Monday and Wednesday 12:30-2:40
Jeffery White Office Hour: 8:30-9:20 Daily
R230Q (425) 564-3084 (also by appointment)
The Fourth Genre, fourth edition, Root, Jr. and Steinberg
three-ring, loose-leaf binder
The intention of this course is to broaden your understanding of the form and function of the essay as being something beyond five paragraphs on a favorite fast food or Fitzgerald’s use of the color green in The Great Gatsby. This means moving beyond the basic rhetorical modes and thesis-driven forms of essay composition. Our primary concern is with exploring various strategies for combining the needs of the author, subject and audience to construct the strongest essay for the occasion. In the process, you will be introduced to the freedom of expression available in essays. Essays have no one correct form, nor do they have a singular function. They do have, however, the common goal of effectively communicating something worthy of our attention and consideration.
Getting and holding readers’ attention while you offer your insight is an acquired skill. This class will introduce you to the tools you’ll need to develop that skill: appropriate use of detail, figurative language, voice, proper use of emotion and anecdote, setting, sentence patterns, cadence. We’ll also look at strategies for organizing material and creating empathic readers, for it is primarily through empathy that they come to share your interests, concerns and point of view. In the coming weeks you’ll learn, or be reminded, that for readers to consider seriously your values, you must consider seriously theirs. Failure to do so will leave the most common response to student writing echoing in your ears: “So what?”
Answering that question is our work in this class. But before you can answer it for your audience, you must answer it for yourself. This making meaning is perhaps the most demanding work you’ll encounter in this or any other context. Though exploration and reflection (writing and thinking) on what is meaningful, you will begin to notice relationships emerging between disconnected subjects; you'll see how useful writing can be when you're organizing and trying to make sense of a series of seemingly unrelated observations. The content of this course is based on the premise that all writing is necessarily an attempt to order experience in a sequential and meaningful fashion. If you want your words -- an immediate and accessible expression of who you are -- to represent your thoughts as something other than intellectual Velveeta, you must determine what's important -- truly important, not what advertisers and parents and politicians and teachers have told you is important. You must investigate your experience, your values, your point of view.
This course will function in something of a workshop structure consisting of predominantly small group work, class critiques of student essays and presentations. You'll be expected to read and critique both peer and previously published essays. You'll write four papers approximately 1000 words in length which will receive a great deal of critical attention but no grade. After substantial revision, you'll present these essays for evaluation in the form of a final portfolio, which highlights what you consider your best writing. 50% of your grade rests with the portfolio. The remaining 50% will be based on prompt, regular attendance, prompt completion of assignments, quality of exercises and presentations, participation in class and group work sessions.
Your final grade will be based on two primary components:
1. Preparedness and class participation (Formal Peer Critiques, Contributions to discussions, Attendance)
2. A portfolio of three finished papers, primary and revised drafts of each paper, an in-class essay, a self evaluation, and both in-class and at-home assignments
Preparedness and class participation (50% of Final Grade): To receive full credit for this component, you must attend each class on time, have completed all written work and read related material on days they are to be discussed. You must generate at least 12 formal critiques of peer essays, have your own essay drafts completed and available for class critiques; when your work is not under review, you must participate actively and constructively in all peer critique, small group activities and class discussions by offering insightful or thought provoking, relevant comments that advance and develop the discussion. Keep in mind that what matters here is the caliber and quality of your comments, not the amount of noise you make. Your P&P grade breaks down as follows:
Formal Peer Critiques - 20%
Portfolio (50% of Final Grade): In brief, your portfolio grade is based upon the quality of the final drafts of three self-selected papers, the degree to which they have been revised and to which the revisions indicate significant improvement, a self-evaluation, and the overall completeness, appearance and presentation of the portfolio itself. Details about portfolios and the criteria I will use to grade them will follow.
Note: You should know that the portfolio process allows you to revise your writing as often as you see fit before that work receives a grade. Circumstances permitting, I am available to review and comment on revised drafts, but will not grade the work until it has been included in the portfolio and that portfolio turned in for grading at the end of the quarter. I'll review no more than 1 (one) revised draft per student at a time. I will look at and comment on an essay no more than three times. Please note that I am available to discuss your work and class standing at any appropriate time. However, I will not characterize your work in terms of a letter grade until I award a grade at quarter’s end. The final day to present drafts for my comments is March 10.
All assignments are due in class on the specified date. Formal Papers: I will accept papers either in person or in my mailbox until I leave campus (which could be anytime after this class) on the day they are due. I’ll only offer comments on essay drafts that are received by the assigned date. I'll neither accept nor comment on late work unless specific arrangements are made with me before the class in which it is due. I'll permit such an arrangement only once. Formal Critiques: I will accept late formal critiques only if you missed the class in which it was due and only if the critique is turned in during the next class meeting you attend.
You're tardy if you're more than five (5) minutes late for class (by the classroom clock). I consider three times a reasonable number of times to arrive late. Beyond that, your class participation grade will suffer. Arrive late five (5) times (¼ of the times we meet), and you'll receive no credit for the course.
Should you miss more than half of a class period (60 minutes), you’ll receive an absence for that class.
1. Miss the first week of class: no credit.
2. Attendance is part of your preparedness and participation grade. Three absences or less should not negatively affect your overall grade in the course. Those with 5 absences will have missed approximately 25% of our classes and will not receive a passing grade.
3 If circumstances prevent you from meeting these guidelines, let me know so that we might find an acceptable solution. Do this prior to it impacting your work.
Cell phones, beepers, watch alarms, etc. must be turned off during class. If you feel that you should be excluded from this request, please discuss your reasons with me during the first week of class.
Special Needs: If
you require accommodation based on a documented disability, have emergency
medical information to share, or need special arrangements in case of an
emergency evacuation, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.
If you like to inquire about becoming a DSS student you may call 564-2498 or go
in person to the DRC (
A FINAL NOTE: My responsibilities are to guide and evaluate your work. Your responsibilities are outlined above. If you're having difficulty, speak to me about it. I'll assist you as best as I am able. If something suddenly interferes (or threatens to interfere) in some substantial way with your responsibilities to this class, let me know as soon as you can. It will make a difference. If you show me that you're concerned with meeting your commitments and doing good work in this class, I'll do what I can to help you around the obstacles. Communication is the key here. Keeping me informed of your circumstances will serve you far better than talking to me after you miss an important assignment or too many classes.