Syllabus

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Literature and Composition:

Gutenberg Progenies

English 101

Professor Meehan

Office: 116 Goldstein

Office Hours: MW 12.30-1.30 and 2.30-3.30 pm; also by appointment

Books should be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

At any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer.

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility”

Course Description: Gutenberg Progenies

The primary purpose of this course is to develop your capacity for intelligent reading, critical analysis, and writing through the study of literature. The subtitle for my version of the course, “Gutenberg Progenies,” indicates a particular approach we will take in working on that development. We will study literature and writing in which questions and implications of writing and technology are present, if not prominent: Mary Shelley’s nineteenth-century novel Frankenstein; Sven Birkerts’s lament for the fate of reading and the book in that digital age, The Gutenberg Elegies; a variety of film versions and adaptations of the Frankenstein story (film is a multimedia writing machine); and various electronic (or hypertext) literary works. At the same time, reading and writing about such technology in literature, we will explore and interrogate reading and writing in relation to technology—indeed, reading and writing as technologies. Our focus, in this sense, is also a first-hand exploration of what it means for us to read and write and interpret texts thoughtfully and creatively, including the very texts we are working on—what it means for us to be and become skilled in the techniques and rhetoric of writing and critical thinking. This emphasis on “first-hand” will be evident and prominent in the attention we will give to the writing process in developing a series of essays (with deliberate attention to revision and editing strategies) and in experimentations we will pursue with different media formats for our writing and reading: from printing press to blog to wiki to word processing to digital imaging to oral presentation. Indeed, as the title of another course text suggests, we will be focusing intensively on writing as rewriting.

 

Purpose of Course:

The habits of thinking and reading critically, writing thoughtfully, and communicating effectively are fundamental to a liberal arts education and to the mission of Washington College. English 101 introduces students to these fundamentals of a liberal arts education and mentors students in using these essential abilities effectively toward a successful academic career at Washington College. Washington College students write well and often. As the introduction to the intensive writing experiences students will have across their studies, the First-Year Writing Program provides the foundation for students’ academic writing lives.

W2 Learning Goals and Outcomes for English 101:

    • Goal 1: Critical Thinking: Students develop the ability to raise questions and identify problems related to particular subjects or situations and to make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis, through writing, reading, and research.
      1. Outcome: Students effectively use and analyze evidence/source texts in their writing.
    • Goal 2: Writing Process: Students develop the ability to use appropriate strategies for generating, developing, composing, and revising writing and research.
      1. Outcome: Students organize their writing in coherent and effective paragraph structure.
      2. Outcome: Students make effective revision choices.
    • Goal 3: Rhetorical Knowledge: Students develop the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes, and disciplinary contexts in creating and comprehending texts.
      1. Outcome: Students establish an argument with a controlling purpose and thesis
    • Goal 4: Knowledge of Conventions: Students develop an awareness of the formal guidelines, ranging from matters of grammar and style to conventions of research and documentation that define what is considered to be correct and appropriate to writing in a particular discipline or context.
      1. Outcome: Students write with effective phrasing and word choice.
      2. Outcome: Students grasp the conventions of standard written English.

Required Course Texts:

Available at the College Bookstore [used or alternative editions are fine]

Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

Harris, Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts.

McLuhan and Fiore, The Medium is the Massage.

Shelley, Frankenstein (Broadview/1818 edition)

Various essays and articles that will be provided to you at the time of the assignment.

 

Course Expectations and Experiences: some terms to consider.

Deliberate reading:

Following the example of Thoreau (among many other writers), I will require that you keep some form of a reader’s/writer’s notebook as a medium for you to engage with the “books” more deliberately and become more deliberate in your own writing. You will have a choice in what you do with this notebook and where you keep it. [My notebooks, these days, are part digital and part handwritten]. Approximately once a week (usually on a Friday) you will post a section from your notebook (or all of it, if you prefer) using blogging technology. For more on this assignment and how I will evaluate it, see the description under Blog. The dates for the assigned logs can be found on the Assignment Schedule. Any time a reading assignment is due, you should be prepared for some sort of in-class response or quiz.  Any homework assignment or in-class work or quiz not turned in when due will not receive credit, unless you have made an arrangement with me in advance.

Writing Process/Writing Projects:

Writing projects (3): each essay will be approximately 3-5 pages and will include drafting that will be reviewed (in class as well as outside class) and assessed in addition to the final version.

Final writing project: an expanded and revised essay that will build upon your previous reading and writing and will culminate your work in the course; you will turn this in as part of your final portfolio for the course and include with it a reflection on your work and progress in the course. You will find detailed descriptions for these under Writing Projects.

Late Policy: Writing projects turned in late, without prior discussion with me, will lose credit (approximately half-grade per day). No project will be accepted more than one week late. As always, communication with me in advance regarding any difficulties you are encountering is the best way to go.

Participation:

I expect active and engaged participation in discussions of our readings and in the writing workshops where you will be frequently working with peers. Your participation will be assessed, along with attendance, as part of your overall grade. I suggest you check in with me during a conference if you want to know how you are doing or ways you might improve your engagement. A rubric for that assessment:

90-100: very strong to excellent; thorough engagement in all aspects of course; exceeds expectations.

