COURSE DESCRIPTION AND GOALS
course is as much about reading as it is about writing. Just as we scrutinize
the gestures of a policeman in traffic, an opposing athlete, or a potential
paramour, so we carefully read in order to understand every mark on a printed
page or computer screen before us, even if—especially if—it’s our own writing.
Why? To make sure we get the meaning of the text. It seems strange to say it,
but we mean. Humans mean,and by putting out endless signals—verbal, visual,
cyber, auditory, olfactory—we work to both concretize our own thinking and to express
our creativity, thoughts, and wishes effectively to others. Yet, these signals
can only be correctly received if they are first well chosen and then well
read. Reading it and getting it: that’s the challenge the writers we’ll read
this semester are putting before us. It’s my feeling that the more closely we
read these writers (which means understanding as best we can the meanings of
the words, punctuation, structure, genre, tone, and contexts) the better we will
see that the human meaning that flows between good writers and good readers can
be very subtle yet very powerful stuff.
I’ve chosen for this course offer a variety of subjects, styles, and genres.
They are both classic and recent, and they are all excellent examples of their
respective genres. We’ll read short stories, brief memoirs, opinion pieces, and
articles about reading, writing, the Internet, human possibility, torture, capitalism,
the future of Hawaii, and education in America. In an experiment aimed at our
most deeply absorbing what is arguably some of the most meaningful writing in
the English language, we’ll memorize and recite in class Lincoln’s Gettysburg
Address and two passages by Shakespeare.
For all classes, I ask you to read every wordof our
texts (better still if you reread) and think about their meaning, their style,
their structure, and their intended audience, so that when we get together as a
class, you will have questions to ask and ideas to share. Our composition
classes are small because we expect and depend upon interested, animated
conversation between professors and students. I call on everybody, a lot.As
I do this, I hope that you, in turn, will both express yourselves better and
listen better to others by the end of the course. To encourage you to read
closely, I will give ten unannounced quizzes. If you’ve read the assignments
well, you’ll know the answers.
This course is equally focused on your writing. You will do
writing exercises in most classes; you will write, peer edit, and rewrite four
five-page papers responding to issues raised in our course readings; and you
will write and post on our Laulima discussion board ten informal e-letters that
discuss your reactions to course readings.
Final grades will be
determined by the following criteria:
1) Four five-page papers—drafts and rewrites (30%).
2) Ten 300-word e-letters posted on our online class
discussion forum (20%).
3) In-class participation including 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 based on the readings are
given at the beginning of class; quizzes missed due to tardiness or absences
cannot be made up. A grade of zero is given for missed quizzes.
5) Collected in-class writings (15%).
- Attendance is required and recorded. Two absences will be
automatically excused. Unexcused absences (without a doctor’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
- 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.
REQUIRED TEXTS: William Zinsser’s On Writing Well:
The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (Thirtieth Anniversary Edition).
Other readings will be
available online (and free) at our Laulima page > Resources > Course