This class is about writing and academic inquiry, with a special emphasis on literature. Good arguments stem from good questions, and academic essays allow writers to write their way toward answers, toward figuring out what they think. In this writing-intensive course, students focus on the creation of complex, analytic, well-supported arguments addressing questions that matter in academic contexts. The course also hones students’ critical thinking and reading skills. Working closely with their peers and the instructor, students develop their essays through workshops and extensive revision and editing. Readings cover a variety of genres and often serve as models or prompts for assigned essays; the specific questions students pursue in essays are guided by their own interests.
In this section, we’ll be reading books that the American public has considered powerful – not only too powerful to read, but also too powerful for other people to read or access. That is, we’ll read the top ten books on the American Library Association's banned/challenged books, including picture books, popular teen fiction like The Hunger Games and Twilight, and classic works of literature. Though these books differ widely in theme, genre, and politics, we will put them in conversation to think about why it is — to put it baldly — they make people so mad. More broadly, we’ll be thinking about how books can shape or change a culture, how they influence readers (and to do what), and why they are the sites of cultural debate. Though the papers you write will be literary, historical, or sociological in focus, you will develop critical thinking, argumentation, and writing skills necessary to succeed in any discipline at the college level.