80-89: strong engagement in all aspects; meets expectations.

70-79: average to sufficient, room to improve engagement; below expectations.

60-69: weak to average; need to improve engagement in most areas; significantly below expectations

below 60: failing

Attendance Policy: Since participation counts in this course (and in learning writing), your attendance matters. Every student is granted up to two absences during the semester for whatever reason. Three or more absences (excused or unexcused) will begin to affect your final participation grade (approximately a half-grade per absence). Any student missing more than 9 classes during the semester should not expect to pass.  I am flexible and reasonable (was once a student, have kids, get sick, etc)—so communicate with me regarding your attendance. But be aware that I consider it very important for a course such as this.

Technology Policy: Good participation requires a learning environment where attention and invention are possible. As you already know, I am interested in the inventiveness of writing technologies and will encourage you to explore them with me. Having a laptop or other technologies in class is a great idea if you can use it to attend to our focus, but not if you are distracted easily by “the restless, grazing behavior of clicking and scrolling” (to cite Birkerts). Since such clicking distracts me, I will expect you to use technology thoughtfully. This means no communication during the class that is not pertinent to the class: no cell-phones (ringers off), no instant messaging, and no work from another class. Violators will be asked to share the communication with the rest of the class and may be removed from class.

Experimentation.

We will be exploring not just technology in reading and writing, but reading and writing as technologies we can learn to develop (that is, become stronger readers and writers, an overall goal of the course) by understanding them better. Thus we will be experimenting as writers: exploring the printing press; film writing; different types of digital writing. This means that the variety of media we will use in the course (from reader’s notebook to Blackboard to variety of web media (wiki, blog, etc) are not just tools in the course but part of its focus: to be explored and evaluated critically and thoughtfully as we use them. I will be emphasizing a similar spirit of experimentation in workshops and expect to see you bring that into your own writing. One must be an inventor to read and write well.

Communication.

In order to experiment and to risk success (and failure)—something writers need to do—we also need good information and feedback; we need to know where we are. This applies certainly to my obligation to you as your teacher: I plan to give you a range of feedback and information about your progress and learning—in class, in conferences, on informal assignments and my evaluations of your formal writing projects. I will also ask for your feedback (don’t be alarmed) at various points in a class or a conference. I always want to know what questions you have, about the course as well as your learning, and will frequently ask you for your questions. A great way to demonstrate engagement and learning, especially with a difficult or challenging text or topic, is to ask a question about what one doesn’t understand. I value questions as a rich form of communication—in fact, many of our discussions will begin and end with exploring and updating the kinds of questions you have.

Another valuable resource for communication and experimentation: the Writing Center (106 Goldstein). We will at times make use of the WC’s talent and services as a class; I encourage you to do so individually as well, to discuss ideas, workshop a draft, follow up on a grammatical or rhetorical issue of interest to you and your progress as a writer, begin to map out ideas for your first book or screenplay. Enough to say, I wish I had a Writing Center when I was an undergraduate.

I encourage any student who has concerns or questions about learning differences, documented or not, to speak further with me as well as to consult Washington College’s Office of Academic Skills (second floor of the library). We can explore arrangements that will support your learning experience in the course.

Academic Integrity.

Washington College has the following policy regarding academic integrity and plagiarism: Plagiarism is defined by the Honor Code as “willfully presenting the language, ideas, or thoughts of another person as one’s original work.”  Turning in someone else’s work as your own is obviously plagiarism.  Quoting or paraphrasing someone else’s words or ideas without properly citing your source is also plagiarism.  If you ever have any question at all about whether you are using a source correctly, ask me about it to make sure.  Submitting a paper for this class that contains all or part of a paper that you submitted in another class, without the permission of both professors involved, is also a violation of the honor code. A student found guilty of plagiarism may fail the assignment or the course, and may be referred to the Honor Board for further adjudication.  Whenever you hand in a paper for this course, you must include in your essay a statement that your work has been completed in compliance with the Honor Code.  Washington College has contracted with Turnitin.com, a web-based plagiarism prevention service. You will be submitting copies of your writing projects to Turnitin.com.

Integrity suggests wholeness; a synonym would be ecology. Your integrity affects the integrity of the whole learning environment here, in the class (where you are relying upon the response of your peers) and on campus. We will be talking further about the integrity of your writing and the ways that your writing can be inventive without being plagiarized. The point is that I take plagiarism seriously, but as such, also want you to learn and ask questions about it.

Assessment

I will be emphasizing a range of assessment techniques as a way to communicate with you and provide response to your writing and your progress beyond simply assigning a grade. For a specific rubric I will use for writing projects, consult the page Rubric: Writing Projects on the course web page. In fact, part of what you will be learning is the importance for writers to assess their own writing and incorporate the assessment and response from their readers. You will be learning about the creative necessity of revision—and I have built into the grading process an understanding that you are working toward your best writing by the end of the course. In terms of the final grade, it will be determined using the following categories (with approximate percentages of weight)

Participation (including attendance): 10%

Reading (in-class responses, homework assignments, Blogs): 25%

Three writing projects: 45%

Final project/portfolio: 20%



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