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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Elaine M Barr
ENGL 131
Seattle Campus

Composition: Exposition

Study and practice of good writing: topics derived from a variety of personal, academic, and public subjects. Cannot be taken if student has already received a grade of 2.0 or higher in either ENGL 111, ENGL 121, or ENGL 131.

Class description

W131 Topic: WHO WRITES HISTORY AND WHY? Learning to Write for Diverse Audiences

A high school history textbook and texting conversations on a smart phone are both genres of writing. When a writer composes a piece of writing in either genre, she has to identify the tone, style, conventions, word choice, spelling, and more that her audience will expect. You already know how to make genre choices when you know that spelling "you" as "u" is probably not appropriate for an email to a professor or a cover letter for a job opening. When you do this, you already know how to select what are called “writing conventions’ for audience. Analyzing audiences and their expectations of these conventions will be the core of this course.

The theme of this course is history and the nation. This may seem disconnected in a course about college writing, but it was a carefully selected topic. You may have heard the phrase “history is written by the victors.” This phrase points out that those who tell the story have the power to emphasize and de-emphasize story structures according to their own purposes. This is exactly what we do when we compose essays, just on a much smaller scale.

Whether or not histories and essays are persuasive is based on the perspectives of their audiences. According to scholar Hayden White, in the histories of nations what is “comic from one perspective may be tragic from another.” Each audience of a history, which could be a nation, a people, or a political party has a different way of organizing the historical data to fulfill their ideological purposes. Just like the writer of a history, you have your agenda in convincing the reader. However, just like the writer of a history, you also must try to be fair. You have your agenda, but taking in consideration other perspectives, just like the historian, is essential to good writing. A good writer and a good historian must change her agenda in response to the different perspectives of the writing world. Analyzing these many different perspectives in history writing is an excellent way of seeing what’s at stake for imagining audiences.

We will begin the course by writing: in class, with groups, alone, or at home. This is a class, not about information, but about learning a skill, and the best way to learn a skill is to practice, practice, practice. There will be a Writing Exercise due *every week* so be prepared to make writing a routine part of your life. We’ll start with simple editing, word-level lessons and by the end of the course you will be reading academic theory about nationhood and history, which will be very challenging reading. Then, we’ll be learning how to incorporate these secondary sources in our own essays. You will learn, by the end of the course and the final paper, how to analyze a primary source using secondary sources, a skill that you will use over and over again in your college career.

Student learning goals

Academic argument

Following a line of inquiry

Reading and writing skills in academic genres

General method of instruction

Group work will be highly used and encouraged.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Class discussion, participation, and homework are 30% of your final grade. Weekly writing assignments throughout the quarter, as well as other additional writing assignments. There are 6 short writing exercises (2-3 pp.) and two major papers (5-7 pp.), in addition to homework and other projects.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Elaine M Barr
Date: 12/29/2012