Writing papers communicating information and opinion to develop accurate, competent, and effective expression.
Experiments in the Essay
This course is motivated by the deceptively simple question: What is an essay? Rather than coming up with a definitive answer, we'll explore the bewilderingly large genre of the essay by reading and writing widely and variously. We'll encounter personal essays that use gripping narratives in the service of social commentary; science, nature, and travel essays that inform as they entertain; and lyric essays that push nonfiction prose in the direction of poetry. Our readings will serve both as the basis for analytical writing about the genre of the essay and as models for essays on topics of your choice.
As we explore the essay, we'll focus much of our attention on rhetorical situation--the circumstances in which writers write. Understanding rhetorical situation can help you become a more savvy reader by attuning you to the often-implicit forces that shape a piece of writing. In your own writing, attention to the rhetorical situation can help you clarify your purpose, become more aware of audience, and effectively negotiate genre expectations--skills that you can transfer to any writing situation and genre. We'll also examine structure and style from a rhetorical perspective, considering the effects of different organizational and sentence-level choices. Rather than learning a set of hard-and-fast rules, you'll experiment with the robust options available to you when you write an essay to help you achieve your goals in different writing contexts.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Expect to read several essays and write several pages each week; expect, too, to participate actively in each class period. At the end of the quarter you'll submit a collection of your best work from the course with a preface that offers your own definition of the essay.
While 281 has no formal prerequisite, this is an intermediate writing course, and instructors expect entering students to know how to formulate claims, integrate evidence, demonstrate awareness of audience, and structure coherent sentences, paragraphs and essays. Thus students are strongly encouraged to complete an introductory writing course before enrolling in English 281.
Class assignments and grading
Grades will be based on participation (30%) and a final collection of work from the course (70%).