English 103: Rhetoric and Composition I

Fall 2007 Syllabus

Meeting time/place:   MWF 8:00-8:50, DuSable 270

                                    MWF 9:00-9:50, Reavis 301

Course description and objectives:

The primary goal of this course is to help you become a better writer. Writing is a continual process of thinking, of discovery, of learning, of communication, and of reflection, and you will need these skills to succeed as an engaged citizen of the university and the world beyond. I presume that you have things to say, voices with which to say them, and a good knowledge of English that comes from many years of use--speaking, reading, and writing.

This course offers you the occasion to explore the purposes, intents, and audiences of expressive, informative, and persuasive writing, as well as the rhetoric of electronic communication. It provides the opportunity for you to become more conscious about the strategies involved in shifting focus among the writer, message, audience, style, and medium. It asks you to become more sensitive to the ways all writing emerges from the expressions of community and in turn influences the nature of community -- particularly that community, of which we are all a part, called America.

Finally, this course affords you the opportunity to become more aware of yourself as a person and writer by creating a writing portfolio. This portfolio is a collection of material that you will select and assemble to demonstrate the course competencies identified in the English 103 Outcomes. Reflective writing will both generate material for your portfolio and serve as the glue that holds your portfolio together by showing how its pieces demonstrate course competencies.

Required texts:

Colombo, Gary, Robert Cullen and Bonnie Lisle, Eds. Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. New York and Boston: Bedford/St. Martinís, 2007. 7th Edition.

Hult, Christine A. and Thomas N. Huckin. The Brief New Century Handbook. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 4th Edition.

Course requirements:

We learn to read and write better by reading and writing regularly. Consequently, this will be a course where we will read and write often. We will spend significant time not only on individual writing, but also in small groups where we will work collaboratively, sharing and responding to one another's writing, and in one large group, as a class, we will discuss the various forms of writing we will encounter through our textbook.

We will analyze and evaluate language, experiment with language, play with language, get very serious with language.

By the end of the semester you will produce a writing portfolio that demonstrates the competencies identified in the English 103 Outcomes. Along the way, however, you will produce a great deal of text--notes, lists, scribbles, drafts, responses to drafts, and other reflective pieces.



The primary vehicle for evaluation in English 103 will be your writing portfolio.

Summary of graded work:

Four essays (10% each):


Writing portfolio:


Daily class work and participation:


This system of evaluation rewards you for timely, serious effort on daily assignments and in workshop. It gives extra weight to your highest level of achievement near the end of the semester. It does not penalize you for mistakes or experiments that go awry, as you learn from mishaps how to produce quality finished work. In fact, this system assumes that finished, effective communication is often the end product of a very messy creation process in which you take risks, follow false leads or trails, make mistakes, and return anew to your writing task. This system encourages you to engage in the recursive and sometimes chaotic process of becoming a productive, confident, and fluent writer.

Early in the semester we will arrive at an understanding of the standards by which our writing is judged, both within the community of our class and within the larger public audience of readers. The course assumes that your final revised essays will observe the conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation of written academic American English. If you need extra support with these conventions, I will help you. You may also seek writing assistance from the University Writing Center.


Writing never occurs in a vacuum, but within the context of audience, and the immediate audience for writing in this course is our class. This course requires a commitment to this community, a commitment most obviously demonstrated by your presence, punctuality, and engagement. Thus, your attendance and punctuality in class and lab are required (habitual tardiness will affect your course grade, unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade, and excessive absences will result in failure for the course). Please alert me to excused absences due to illness, medical emergency, family emergency, or religious observance so that we can agree upon submission of missed assignments.

Class Discussion and Daily Work:

We will be reading essays about conceptions and experiences of American life in order to expose you to examples of good writing and to give a common context and set of topics for the writing you will produce during the semester.  An important part of engaging with these essays will be group discussion in class and online.  You will be expected to conduct yourselves appropriately throughout these discussions, and to listen and respond to one another thoughtfully, with mutual respect and sympathy.  There will be issues we will not all agree on; nevertheless, all voices deserve to be heard and respected.

