English | Projects In Reading and Writing: History, Mystery and Conspiracy
W170 | 16411 | Taylor


16411    MWF    9:05a-9:55a    BH 247     Arwen Taylor

TOPIC: History, Mystery, and Conspiracy: Secret Societies and the
Stories We Tell About Them

Secret societies have been skulking in the corners of Western
civilization since ancient Greece at least, but popular discourse
about them has enjoyed a particular upswing in the last decade with
the appearance of films and novels like "The Da Vinci Code"
and "National Treasure." This course will engage a variety of
primary texts, from Nathanial Hawthorne to Dan Brown to The
Simpsons, in order to examine the cultural meaning of such famous
secret societies as the Templars, the Freemasons, and the Skull and
Bones, as well as the secret-society status of phenomena such as the
Greek system or social networking clubs. Because this class is also
a writing course designed to fulfill the English Composition
requirement, the graded work of the course will take the form of a
series of assignments designed to develop analytical thinking and
writing skills. Through these writing projects we will consider the
qualities and function of both the secret societies themselves and
the discourse surrounding them. What are the characteristics of a
secret society? What desires are represented and fulfilled by secret
societies; what anxieties are present in the way they are portrayed?
Students will also be given an opportunity to conduct their own
research into a secret society of their choice, designing and
carrying out their own research project as the capstone to the