Donald L Anderson
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.
Writing About Literature: "Making Sense of a Senseless World"
In this section of English 111 we will read a diverse collection of critical and analytical writing. The goal of this class is to develop our own critical and analytical reading and writing skills so that the very culture we find ourselves participating in each day becomes rich with ideas, concepts, and provocative questions. The art of thinking and the art of writing should not be understood as merely academic exercises practiced within the university, but should be seen as fundamental tools for making sense of a world that often bares little sense. We will cover a wide variety of texts in this class. All of these texts will pose problems and questions that will fuel our writing. In an age where many of you might end up in an office environment it seems only obvious to read Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Herman Melville's Bartleby and use these texts to consider the phenomenon of what I would call office horror (or, cubicle horror, maybe cubicle existentialism?) through current representations of office work in the film Office Space, shows like The Office, and Dilbert cartoons. Are you a Marketing major? An Accounting major? You might want to write a paper about this then.
Do you enjoy buying things? iPhones, cars, ikea furniture, the latest computer gadgets, CDs? Do you ever wonder if you own your car or if your car owns you? Do you have trouble finding parking on Capitol Hill on a Saturday night and blame it on limited parking rather than the simple fact that you have a car to park? Let us think about these questions with help from the 19th century American writer Henry David Thoreau and the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. Would you believe me if I told you there was more to this film than Brad Pitt's abs and that it continues the great American transcendental project? If you think you own too much stuff or you have already maxed out your credit card then you are the perfect candidate for a paper on consumerism!
Do you like South Park? Yes or no; it does not matter. In this class we will watch a handful of key episodes and consider how they function as social commentary through parody, pastiche, and argumentation (with some detour through Frederic Jameson and other postmodern theorists). It simply does not make sense that one of the smartest platforms for political and social critique occurs through foul-mouthed cartoon characters on Comedy Central. So, let us write a paper about this nonsense and consider why and how such a medium functions to critique systems of social norming, racism, and cultural othering.
Part of our inquiry in this class will include thinking about audience and how to effectively pitch an argument to a specific audience. Obviously, as we will see, the audience for a South Park episode is different from that of a Time magazine editorial. The course readings are diverse because they are speaking to specific, we might even say imagined, audiences. Therefore, our course will be attentive to other disciplines besides English and will consider how best to articulate arguments in a variety of contexts.
You will be writing regularly during the course in the form of in-class writing, small papers, GoPosts and two major papers (each with a rough draft preceding it) and a final portfolio that highlights your analytical writing and thinking development over the quarter. Your final grade will be determined by participation, the two major papers, and the portfolio. Only three books are required: The Metamorphosis & Other Stories, "Bartleby & Benito Cerino," and Acts of Inquiry. The Everyday Writer is optional. All are available at the Bookstore.
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