Composition I

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
  • 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 engaging mix of readings on politics, race, society,
commerce, language, sports, sexuality, drugs, music, and so on. We will 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), students will submit twenty pages of polished prose
(five three-page papers in various rhetorical modes and one five-page research
paper); they will workshop each others’ essays, give several group
presentations, and take ten quizzes.

Regarding 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 five-page documented research paper
  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 to 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.