Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule



English 110: First-Year English Composition

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


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer Office: 525 Denney Hall
Mailbox: 421 Denney Hall Office Hours: T/R: 9:30-10:30
Email: Office Phone: 292-1790
Web: Departmental Phone: 292-6065


Course Description


This course focuses on multiple, divergent—yet always convergent—conceptions of literacy, personal, academic, public, and compositional. Our primary goal is to come to know what literacy is. Though no single definition exists, I have a strong suspicion that any understanding demands critical thinking, active reading, and reflective writing. Reading does not exist without writing; understanding does not exist without practice. Therefore, to read we must write, and vice versa. To that end we will do much reading in Writing Lives—the course reader—and Writing Arguments—the course rhetoric. We will respond to the reading with informal written response and class discussion. To more fully develop our thinking on the subjects, we will engage in formal writing. And finally, so that we may re-view and re-envision our own writing, we will engage in peer response and substantive revision.


Course Materials


Garnes et al., eds: Writing Lives

Hacker: A Pocket Style Manual

Ramage and Bean: Writing Arguments, Brief Edition

a folder


Assignments and Grade Distribution


Grades are based upon how well you fulfill the expectations of each assignment, which in turn are related to the goals of the class. If you don't understand what is required or being asked of you, please talk with me about it. The course's grade distributon follows:


Formal Essay 1 20%

Formal Essay 2 30%

Formal Essay 3 30%

Informal Writing 10%

Peer/Participation 10%


There are a lot of assignments. We will be reading and/or writing for every class period.



The articles, essays, stories and poems that you are required to read are designed to stimulate class discussion and your own contemplation of subjects you may wish to write about in your own examinations. I reserve the right to give pop quizzes (to affect your peer/participation grade) if I believe that you are not completing the reading. In order that I not dominate your class with my perspective (and ramblings), you will at numerous points in the quarter prepare questions (also for the peer/participation grade) for class discussion based on a reading.


Approximately every other class period you will react in informal writing to readings or issues. These short, three-fourth to one (¾-1) page single-space (or 1.5 space if typed) assignments are designed to commence your thinking toward the formal papers. If you put thoughtful, conscientious effort into the work and turn it in on time (at the beginning of class), you'll get full credit; if you don't, you won't. For every informal writing assignment you turn in late, you will lose one-half (½) of a letter grade from the cumulative informal writing grade (an A will become an A-). Not turning an informal assignment in at all, that is by, Monday, March 16, will result in an additional deduction of one-half (½) of a letter grade from the informal writing grade.


If you use spiral-bound notebook paper, cut off that nasty little straggly paper from the margin. Your should head your responses like this:


  Your Name Informal Response
  English 110  
  Alex E. Blazer  
  The Date  

Title (which in some way indicates the prompt or assignment)


Skip a line, and then commence your contemplative reaction.



You will write three (3) formal papers, with differing page ranges (4-6, 5-7, and 6-8, respectively) relating, to personal, academic, and, finally, public literacies.

Due Dates

Turn all required drafts (i.e., those designated due on the syllabus) in on time at the beginning of class. Your peers and I will be reviewing your work in order to give you feedback the next class period. If you don't supply us with your paper on time, we can't prepare our responses. I will mark down all drafts one (1) letter grade for each day (24 hours, not class period) that they are late, including Saturday and Sunday—no leniency given. IF YOU DO NOT TURN IN A DRAFT WITHIN ONE WEEK (SEVEN DAYS, 168 HOURS) OF ITS DUE DATE YOU WILL FAIL THE COURSE. Turning in Essay Three after 3 P.M. on Monday, June 8 will result in a two (2) letter grade deduction for each day it is late. TURNING IT IN AFTER WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10 AT 3 P.M. WILL RESULT IN YOUR FAILURE OF THE COURSE.


The page minimum increases with each essay (Essays 1 = 4-6, Essay 2 = 5-7, and Essay 3 = 6-8). On the first draft of a paper, if the text of your draft does not extend down at least one-fourth (¼) of the minimum page requirement page, you must compose in that unused space several typed (not spur of the moment), substantive, reflective questions and concerns about where your paper is going and where it could go. Second drafts, have less lee-way. I will penalize a paper's second, graded draft one-half (½) a letter grade if its textual length does not come within at least four (4) lines of the bottom of the page minimum. I will NOT waffle on this point. If you have a question as to whether or not your paper meets the page length or format requirements (for format, see below), I strongly urge you to contact me. I know padding when I see it. The quantity that I ask for must constitute quality and not page-lengthening fluff. Your papers should constitute precise critical thinking and not feather-filled, sleepy-time pillows.


