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
  • an opportunity to work
    regularly in groups with fellow students and in conference with the
  • 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.



grades will be determined by the following criteria:

  1. Five three-page papers—drafts and
    rewrites (40%)
  2. One five-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 percent for each absence.
  4. Ten quizzes (20%). Quizzes are given
    at the beginning of the 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 (10%)



  • Attendance
    is required and recorded. Two absences will be automatically excused. Absences
    thereafter will lower your final grade by one half 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.



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.)


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 and integrating them correctly into your prose. 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.