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The Core Curriculum

University Writing: Readings in Human Rights

University Writing is designed to help undergraduates read and write essays in order to participate in the academic conversations that form our intellectual community. We will give special attention to the practices of close reading, rhetorical analysis, research, collaboration, and substantive revision. Students will learn that writing is a process of continual refinement of ideas and their expression. Rather than approaching writing as an innate talent, this course will teach writing as a unique, learned skill that can be practiced and developed. Over the course of the semester, you will read and discuss texts from a number of fields, complete regular informal reading and writing exercises, write several longer essays, and prepare an editorial for a public audience.

In this section of University Writing, we will investigate the meanings and practices of human rights in both global and local contexts. Questions about human rights are urgent and wide-ranging; they ask us to think through the fundamental ethics of belonging to a human community. At this complex juncture in the history of claiming, granting, and defining human rights, we will consider issues of personhood, identity, representation, and action. In the tension between universal ideals and culturally specific situations, how are current human rights issues being negotiated? How do questions of human rights intersect with other issues of identity and representation? And how can we understand our own positions as thinkers and writers entering this field? In this course you will write essays that respond to a variety of texts from this interdisciplinary field, including texts by faculty affiliated with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University.  Your essays will provide you with an opportunity to consider how the terms of human rights are defined and contested, and to make your own contributions to these conversations and debates.  These classes will have section numbers in the range of CC/GS1010.400 to CC/GS1010.499.  Each semester approximately 3-4 sections are offered in the College/SEAS and 1 in General Studies.