Casebook Series

The University of Oregon casebooks are compiled, edited, and designed by the instructors in the Composition Program for use in the composition classroom. The casebooks are produced and printed at the University of Oregon.  Each casebook explores a single issue through multidisciplinary readings relevant to local and global concerns.

Each casebook collects readings that address an open question, one that gives students room to reason about the issues raised and to learn about reasoning in the process. Thus, the readings do not invite yes/no or good/bad responses, nor are they designed simply to provoke discussion. Rather, they introduce students to a real field of controversy in which many different questions at issue and reasonable approaches to answering them are available.

Writing 121
Entertaining Violence. Kristy Bryant-Berg, editor: 2011
Free Speech. Bennet Smith, editor: 2008
Sustainability. Robert Zandstra, editor: 2014

Writing 122/3
The Culture of Science. Patricia Oman, editor: 2008
Everybody Eats. Phoebe Bronstein and Patricia Oman, editors: 2010
Minding the Body. Katherine McAlvage and Martina Miles, editors: 2015
Social Protest. Bethany Jacobs, editor: 2014

Writing 123
Disability Studies. Mitch Macrae, editor: 2015
Exploring the Anthropocene. Stephen Siperstein, editor: 2015
The Politics of Sports. Anna Carroll, editor: 2015
The Uses and Abuses of Technology. Brian Gazaille, editor: 2015
What’s in a Word? The Politics of Language. Alexis Kielb, editor: 2015


Entertaining Violence introduces questions about the role violence plays in media. The first section, “Violence as Entertainment,” encourages students to consider the psychological and sociological effects, both negative and positive, of television, films and music. “Virtual Violence” continues this focus on the consequences of our entertainment but shifts genres to explore particularities of the current favorite target of many discussions about violence in entertainment, video games. Finally, “The Ethics of Photojournalism” moves beyond fictional entertainment to examine images of real-life violence and tragedy in relation to the goals, tools, and responsibilities of photojournalism.

Free Speech foregrounds arguments about the nature and legitimacy of speech. The readings range from a Tudor parliamentary speech to a 2007 Supreme Court transcript. What role should universities play in restricting speech on campus? What kinds of speech are so harmful that the state has a responsibility to declare them unprotected? The casebook also provides readings about recent speech controversies at the University of Oregon and includes documents from The Register-Guard and The Daily Emerald.

Sustainability examines contemporary environmental issues relevant to a wide range of academic disciplines. The essay explore many aspects of everyday life, including transportation, consumption, place and community, and social justice. This casebook asks students to think productively about daily life in relation to crucial concerns about the life of the earth.

 The Culture of Science explores the role and function of science in modern society. Is science a useful tool? Is it a frame of mind? Is it a culture in its own right? Is science too privileged in today’s society? What are the current challenges to scientific authority? Who determines whether something is scientific? Readings include examples of argumentative writing, scientific writing, and fiction by scientists and nonscientists.

 Everybody Eats focuses on ethical aspects of the production, consumption, and regulation of food. Increasing attention is being focused not just on what we eat but also on how our food is grown. The first section of Everybody Eats, “Growing Problems,” focuses on issues surrounding food production and consumption; the second part “To Eat or Not to Eat” examines dietary choices and restrictions; the last section, “Livin’ Large,” focuses on food and health in the United States.

Minding the Body introduces the concept of embodiment theory, including the dualistic perspective on the mind/body relationship, disability theory, queer theory and performance studies. The readings put these theoretical ideas into the context of practical, real-world issues. Across three units, the essays explore the presence of bodies in space, as well as looking at the repercussions of social systems on bodies.

Social Protest introduces essays that complicate the simple violent vs. nonviolent debate familiar in conversations about social movements. It includes individual accounts of activists from numerous protest movements to show how they articulate their participation in the work of social protest. The Social Protest Casebook asks students to consider how individual identity impacts one’s experience of social oppression and how ingrained systems—like white power, compulsory heterosexuality, and patriarchy—attempt to contain all people within easily defined, easily controlled demographics.

Disability Studies examines a culture fixated on ideal bodies. We are constantly bombarded with often unattainable standards of physical appearance, athletic performance, and intellectual prowess. Ideal representations of how our minds and bodies should function are so prevalent, we often mistake them as ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ without considering the impact such representations have when we fail to match these ideals ourselves. Disability studies examine the impact of cultural assumptions of ‘normalcy’ and the oppressive nature of marking physical or mental impairments as abnormal, damaged, or subject for ridicule. Where might we use disability theory to challenge ‘politics of identity’ or assumptions of ‘normalcy’ which remain exclusionary, unethical, or socially irresponsible?

Exploring the Anthropocene explores questions related to the emergence of a new geological epoch, known as “the Anthropocene,” in which the human species has acquired a planetary power on par with that of biogeophysical systems. For instance, through mining activities alone, humans move more sediment each year than all the planet’s rivers combined. Or consider global climate change: every mote of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas humans emit, and every carbon sink diminished or destroyed, contributes to ecological damages such as melting permafrost, rising sea levels, and spreading drought. Signaled by an acceleration of interlinked socio-ecological crises, the Anthropocene represents a turning point not just in the context of planetary history, but also in the context of what it means, and feels like, to be human. In this course you might address questions such as: When did this period known as the Anthropocene begin? How can we perceive and measure the global impacts of a single species—us? What ethical attitudes and actions does living in the Anthropocene require of us? Or what does it mean to live well and live together, both with each other and with other species?

The Politics of Sports examines the different social issues that are played out on the fields, courts, and arenas of athletic spectacle. These readings explore overlapping themes of ethics, social justice, and mass consumption of popular culture. Since sport is one of the most ubiquitous points of common interest on the planet, students are encouraged to think critically about what makes athletics such a compelling outlet for people of all kinds, and what kind of problems arise from such intense investment.

The Uses and Abuses of Technology asks students to consider particular technologies, some that we take for granted—like the camera and the scalpel—and some that are receiving much attention in our culture—like military drones and genetic engineering techniques. During each of these readings, you might ask, what can a given technology do for us, and what does it prevent us from doing in turn? Does a particular technology enhance how we interact with others, or does it encourage unethical consequences?

What’s in a Word? asks students to examine something that not enough people actively think about: language. For so many, language is something we take for granted, a series of words that have always had the same meaning and a set of grammar rules that we follow mechanically. “What’s in a Word?: The Politics of Language” seeks to change our relationship with this fundamental tool for communication. In this class you will read articles and formulate arguments that examine the importance of language–individual words, figures of speech, rhetoric–and its relationship to larger conceptual issues like gender, race, science, and popular culture.