(1) Subject-matter / theme is raw meat for the watch-dog. Once you begin studying a "theme" like violence or drugs, you don't know where you will end up. The theme is not the end-point, but the beginning.
(2) Students must bring in their ideas for each class meeting. Those are the ideas we will be discussing, not my own.
(3) Students will learn the classic form of the scholarly article, writing sestinas, not free-verse poems, in their papers.
(4) I will assign paper topics randomly. I'll come up with fourteen ideas and hand them out to the seven students. They will then trade one of their two topics with someone else in the class. The next day, they will come into class with two additional ideas for a paper, and trade one of those with another student. Each student, then, will have four possible topics for a paper. Then they can use one of those four or a fifth of their own invention.
(5) Prose style is a responsive instrument, as you might speak of a responsive musical instrument or automobile. It needs to be supple in order to allow the ideas to come out.
Five Ideas for a Graduate Course
I found pad of paper where I had written out some ideas for the beginning of the semester: