Course description and goals

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

  • a varied and provocative reading and writing
  • 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 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 (30%)

2)    One five-page documented research paper (20%)

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 (25%). 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.

Since we often
refer to our course handbook, please bring it to each class. Failure to do so
will negatively affect your grade.

Students’ essays
are to be done on a computer, double-spaced.


Required Texts

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 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. Other readings are available on-line
and free at our UH Laulima page under Resources > Course Readings.