Alex E. Blazer Course Site Syllabus



English 110: First-Year English Composition

Autumn 1997, T/R 1:30-3:18; Aviation Building 107

Essay 1: Personal Literacy

So far in the course, we've looked at other people's comings into literacy. They've detailed their journeys, and we've analyzed their stories, their definitions, and, consequently, their identities. Douglass, Eigner, O'Brien and the other authors in Writing Lives have stimulated much class discussion on what it means to be literate.


You've heard your peers talk toward the subject; you've read authors write toward the subject. Now, however, is the time for substantive, developed, and critical reflection. In this paper you will write toward the subject. Now you have your opportunity to tell your community what literacy means to you.


Your paper may be as creative in structure and content as you wish. You may, for example, take the personal essay form, as Mellix does; the personal narrative form, as Douglass does; or the fictional form, as O'Brien does. You may even construct your own method and organization. Because any form your paper takes must still at some point elucidate a definition of literacy, make certain that the demands of the genre you take coincide with—even complement—the rigors of the required content. Keep in mind that I and your fellow classmates expect your composition to work toward a personal definition of literacy by 1) describing in detail a situation or history of events in which you, another, or fictional person either experienced or exhibited literacy; 2) comment on why and how, in your informed and reflective opinion, this constitutes an act of literacy.

Length: 4-6 typed pages in the prescribed format

First Draft Due: Tuesday, October 7, 1997 (Bring enough copies for me and your group)

Second Draft Due: Tuesday, January 14, 1997 (Bring only a copy for me)

Third Draft Due: (If any, with all preceding drafts) Your choice, but no later than Monday, December 8, 1997.

Essay 2 Prompt: Academic Literacy

You've experienced college for at least a quarter, if not longer. I've no doubt that you've developed impressions and opinions about your classes—the texts, the atmospheres, the disciplines they represent; as a fellow student, I know I have. And you've compared them to previous educational experiences and the pedagogical debates in Writing Lives as well. You have (re)commenced your journey into academic literacy, or awareness of the scholastic discourses' conventions.


The last essay asked you to analyze some aspect of your personal literacy, or self-awareness. This essay calls for you to formally (dare I write, academically?) apply the conversations which begin in Writing Lives (Hughes, Moraga, Eliot, Stafford, Freire, Levine, Anyon, Hirsch, Barber—yes, it's acceptable to read ahead) and continue in class discussion. In class, we'll describe various educational situations and discuss their implications, personal and academic. Now, on your own—but informed by the authors and this academic community—you must develop your own critical, reflective analysis of an academic, educational "text" or set of texts, be it text (literally), course, physical space, instructor, system, standard, or pedagogy, to name but a few. Your essay should inquire how each text functions and presents itself. I encourage you to econcile the personal and academic by discussing how the "text" personally affects you; but make sure this synthesis is relevant to your critical evaluation of the academy.


A compositional/rhetorical note: Be a credible authority. Support your analysis with appropriate evidence and careful organization as discussed in Rethinking Writing, class discussion, peer response, and the individual conference.

Length: 4-6 typed pages in the prescribed format

First Draft Due: Tuesday, October 28, 1997 (Bring enough copies for me and your group)

Second Draft Due: Thursday, February 12, 1998 (Bring only a copy for me as well as all copies of Draft 1 and its peer responses)

Third Draft Due: (If any, with all preceding drafts) Your choice, but no later than Monday, December 8, 1997

Essay 3 Prompt: Public Stuff

Thus far in the course, you've analyzed aspects of your own literacy and your understanding of academic discourse and discipline. And you've been inspired by class discussion and readings to do so. Not surprisingly, in this essay you will analyze a public text or set of texts—public spaces, public art, or any form of media ranging from print advertisements or periodicals to television shows or movies. Interpret the functions that the text serve. (Note that if you choose to analyze and then advocate a theme or a side of a controversial issue you should discuss how and on what grounds the participants create their rhetorical arguments rather than simply proposing the arguments yourself.) Explore the possible contextual meanings of the text in terms of intended audience (who is this public?), intended message (what/how does the text speak to this public?), and successful communication of this message to this audience (or lack thereof).


As usual, your authoritative examination should be well organized, persuasive, and critical. Therefore, as you compose this discussion, reflected upon class handouts, Rethinking Writing, and previous peer and instructor responses to make this paper as effective as possible.

Length: 4-6 typed pages in the prescribed format

First Draft Due: Thursday, November 20, 1997 (Bring at least 4 copies for your group)

Second Draft Due: Tuesday, December 2, 1997 (Bring both Draft 1 and Draft 2 for me)

Essay 4 Prompt: Self-Reflection

Examine your progress in this course, in life, and/or in existence. You may, for example, reflect upon your previous essays in terms of subject matter and form. What exactly have you absorbed, adapted, and/or assimilated? Or you may explore notions about your self, the academy, and culture that you have newly reached and/or found problematic. What beliefs specifically have you learned, rejected, accepted, or been challenged by over the past few months? You may also discuss what you believe to be the most important things you've learned (in this class, in life, and/or in existence) in the last ten weeks and why. You may even question to what effect. Further still, you may consider what inquiries you wish to make in the future that have developed from your recent experiences. What do you understand (about this course, this life, and/or this existence)? Why? What don't you? Why?

Length: 3-5 pages typed in the prescribed format.
Due: Monday, December 8, 1997 by 4:00 P.M. in either my mailbox or my anxious hands.