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The Uses of Rhetoric in Reading and Writing
The writer’s job is to find the argument, the approach, the angle, the wording, that will take the reader with him—Paul Roberts.
I don’t know what I know in my heart unless somebody—myself included—has put it into words—Julia Alvarez.
This course is designed to help you become better readers, writers, and thinkers by introducing you to the concept of rhetoric—“the art of finding the best means of persuasion” (Aristotle)—as well as to the uses of rhetoric in both academic and everyday life. Understanding what rhetoric is, how it works in different contexts, and why it matters will allow you to critically analyze all genres of writing, while also developing your own potential as writers who can take on a variety of rhetorical tasks. Thus we write to communicate to others—whether they are friends, peers, or professionals in their fields. We write to discover new things about ourselves as well as the increasingly diverse world around us. We write to enter an intellectual conversation and to convince others that our position has validity. Writing, then, represents a medium for reflection, self-expression, and communication, a means of making meaning, of coming to know for both writers and readers. And since the basic question of rhetoric is “who is writing to whom, and towards what end?” we will be looking at writing as an act of negotiating between writers and readers with specific purposes and expectations in specific situations.
Student Learning Goals
By the completion of this course, you should be able to:
• Understand and practice the steps of the writing process
• Communicate clearly and effectively
• Understand the basics of rhetoric—both the forms it can take and the purposes it can serve
• Understand how syntax, grammar, and punctuation clarify meaning
• Write different types of essays and know the strengths of each type
• Evaluate opposing viewpoints
Roskelly, Hephzibah and David A. Jolliffe. Everyday Use: Rhetoric at Work in Reading and Writing.
Writing Matters. Published by the English Dept. of UNCG, 2005 edition
Various handouts and pieces from Jackson Library’s E-reserves
*All readings from e-reserves must be printed out and brought to that day’s class meeting
Selected pieces from A. Van Jordan’s poetry collection, Macnolia
*On October 9, at 3:00 p.m., you are invited to attend Van Jordan’s talk in Cone Ballroom, EUC.
Materials you will need:
• A good dictionary—see link to The Oxford English Dictionary on Blackboard
• Loose-leaf notebook paper for in-class writing assignments
• A sturdy folder to hold all (yes, ALL) of your handouts and writing for this class
2-pocket folder—this will hold your process pieces (prewriting notes, brainstorming lists, free-writes, drafts, revisions, etc.) for each of your essays
• A 1.5" three-ring binder with dividers to act as your portfolio at the end of the semester (no huge 3" binders, please!)
• Disks for saving your typed writing
• Access to a computer (if you don't have one, go to the Library Superlab or one of the other labs on campus). Be sure to activate your UNC-G computer account ASAP!
• An email account (you have free UNC-G email) and Blackboard account (http://blackboard.uncg.edu) -- use your Novell i.d. and password to access this
Participation (attendance, group work, writing leader, journal, peer critique memos): 50%
Final Portfolio (includes 20 pages of polished writing): 50%
PARTICIPATION: I expect your regular attendance and your active participation in class discussions. Your voice, your actions, and your engagement with the texts and with each other are crucial for your development as a writer. You will lose participation points for each activity or assignment you do not complete. These activities are described below:
Reading: We will do quite a bit of reading in this class, so it is important to keep up with the assignments and take the time to read carefully and thoroughly. Bouncing ideas off each other is a large part of what this course is about (and a significant part of your grade). You’ll read each other’s work in progress, the writing of other students, and that of published authors to discover different rhetorical strategies and how you can incorporate those strategies into your own writing so as to make it more effective. Thematically, the readings will focus on issues of language awareness and cultural identity, race and gender, literacy and education, self and community. Some of these readings may challenge commonly accepted assumptions, so please try to keep an open perspective. If you have not done the assigned reading, please do not bother coming to class that day.
Writing Leaders: Each class member will take a turn being the in-class writing leader. This person will bring in a topic for the class to write about for the first 7-10 minutes of class. The leader’s responsibilities for the day include: 1) bringing in a topic; 2) sharing it with the class; 3) keeping time, and, finally, 4) leading a brief discussion of what the class wrote. Bring in topics that are closely or loosely related to that day’s reading and writing assignments. Examples include: poems, quotes, news items, artifacts, photographs, video clips, web page, songs, etc. (If you need special audio-visual equipment, let me know ahead of time so we can be ready). Don’t come empty-handed: just find something that catches your attention and you think others might be interested in, too.
Weekly Responses: A journal of responses, thoughts, reactions, and opinions
is an excellent way to improve your writing, thinking, and communicative skills.
At least once a week, unless notified otherwise, you will type a 300-word response
to a specific prompt, question, or passage. The journal should also include,
at the end of the entry, dictionary definitions of at least two unfamiliar
words from your reading. Be sure to include the word (correctly spelled!),
its part of speech, and the complete definition.
