English 131 is designed to teach you to be a more critical and conscious thinker and writer. Since you already know how to think and write, this course is meant to hone your skills and to make you aware of the complexity and power of both what you do as an academic writer, and of the persuasion that happens in the cultures and communities around you. This persuasion happens in written texts, both academic and non-academic, visual “texts,” and other forms of media.
This course is organized around four major outcomes:
- Audience and Context: To compose strategically for a variety of audiences and situations, both within and outside the university. (This means understanding how style, language, genre, and rhetorical appeals change depending on who your writing is written for, and for what purpose.)
- Research: To work with a diverse set of sources (texts) in order to learn about a topic and generate support for your own argument. Working with sources is part of a process of inquiry.
- Argument: To craft persuasive, complex, inquiry-driven arguments with clear stakes (why does this argument matter, and to whom?). Your arguments will include analysis that supports a line of inquiry.
- Revision: To understand that writing is never “finished”—it’s a process that includes revision as a creative act. The feedback you’ll receive from me is not “correction,” but is part of the generative, creative process of composition.
This course will focus generally on the concept of ideology, which is a system of ideas or a set of beliefs that structures what you think and how you act. How do our beliefs and worldviews shape our thoughts and opinions? Where do these beliefs come from? How are they defined by nations, religions, economic systems, and our identities? How does ideology shape the way we talk about race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and other social and political issues? How has it shaped national histories and how do we see it manifesting in current events? We’ll read a mix of academic and non-academic writing from the present day and the recent past, and you will craft your own short and long pieces of writing drawing from these readings and from your own research. In this way, you will have the opportunity to engage with topics that interest you.
One of my main goals is for us to understand that all writing is political, even if it claims to be “neutral.” As we look at the ideology behind a piece of writing, or the ideology it is critiquing, we will consider the deeply contextual nature of all writing.
Class discussion is central to this course, and class participation is 30% of your final grade, so you must come to class prepared. This means you’ve done the readings well (annotating helps with this). We’ll also do in-class activities to support writing skills: learning how to identify an argument, understanding the connections between texts, developing your own claim, and revising writing through peer review.