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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 2022 Courses

Un/Natural Spaces: American Media and Histories of Environmental Representation

Phoebe Bronstein

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

From the notion of wilderness to the construction of park spaces (and even the open spaces at the UC San Diego campus), this CAT 1 course will explore the stories that we tell and that American popular media has told about the environment, and people's relationships to the "natural world." To do this, we will watch movies like Waterworld and When the Levees Broke and read literature like Robin Kimmerer's "Skywoman Falling" from (Braiding Sweetgrass) and excerpts from Walden. These texts will help historize American environmental narratives, and make visible the politics underlying and propelling those narratives. In what ways can we come to see and understand how histories of environmental representation shape our daily lives and assumptions about nature/natural spaces along lines of race, class, gender, ability, and sexuality? Using the past to think towards our collective futures and the effect of climate change, the texts we read and watch in this course are meant to promote reflection and conversation on our own assumptions, politics, and engagement with environmental representations, who we are, and where we (including the planet) are going.

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

Joe Bigham

Lecturer, CAT
Tuesday/Thursday 11:00 a.m.-12:20 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.


Guillermo Algaze

Professor, Anthropology
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 11:00-11:50 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.

Twice Upon a Time: Lore, Adaptation, and Identity

Jennifer Marchisotto

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

From myths to monsters, fairytales to fables, we tell stories to help make sense of the world around us. Shared lore helps create (and divide) communities, defining identity at both individual and national levels. From ancient civilizations to the Irish Revival movement in the early 1900s to contemporary retellings of African folklore in the work of Marlon James, Tomi Adeyemi, and Ayana Gray, mythology can simultaneously speak to the past, present, and future. In this CAT 1 course, we will embrace a broad definition of lore that encompasses diverse forms of storytelling to look at the ways narrative helps us understand the past and how adaptations of classic myths and tales can shift that understanding, revising and reinventing them for the current moment. We will look at texts from literary criticism as well as a variety of forms of popular culture including film, music, and television to hone our critical thinking and writing skills. We will also engage theories of critical race studies, critical gender studies, and disability studies to inform and enhance our engagement with the texts. Overall, we will consider how storytelling has helped to create history, but also how we can use those same stories to actively reinvent and shift our present moment through adaptation.