Documenting Atlanta

English Composition I (ENGL 1101)

Linked course co-taught with Dr. Ruthie Yow
School of Literature, Media, and Communication
Georgia Institute of Technology
Fall 2014

Course description: This section of English 1101 will introduce you to the city at your doorstep: you will begin to watch Atlanta and listen to it in ways that enrich your time here and better equip you to make sense of, and perhaps even make long-lasting change in, your adoptive city. We will focus on particular places and spaces in the city—from celebrated “Sweet Auburn” Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr.’s boyhood neighborhood to the lesser-known mill community of Cabbagetown—and together read the texts of these communities. Such texts include documentary film and visual culture, as well as oral history, music, and fiction. The course spans the city’s environs but also its history in order to explore how sustainable community is differently defined and pursued in three different moments: the height of the Civil Rights Movement; the 1996 Olympics (the race and class dramas of which unfolded right under our feet on Tech’s campus); and Atlanta’s contemporary urban “renaissance,” signaled by projects such as the Beltline, a massive redevelopment initiative which aims to connect the culturally and physically separate communities that encircle the city center. Visual culture and public history allow us to think critically about what sustainability means at both cultural and ecological registers, and to place people, communities, and their significant spaces—both those they define and those that define them—at the center of the city’s past and its present. Guided by the instructors, a film scholar and an ethnographer/historian, this interdisciplinary course will engage three main research methodologies—oral history and ethnographic interviewing, documentary film, and digital mapping—and you will be invited to choose how you will explore one of the course units in greater depth in your multimodal course projects. Sections L6 and L7 are taught by both O’Brien and Yow; the sections meet as one class, and the instructors alternate leading each class meeting. Section E2 is taught only by Yow.

Course website