Skip to main content


CAT 1 courses (four units, fall quarter) teach critical reading and drafting by examining how culture, art, and technology have intersected in the past. Students must have completed the Entry Level Writing Requirement in order to enroll in CAT 1.

Learning Objectives

CAT 1 students work towards these goals:

  • Understand writing as a process that includes brainstorming, drafting, peer review, revision, and reflection.

  • Develop metacognitive and critical reading and thinking skills., including learning the parts of an argument.

  • Learn how to ask constructive questions.

  • Practice writing as a learning strategy by developing the ability to critically read, summarize, and respond to arguments.

  • Learn how to read critically across a variety of genres and identify disciplinary discourse.

Writing Skills

CAT 1 fosters the following skills:

  • Critical curiosity—active reading and asking productive questions.

  • Summary, including identifying the parts of an argument when applicable.

  • Analysis of a text.

  • Paragraph structure.

  • Reflection and metacognition.

Core Concepts

By the end of CAT 1, students should be able to understand and define the below terms and ideas:

  • Ideology.

  • History as narrative.

  • Production of knowledge: culture, art, and technology.

Common Readings

All CAT 1 students will read these texts:

Fall 2023 Courses


Guillermo Algaze

Professor, Anthropology
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9:00-9:50 a.m.

This CAT 1 course focuses on a key question: "How did human beings come to have culture, art, and technology in the first place?" The course is centered on the human capacity for technological innovation and symbolic representation. It presents a global historical overview of the general principles and patterns of past human development, and focuses particular attention on the interrelationships between demographic, cultural, and technological changes in the last 50,000 or so years of the human career.

Now and Then: 1990s Popular Culture and its Twenty-First Century Return

Phoebe Bronstein

Associate Teaching Professor, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:00-10:50 a.m.

From the contemporary rise of flannel to the return of bootcut jeans and teenage Luddite clubs, 1990s fashion and television reboots abound. This CAT 1 course will focus on the decade of the 1990s to explore the formative and massive technological, political, and mass media shifts and trends that have shaped contemporary American culture. Bookended by the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and Y2K and then 9/11, in this decade, landlines gave way to cell phones and the internet went from the dulcet tones of dial-up to DSL. The 1990s were the decade of the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop rivalry, the rise of Nirvana and Seattle grunge, the star-making Titanic (1997), TGIF on ABC, the OJ Simpson televised chase and trial, and some of the first mentions of climate change (then called global warming). Using popular media (music, film, television, press), this course will explore the artistic, technological, and political shifts of the 1990s, with particular attention to thinking through our contemporary culture and examining our current nostalgia for the 1990s. Assignments will focus on developing critical reading skills, reflection, and responding to the texts we read, watch, and listen to.

Other Places, Other People, Other Pasts: The Culture, Art, and Technology of Tourism from Then to Now

Patrick Patterson

Associate Professor, History
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 11:00-11:50 a.m.

Tourism means Big Fun. It also means Big Business, Big Impacts, and Big Transformations (and sometimes, Big Controversies and Big Trouble as well). A phenomenon with enormous consequences for the world we live in today, tourism, along with the tourists and tourist-industry providers, big and small, who make it all happen, will no doubt continue to shape the human experience in powerful ways in the future. But how did we get here? Travel across distances great and small is really nothing new: journeys have been part of the way people live for many centuries. Yet what we call "tourism" actually is rather new, something that emerged in the relatively recent past. In this course we will examine that critical Big Question—"How did we get here?"—through our readings and viewings of, and conversations about, a wide range of major issues and hot topics relating to the impact of tourism and tourists in the contemporary world: environmental impacts and sustainability, economic development and underdevelopment, growth and inequality, sex tourism, "dark tourism" centering on circumstances that are by no means fun and happy, the evolving styles and ethics of tourism, and cultural exchanges, cultural transformations, and "cultural imperialism." By looking at the history of tourism from early developments up through the present day, we will attempt to gain deeper understandings not just about how contemporary patterns have developed—"How did we get here?"—but also about a couple of other Big Questions with big implications for the world and its peoples, both now and in the future: "Where are we going?" and "Why are we going there?"

From Hillbilly Music to Hip-Hop: US Culture and Popular Music

Joe Bigham

Lecturer, CAT
Tuesday/Thursday 12:30-1:50 p.m.

This course examines United States musical history as a lens into how we understand, interpret, and engage with our collective pasts. What have musicians, music critics, and fans said about the music they listen to, and by extension themselves and others? As the introduction to the CAT writing sequence, we will focus on the interpretation and understanding of past music and musical writing. Musical examples include (but aren't limited to) Appalachian folk music, 1970s soul music, 1980s heavy metal, and 1990s hip-hop. Our readings will range from fan-based writing to scholarly articles from musicology and ethnomusicology. We will hear and see how music shaped a sense of both individual and collective identity within United States cultural movements. Writing in short blog posts and longer essay forms, we will develop the ability to summarize, write about, and engage with musical culture and history.

Writing Support

There are a variety of writing resources around campus for students to take advantage of. In addition to CAT TAs' office hours, students may visit the Writing Hub in the Teaching and Learning Commons for help with their writing assignments. The Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services (OASIS) also offers a variety of tutoring programs, including the Language Arts Tutorial Services (LATS).