RHE 306 Rhetoric and Composition
Some people seem to have a gift or knack for writing easily and clearly while others faced with a writing task stare in agony at a blank page (or computer screen) for hours at a time. What is it that expert professional writers are doing that struggling writers are not? Recently, researchers have learned a great deal about how successful and unsuccessful writers and readers go about these tasks. In this course, you will learn more about your own reading and writing processes and compare them to those of writers in different situations. In addition, you will investigate such issues as creativity, collaborative writing, the effect of computers on reading and writing, writer's block, and writing in different disciplines and on the job. In sum, the course provides a basic introduction to a growing field within English studies and the teaching of reading and writing.
No matter what your major, you are likely to be involved in proposal writing in your career or in your community. People who write proposals want to change the world in some way. The aim of a proposal is to convince readers to do what you want, whether that is changing a policy, backing a new venture, choosing your organization to complete a project, or giving you funds to conduct research. Successful proposal writers call on a wide array of strategies for influencing future action--some of which can be traced back to the classical theories of rhetoric of Aristotle and Cicero.
In this course, you will learn about proposals, both by reading and writing them. These days, most proposals appear in non-literary forms, such as scientific or technical grant proposals and public policy proposals (e.g., Paine's Common Sense). But historically, they have also appeared in a variety of literary forms, including poetry (e.g., carpe diem poems), essays (e.g., Emerson's "An American Scholar," Swift's "Modest Proposal"), and fiction (e.g., Sinclair's The Jungle). We will read proposals in several of these forms in order to appreciate how the basic strategies can be adapted.
You will also write three proposals to gain practice in defining problems, planning and evaluating future actions, and adapting to different audiences. The proposals you write may be the first steps toward solving problems in your academic discipline, workplace, social organization, or neighborhood.
The growing use of electronic information resources (such as the World Wide Web) and desk-top publishing technologies has made it easier for people to share their ideas directly with others with similar interests. Private individuals as well as professional organizations can now design and send out their own magazines or brochures, instructions, stories, advertising, and questionnaires. But the freedom to create, while exhilarating, can also be overwhelming. Writers are faced with more decisions than ever before about selecting information to include, making it attractive, and highlighting the most important parts. How can writers be confident that their message is getting across to their readers? From another point of view, as information resources multiply, readers too must be more aware that the shape of a document influences what they choose to read, what information is easiest to find, and what they are likely to understand and remember.
Students in this course will become more critical readers and designers of documents--both those published on paper and those circulated in electronic form. Readings will focus both on theories of effective document design and practical techniques for testing the effects of design choices on readers.Students will have opportunities to practice these techniques by critiquing, designing, and testing documents.
Is science universal? eternal? faceless? objective? inexorable? Or is it a product of time, place, chance and personality? Does it matter? to scientists? to the public?
In this class, we will investigate three occasions when English scientists raced to find answers to puzzles that affected lives or the notion of life itself:
You will learn some of the details of the cases themselves. Along the way, you will learn something about English history and the history of science. But we will also look critically at how these cases are being presented to us, in books, movies, websites, and museums.
We learn about events, even scientific ones, from the observations and recollections of participants. And we learn from the post hoc investigations and reports of journalists, scholars and curators. Each one tells the story for different reasons to different audiences. Using techniques from rhetoric and critical theory, we will look at different kinds of accounts and what they can tell us about what "really" happened and why the stories are being told as they are. The required readings include fiction (the best-selling thriller Enigma), a popular non-fiction history (Longitude) and a memoir (the Double Helix). We will look at alternative accounts of the same stories wherever we can, including reviews, videos, websites, graphic images, and museum presentations.
In this substantial writing course, we will examine how inventions and discoveries are portrayed within the sciences and in popular accounts. That is, we will look at how scientists write to each other and how others write about science and technology. These portrayals have social, political, and ethical consequences, as well as consequences for scientific and technical progress. During the first part of the course, we will examine the rhetoric used by scientists writing to each other. At one time, scientists deliberately tried to banish all forms of persuasion from their writing. It turns out, though, that scientists make constant use of persuasive strategies to establish themselves as careful and credible scientists, increase interest in their research, and encourage others to trust their findings and build on them. We will look at several kinds of scientific writing and how they incorporate rhetorical strategies to achieve these goals. Along the way, we will consider how changes in information media (oral presentations, letters, journals and newspapers, the Internet) have transformed scientific discourse and its rhetoric. In the second part of the course, we will look at how scientific and technical discoveries are portrayed to the public. The public forum has its own rhetoric for science that promotes a different interpretation of the persona of the scientist, the status of findings and theories, and the value of the research. In addition to analyzing examples of public discourse about science, we will also consider how these portrayals influence public opinion and public policy. Finally, in this course, you will develop your ability to analyze written arguments and produce your own. You will write three major papers (6-8 pages), each to be revised after feedback from peers and from the instructor.
The primary purpose of this class is to develop your skills at writing, analyzing, and producing public arguments. The topic on which we will be arguing is crime: what it is, how bad it is, what is being done about it, how well that is working, and what to do about it. The class will collectively choose a set of published arguments on these issues that we will all read, analyze, and respond to. you will practice analyzing and producing arguments in order to learn to identify and use effective strategies. You will learn to write to specific audiences to achieve specific purposes--to change your readersŐ minds, strengthen the foundations for their beliefs, or move them to take action. Your grade will NOT depend in any way on the position you take on an issue. But it will depend on the effort you invest in openly exploring the issues, analyzing the strength of your own and othersŐ arguments, and refining your own argumentative technique.
RHE 306 Rhetoric and Composition is a course in argumentation that will enhance your understanding of academic writing and give you practice in producing it. You will learn how to: