The goal of this course is, simply, to help you become better academic writers. And because writing and thinking closely intertwine, this course will help you become better thinkers as well.
We will achieve this end by a number of means: first, you will write frequently in this course, both in the classroom and outside of it. We will work on grammar and learning the rules of proper academic expression. We will read a number of texts from a number of genres, including essays to poetry to short stories to autobiography. And we will be active discussants, energetically participating in interrogating and exploring the writings of others along with our own. Through this process, along with becoming better writers and thinkers, you will also learn to make unapparent connections and to notice patterns that ordinarily go unnoticed. You will become more engaged thinkers about your world.
This course’s overarching theme is “noticing.” Great writers are usually great observers. Through being sensitive and discerning, they are able to achieve insights into their worlds that most of us would overlook. And from those insights, they are able to derive ideas and make claims about aspects of their wider culture of which most of us would never think. You will emerge from this course as more discerning and more active observers—better close readers—of your worlds. For it is possible to express oneself interestingly about any aspect of the world if only one observes it intensely.
To this end of helping you become better writers, the course is broken up into four units—“Noticing and Making Sense of Details,” “Literary Analysis and Library Research,” “Audience,” and “Debate, Argument, and Persuasion”—each of which will develop a certain aspect of your writing. Each unit, as well, will build on the one that came before, working forward so that you will continue to evolve your writing skills from earlier units while acquiring new ones. Your final paper will be your opportunity to impress me by putting it all together.
Authors we will read in this course include: Walter Pater, John Ruskin, H. D. Thoreau, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Oscar Wilde, and Joseph Conrad.