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

Department: Philosophy

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

Day 1: Introduction and Taxonomy
  • Introduction
  • Breaking the Ice: ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch
  • Field Trip: Fallen Star – Fear of College, Fear of Failure
  • Reflection on Language: How words shape our understanding of the world.

Day 2: Definitions and Concepts of Emotions

  • Fear versus Anxiety: Definitions
  • The Cartesian Dualism of Reason and Affect: To what extend are emotions cognitive?

Day 3: Biological and Psychological Aspects

  • Biological Processes: What happens to my body when I am afraid or anxious?
  • Appraisal Theory: How anxiety arises

Day 4: Threat Perception

  • Proximity of a Threat
  • Threat Perception

Day 5: Coping Strategies

  • Field Trip: CAPS, resources on campus
  • Coping strategies

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

Day 1: Social and Political Aspects of Emotions

  • Emotions in Society
  • Emotions as Motivators for Political Actions
  • Can Emotions be Objective?

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

  • Literary Text: Emotions as Rhetorical Figures
  • Academic Writing and Emotional Expressions

Day 3: Emotional Propaganda in Pictures

  • Pictures: Kim Phuc and the Story behind the Picture
  • Posters: Mobilizing for a Political Aim

Day 4: Emotional Propaganda in the News

  • Utilization of Emotions for Political Aims
  • “Make Emotions Great Again”. The Emotional Run for the White House.
  • Emotions and Underlying Political Messages in Newspaper Articles

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!

Day 1: Critical Writing and Objectivity

  • Purposes of Critical Writing
  • Addressees
  • Academic Writing and Objectivity

Day 2: How to Prevent Emotions from Sneaking in?

  • Thesis: Developing a Questioning and Thesis
  • Sources: Where can I find evidence for my thesis?

Day 3: Developing an Argument

  • Analyzing an Argument
  • Developing Arguments for Essay

Day 4: Filed Trip

  • Museum of Photographic Arts, Balboa Park 

Day 5: Emotions in Thinking and Writing

  • Presentation of Essays
  • Conclusion

Learn About the Application Process