory, examining coverage of particular news events, and writing analyses.

Student Evaluations