Alex E. Blazer Course Site Syllabus



English 110: First-Year English Composition

Spring 1998, M/W: 7:30-9:18, University Hall 151

Essay 1: Personal Literacy

In the next weeks, we'll be looking at other people's comings into literacy. They'll detail their journeys, and we'll analyze their stories, their definitions, and, consequently, their identities. Douglass, Eigner, O'Brien and the other authors in Writing Lives will stimulate much class discussion on what it means to be literate.


You'll hear your peers talk toward the subject; you'll read authors write toward the subject. The first formal paper, however, is the time for your own 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 and advocate 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 effective yet economic detail a situation or history of events in which you, another, or fictional person either experienced or exhibited literacy, and 2) commenting on (analyzing, advocating) why and how, in your informed and reflective opinion, this constitutes an act of literacy. Note finally that although depiction and illustration, much like plot summary, is a necessary starting point for analysis, your paper's paramount attention should be paid to the critical theorizing of your conception of literacy.


Length: 4-6 typed pages in the prescribed format

First Draft Due: Wednesday, April 8, 1998 (Bring 5 copies)

Second Draft Due: Monday, April 20, 1998 (Bring only a copy for me)

Third Draft Due: Your choice (if you choose to do a third draft), but no later than one week after we have our mandatory conference)

Essay 2: Academic Literacy

You've experienced college for at least two quarters, 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, class practices, system, standard, or pedagogy, to name but a few. Inquire how each text functions and presents itself. Feel free to reconcile the personal and academic by discussing how the "text" personally affects you; but make sure it's relevant to your critical evaluation. For more ideas about the textual analysis expected of this essay, refer to page 317 of Writing Lives, Further Suggestions for Writing, Number 1.


A compositional/rhetorical note: Be a credible authority. Support your analysis with appropriate evidence and careful organization as discussed in class and Writing Arguments.

Length: 5-7 typed pages in the prescribed format

First Draft Due: Monday, April 27, 1998 (Bring 5 copies)

Second Draft Due: Wednesday, May 6, 1998 (Bring only a copy for me as well as all copies of Draft 1—my response as well as your peers')

Third Draft Due: No later than two weeks after I return Draft 2, accompanied by Drafts 1 and 2 that I've responded to (Also, we must conference if you choose this option)

Essay 3: 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 a specific "text" serves. (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.) Investigate the relationships among author, text, and audience. 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 and/or appeal to this public?), and successful (or unsuccesful) communication of this message to this audience (what does this text do to/for individuals? society? how does this text effect its audience?)


Essentially, this paper should, through textual analysis and evaluation, seek to advocate a stance about something in the public vein about which you care or have opinions. If you require more guidelines to commence your thinking (or if you don't like and/or understand this prompt), refer especially to Further Suggestions for Writing 1. Analyzing Public Literacy (WL 453). 2. Taking Part in Public Discourse (454) also applies, but be certain to analyze the assumptions of audience and message that inform the position. As usual, your authoritative, argumentative examination should be well organized, convincing, and critical with a specific, focused thesis.


As I've mentioned before, I will not be systemattically responding to first drafts, though I'll be glad to peruse works in progress if you so choose. Therefore, peer responders should be especially critical—indeed, if you feel it appropriate, use my methodology of commenting on papers (though not my penmanship!). At both the local (in terms of sentence argument and organization) and global (in terms of paragraph and entire essay thesis, support, and structure) offer constructive advice and point out specifically where and how the paper is weak and could be improved upon. As further opportunity for revision does not exist after turning the paper in to me, I suggest that, upon completing a second draft based upon peer responses, writers let the paper leave their minds for a couple of days and then come back to it fresh in order to read it themselves as critically as possible before revising once more.


Lastly, if you have any questions or concerns whatsoever about this prompt and the requirements of this paper, I encourage you to bring them up in class or talk with me about them outside of class (you know my office hours, email, and home phone). Though you are not required to show me your drafts, I suggest that you at least make me aware of your thesis at some point before handing in the final draft so that we can make sure we're all on the same page.

Length: 6-8 typed pages in the prescribed format
First Draft Due: Wednesday, May 20, 1998 (Bring 4 copies for just your group)

Second Draft Due: Wednesday, June 3, 1998 (Bring 1 copy to share amongst your group)

Third Draft Due: Monday, June 8, 1998 (Turn in by 3 P.M., accompanied by your peers' responses to Draft 1)