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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jennifer Kort Halpin
ENGL 281
Seattle Campus

Intermediate Expository Writing

Writing papers communicating information and opinion to develop accurate, competent, and effective expression.

Class description

The fundamental premise of this course is that language, which we use so very casually on an everyday basis, is powerful. Charles Bazerman (2006) puts it particularly well: “[through] writing we spread the means of describing reality, evaluating what exists, exploring remedies for life’s ills, and asserting persuasive terms for new realities.” In other words, discourse – spoken and written communication – is not only the means by which we describe our realities, it is the means by which we shape them. To operate with that as our premise means accepting that language can be (is) enormously persuasive.

We think about discourse in this class in two main ways: in terms of genre (loosely, ‘text types’) and in terms of rhetoric (loosely, ‘the available means of persuasion’). If we are to use language to its fullest potential, we must balance the conventions and demands of existing genres (what people have done before) on one hand, and our understanding of the best rhetorical moves to make in a particular situation on the other. Because different fields/disciplines have different genre conventions and different rhetorical moves that are required (or have proven to be most effective), it behooves us to cultivate an awareness of how writing, rhetoric, and genre function in those different disciplines – and in various writing situations even within those disciplines. To put it more plainly, how do you begin to understand what it will take to communicate effectively in the field you choose – or in the various situations in which you might want to persuade people? How do you know which specific rhetorical moves work, and how can you put them to best use yourself?

In order to explore these issues in more concrete ways, we will be looking at arguments surrounding language diversity and non-mainstream language and discourse. If we are willing to take it as a given that people use language to shape their realities, then what are the consequences, for example, of denying people the right to speak/write in their own language varieties? Who benefits and who is harmed when standard language is used to construct, transmit, police, and perpetuate particular kinds of ideologies, values, and practices (dominant, but by no means universal or inclusive)? Readings and discussion will center on these kinds of questions, but course texts are also themselves drawn from a variety of genres and represent an incredible range of successful rhetorical moves, so for each text, we will be employing a kind of double analysis (that is, of both content and form) that should serve you well as you move onward into other fields – not inconsequentially, fields with their own ways of addressing language diversity. Naturally, as this is a composition class, you will also have numerous opportunities to practice writing in different genres for different situations and purposes – and to receive extensive feedback from me, your peers, and other campus resources (such as writing centers) so that you may best expand your repertoire of successful rhetorical moves.

Student learning goals

Students wil learn to pay explicit attention to writing, rhetorical awareness, and disciplinarity.

Students will develop an awareness of how writing, rhetoric, and genre function in the academic community and beyond.

Students will learn to write across a range of text types in order to communicate information and opinion in accurate, competent, and effective ways.

Students will begin to understand the demands of particular writing situations, of performing in different genres, of how and why particular writing situations require specific rhetorical "moves."

General method of instruction

Whole class discussion and small group work dealing with the numerous readings is balaced against workshops of student writing in relation to both received and negotiated ideas of genre conventions and successful rhetoric. Independent research and small class presentations will also be part of the course work.

Recommended preparation

To best succeed in 281, students should have successfully completed one of the Espository Writing Program's (EWP) 100-level composition courses (104/105, 111, 121, or 131). Students will be expected to have familiarity with EWP outcomes and guidelines for effective academic writing.

As a side note, students should also be prepared to question their own assumptions as they think and write.

Class assignments and grading

Writing is best thought of as a process; therefore grades will be assigned to student papers that have already been revised in response to feedback from peers, the instructor, and additional campus resources rather than to working draft versions. In other words, no assignment is a one-shot deal.


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 Jennifer Kort Halpin
Date: 11/01/2007