Your weekly responses will be given a check plus, a check, or a check minus, depending on the effort, completion, improvement, and depth of thought. These checks are my way of helping you see your response as a work in progress, and nudging you toward revising it. You might read your response to the class or a small group the next day, or you might turn it in to me. In each case, you will get feedback from a classmate or from me about what you wrote. The feedback should help you expand and revise your response if you choose to include it in your portfolio.
Short/Informal Writings – Keep all of your in-class and out-of-class writings together because you will need them come portfolio time. Normally, in-class writings are five to ten minutes. You do not need to worry about spelling or grammar. Just write as much as you can without stopping. Out-of-class writings may be hand-written or typed, depending on the instructions, but they need to be more focused and “tidy” than in-class free-writes. Basically, they should read and look like you spent at least 20 to 30 minutes thinking about and responding to the prompt. Don’t try to scribble something down immediately before class. Your haste will show! I will randomly collect informal writings.
Conferences: You will meet with me at least twice during the semester. Each time we meet you should bring your work thus far and questions or concerns to discuss. At the time of our midterm conferences in October, I will give you your “grade-so-far” as I judge it.
Group Reports: Occasionally you will work in groups to complete assignments and report back to the class. Each person is expected to contribute equally to the group. If you do not, you will not receive full participation credit. You cannot count on others to give you a good grade. To make group work count, I will ask you to write a letter in which you evaluate each group member’s contribution to the group effort, including your own. The letter should be submitted with your portfolio. One of the main activities in which you will be involved as a group this semester is a discussion lead-in to clusters of selected poems from A. Van Jordan’s collection Macnolia. You will sign-up for this activity in due course.
Essays: You will write 3 papers during the semester: 1) A 2-3 page personal narrative, followed by a brief analysis (1 page), about a moment in your life when you, or someone you know, used rhetoric. 2) A 3-4 rhetorical analysis of an argument about literacy and/or education. You will choose from 4 pieces I have chosen. 3) A 4-5 position paper comparing and evaluating the rhetoric at work in at least two pieces about the same topic you have chosen for essay 2. One of your sources may include a movie, such as Finding Forrester, or some other audio-visual argument. For each of the last two papers, you will write a prospectus (thesis plus outline), which you will run by me before you begin drafting your paper.
• As writers, we must all acknowledge that writing is never finished; there is always room for revision. Your essays will move through four overlapping stages of writing: prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. For a paper to receive its mark of excellence, all steps of the writing process must be taken. If you fail to revise for clarity, significance, organization, development, and other aspects that make your paper engaging and well written, your grade will drop considerably.
• Save all drafts. Why? First, drafts help you learn about and from your writing process. Second, they help you write later drafts. For example, you may want to reinsert something you cut from an earlier draft. Also, when you get stuck on a project, reading an earlier draft can help you trace back to your original inspiration. Finally, you will need to save your drafts because they will help me see your revision work, without which, the paper cannot be included in your portfolio.
Plagiarism: Plagiarism means passing off someone else’s work as your own and includes the following offenses: quoting or paraphrasing a source without giving it credit; copying, buying, or stealing an essay from another person or off the Internet; recycling papers that you have written in another class. A radical difference in style from your other writings and/failure on your part to supply credible notes and a rough draft are both evidence of plagiarism.
Formatting of Papers: All typewritten formal essays turned in to me must follow
MLA Style format.
• Basics: 12 or 11-point, Times New Roman font, double-spaced, 1-inch margins on all four sides, corner-stapled
• Identification: Student Name, Professor’s Name, Course number and section, and Date in top left corner of title page
• Citation: proper parenthetical citations and Works Cited Page as necessary
• Length: paper must meet the page requirements, or your grade will suffer
• Submission: in a 2-pocket folder, along with prewriting notes, outlines, and drafts, including the drafts signed by your peer reviewers and the written feedback they provided you with.
Read-Aloud-and-Around: Each student will read their formal essays to his/her group, and each group member will read along with the writer and then give a written response to him/her concerning the paper. Reading out loud reveals a great deal about what the reader sees as the meaning, emphasis, implications, and voice/tone of the piece. Students giving feedback will write substantial comments on a sheet I will make available for each “read-aloud-and-around” session. If you miss a workshop, you will be required to visit the Writing Center. As proof of your visit, your tutor will fill out a slip of paper and send it to me.
The Writing Center: This resource is available for all students who want to get feedback on drafts in progress. It is not designed as merely a proofreading service, as tutors will also teach you to develop ideas and organize them. I strongly encourage all students to use this valuable resource at least once, preferably early in the semester, to get a feel for the kind of work you can accomplish there. The Writing Center is located in 101 McIver and is open six days a week, including Sunday. Call 334-3125 for an appt. or just drop in! For more about the writer’s resources, see Writing Matters, pp. 75-86.
The PORTFOLIO: Collect, Select, and Reflect
As a record of your accomplishments in reading, writing, and critical thinking, your writing portfolio gives you the opportunity to have your best work evaluated. Therefore, careful revision is key to putting together this assignment. Your portfolio should include at least 20 pages of polished (revised) prose, including, but not limited to the following entries:
1) An annotated table of contents: Briefly describe each piece
2) A 2-page reflection on your portfolio, your writing, and the semester as a whole.
3) Two of your formal essays, heavily revised: For each of these essays, also include a) the draft with my comments on it; b) a one-page explanation of the revision changes you made to each paper and why.
4) At least 5 revised pieces of your informal writings—3 weekly responses and 2 in-class writings. Each entry should be at least 1.5 pages long. For all of these pieces, include the original piece of writing (the homework assignment or in class writing).
5) Group Work Reflection (1 page).
OPTIONAL: other creative and academic examples of writing that show your progress as a writer. You may be as creative as you like with the portfolio (artwork, computer graphics, etc.) but don't let the creative part detract from the content.
Attendance: You are granted five absences, but please note that beyond 3 absences (one week’s worth of class), your final grade will start dropping by half a letter grade for each day you’re absent. On your seventh absence, you will receive an F in the course, unless you withdraw yourself before the deadline. An absence is not an excuse for coming to class unprepared. A good idea is to exchange contact information with a classmate and agree to keep each other up-to-date.
Hand in your assignments on time, or turn them in early if you plan to be absent. Remember, though, that you will lose participation points. Also, your final grade will most likely drop by half-letter grade for each day a paper is late. Please see me personally if you are worried about meeting a deadline or missing a class. If you have schedule conflicts, it is better to work them out now, or as soon as you can.
• The environment of this classroom will be based on RESPECT: respect for your peers, for me, and for yourself. The class should be a place where everyone feels safe and welcome.
• Tardiness – Tardiness not only affects your learning but the learning of others as well. Because our course is only fifty minutes long, we must use all of our time wisely. I will begin each class promptly. Three tardies (5 minutes late) constitute an absence. More than 10 minutes late (or leaving 10 minutes early) will be marked as an absence.
• Phones, pagers, etc. - Turn off all electronic devices.
Special Accommodations: If you have a disability that could affect your performance in this course or for which you need accommodation, please contact me and/or the office of Disability Services at 334-5440.
Below is a tentative schedule of reading and writing assignments.
08/15 Welcome to ENG 101! Introduction to course and to each other
08/17 Read: “ENG 101: A Primer” (Writing Matters, 3-6)
Write: A Letter to me about Your Writing Experience (This should be both a descriptive and reflective piece, and it will serve as basis for the cover letter opening your portfolio)
In-class diagnostic essay
08/19 Read: Ch. 1, “Rhetoric in Our Lives” (EU, pp. 1-8); Writing
Form and work in groups to complete activities on p. 8
Assign paper 1: Personal Narrative about Your Experience with Rhetoric
Last day to drop courses for tuition and fees refund
08/22 Read: The Six Rhetorical Keys (EU 8-20)
In-class: rhetorical analysis of an advertisement
08/24 Read: “Visual Rhetoric” (WM 11-14);
Solomon, Jack. “Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising” (e-reserves); Look up “semiotics,” “diachronic,” and “synchronic.”
Write your own rhetorical analysis of a visual argument
08/26 Read: Finish Chapter 1 and read interchapter 1 (EU 20-30); “Group
Work” (WM 29-31)
Group activity: see prompt on p. 26
Sign up for leading discussion
08/29 Read: The Five Canons of Rhetoric: Invention (EU, 33-42)
In-class writing: using the questions on p. 38, flesh out the details for your narrative essay
08/31 Read: Systematic Invention Strategies; Intuitive Invention Strategies (EU, 46-51)
Group activity: see prompt on p. 49
WL # 1
09/02 Read: Arrangement (51-56); “I’m (the) Only Me” (student
essay, WM, 97-99)
Write: Answering the six groups of questions on pp. 53-54 from EU, identify the functional parts of the student’s composition.
WL # 2
09/05 No class; LABOR DAY
09/07 Read: Style (EU, 56-66)
Bring in at least one typed paragraph from your paper’s opening, body, or conclusion. Do not sign the piece.
09/09 Rough Draft of paper 1 due for peer critique workshop
Read: the chapters on revision and workshops in WM (15-16; 32-34)
09/12 Paper 1 due
Assign paper 2: A Rhetorical Analysis of an Argument about Literacy and/or Education.
