The English Department Writing Program stipulates that,
“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 particular section of College Writing, however, additionally considers the ethical implications of writing.
“Why Write?” asks Jean-Paul Sartre, arguably the most famous existentialist philosopher of the twentieth century. “Each has his reasons,” he speculates. “[F]or one,” he continues, “art is a flight; for another a means of conquering […] Why does it have to be writing, why does one have to manage one’s escapes and conquests by writing? Because, behind the various aims of authors, there is a deeper and more immediate choice which is common to us all.” Our course examines what the term “ethics” may denote and connote before taking up Sartre’s query in order to evaluate the various and sundry ethical choices concomitant with writing. It entertains questions including but not limited to:
- What does it mean to write?
- What does it mean to choose to write?
- How should we conceive of the relationship between a writer and her written work?
- How should a written work address its audience?
- Is a work ever justified in misleading its audience?
- Is some writing more right than other writing, and if so, why?
Keeping these questions in mind, we will read selected works that either implicitly or explicitly address them. Our course will lead us to engage with such thinkers as Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Anne Curzan, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jamaica Kincaid, Jean-Paul Sartre, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf.
The goal of this course is to assist students as they work to compose nuanced, compelling, and polished prose. Additionally, this course aims to help students cogitate on the implications of writing in diverse contexts.