Do Not be Afraid! An Emotional Approach to Critical Thinking and Critical Writing

Department: History 

Instructors: Felicitas Hartung
Instructors' Emails: 
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

Emotions are hiding everywhere. You can find them not only in our everyday language, but also in literature and photography, on posters and in advertisements, and even in newspapers. This course will help you detect hidden emotions and determine their purposes. Not only will we explore our understanding of certain emotions like fear and anxiety and their usage in media and politics, we will also reflect on the relationship between academic writing and objectivity and thereby learn how to evaluate arguments. The goal of this course is to make you a critical thinker and improve your style of writing.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

These are the main goals of this class:

  • Reflection on Language: How Words Shape our Understanding of the World.
  • Understanding of how Emotions May Affect our Behavior.
  • Developing Strategies for Coping with Fear and Anxiety.
  • Reflection on Different Media Types: How Emotions can be Utilized for Political or Economic Purposes.
  • Application: Critical Thinking in Everyday Life.
  • Developing an Objective and Persuasive Style of Writing.

To achieve these goals, the students are required to read assigned texts, as well as design a poster, and write one essay, in addition to their participation in class.

Topical Outline

Week 1: Fear, Anxiety, and Threat Perception. An Introduction.

Day 1: Introduction 
  • Introduction
  • Field Trip: Fallen Star – Fear of College, Fear of Failure
  • Fear vesus Anxiety: Definition

Day 2: Definitions and Concepts of Emotions

  • Breaking the Ice: 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch
  • Storytelling with Emotions 
  • Representaion of emotions in language and sound 
  • Reflection on Language: How words shape our understanding of the world

Day 3: Biological and Psychological Aspects

  • Emotions vs. Cognition 
  • Biological Processes: What happens to my body when I am afraid or anxious?
  • Mental Disorders

Day 4: Threat Perception

  • Threat Perception: "Duck and Cover"
  • Appraisal Theory: How anxiety arises 
  • Emotions and Decision-making 

Day 5: Coping Strategies

  • Coping strategies
  • summing up: Representation of fear and anxiety in movies 

Week 2: Critical Thinking; Utilizing Emotions for Rhetorical and Political Purposes

Assignment: This week students will work on adveritsing one emotion in a poster presentation and thereby reflect upon the various dimensions of emotions that we discuss in class

Day 1: Social and Political Aspects of Emotions

  • Emotions in Society
  • Emotions as Motivators for Political Actions

Day 2: Facts vs. Opinion: Emotional Expressions in Litrerature

  • Warm-up: Richard Muller "Alpdrucken" 
  • Literary Text: Emotions as Rhetorical Figures
  • Academic Writing and Emotional Expressions

Day 3: Emotional Propaganda in Pictures

  • Field Trip: Museum of Photographic Arts, Balboa Park 
  • Pictures: Kim Phuc and the Story behind the Picture
  • Pictures becoming symbols 

Day 4: Emotional Propaganda in the News

  • Utilization of Emotions for Political Aims
  • “Make Emotions Great Again”. The Emotional Run for the White House.
  • Fear, Securoty, and Political Rhetoric 

Day 5: Advertising Emotions

  • Poster Presentations
  • Emotions in Advertisements
  • Economic Purposes of the Utilization of Emotions

Week 3: Critical Writing. Get Emotions Out of Here!

Assignment: This week will lead the students through wirting an essay on conspiracy theories, which aims at exploring the utilization of emotions for political or economic purposes.

Day 1: Critical Writing and Objectivity

  • Danger of Emotions in Argumentation 
  • Argumentation Essay: Thesis Statement
  • Flat Earth

Day 2: How to Prevent Emotions from Sneaking in? - Evidence 

  • Evidence and Fake News 
  • Argumentative Essay: Evidence 
  • Field Trip: Geisel Library 

Day 3: Developing an Argument

  • Debate: Conspiracy Theories 
  • Argumentative Essay: Topic Sentences, Arguments 
  • Field Trip: Writing Hub 

Day 4: Writing 

  • Argumentative Essay: Addressees, Phrasing and Linking Paragraphs 
  • Argumentatice Essay: Revision  

Day 5: Emotions in Thinking and Writing

  • Presentation of Essays
  • Conclusion

Learn About the Application Process