You can also expect regular in-class writing assignments, which will be collected, recorded, and returned.  You may find it beneficial for your own organization to purchase a small notebook or composition book for this class to use for daily work and/or rough drafting and pre-writing for larger assignments. 


The English Department has developed a formal policy concerning plagiarism to supplement the University statement in the Undergraduate Catalog ("Academic Integrity," p. 49). This policy is available online at through the English Department website. Since plagiarism can jeopardize your academic future, we will review the policy together early in the semester and discuss its implications for us as writers.

Computer-mediated composition:

Computers have become ubiquitous and integral tools used in written communication.  Therefore, part of this writing course will focus on effective and appropriate use of computer technology for writing composition.  Class will meet every Wednesday in the computer lab, beginning in Week 3. Remember to back up your files in more than one place to prevent inconvenience or even disaster.

You need to have your network LOGIN ID and password and your email account operational by the end of the first week of class. Write your username and password down to be kept in a safe place. We will be using the World Wide Web this semester both as a resource and primary electronic environment, so you should visit our course home page and familiarize yourself with the course schedule and assignments at the URL listed above. You may use your own computer if you wish, or you may use the residence hall computer labs or any of the general access labs on campus, but all writing assignments must be saved in a format that is accessible in class on lab days. Unless you are otherwise instructed, all work should be submitted in printed format.

We will also spend some time talking about publishing written work online.  In addition to the printed copy of your writing portfolio, you will publish your portfolio online by making use of the technology services available through ITS.


We will schedule two required conferences during the semester (Weeks 8 and 13); you are also encouraged to make an appointment or drop by during my office hours to discuss any aspect of the course or your progress as a writer.

Accommodations for students with disabilities:

If you have a disability or any other special circumstance that may have some impact on your work in this class, and for which you may require some type of accommodation, please let me know as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made. The Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), located on the 4th floor of the University Health Service (753-1303), is the designated office on campus that provides services and accommodations for students with diagnosed disabilities. You need to provide documentation of your disability to that office.

Course Calendar

RRA = assigned reading in Rereading America

NCH = The Brief New Century Handbook, 4th ed.


                        Readings                                                                Writing/Activities

Week 1


RRA, Thinking Critically, Challenging Cultural Myths, 1-16; NCH, 1-14, 447-52

Diagnostic essay

Week 2


RRA, Jack, 51-60; Morales, 609;

NCH, 14-34


Week 3


RRA, Rose, 161-72; Kincaid, 387-89; Lamott, 627-40; Ehrenreich, 294-306

Essay 1 (Expository) due


Week 4


RRA, Olds, 332-3; Vazquez, 472-80; Martinez, 574-83

NCH, ch. 7: 359-78, 396-400


Week 5 


RRA, Kozol, 239-58; Dixon, 48-50

NCH, ch. 8: 407-21


Week 6


RRA, Johnson, 711-17; Hertsgaard, 781-93


Essay 2 (Interview) due


Week 7


RRA, Jefferson, 486-91; Fredrickson, 561-73; Yowshino, 598-608 NCH, ch. 9: 423-57


Week 8


Conferences; portfolio review


Week 9


RRA, Beveridge, 762-67; Thoreau, 836-47; Press, 814-23; NCH, ch. 1: 52-90


Week 10


RRA, Pavrillo, 504-18; Kilbourne, 417-42

Essay 3 (Persuasive) due [Monday]

Week 11


RRA, Alger, 264-69 and Dalton, 278-84; In-class analysis discussion


Week 12


In-class analysis discussion

 Essay 4 (Analysis) due


Week 13




Week 14


Revision and portfolio workshops 

NCH, ch. 1: 34-46; ch. 10: 459-91


Week 15  


Workshops (continued)


Week 16 


Portfolio review during final exam week

Final portfolio due at time of final exam