American Dissent is a multi-disciplinary seminar that uses dissent, protest, rebellion, and revolution as conceptual springboards for learning and developing key academic writing skills, preparing students to participate in all manner of scholarly conversations. I taught various versions of this course both online and in person between 2018 and 2023 as a faculty member in the Princeton Writing Program at Princeton University. It consists of three units, each with a specific focus and a major assignment aimed at cultivating a distinct set of writing skills that scaffold the work of later units. In the first unit, students explore the idea of abolition via the work of Frederick Douglass, Angela Davis, and Childish Gambino. We use their work to critique and refine recent theories of dissent’s democratic function, practicing foundational skills of argument and analysis. In the second unit, students examine the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969 from literary, historical, anthropological, and economic perspectives. Building upon the skillset developed in the first unit, students write an essay that intervenes in a disciplinary or interdisciplinary conversation. In the third unit, students design their own scholarly research topic about a moment, movement, narrative or theory of dissent that attends to its contradictions and/or limits with respect to the status quo, entering into a scholarly conversation of their own choosing. This unit push students to develop their research skills and asks them to synthesize the writing skills practiced all semester.

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