English 401: Advanced Composition

Course Description

Advanced Composition is a course in expository writing designed for competent writers who wish to refine their skills. It expands on the expository writing practiced in Freshman Composition and Intermediate Composition with an emphasis on academic and career-oriented writing and is designed to be the final writing class you take before you leave college to join the workforce or go on to graduate school. It is a 400-level course and so you will be assigned 400-level work based on the assumption that you have completed sufficient work on your major to be familiar with the disciplines you plan on joining in the near future.

In addition, this is a writing course and you will be writing every week. Class readings and discussions are designed to help you improve your writing skills by engaging in a sustained inquiry into ideas and activities you may have thought about and experienced before but that (I hope) you will come to see in different and interesting ways.

Course Texts

Writing about Writing: A College Reader (Wardle and Downs)

MLA Handbook, 7th edition

Foundational Principles: Composition Studies

This course will be organized around three fundamental principles that serve as foundations for Composition Studies as a field. Each of these principles is tied to a particular outcome you can expect to take away from this course:

  1.  Meaning is socially constructed by writers and readers who encounter each other in a shared rhetorical situation. Within that situation, writers make choices, both intentional and subconscious, regarding how to construct their texts. Outcome: By understanding the role of the rhetorical situation in every writing task, writers can make more informed choices regarding our texts.
  2. Producing writing requires a series of inter-related actions and tasks that occur in a recursive fashion. This process is idiosyncratic, dynamic, and context-dependent. In other words, there is no single “right’ way to write and writers must be flexible with their process to meet the specific needs of their task. Outcome: Capturing, reflecting on, and (when useful) changing our process is one of the writer’s most important attributes.
  3. Groups of people within shared rhetorical situations form discourse communities that determine, in both tacit and explicit ways, the means through which communication occurs. In other words, the concept of discourse communities explains why different subjects (aka, disciplines) write so differently and why it seems as if writing well is like hitting a moving target. Outcome: Because discourse communities determine for themselves what “counts” as successful writing, understanding how they work and practicing how to analyze and examine the values of a particular community provide valuable information for writers when we make decisions regarding our texts.



Spring 2012 Syllabus: English 401


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