ENGL 281 C: Intermediate Expository Writing

Meeting Time: 

Syllabus Description:

English 281c: Rhetorics of Disaster and Disease

Spring 2015


Instructor: Tesla Schaeffer

Email: schaeffe@uw.edu

Office: Padelford Hall A-11G


Meeting Times: M 10:30-12:20 MGH 082A

                           W 10:30- 12:20 MGH 076

Office Hours: MW 12:30- 1:30


Course Description


This course has two primary and equally important goals: to hone your skills in rhetorical and analytical awareness and to cultivate understanding in writing and research. Through looking closely at how contemporary rhetoric functions in contexts of disaster and disease (two things that currently consume the media!), we will examine and unpack the way that texts function in many different arenas, including both academia and popular culture. We also aim to develop the skills to participate confidently and thoughtfully in the rhetorical “conversations” that surround and comprise these topics. Throughout the course, we will be thinking about writing as a process that emerges first from inquiry. What motivates the author to write? What does s/he want us to do? How does the text function, and who is reading it? How does this text situate itself in, enforce or subvert the genre it occupies? In both writing and reading, a spirit of analytical scrutiny is fundamental to our project.


Alongside engaging closely with the issues raised in rhetorics of disaster and disease, we will also be entering into a dialogue with each other; this course is necessarily interactive and self-reflective, meaning that we will approach our own writing and that of our peers with the same analytical frame of mind.. As such, drafting, revising and reflecting on our rhetorical choices will comprise a significant part of the class as well. Your assignments are shaped around this aim, providing you with ample opportunity to explore writing as a process rather than a verdict. Further, while no course can build in absolutely everything you need to know to write successfully, developing the analytical and compositional skills required to articulate your thinking will benefit you in many of the writing and reading situations you encounter in the future, both inside and outside of school.


Required Materials


All course materials will be available under Files on Canvas




Assignments (3): 10% each

Proposal: 5%

Scholarly Papers (2): 20% each

Participation: 25%


In this course, you will complete two major assignment sequences, each of which is designed to help you fulfill the course outcomes. In the first sequence, you’ll complete 3 short assignments that ask you to analyze primary texts through varying theoretical lenses, and then complete a Scholarly Paper that applies those skills comparatively. In the second sequence, you will have complete freedom to choose a topic on which to compose a research paper, and course time will be devoted to helping you frame a productive line of inquiry, propose a topic effectively, engage in scholarly research, and produce a strong paper. Both of the scholarly papers will be revised in a drafting process.


Participation is worth 25% of your grade. It is of the highest importance that you come to class every day having done the homework, prepared to discuss your work and the work of others in class. This is not an easy 30%! Attendance and online responsibility are factors in this part of your grade, and as you will see, active participation and involvement is the only way to develop the skills necessary to be successful in this class.


If you cannot attend class, please email me as soon as possible to let me know so I can plan class accordingly. You do not need to provide a reason (there are no “excused” or “unexcused” absences). After 2 absences, regardless of the reason, your participation grade will be affected negatively. If you miss class, you are responsible for finding out what you missed, either by contacting a classmate or by coming to office hours. I do not provide in-class information for absent students via email.


As members of a computer-integrated course, we must also create two rules in order to maintain mutual respect and not drive ourselves crazy:

1)      Please do not type when anyone is talking (this includes me or your colleagues)

2)      Please stay off the web for any purpose not expressly related to class work


Please note that your participation grade will be penalized by 2% for each day a paper is late, and 1% for each violation of the above rules.


Late papers will receive no written feedback from me, and will be penalized by 10% per day.



Complaints Clause


If you have any concerns about the course or your instructor, please see the instructor about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the instructor or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the following Expository Writing Program staff in Padelford A-11: Director Anis Bawarshi, (206) 543-2190 or bawarshi@uw.edu or Assistant Directors AJ Burgin, aburgin@uw.edu; Ann Shivers- McNair, asmcnair@uw.edu; Tesla Schaeffer, schaeffe@uw.edu. If, after speaking with the Director or Assistant Directors of the EWP, you are still not satisfied with the response you receive, you may contact English Department Chair Brian Reed, (206) 543-2690.




If you need accommodation of any sort, please let me know so that I can work with the UW Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS) to provide what you require. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials. More information about accommodation my be found at http://www.washington.edu/students/drs.




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in-class activities


Mon 3/30


Introduction and Syllabus


Wed 4/1


Rhetorical Analysis, Argument Analysis

1)     Read Joffe and Haarhoff

2)     Post Discussion Question on Canvas




Mon 4/6

Fallacies, Warrants and Argument Skills


Due: Assignment #1

Wed 4/8


Argument Cont., Workshop for Assignment #2

1)     Read Washington Post Article

2)     Post Discussion Question on Canvas




Mon 4/13

Reading Complex Texts


Due: Assignment #2

Wed 4/15

Argument Analysis and Writing Workshop


1)     Read Samuels

2)     Post Discussion Question




Mon 4/20

Watch Trouble the Water


1)     Read Solnit

2)     Post Discussion Question

Wed 4/22

Drafting and Outlining


Due: Assignment #3




Mon 4/27

Drafting and Outlining



Wed 4/29

Peer Review


Due: Paper #1 Draft 1




Mon 5/4

Revision, Editing and Incorporating Feedback



Wed 5/6

In-class work time/ conferencing






Mon 5/11

Library Workshop


 Due: Paper #1 Draft 2

Wed 5/13

In-class work time/ conferencing 






Mon 5/18


Proposal Assignment (in-class)


Wed 5/20

Peer Review


Due: Scholarly Paper #2 Draft One




Mon 5/25

Memorial Day- No Class



Wed 5/27

Revision and Editing Skills






Mon 6/1


Revision and Editing Skills


Wed 6/3


Revision and Editing Skills

Due on 6/5: Scholarly Paper #2 Draft Two


Holidays: 5/25- Memorial Day

Last Day of Instruction:  6/3

Finals Week:  6/8 - 6/12



Catalog Description: 
Writing papers communicating information and opinion to develop accurate, competent, and effective expression.
GE Requirements: 
English Composition (C)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
March 16, 2016 - 11:20am