'The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.'
'Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.'
—Sir Francis Bacon
This course is, first and foremost, a class concerned with the craft of writing. We will be guided in this process by the four objectives of the Expository Writing Program which are:
- To demonstrate an awareness of the strategies that writers use in different writing contexts;
- To read, analyze, and synthesize complex texts and incorporate multiple kinds of evidence purposefully in order to generate and support writing;
- To produce complex, analytic, persuasive arguments that matter in academic contexts;
- To develop flexible strategies for revising, editing, and proofreading writing.
At the moment, these objectives are likely a bit daunting. Never fear! Along the way we will unpack their meaning and discover how they will aid you in becoming a more sophisticated (and successful) writer. Throughout this course, you will develop the writing skills you already possess and learn new ones necessary to being a more effective writer. Our goal is to teach you skills that will assist you in approaching the myriad of writing situations that will occur throughout your university career and beyond with greater confidence.
Writing, like any skill, requires a considerable amount of time, effort, and practice to hone. As you might expect of a writing course, the bulk of your coursework will consist of written work. Over the course of the quarter, in addition to short reflection assignments, you will write three shorter assignments of two to three pages and two major papers between five and seven pages in length. At the end of the quarter, you will compile a portfolio consisting of selections from your work and a critical response which reflects upon how your writing illustrates the course objectives.
'What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.'
—Carl Sagan, Cosmos [Part 11, The Persistence of Memory (1980)]
'Books are funny little pieces of portable thought.'
From Odysseus and Wonder Woman to King Alfred and Mae Jemison, heroes—whether fictional or real—are sources of perennial fascination. Told in diverse genres, their stories offer fertile ground for critical exploration. Held up for admiration, emulation, and inspiration, heroes and their tales offer a glimpse into the cultural concerns of the society that produced them. In this course, we will read a selection of texts produced by the different peoples inhabiting the British Isles and Iceland during the earlier Middle Ages to gain insight into what constituted a hero—whether spiritual or secular—for these societies while considering what connections might be made with contemporary American culture and its heroes. Along the way, we will delve into some secondary scholarly material to acquire necessary historical context in addition to developing useful skills in genre and textual analysis. Primary readings (all of which will be read in translation) include the Hiberno-Latin Voyage of St Brendan, the Icelandic saga Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða, the Old English poem Beowulf, and others.