Composition I

Course Description and Goals

This course aims to be a comprehensive college-level composition course, offering students

  • a varied and provocative reading and writing agenda;
  • a thorough introduction to grammatical, rhetorical, and stylistic basics of writing in a university community;
  • a solid introduction to research using reliable sources from university libraries and the Internet;
  • an opportunity to work regularly in groups with fellow students and in conference with the instructor;
  • and a forum to share reactions and explore issues in an open and supportive atmosphere.

This is not a “theme” course. Rather than exploring in depth one subject throughout the semester (gender construction, folklore, or sustainability, for instance), this course
will offer an eclectic and hopefully engaging mix of readings on politics,
race, society, commerce, language, sports, sexuality, drugs, music, and so on.
We will also mix and match genres, analyzing speeches, memoirs, short stories,
encomia and invective, business memos, and essays galore: expository,
analytical, argumentative, some written by professors, some written by
students. Perhaps the only constant will be the high quality of the writing.
Each piece we read will offer unique lessons in style and clarity, subtlety and
depth, construction, correctness, and persuasiveness.

In addition to our regular in-class work of writing in various modes (freewriting, directed writing, collaborative writing, brainstorming, summarizing readings and
individual class sessions, etc.), students will submit twenty-one pages of
polished prose (five three-page papers in various rhetorical modes and one
six-page research paper); they will workshop each others’ essays, give several
group presentations, and take ten quizzes.

With regards to the three-page papers: I’m asking for five concise three-page essays (right to the bottom of page three, but not spilling onto page four). These are due at
the beginning of the five classes specified in our course syllabus. There will
be separate prompts for each essay, but all your essays should incorporate the
analyses of the readings that we will have done in class. I strongly suggest,
therefore, that you take careful notes on our discussions. We will workshop
these essays during class in order to refine our skills of attentive reading
and listening, of giving and receiving feedback. You will turn in to me the
improved draft in the next class session.

Course Work

Final grades will be determined by the following criteria:

  1. Five three-page papers—drafts and rewrites (40%)
  2. One six-page documented research paper (15%)
  3. In-class participation: discussion groups, draft response/peer review groups (15%). Students who are absent for group work will lose 3% for each absence.
  4. Ten quizzes (20%). Quizzes are given at the beginning of the class; quizzes missed due to tardiness or unexcused absences cannot be made up. A grade of zero is given for missed quizzes.
  5. Collected in-class writings (10%)


  • Attendance is required and recorded. Two absences will be automatically excused. Unexcused absences (without a doctor’s/employer’s note) thereafter will lower your final
    grade by ½ grade per absence. Non-emergency medical appointments are not
    considered excused absences. In any case, regardless of your numerical average
    on other course work, if you miss six or more classes, except in cases of
    medical emergencies attested by a full explanation from a doctor, you will fail
    the course.
  • You are expected to closely read the texts and contribute to in-class discussion.
  • Please print as formatted and bring the day’s reading to class. Since we often refer
    to our course handbook, please bring that to each class as well. Failure to do
    so will negatively affect your grade.
  • Students’ essays are to be done on a computer, double-spaced.

Required Texts

Class readings are available on-line and free at our UH Laulima page under Resources. I ask you to print and bring to class up to 300 pages of readings that I will post on our class site. I encourage you, however, to economize by printing on both
sides of the page or on the reverse side of pages you no longer need. (If you
have access to a good laser printer, you can quickly print all of our readings
for less than $3 in paper costs. If you wish to print as you go, there are also
some places on campus [the Campus Center Lounge, for example] that allow
students to print up to twenty pages without charge.)

The Brief Penguin Handbook With Exercises (Includes 2009 MLA Updates) is an absolutely required text (available at the campus bookstore and online). This more than 600-page handbook offers chapters on grammar, mechanics, punctuation, style, and writing effective phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs. Some chapters explore the basics of rhetoric, structuring essays, writing drafts, rewriting and editing; other
chapters treat the art of research: finding and evaluating sources, using
sources responsibly, integrating them correctly into your prose, etc. There are
chapters on writing about literature and on writing about business. And
finally, the handbook gives examples of submitted papers in various
professional styles of documentation: the MLA, the APA, and the CMS. (We will
cover as much of this material as we can in our short semester, but I will
regularly encourage you to keep this text throughout your college career so
that you may refer to it whenever you have questions about punctuation, usage,
grammar, organization, and so on.) We will begin using the handbook the second
week of classes, so get one immediately.