ENGL 111 U: Composition: Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
MOR 116
Alexandra Smith

Syllabus Description:

In English 111, we will use literature as our primary object of study to develop the skills of good writing at the college level, critical thinking, and meaningful engagement with all variety of cultural texts. Our course will primarily focus on critically reading and writing about fiction by authors from diverse backgrounds who have often been considered transgressive, taboo, and even banned or censored.

Regardless of your discipline and future career goals this course will provide you the tools and skills to think critically about the world, cultures, cultural products and landscapes you navigate while preparing you to articulate your thinking through written language. Your career at UW and beyond will require you to produce a diverse range of writing that varies in research methods, argument form, organization, tone, complexity, and styles for different audiences. However, in the context of any academic discipline you will be asked to clearly articulate your ideas and provide compelling scholarly evidence to support your claims. As such, this class will do its best to prepare you with the academic toolkit you need to be successful in UW academics. The goals of English 111 are to:

  • Write for different audiences and different contexts;
  • Synthesize complex texts and enter into an academic dialogue with those texts;
  • Craft complex, analytic, persuasive arguments; and
  • Develop a set of writing habits and strategies for revising your work.


Banned and Contested Literature: Engaging with the Taboo

This section of 111 will investigate literary and cultural products that are often considered taboo, forbidden, transgressive, provocative, and have been banned or contested. Engaging with this literature will allow us to cultivate skills and methods of rhetorical analysis and scholarly writing at the college level. In this class we have four themed weeks dedicated to representations in literature that often lead to texts being banned or contested:

  1. Representations of sexuality / gender
  2. Representations of race
  3. Representations of state violence / surveillance
  4. Representations of state religion / power


We will engage in complex discussion topics such as:


…What rhetorical situations/writing makes literature taboo, transgressive, or provocative?

…Is the taboo always bad?

…Can literature be dangerous? Who decides?

...Are there limits to what children or students can be exposed to in the classroom?

…Should all literary or cultural products be available for consumption?

…Should books be banned? Can we be offended by literature?

…Does literature reinforce or challenge prejudice and stereotypes?

…How does fiction connect with reality? How does power operate in literature?

…How does provocative literature shape our understanding of the world? Our own identities?


We will continually reengage these questions as we work to analyze literature in service of developing skills as researchers and writers at the college level. What I ask is that we all work to be respectful and open to the views of others throughout the quarter (This includes the authors and the content/themes of the texts!). The more we commit to the thoughtful discussion of the texts, open engagement with writing, and sharing of ideas the more enjoyable and fruitful this course will be. I can promise that if we all participate it won’t be boring!

Catalog Description: 
Study and practice of good writing; topics derived from reading and discussing stories, poems, essays, and plays. Cannot be taken if student has already received a grade of 2.0 or higher in either ENGL 111, ENGL 121, or ENGL 131.
GE Requirements: 
English Composition (C)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
February 19, 2016 - 9:07am