ENGL 281 D: Intermediate Composition: “10 Things I Hate About Writing”
Autumn Quarter 2009
TTH 2:30-4:20 PM
JOHN MCPHEE, Pulitzer Prize winner and grandmaster of literary nonfiction, said about writing, “The first draft [is] an unreadable thing. And you would not want to show it to anybody because it’s just full of entrails hanging out with loose ends…You belch it all out on paper. When you’ve got something on paper, you then have something to work with…and turn into a piece of writing.” Writing is all about guts, gas, gross anatomy, and getting down to business. Writing isn’t a check mark, a destination vacation, a graduation requirement. Rather, it’s a practice, a process, an extreme sport. This course will take up McPhee’s writer’s heroic journey–from unreadable thing to piece of writing–by engaging what it means to be a good writer, reader, and researcher, how to recognize and develop the skills and strategies to write, read, and research, and why good writing, reading, and researching are central to everything you do. Be prepared for a quarter of high-impact, low-stake, high-risk, creativity-freeing, genre-tripping, word-playing, workshop-intensive writing, reading, and thinking. This will be hard, but it will be fun. You will hate it, but you will grow to love it. We will trek, tromp, jump, crunch, sweat, and swear through academic, expository, persuasive, and creative writing challenges. We will set high goals and meet tough benchmarks. We will hone the tools and muscles you already have and push, stretch, and dream till you’re one lean, mean writing machine. Are you ready? Let’s do this.OUR
ENGLISH 281 PROMISES a quarter of writing, reading, discussion, library research, asking questions, more writing, revision, more reading, more discussion, critical thinking, analysis, fun, and even more writing and revision. It is a writing boot camp after all. We will engage texts and writing tasks small and large, everyday and academic. This particular incarnation of 281 also promises a healthy inclusion of popular culture, cultural studies, politics, everyday activism, media old and new, and experiential learning. You must have a well-developed curiosity about the world. Through all of these things, you will further practice the principles behind exposition, arguments, evidence, and analysis; you will hone strategies and skills for genre, style, revision, workshopping, and research. Texts may include in whole or in excerpt: John McPhee, Amy Tan, Sherman Alexie, Shelley Jackson, Shirley Jackson, Annie Proulx, Ray Bradbury, Langston Hughes, Patricia Smith, William Shakespeare, Anthony Bourdain, Gael Greene, Michael Pollan, Michael Olmert, David Bartholomae, Geoffrey Sirc, Keywords for American Cultural Studies, and others.
THIS COURSE ASSUMES that you have previous experiences in college-level writing (such as ENGL 109/110, 111, 121, or 131 or equivalent), as we will be building on those skills and techniques begun in your introductory courses. With that in mind, this class also takes as a basic assumption that writing is a skill and that, like any skill, it can always be furthered and improved through guided practice and experimentation. We will work to develop, challenge, and enhance the writing skills you already possess into the skills and intuitions necessary for academic, professional, and creative “readable things.”