09/14 Read: Malcolm X, “Coming to an Awareness of Language” (handout)
“Words” (EU, 66-72)
WL # 3
09/16 Read: Finish Ch. 2 (EU, 72-81); “It’s a Woman’s World” (EU,
WL # 4
Group work on Boland’s poem
09/19 Read: “Poetic Justice” (handout)
Write: under the following heading (Paying Tribute where Due), write about someone (male or female, an individual or a group of people) whose work (contribution, accomplishment, etc.) you feel is often slighted or overlooked?
Assign group project on Van Jordan’s book
09/21 Read: Ch. 6, “Rhetoric in Narrative” (180-88)
Walker, “Everyday Use” (228-234)
WL # 5
Group work on the rhetorical strategies at work in the short-story
09/23 Read: Finish Ch. 6 (EU, 188-206); sections on speaking from WM (39-43;
WL # 6
Groups get together to plan presentations
09/26 Read: “Life in the Margins” (handout); Ch. 5, “Making Connections” (150-57);
WL # 7
Group activity: see prompt on p. 155
Assign creative project for extra credit: your retelling of one of the poems in a story form (2-3 pages)
09/28 Mini-research exercise due: briefly research one of the following topics
and jot down at least one interesting fact about it: the Depression era; Jim
Crow; the Red Ball Express; Shirley Temple; Allan Rohan Crite; the National
Spelling Bee—then and now; famous jazz musicians from that time, women
and work, the lifestyle of African-Americans; history of Akron.
Group Report I: Discuss the historical and cultural background of MacNolia’s life
09/30 Read: “from,” “Wedding Night,” “In Service,” “with,” and “Elegy
to My Son” (Macnolia, 27-51)
Group Report II
10/02 Read: “Scenes from My Scrapbook,” “This Life,” “Unforgettable,” and “English”(Macnolia, 56-79)
Group Report III
10/04 Read: “to,” “Akron Spelling Bee, April 22, 1936,” “On
Stage,” and “National Spelling Bee Championship Montage” (Macnolia
Group Report IV
10/06 Read: “N-e-m-e-s-i-s Blues,” “In Allan Rohan Crite’s School’s Out,” “My One White Friend,” “Covering the Spelling Bee,” and “MacNolia’s Dream of Shirley Temple” (M, 118-31).
Write: do a rhetorical analysis of one of the poems above
Group Report V
10/07 Last day to drop classes without academic penalty
10/09 All Freshman Read. Cone Ballroom, EUC, 3:00 P.M. Guest Speaker: A. Van Jordan
10/12 Discuss: Your Impressions of the All Freshman Read
Screening of Finding Forrester
WL # 8 and WL # 9
10/14 No class; Conferences to be held in my office from 10:00 to 12:45
Bring in outline of paper 2
10/17 Rough Draft of paper 2 due for peer critique workshop
10/19 Paper # 2 due
Assign paper 3
In-class: look at and discuss titles from the Opposing Viewpoints database
10/21 Read: Deborah Tannen, “How to Turn Debate into Dialogue” (e-reserves)
The Dialogic Argument (handout)
WL # 10 and WL # 11
10/24 Read: Ch. 4, “Rhetoric and the Reader” (122-31); skip activities on pp. 127-29
WL # 12
10/26 Read: “Matching Experience and Intention” (132-36)
Wenke, “Too Much Pressure” (e-reserves)
Write: prompt TBA
WL # 13
10/28 Read: “What We Hear When We Read and Write” (162-73)
In-class exercise: analyze the rhetorical appeals at work in Mark Antony’s speech Read:
10/31 Read: Thoreau, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” (EU, 209-25)
Write: respond to any of the questions on pp. 30 and 31
WL # 15
11/02 Further discussion of Thoreau’s essay
WL # 16
11/04 Read: Houghton, “White Bullies” (WM, 100-105)
Discuss whether the student essay is an example of dialogic argument or not
WL # 17
11/07 Read: Chapter 3, “Rhetoric and the Writer” (88-94)
Group work: complete activity on p. 91
WL # 18
11/09 Read: Lamott, “Polaroids” (handout); The Writer at Work
Bring in thesis statement for essay 3
WL # 19
11/11 No class; conferences will be held in my office (10-11 a.m; 11:30-12:30
Bring in outline for essay 3
11/14 Read: “Revision” (109-117); “Reading Your Own Writing” (142-43)
WL # 20 and WL # 21
11/16 Rough Draft of essay 3 due for peer critique
11/18 Paper 3 due
Discuss final project (the portfolio)
11/21 Read: TBA
WL # 22
11/28 Revision workshop: pick and bring in at least 5 informal writings
11/30 Revision workshop: pick and bring in 2 essays
12/02 Editing workshop
12/05 PORTFOLIO DUE