English 131A: Touchy Subjects
Certain subjects are touchy. They split individual experience from collective conversation. They elicit strong and often contradictory emotions. We don’t talk about them; we talk around them.
While they’re hard to talk about, subjects like race, gender, and religion are fraught with personal, historical, and cultural importance. They’re the most critical points of growth in our society. In order to participate in the discussions on crucial touchy subjects, we have to analyze the conversations that are already happening, then with that knowledge, express our own views. In this class, that’s exactly what we’ll do. We’ll examine others’ work: essays, music videos, visual art. Using critical analysis, evidence from research, and personal reflection, we’ll practice constructively engaging with touchy subjects.
I ask that everyone approach this class with an open mind. Try not to make assumptions about yourself or others. We all come into the classroom with our own lived experience and experience in writing. Whether you’re speaking with a classmate or writing a Facebook post, it’s important to take into account that your audience doesn’t share your exact experience. It’ll be especially important to actively listen to others’ thoughts and keep from holding on to any single view of a subject.
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.