Alex E. Blazer Course Site Syllabus



English 110: First-Year English Composition

Winter 1998, T/R 11:30-1:18; Aviation Building 107

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 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: Thursday, January 15, 1998 (Bring enough copies for me and your group)

Second Draft Due: Tuesday, January 27, 1998 (Bring only a copy for me)

Third Draft Due: Your choice, but no later than one week after I return Draft 2

Essay 2: 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. 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 involved 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 Rethinking Writing.

Length: 4-6 typed pages in the prescribed format

First Draft Due: Tuesday, February 3, 1998 (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: No later than one week after I return Draft 2

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 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).


Essentially, this paper should seek to advocate a stance about something you care or have opinions about in the public vein via textual analysis. If you require more guidelines to commence your thinking, 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 will not be offering suggestions for second drafts, peer responders should be especially critical—indeed, if you feel it appropriate, use my methodology of commenting on papers. 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). 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: 4-6 typed pages in the prescribed format

First Draft Due: Thursday, February 26, 1998 (Bring at least 4 copies for your group)

Second Draft Due: Thursday, March 12, 1998 (Bring only a copy for me)

Essay 4: 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?


Don't tell me or yourself that "I've grown as a person." Puke. That's assumed. Don't tell me that "I'm more literate on the subject of. . . ." Barf. You'd better be! (Let's skip that pandering- to-the-title-of-the-course B.S. Let's skip the bullshit period.) You should be (as I am) more interested in analyzing what conceptions of the world and yourself in it have been provoking your contemplative life as of late. Use this space to explore and engage in a conversation with yourself. Why have these thoughts been bugging you? How do these conceptions effect you— your mental life, your engagement with society?


Obviously, you can't grapple with all of the particular questions I've posed. Some of them are certainly not appropriate to what's going on in your mind. Instead, run with one that you respond to, that inspires you, so to speak. However (yes, as always, there is a "but"), don't run haphazardly. As we're in a university, I must assess your work based upon content, standards, and rhetorical effectiveness. Though this isn't a five-paragraph essay, it's not an informal response either. Focus on and explore one or two issues using the skills of argumentation (thesis, support, organization, conclusion, and, of course, critical thinking throughout) we've been working on in class and individually. Most significantly, advocate your self, your learning, by advocating something you feel strongly about, some line of reasoning that's really making you think!

Length: 3-4 typed pages in the prescribed format

Due: Monday, March 16, 1998 by 3:00 P.M. in either my mailbox or my anxious hands

(I suggest reviewing the syllabus regarding late, format, and length policies. As with Essay 3, they will be strictly enforced! If you don't understand something, see me.)

Note: You do have the option of purposively and substantially amending a previous essay (due March 16) in lieu of responding to this prompt. This route requires work as well and therefore must be approached with care. Quantitatively speaking, your enhancement of a previous paper will equal approximately another 3 pages. More importantly, if you choose this route, WE NEED TO HAVE A CONFERENCE to determine that your ideas for an amendment are appropriate and workable. Therefore, if we do not have a conference by my Thursday, March 12 office hours, I will not accept a reworking of a previous draft and you will have to write Essay 4.