This writing course focuses on the creation of complex, analytic, well-supported arguments that matter in academic contexts. Students work closely with their peers and the instructor to develop their written prose. Readings cover a variety of different genres, with a primary focus on literary texts.
This course aims to explore writing through reading and the study of literature. Thematically, the course presumes that good reading and writing both involve activity “in the margins,” whether scribbling ideas in the margins of a page or exploring the margins of society through characters and authors (paying close attention to the dynamics of “marginalization” in multiple social categories such as gender, race, and class). We will read a number of short pieces that exemplify clear, precise writing, evaluating their styles and arguments as potential models for our own writing practices. In addition, through discussion of works by Nella Larsen, Emily Dickinson, Sherwood Anderson, Frederick Douglass, Kate Chopin, Jamaica Kincaid, and Curtis Sittenfeld (among others), as well as by studying the film The Royal Tenenbaums, we will investigate the “margins” of genres and the themes of introspection and isolation as they relate to identity formation. Our own writing will be informed by the literature and theory that we read over the course of the term, providing us with the subject matter for our own analytical essays in different genres and an understanding of how the craft of language can have powerful effects on individuals and society. As we focus on the demands of college-level writing (constructing thesis statements, developing arguments, and supporting points through textual evidence), we will concentrate on revision. By the end of the term, your labors will result in 25-30 pages of revised prose.
Most importantly, throughout this course you will be engaging with your peers in a collaborative environment, reading and responding to each other’s work on a regular basis. Active participation in class discussions and writing workshops is essential as you develop and hone skills to write lucid, engaging, persuasive prose, to read critically and actively, and to become a more sensitive and constructive critic of your peers’ writing.