A Look Inside Fall 2016's English 90S | African and African American Studies 190S - "Sports & Spectacle"

Monday, December 12, 2016

Would you like to take a course that studies and discusses the world of sports?  

During the Fall of 2016, a group of Duke University students did just that.  Sasha Panaram, a Duke University Ph.D. candidate, selected this topic for her Fall 2016 English 90S course "Sports and Spectacle," which was also cross-listed as African and African American Studies 190S.

How does this course differ from the traditional courses taught in English Departments?

One way my course differs from the traditional courses taught in the English Department can be traced in my forms of assessment. While I do require that students complete argument-based papers and research papers as well as blog posts and other in-class writing assignments, I enjoy offering creative final projects that invite students to address audiences beyond the academy. For their final projects, students are creating 15 to 20 minutes podcasts where they report on understudied sporting scandals in American history. Such a project requires them to dig into the archives and look for gaps in sporting histories while they try their hands at crafting their own stories.  - Sasha Panaram, English Ph.D. Candidate

What would you like to see your students take away from this course?

I would like to see my students walk away from this course as more conscious and vigilant consumers of sports. Over the semester, they have come to learn that sports are never just about the game or the competition. Instead to talk about sports is to address issues of social inequity, cultural capital, race relations, and more. If they leave my class able to listen to sports radio broadcastings, read sports journalism, and watch sporting events more attentively with an eye towards how they position themselves to games as spectators and the implications of this positioning for the athletes they watch, then they will recognize sports as more than a form of entertainment, but as a critical site of study.  
– Sasha Panaram, English Ph.D. Candidate

The syllabus for this course describes it as an examination of literary, visual, and auditory materials, which show students how different mediums represent athletes and their relationship to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class.   Materials studied in this course included memoirs, sports articles, documentaries, music videos, and radio broadcasts. 

The learning objectives for this course were to:

  1. meaningfully engage with and critique the works of scholars;

  2. learn to concisely develop an argument and support it over varying lengths of papers and through different mediums;

  3. use revision as a means to rethink, reorganize, and re-present an improved argument ;
  4. develop your own digital story;

  5. write for audiences beyond the classroom. 

For their final project students enrolled in “Sports & Spectacle” had to complete a creative final project where they tried their hand at documenting an understudied U.S. sports scandal of their choice in a podcast.

How do you describe this course to your parents?

I often tell my mom that this is one of my favorites, if not my favorite class I am taking.  The conversations in class and the intellectual curiosities that arise from these conversations make going to every class enjoyable. 
- CJ Keim, Freshman, Undecided, Pittsburgh, PA

Why did you choose to take this course?

Been a big sports fan all my life and I wanted to take a class exploring the different aspects of sports
- Alex Yu, Freshman, Economics with Finance, Fort Collins, CO

What has been the most interesting thing you have learned in this course?

The most interesting thing I have learned thus far, on a high level, is the different nuance and significance inherent in being a sports fan. In learning about this, we have looked at the specificities of such case studies as the Williams sisters, cricket in Trinidad, and the American success myth. I think my favorite of those has been learning about the Williams sisters.
- Jack O'Connell, Junior, Economics, Fairfield, CT

How has this course differed from other English courses, you have taken?

This course discusses the concept of race and class and how they affect sports/literature in much more detail than any other class I have taken, which I enjoy. Also, we tend to use other forms of media besides literary prose to convey information (i.e. journal articles, videos, podcasts). 
- Camil Craciunescu, Junior, Biology, Durham, NC