This fully-online, graduate-level course is an introduction to—and a history of—the field of writing studies, which goes by various names, including “composition studies,” “rhetoric and composition studies,” “composition-rhetoric,” and sometimes “rhet-comp.” This course historicizes approaches to writing instruction in the West going back as far as classical antiquity, it surveys writing studies' major movements and moments in the mid- to late 20th century in the US, and it speculates about the teaching of writing well into the 21st century. Together we study the major concepts, themes, debates, and politics of the discipline; investigate the theoretical assumptions and historical foundations that underpin the various movements within writing studies (e.g., expressivism, Writing Across the Curriculum, critical pedagogy, social constructivism, post-process, etc.); and explore the impact of digital technologies on the teaching of writing.
As we are often reminded, we now inhabit an increasingly complex and confusing hyper-fast media landscape, where traditional forms of journalism and reporting have been radically reshaped and even supplanted by emerging forms of digital media. This course will give you the tools to engage intelligently in the major issues of our time; to analyze media of all kinds; to parse out the subtle distinctions between various kinds of problematic information; and to find credible, carefully-researched, and accurate journalism, news, and opinion on a variety of topics.
This course examines the history of the English language from Old English to the present day, with a particular focus on its recent changes—many would say “mutations”—in the digital age. Course content covers the macro-history of the English language and the Indo-European family of languages, various local cultural histories of English, dialectical variation, and some of the basic concepts of structural linguistics (phonemes, morphemes, grammar, and syntax).
Given current events and student interest, the most recent version of the course (Spring 2017) led students through an exploration of so-called “fake news.” Students gained valuable experience in information literacy by analyzing and writing about the infamous #PizzaGate scandal, concepts such as “digital polarization” and “filter bubbles,” and even important epistemological questions such as “How do we know what we know?” and “Which sources of information can be trusted in the digital age?”
Since its “invention” in the fifth century BCE, rhetoric—the study and practice of persuasion through language, signs, and symbols—has been a powerful force in public affairs, education, politics, and in the practice of civic life, even though today rhetoric is rarely studied outside of English and communication arts.
The genre of creative nonfiction complicates the boundaries of what we normally think of as imaginative writing (e.g., fantasy novels, contemporary short fiction, romance, most “Literature”) and writing about real people, places, things, and events (e.g., journalism/nonfiction or documentary writing).
What is the “American dream,” exactly? Is it owning your own home? Having a decent job? Choosing your own destiny? Providing a better life for your children? Ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed? Or is the American dream merely the nostalgic residue of an Empire in decline?