All drafts of your formal essays should be stapled (not paper clipped), double-spaced (except for your name, class, and so on), and fully marginalized with one inch (1") margins. Do not skip lines between paragraphs as I do here. (This syllabus has different formal and format conventions than your essays in interests of conservation.) The 12 point (not 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18) font should be Arial, Courier, Times/Roman, or similarly appropriate (Don't use bold, block fonts; they reek of filler.) Instead of using title pages, commence your paper in single-spacing like this:


  Your Name Essay Number
  English 110 Draft Number
  Alex E. Blazer  
  The Date  



After skipping one line (not two) begin your paper in double-spaced (I know, my syllabus isn't double-spaced; but I'm trying to save paper). On subsequent pages (not the first page, only the second through final) your last name and page number should appear on the upper right corner as a header positioned approximately one-half inch (½") from the top margin. In order to maintain the one inch (1") top margin border, the body of text should start a bit less than one-half inch (½") from the page header. Consult your computer or word processor manual or find a computer lab assistant to help you meet these margin and page header specifications. (It can be done!) Refer to the top of this page as an example of page numbering. Again, I won't be a pushover; don't do it and your grade will be affected. If you think your format does not meet these requirements, contact me before you print it out because I will deduct one-half (½) a letter grade from any drafts (both the Draft 1 and 2) that do not meet all the requirements of this format—and this deduction will affect the paper's final grade.


The First-Year Writing Program and I encourage revision, the continual process of (re)writing. To that end, I will not grade first drafts. (Instead, I will comment with ciriticisms and suggestions, but beware as they will become more sparse as the quarter proceeds.). You should strive to produce the most developed, thoughtful, and polished paper you can because you will be showing all essays to your peer group and me. Both your peers and, for the first essay, I will respond to and evaluate them. You then have the opportunity to (let's not mince words, you must if you desire a good grade) improve your papers with substantive changes based on our critical feedback and your own consideration in a second draft due one and a half weeks after the first. As I will be looking over you peers comments, be sure to include their responses with your second draft. (I advise turning in Draft 2 along with accompanying drafts in a folder in order that papers not be lost; further, peers may wish to make a copy of their responses in case they get lost in the paper shuffle.) Even an "A" paper can be improved; any writer can make her work better. The degree of revision depends upon both the response to your paper and your evaluation of those responses. However, be aware that grammatical correction does not constitute revision, although it is expected. This second draft will receive a grade. But, even the second draft/grade is not final. You can, if you so choose, utilize all of the responses to your first two drafts in order to (re)envision a third and final revision due no later than two weeks after graded Draft 2 is returned to you. However, you must have an individual conference with me if you wish to compose a third draft (no conference = no revision). All previous drafts that I've accessed must accompany revised drafts or I will not grade them. Again, no exceptions.

Peer Response

Because your work deserves attention and criticizing others' work helps you in your own writing, not only I but also you will be giving constructive, critical feedback. To that end, you will respond to first drafts in writing and small group discussion. As with informal assignments, if you compose a well-thought out response, you will receive full credit.


Course Policies



At least once this quarter, we will have an individual conference to talk about your work. As you will sign up for a time when we can meet, this will be considered a class meeting. Attendance will be mandatory and the attendance policy will be in effect. Though no more individual conferences are required, I encourage you to see me during my office hours (or by appointment) to talk about your progress in the course.


Don't do it. Using someone else's words, ideas, or work without proper citation and representing them as your own is the most serious of academic offenses. Please note the information on plagiarism in Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual (91-5). Read Hacker's and my policy carefully and be sure to ask any questions you might have. All cases of suspected plagiarism will be reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct.

Late Assignments

All assignments are due at the beginning of class. I do not tolerate late work. If you've forgotten, refer to the above sections on informal and formal writing assignments for the relationship between late work and grade deductions. If you foresee a problem with turning in an assignment, especially a first draft which needs to undergo peer response, on time, see me about it before it's due.


Because much of our work in this class is discursive and peer-responsive, unexcused absences will not be tolerated. Family emergences, illness/injury with doctor's note, jury duty, athletic or other collegiate competition, religious holidays, and so forth constitute excused absences. One-half (½) of a letter grade will be deducted from your final grade for every unexcused absence beyond two (2). Peer response days are especially critical. If you miss one (1) of these days without providing an excuse, your peer/participation grade will be automatically marked C. Miss another, and I will deduct one (1) letter grade from that essay whose peer response you missed. Finally, five (5) unexcused absences will result in your failure of the course. I do not tolerate tardiness either. Two (2) tardies equals one (1) unexcused absence (Note, therefore, that ten (10) tardies will result in your failure of the course). If you know in advance that you have to miss or arrive late to a class especially one near a peer response day, please notify me before that class (sorry the "I have to walk across campus from my last class" excuse won't work here for obvious reasons).


On the Monday after finals week, I will make available any work not yet returned to you. Contact me to make an appointment to pick up your work. Otherwise, I will keep your work for two quarters, during which time you can pick it up. If you do not retrieve it, I will discard it.

Writing Center

The staff of the Writing Center serve as readers and responders to writing for English 110 and other university disciplines. Besides giving feedback, these English graduate students can help with other writing issues such as topic development, organization, coherence, clarity, and self-editing. To make an appointment, call 292-5607 or stop by 338 Denney Hall M/W 8:30-5:30, T/R 8:30-7:30, and F 8:30-1:30.

First-Year Writing Ombud

The Ombud is a resource for students and teachers of English 110. If you have any concerns about the course but feel you cannot speak with me, please feel free to consult with the Ombud. All conversations are confidential.
Ombud: Sandee McGlaun Office Phone: 292-5778
Office: Denney Hall 363 Email:
Office Hours: M/W 12:30-4:30; T/R 9:30-1:30

Office of Disability Services

If you have any specific needs or concerns, please feel free to discuss the issue with me during office hours. Students with disabilities who need accommodations should be registered at the Office for Disability Services (292-3307).

Denney 525

Once again, I welcome you to come and see me during my office hours. If you can't make it, then we'll set up an appointment. I encourage you to talk with me about your writing, the class, or anything else you may be concerned with. Also, don't hesitate to call me at home (before 11 P.M. and not during The X-Files—it's the last season!?) if you have questions about an assignment.


Course Schedule


WL = Writing Lives; HO = Handout; WA = Writing Arguments

Like thought, this schedule is subject to change.


Week 1

Unit 1: Personal Literacies

Introductions, Previews


What Is Literacy?

WL: O'Brien, "The Things They Carried" (50-62)

Eigner, On Dumpster Diving" (63-74)

WA: Chapter 1 (2-23)

Essay 1 Prompt

Due: Response (O'Brien Exploration 1 or Eigner Writing before Reading)

Week 2

Hyphenated Lives

WL: Mellix, "From Outside, In" (75-85)

Torgovnick, "On Being White, Female, and Born in Bensonhurst" (109-20)

HO: Hurston, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" (35-9)

WA: Chapter 2 (24-51); Appendix 1 (421-34); Appendix 2 (435-52)

Due: Response (TBA 4-1)


Literacy in Society

WL: Douglass, Ch7 from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (103-8)

Scribner, "Literacy in Three Metaphors" (34-49)

Due: Essay 1, Draft 1

Week 3

Unit 2: The Academy

Sites of Language

WL: Heath, "The Fourth Vision: Literate Language at Work" (142-61)

WA: Chapters 3-4 (52-94)

Essay 1 Peer Response Groups

Due: Essay 1 Peer Responses


The Poet vs/and The Academy

WL: Hughes, "Theme for English B" (140-1)

Moraga, "It's the Poverty" (192-4)

HO: Eliot, "Gerontion" (488-90)

Due: Response (Hughes Exploration 2 or Moraga Explorations 1, 2, and 3)

Week 4

Analyzing Pedagogies

WL: Stafford, "Final Exam: American Renaissance" (207-8)

Freire, "The Banking Concept of Education" (209-22)

WA: Chapters 5-6 (95-144)

Essay 2 Prompt

Due: Essay 1, Draft 2


More Analyzing

WL: Levine, "M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School" (246-7)

Anyon, "Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work" (248-67)

Due: Response (Anyon Explorations 5 and 6)

Week 5

The Academy in Popular Culture

WL: Hirsch, "Cultural Literacy" (195-206)

Barber, "America Skips School" (282-93)

WA: Chapters 7-8 (145-88)

Due: Essay 2, Draft 1


Unit 3: Public Stuff

The News

WL: Adatto, "The Incredible Shrinking Sound Bite" (357-66)

Katz, "Rock, Rap, and Movies Bring You the News" (367-77)

Essay 2 Peer Response Groups

Due: Essay 2 Written Peer Responses

Week 6

Our Generation: Media Targets

WL: Sizer, "Public Literacy: Puzzlements of a High School Watcher" (323-7)

Charles, "Always Real: Coke Chillin' in The Hood" (352-6)

WA: Chapters 9-10 (191-227)

Due: Response (Charles Explorations 1 and 2)


The Effects of Targeting

WL: Solomon, "Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising" (328-41)

Zinn, "Move Over, Boomers: The Busters Are Here—and They're Angry" (342-51)

Due: Essay 2, Draft 2

Week 7

Spiritual Death?

WL: Ventura, "Report from El Dorado" (385-97)

WA: Chapters 11-12 (22880)

Due: Response (Ventura 1 and 3)


Those Damn Malls

WL: Guterson, "Enclosed. Enclyclopedic. Endured.: "One Week at the Mall of America" (398-412)

HO: Ferlinghetti, "Director of Alienation" (185-8)

Essay 3 Prompt

Due: Response (Guterson Exploration 1)

Week 8

Pressuring the Citizens

HO: Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" (203-24)

Film: Citizen Ruth

WA: Chapters 13-14 (281-338)

Due: Response (React to Rich)



HO: Huxley, "Conditioning the Children" (592-5)

Due: Essay 3, Draft 1

Week 9
No Class: Memorial Day

Deconstructing the Codes

HO: Three Rivers, " Cultural Etiquette: A Guide" (821-4)

Wright, "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow" (600-11)

WA: Chapter 15 (339-53)

Essay 3, Draft 1 Peer Response Groups

Due: Essay 3 Written Peer Responses

Week 10

What Can We Believe?

HO: Herzog, "The Death of Lies" (15-27)

Ellison, "On Becoming a Writer" (433-40)

Due: Response (React to Herzog)


Conclusions, Reviews

Essay 3, Draft 2 Peer Response Groups

Due: Essay 3, Draft 2

Due: Essay 3, Draft 3