Edmond Chang
206 Lewis Annex
(206) 685-1845
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131 (A4) CIC
Tu 9:30-11:20 AM (MGH 074)
Th 9:30-11:20 AM (MGH 082)
Winter Quarter 2005

English 131 Message of the Day (A4 Winter Quarter 2005-06 Archive)

Important class announcements, notes, comments, and suggestions will be made in-class and via email. Please be sure to check your email regularly for messages of the day. Messages will have "[English 131]" in the subject line. MOTDs will also be archived here from newest to oldest.

March 5, 2006: Office Hours for Week Ten

The is the last week of classes and your final week before your Portfolio is due. In order to better serve your writing and revising interest, please keep in mind my office hours this week (additional hours added):

Monday, March 6 - 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM
Wednesday, March 8 - 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM
Thursday, March 9 - 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM (Collegial Hour)

Hours are first come, first serve. If you cannot make hours, please direct any questions you might have to the class website. OR via email (in a timely manner--earlier is better). OR, don't forget that the UW offers several writing centers on campus including CLUE and the English Department's Writing Center

February 22, 2006: Week Eight Reminders

To follow-up on your conferences, I would like everyone to post their second sequence major paper claim via the class website. Please post your claim paragraph to the appropriate film thread; if there is no thread, make sure you create one for yourself. Everyone should take a look at all the claims to give you an idea of what the class is working on. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, and help clarify your claims.

Moreover, I wanted to reiterate/clarify the assignment: your paper and your claim is about *something critical* you see your film doing, arguing, critiquing and *not* just about how it is or isn't or represents the contact zone. In other words, your essay answers the three questions on the assignment sheet but not in a laundry list fashion; these questions are to help you think about your overall project. Your paper is analyzing what the film is *doing* or *arguing* or *critiquing*. The ideas from Pratt or Lowe or Lippi-Green are *tools* for you to accomplish your analysis.

February 15, 2006: Notes on the Sequence One Major Paper

Your first major paper has been returned to you. Take some time to go over my comments on the paper. Really go over them. Re-read the assignment sheet and consider the grading rubric and the course outcomes for English 131, which are located in your course policies.

As I said in class, I really think everyone understood the basis of the assignment and the spirit of the readings for the first sequence. All of the choices of artifacts were excellent -- some more provocative than others -- but there was something in each item that sparked inquiry, critique, analysis, and explication. You also showed that you had important things to day. And I think the conferences helped you formulate ideas and points of entry into the assignment.

However, I am also noticing a lot of the same mistakes, a lot of the same issues, many of which could have been resolved or explicated with a little more effort, close reading, and help. Here is a list of things I saw, commented on, and corrected on across a number of papers. As before, please keep a running list of my notes to you. The same errors and issues should not crop up again in further assignments. Take a look at the following:

SATISFY THE ASSIGNMENT: One significant problem (be it in class, in lab, or on the job) is making sure that you satisfy the task set before you. The assignment sheet and our discussion in class (and via the blog) are crucial to understanding what your paper should do, include, address. A very articulate and well-written essay that does not answer the assignment's questions is technically incomplete (at best) and a failure (at worst). Make sure that you refer to the assignment sheet during your writing and revision process.

BANAL CLAIM: Just say no. I have already told you that banal claims are too general, too empty, too automatic. Statements like "Modern society is a diverse blend of people from all walks of life" or "Throughout American society, we have strived for a diverse society where discrimination does not exist" says absolutely nothing useful. Be concrete. Get into the specifics of your argument. Begin with a solid claim rather than a banal claim.

ALL-OR-NOTHING: Arguments that claim something is all-or-nothing do not allow for any complexity, for any layers, or for any possibilities. Your argument should be rigorous, focused, and specific /yes/ but be careful of claims that say things like "This advertisement is completely racist" or "Lippi-Green says that Disney films make children racist" or "America will never change and racism will stay because people are people." These kinds of arguments are closed, foreclosed. If you argue that your artifact is stereotyping, then explicate how it stereotypes but do not foreclose your argument by saying that it stereotypes totally, completely, without question. Claims need a little room for argument and exploration. Nuance, nuance, nuance.

PERSONAL OPINION: The use of first person, personal opinion, personal anecdotes are usually not part of the academic genre. Remember that personal opinion is not a good basis for a strong academic claim. Your personal interest and investment in a topic is important to your overall exigence, but to incorporate yourself anecdotally into your paper is unnecessary and lacks academic rigor.

For example, writing statements like "I believe that racism is wrong" or "When I was flipping through magazines, I found an advertisement that made me feel bad" or "My belief is that Lippi-Green is right" are personal opinion statements. Instead, generate more academic statements that refer directly to the argument, to the analysis. (Again, remember that academic does not mean "high style" or "over written.")

ARGUE, ANALYZE, ARTICULATE: Many of you are spending a great deal of time developing a lot of description in your close readings of your artifacts or your readings. Describing what you see is not enough. You need to make sure you frame what you see, what you notice, what you think in terms of an arguable claim, a solid argumentative thesis or topic statement or subclaim. In other words, don't just start a paragraph saying, "I noticed that there were only white people in this advertisement. This means that the advertisement says only white people are beautiful." Again, /that/ you notice something is not necessary for you to point out, but /what/ and /why it's important/ that you notice something is what you want to highlight. Therefore, "The advertisement constructs a certain kind of look, a certain kind of body, a certain kind of whiteness. By using only white models, the advertisement argues for a kind of homogeneity that leaves out whole groups of people from representation."

ASSUMPTIONS: In Toulmin's construction of an argument, one of the most important things to keep in mind are the warrants, the assumptions that you make as you argue for something. Make sure that you do not make the same kinds of critical mistakes that you are seeing in your artifacts. If you believe your artifact to be stereotyping of African Americans, then make sure you don't resort to using assumptions to support your claims. Sometimes as you are writing you don't realize the warrants you have in the back of your mind as you put words to paper. You must take some /time/ to go through, edit, and think about your arguments and their assumptions. Some assumptions are inevitable, but you have to make sure that the assumptions you make are not so flawed, so generalized, so problematic to weaken your argument or to put off your audience.

For example, saying that "only authentic rap artists are African Americans" makes the assumption (and a problematic one at that) that /only/ African Americans can be rap artists and that anyone else is just pretending. A fairer frame might read something like "rap artists have been predominately African American."

SUPPOSITION IS NOT FACT: To suppose something does not necessarily mean that what you suppose is factual, actual, or obvious. Be careful of writing statements that presume an answer, particularly if the answer is necessary for your argument. Build your argument on solid reasoning. Start with a claim. Develop a clear analysis. Use solid examples and evidence. Then conclude. do not jump from claim to conclusion. To assume the connection is faulty reasoning and weak writing. To assume that the reader will automatically make the connection in the way you want does not make for strong argumentation.

HYPERBOLE: In some rhetorical situations, the use of hyperbole is warranted. But be careful of being too over the top. To claim that something is "very" or "completely" or "totally" anything seems to be too generalizing, too inaccurate. This is related to the caution against /all-or-nothing/ logic.

QUOTES: Remember that all quotes and paraphrases need attribution and citation. Quotes should be introduced in some way. "A quote that just sits by itself in the middle of a paragraph (like this) is a dropped quote." Quotes need a speaker and that speaker must be introduced. Give us enough information about the speaker so we can identify their credibility. Dr. John Q. Public, professor of writing at Yale University, writes about the need for "strong attribution and citation" (32) for quotations in academic papers. Starting a quote's introduction with a word or two is not enough. Frame your quotes.

Also remember that quotes are not /your/ arguments. You need to establish a claim or subclaim first. Then use quotes and evidence and examples to support what /you/ are arguing. Instead, many people are just using quotes to stand in for their claims -- you just introduce the quote and the point to it and say "hey, look, this guy says it better than me." That's not strong argumentative writing. That's writing a summary of other people's ideas.

READING FOR WRITING'S SAKE: Part of the key goals for the assignment and for English 131 (this would be Outcome Two) is to read, use, and draw from the texts used in class and from your outside research. You must learn to find the ideas and language you understand from the texts to deploy in your own argument. You need not understand all of Brooks or Lippi-Green or Pratt. You need to understand their main ideas, and you need to use those ideas as support for your claims and subclaims. Consider the work you did for the close readings, our class discussions, and the exercises we did via the class message board -- all of these things should be in your notes and should be a means for you to gather quotes and concepts that should find their way into your argument.

TITLES: Make sure that your titles are appropriate to /your/ project and not some broad abstraction or reference to something other than your critique. A good title is brief, expresses some key idea of your essay, and engaging to the reader.

MECHANICS: Spelling, punctuation, citation, bibliographic, manuscript format, and grammar should be the last thing your reader should have to worry about. However, when there are many mechanical errors -- most of which can be caught simply by reading your paper over -- they become a distraction and hurt your ethos as a writer and an arguer. Papers are still making the same mistakes from the Photo Autobiography (on up). Please edit carefully. Please consult your usage manual. Please ask questions about mechanics in class or via the blog. Simple errors like the confusion of its/it's or spelling Lippi-Green wrong or missing a title page or a sentence that ends mid thought should not happen at all.

READ OUT LOUD: You have been advised since the start of the quarter to read your papers out loud. Full voice. Slowly. Read and listen. Have someone else read while you listen. Reading your papers out loud is a surefire way to catch problems, unclear areas, awkward wording, and mechanical problems. Do it.

SIMPLE AND ELEGANT: Academic writing need not be 'high style' or 'Intellectual' or full of jargon, big words, confusing philosophizing. Obviously, some writers take particular stances, styles, and theoretical languages and use them in very specific rhetorical ways. But, for here and now, for our class, you are encouraged first to make sure the message and meaning are both clear, simple, elegant before you can attach any bells and whistles and mudflaps. Remember that simple does not mean simplistic or infantile or 'see spot run'. Simple means concrete, articulate, using everyday language. Imagine yourself in the back of a taxi with your grandmother and you have to explain these arguments to her. You wouldn't try to out-intellectualize your grandmother (unless of course she was an academic but even then...). Another way to think about this is "write like you speak" (simply and elegantly) but not "how you speak" (which tends to be fragmented, too informal).

January 22, 2006: Week Four Reminders

1) Everyone is responsible for bringing their texts to class this week, including the Brooks, Lippi-Green, and Lowe. Please take the time to go over them again and try to formulate questions you have about the readings. Also, try to think of ways you can make connections between the texts. How do they speak to one another? On what do they agree? On what do they differ? All of this reading and intertextuality is in the service of your major paper. You should be able to use the readings as ways to support your paper's claims and analyses.

2) Remember that I gave you the assignment sheet for Short Paper 1.4: A Claim for Video last Tuesday. That short paper is due this coming Tuesday and will be based on the 30 Days episode and our class discussion. Please be sure to address one of the three questions on the assignment sheet in your 2-3 page response. Dispense with setting up general statements in your introduction. Just get to the meat of the matter. Start with a solid claim about video and develop.

3) You should be working on your major paper. If not writing it, then thinking about it and brainstorming ideas. Everyone is required to go to the class blog to post their claim, to read other claims, to read my replies, and to revise their own claim. You should also be exploring the library and the databases to find 2 good, relevant, scholarly sources for your paper. If you have futher questions about research and the library, feel free to bring them up in class or via the blog.

4) Everyone should have signed-up for a conference by now. I will post the conference times and sign-ups on the blog. Please verify. Mark your date and time down. If you need to change your conference, do so early. Conferences are mandatory. We will talk more about what you need to have for your conference (e.g. conference memo, draft of paper) this week.

5) Again, my office hours are Wednesday 9-10:30 AM. I will have hours this week and encourage people to come see me. We will also hold our first collegial hour this Thursday, from 3-4 PM, at Suzzallo Espresso (first floor of Suzzallo Library). I'll get a table somewhere in the big room and folks are welcome to come, chat, bring questions, raise issues, talk about school and life outside of 131, share stories, or just hang out with a cup of coffee or tea.

January 11, 2006: Notes on the Photo Autobiography

Your first Short Assignment 1.1: Photo Autobiography has been returned to you with comments. Please take some time to look over the comments, your papers, and the assignment sheet again. Think about what you might revise, what questions are raised, and the overal rhetorical strategies of your paper. Overall comments on the first paper have been emailed to you as well as posted on the class blog: "Notes on the Photo Autobiography." Please read my class-wide comments and keep them as a running list.

January 4, 2006: Class Blog

I hope everyone had a very good first day of the quarter. And I hope people are intrigued by our class. Please remember to read over the course policies and the syllabus in details, as well as read the assigned readings (both Chapter 2 in Reading Contexts and the Brooks article). Also, don't forget to go to the class blog and read the posted messages and comment with a hello to the 'welcome' post.

December 31, 2005: Course Mail "engl131a4_wi06@u"

I have created a course reflector list, an email address designated for our class. Periodic announcements will be made via this list (and mirrored here on the course website). Sending an email to engl131a4_wi0 @ will send your message to the whole class. Please treat the course reflector list with the same rules and respect as the blog.

December 31, 2005: Welcome

Welcome to English 131! I just wanted to extend a hearty welcome to the class! Hopefully, everyone is having a smooth first week of classes. Here's to a productive, fun, and interesting fall quarter!

Please make sure that you look over the course policies and the syllabus thoroughly. Also make sure that you keep up with the reading and homework as assigned.


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