Certain subjects are touchy. We know, almost by instinct, to avoid them. Subjects like race, gender, and class are fraught with personal, historical, and cultural meaning; they elicit strong and often contradictory emotions. They’re hard to talk about. In this class, we’ll read a variety of discourses on touchy subjects and examine techniques for writing about sensitive information. Using examples from other writers, evidence from research, and thoughtful synthesis of ideas, we’ll learn to constructively engage with touchy subjects.
We’ll also use specific rhetorical strategies to understand effective ways to participate in conversations on touchy subjects. I ask that everyone approach this class with an open mind toward others’ opinions. We all come into the classroom with our own lived experience, the same as all writers come to the page. Whether you’re speaking in the classroom or writing a blog, it’s important to take into account that your audience may not (and likely doesn’t!) share your exact experience. It’ll be especially important to actively listen to others’ thoughts and keep from grasping for any single view of a subject. I’ll hold myself to that standard, too. If you have any concerns or questions about this, please feel free to come talk to me.
Writing is the tool we’ll use to come to terms with touchy subjects and produce original work. We’ll develop an understanding of rhetorical strategy to analyze newspaper articles, scholarly texts, and personal essays. We’ll then figure out what those materials have in common, what strategies they use to successfully or unsuccessfully address touchy subjects, and construct strong written arguments. A strong written argument hardly ever appears on the first attempt, so this process will also involve learning the tools of revision. Writing itself is always a process, always evolving to fit the occasion at hand. You’ll be able to adapt this process to general university writing in which you’re grappling with cutting-edge ideas by reading, analyzing texts, and synthesizing source material with your own ideas.
This class is all about asking the questions and practicing the skills that will translate to your work across academic disciplines. What matters most is your willingness to engage in thoughtful inquiry: work hard, take risks, and ask questions.