The course focuses on writing at the college level, and introduces students to the level of critical thinking required for excellence in college composition. What does college writing ask students to do that is commonly different from high school classes may have expected? At the University, academic writing takes the form of interpretive reflection based on close reading of texts, whether that text be the content of a Petri-dish, data gleaned from sociological research, or words on the page of a novel. So we will practice the skills of close reading and interpretation, and along the way we will ask questions about the nature and purpose of both writing to be read. The “to be read” qualification is important, for so often writing become simply doing an assignment for a teacher—the crank it out approach. Most of us, however, have figured out that real writing occurs when what we write matters to us. Our course will focus on producing of essays that matter, both to us as writers and to those who read our essays. Our course is thematic, focusing on literature of loss and letting go, and it is my hope that this theme is significant enough to help us in the “mattering factor” of our writing. Presumably all of us have experienced the grief of both loss and letting go, whether it be the loss of significant people in our lives or the letting go of familiar and important places, parts of our lives, perhaps even parts of our innocent selves.
Required texts: Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried; Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Strunk and White, The Elements of Style 4th edition. The titles of the two other books for the course will be available later in the summer.