ENGL 302 A: Critical Practice

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30pm - 4:20pm
CMU 326
Shawn Wong
Shawn Wong

Syllabus Description:

Shawn Wong

Office Hours: MW 11-12, Tu 10-12, or by appt.  (appointments are recommended)

B423 Padelford Hall



Writing the Writing Prompt:  The Critical Economy of Narrative Storytelling


Course Description:

This course will examine and put into practice theories about writing and storytelling by using recent research and studies in the field of narrative medicine and the healing powers of storytelling.  The class will focus on three aspects of effective storytelling and the teaching of effective storytelling:  (1) all writing must show what it is you're trying to learn and understand rather than what it is you already know, (2) you cannot control what happened to you in the past, but you can control the message of those events which will give you power over the story, and (3) tell the truth, not the facts.  How do you shape a story and/or elicit a story from someone unwilling to tell their story?  Students will design and implement sequential writing prompts that first builds a safe place for storytelling and then allows for that story to exist. 

This is not a course that teaches what your beliefs are, instead it teaches you how to tell the story of what you believe in.  The class is more than writing the personal memoir, it's also about teaching and/or accompanying another writer in shaping their story.  Think of this course as teaching you, at one end, how to write your personal statement for graduate school or for a job and, at the other end, writing a story that has gone untold because it isn't safe to tell it.  Readers want to know how you acquire knowledge, what you do with that knowledge, and what are your motivations, beliefs, and influences.

Much of the philosophy and theory of the course comes from the instructor's six years of teaching a storytelling workshop as part of the Red Badge Project (theredbadgeproject.org) to wounded veterans and active duty soldiers recovering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and emotional, mental and physical disabilities.

Course Structure:

This course requires that everyone in the class buy into a flexible and changing reading schedule from week to week because of changing research and new discoveries in the field.  Work in the class is very collaborative and small team oriented.  Each group will present and lead a class that will "field test" a sequential writing prompt and evaluate it's effectiveness.    

There are two required texts on story structure and two literary works and several linked readings and/or podcasts:

The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing by Francis Flaherty

The Golden Theme: How to Make Your Writing Appeal to the Highest Common Denominator by Brian McDonald

Obasan by Joy Kogawa

The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee

A Canvas online reader will be compiled with various articles and essays on narrative medicine and articles about trauma and healing.

Reading links (a dynamic list which is always being updated as new articles are published):

"Every Woman Keeps a Flame Against the Wind" by Kristen Millares Young


"Cannabis Saved My Life: Veterans Share Stories of Healing and Recovery"


"New Study Says That Writing Can Help You Stop Worrying"


The Red Badge Project website


"Crusoe in England" by Elizabeth Bishop


"The Cure for Racism is Cancer" by Tony Hoagland


Hannah Gadsby "Nanette"


"Slow" Radio Lab





Part 1: Group Assignments

The two group assignments below have a class presentation component to them.  Groups should use either Power Point or a Word document to help lead discussion.

A.  Presentations and Class Discussion:

The class will be divided up into small discussion groups of four students (see below).  Each group will be assigned to lead class discussion on the assigned readings listed in the course schedule, develop at least six discussion questions on the reading, take notes of the discussion and any additional information following your presentation, upload those notes to "Discussions" on Canvas within two days following your presentation.    During class discussion one member of the group will take notes and upload those notes on Canvas under "Discussions".

Your discussion should include the following:

  • At least six discussion questions either uploaded to Canvas "Discussions" prior to the presentation or just after the presentation.  Include the questions in your discussion notes as well.
  • One member of your group should be the presentation notetaker of both the class discussion in the first hour and the discussion of the historical or other relevant content in the second half of class.
  • The notes from the discussion and the discussion questions should be uploaded to Canvas Discussions under your group name.

B.  Development of Writing Prompts:

Each group will design at least two writing prompts that are sequential.  For example, the writing prompts that you design must have three components to them: (1) and easy to write, benign, non-threatening and safe (something real and easily accessible) first part (make a list, describe something such as a photograph, etc.), (2) a second part that requires the writer/student to use their imagination and/or generate a fictional element to the writing assignment, and (3) a third part that requires a resolution or conclusion of some kind from the writer/student (what does it all mean or a "coming to terms" with what they have written).  This writing prompt must be "field tested" with other fellow students, friends, relatives, etc.  Each group should submit both the writing prompts and an analysis of the field trial and/or examples of what was written in response to the writing prompt.  Each group will also present their findings and analysis in class for the whole class.

Part 2: Individual Writing Assignments:

Each student must submit a final project that is a personal essay, memoir on a topic that relates to our class focus and discussion.  This "essay" can be an essay, an audio story (in the style of a podcast such as "This American Life," etc.), a video.  If you do an audio story or video, it should also be accompanied by a written script or prose narrative of the audio or video project (this is a W-course...).  If you choose the audio or video option, it should be 5-10 minutes long.  The personal memoir/essay should be approximately 1400-1500 words (about 5-6 pages double-spaced).  Also required is for this final project to be peer reviewed by your group members (on Canvas). 

All assignments are turned in on Canvas.  Comments and grades will be in Canvas as well.  We're going paperless.

The writing assignments will have rubric for grading, which will be posted on Canvas assignments.



There will be three exams.  Two of the exams will be in class and collaborative, which means that each of your small groups will discuss the exam questions and turn in one exam per group.  All exams are open book, open notes, and open discussion.  The third online exam will be an individual exam taken during finals week.  It will go live right after the last class session and students will have an opportunity to take the online exam on Canvas over a period of two or three days.  The exams will focus on the reading and class discussion.



60% of your total course grade is based on the two group projects and your final written project (20% each), 15% on the three exams, 15% on participation and 10% on meeting all the due dates on time. 


Due Dates & Course Schedule:

Jan. 7:  Introductions, Review of course concept & storytelling theory and practice.

Jan. 9:  Formation of storytelling teams and working groups, background on The Red Badge Project and narrative medicine.

Jan. 14:  Storytelling Structure--discussion of parts 1, 2 & 3 of The Elements of Story

Jan. 16:  Storytelling Structure--discussion of parts 4, 5 & 6 of The Elements of Story

Jan. 21: Holiday

Jan. 23:  Storytelling Structure--discussion of The Golden Theme (the entire book)

               Discussion led by: Pocket Square (pages 1-48)

               Discussion led by: Chicken n' Waffles (pages 49-104)

Jan. 28:  The City in Which I Love You (Parts 1, 2, & 3)

                Discussion led by:  Literary Inklings

EXAM #1:  The Elements of the Story & The Golden Theme

Jan. 30:  The City in Which I Love You (Parts 4 & 5)

               Discussion led by: Sunny Ice Cream

Feb. 4:   Overview of the Japanese Canadian Internment Experience

               Presentation and Discussion led by: W.A.L.K.

Feb. 6:  Obasan (Chapters 1-13)

              Discussion led by:  Subaru Baja Blast

Feb. 11:  Obasan (Chapters 14-23)

             Discussion led by: The Blind Chinchillas

Feb. 13: Obasan (Chapters 24-end)

              Discussion led by: The Spicy Fusilli

Feb. 15 (Friday):  First drafts of your personal essay/project are due today.

Feb. 18: Holiday

Feb. 20:  "The Cure for Racism is Cancer" & "Cannabis Saved My Life: Veterans Share Stories of Healing and Recovery"

              Discussion led by: Best Dragons Inc.

              "Nanette" by Hannah Gadsby & "Every Woman Keeps a Flame Against the Wind"

              Discussion led by: Story of Our Lives

EXAM #2: The City in Which I Love You & Obasan

Writing Prompt Presentations:

A Power Point version of your presentation should be uploaded to Assignments in Canvas.

Feb. 25:  

Pocket Square

Chicken n' Waffles

Feb. 27:

Literary Inklings

Sunny Ice Cream

March 4:

Subaru Baja Blast

The Blind Chinchillas

March 6:

Spicy Fusilli

Story of Our Lives

March 11:


Best Dragons Inc.

March 13:


March 14-17: Exam #3 available online (topic of exam TBA)

March 20:  all final version of assignments due



ENGL 302 Storytelling Teams:

  • Literary Inklings

Ewen Cameron, Chad Campbell-Gonzalez, Arash Nikjoo, Sophie Watson


  • Sunny Ice Cream

Riley Casner, Michael Driscoll, Maria Obando, Javi Tapia


  • Subaru Baja Blast

Aman Agarwal, Kelsey Bowers, Evyn Kuske, Rachael Reed


  • The Blind Chinchillas

Emma Gibson, Jamie Kim, John Le


  • Spicy Fusilli

Sofia Ayala, Sol Kim, Rebecca Sheaffer, Parisa Shemshaki


  • Story of Our Lives

Gabe Adler, Miriam Al-Saedy, Riley Grace Borden, Gloria Leung


  • Pocket Square

Ellen Cooper, Mark Laib, Kalee O’Neal, Francis Stoner


  • Chicken n’ Waffles

Eva Gamboa, Sidney Gilman, Soo Lee, JJ Pollard


  • W.A.L.K.

Kimberlee Blocker, Ayisha Guillen, Warren Han, Laura Martinez


  • Best Dragons Inc.

Adam Graves, Beck Judkins, Amanda Medved, Caean Peterson

















      Catalog Description: 
      Intensive study of, and exercise in, applying important or influential interpretive practices for studying language, literature, and culture, along with consideration of their powers/limits. Focuses on developing critical writing abilities. Topics vary and may include critical and interpretive practice from scripture and myth to more contemporary approaches, including newer interdisciplinary practices. Prerequisite: minimum 2.0 in ENGL 202.
      GE Requirements: 
      Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
      Writing (W)
      Last updated: 
      August 2, 2019 - 10:30pm