It’s been a few years since I’ve taught an introductory rhetoric and composition course. This semester, I’m teaching one, and I’ve been working on the syllabus. Since this is an introductory course, I want students to focus on writing as discovery and lead up to, at the end of the semester, research and turns towards incorporating research into their work. As such, the focus of this course is on students’ personal identity and the examining themselves. I’ve found that students often struggle with personal narratives, but I’ve also found that personal narratives assist students in transitioning to higher education. Below, you will find my syllabus for the rhetoric and composition course.

Course Description and Objectives:

Writing helps us discover ourselves! In a letter to Horace Kallen in 1954, Smith wrote, “When I want to find something, I write a book. It is my way of searching. Not to give the world ‘answers’ but to find them myself.”

Rhetoric and Composition is a course designed to introduce you to the critical thinking, reading, and writing skills required in the university and beyond. The course will focus on writing effective, well-argued essays. We will accomplish these objectives through in-class discussion, in-class writing, and several essays. Over the course of the semester, you will write four essays or the equivalent of 15-20 pages of well-polished prose. By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • development of critical reading skills
  • engage in writing as a recursive process
  • recognize the structures of argument
  • use writing and reading for learning, thinking, and communicating
  • respond to the needs of various audiences
  • discuss appropriate voice, tone, and level of formality
  • integrate your ideas with those of others

In short, this course is set up to help you develop the writing ability that will allow you to succeed in college and in life beyond the university. There is no discipline that does not require writing, so writing well is a fundamental skill.

Along with writing, you should start reading everything you can, from novels to academic journals to magazines to web pages. Aside from practice in writing, which this course employs extensively, reading in many modes and genres is the best way for you to improve your command of the language and to engage in rhetorical conversations. Additionally, reading provides you with a greater breadth and depth of knowledge.

Primary Texts:

  • 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. Edited by Samuel Cohen, 6th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2020.
  • Losh, Elizabeth, Jonathan Alexander, et. al. Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2021.  

Course Requirements and Explanation of Grading

  • Attendance and Participation                             10%
  • Discussion Boards                                            20%
  • Personal Literacy Narrative                                10%
  • Nature/Travel Narrative                                    15%
  • Personal Identity Narrative                                20%
  • Expanded Personal Identity Narrative              25%

A=90-100; B=80-89; C=70-79; D=60-69; F=59 or below

Attendance and In-Class ParticipationAlthough I believe that as adults you should have control over your own education, attendance is vital to your success in this course. Much of your learning and work will take place in class, and you will be involved in discussing the readings in class. To fully comprehend and hopefully appreciate the texts, you should come to class fully prepared. This means you should have read the homework and completed any assignments for class.

You will be held accountable to the following attendance policy: 4 or more unexcused absences will result in a grade of FA (failure due to absences). If you have an excused absence—e.g., university-sponsored trip, doctor’s visit—you must provide verification to the course instructor, in writing, no later than one week after the absence occurs. Tardiness is disruptive and disrespectful to your peers and to the teacher. Every two instances of tardiness (defined as 5 minutes late or more) will be counted as one absence.

Daily attendance is not sufficient to guarantee you a passing participation grade. Any activities taking place during class time contribute to your in-class participation grade. This includes note-taking during lectures, actively participating during discussion, and otherwise participating in class activities. There will be small group discussions during classes and other activities that will be part of this grade.

Discussion Boards—Every week, you will be required to post a question or observation about the readings for that week. You must also respond to two people’s posts on the forum to receive full credit for the assignment. For some weeks, I will have guided prompts.

Essays—You will write four drafted essays, which will equal out to 15-20 pages of polished prose, this semester. Polished prose refers to work that has been written and revised more than once. As part of this process, you will need to be ready to read and comment appropriately on the work of your classmates and accept their comments on your work. Peer review is a vital component of this class, and it is to be conducted respectfully and only within the context of the classroom. Each essay will be guided by the respective chapters in your text. Make sure you back up copies of each essay on a flash drive or with another format.

  • 3-4 page Personal Literacy Narrative (Due–September 15)
  • 3-4 page Travel Narrative Essay (Due–October 18)
  • 4-5 page Personal Identity Narrative (Due–November 17)
  • 5-6 page Expanded Personal Identity Narrative (Due–December 1)

Essay Grading Rubrics

Papers will be graded on organization, ideas, format, and other criteria (grammar, word choice, etc).

When turning in rough drafts and final copies, follow these guidelines:

  • All writing in this course should follow the MLA format. An example of a paper in MLA format can be found at Purdue University’s OWL website.
  • Essays must be typed, double-spaced, and have standard margins. The font used for your final draft should be 12-point Times New Roman.
  • Pages must be numbered with your last name and page number in the upper right-hand corner (ex: Smith, 2)
  • Your essays must have a title; however, do not add a title page.
  • When you submit a final copy of an essay, upload it to Canvas.

Revision is a significant part of the writing process. You will be required to write throughout the semester, and I will grade your writing process and revision along the way. I highly recommend that you use resources such as my consultation hours and the student success center to assist in this stage of your writing.

Instructional Methods and Activities

  1. Lecture/discussion of reading assignments
  2. Prewriting and writing activities
  3. Research activities and exercises
  4. Use of word processing for writing activities; use of Canvas for class syllabi, announcements, assignments, documents, and notes; the Internet, and Piedmont library databases.

Tentative Schedule

DateReading(s)Assignment Due
8/18/22Introduction and Syllabus 
8/23/22Read “Introduction” and “Why Rhetoric?” in Understanding Rhetoric 
8/25/22Read “Strategic Reading” in Understanding Rhetoric 
8/30/22Read Frederick Douglass “Learning to Read and Write” and Gloria Anzaldúa “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” 
9/1/22Read Amy Tan “Mother Tongue” and Stephen King “Reading to Write”   
9/6/22Read Maria Michela Sassi’s “The Sea Was Never Blue” and Walt Whitman’s “Slang in America” 
9/8/22Read “Reframe: Get it Together” (209-213) and “Rethinking Revision” in Understanding Rhetoric 
9/13/22Peer Review 
9/15/22Read “Writing Identities” in Understanding RhetoricPersonal Essay Due
9/20/22Read “Argument Beyond Pro and Con” in Understanding Rhetoric 
9/22/22Read Eli Clare “Clearcut: Explaining the Distance” and E.B. White “Once More to the Lake” 
9/27/22Read Barbara Ehrenreich “Serving in Florida” and Jamaica Kincaid “The Ugly Tourist” 
9/29/22At-home Assignment 
10/4/22Read Rahawa Haile “Going it Alone” and Marie Cochran “I Pledge Allegiance to Affrilachia 
10/6/22Read Audre Lorde “The Fourth of July” and Bharati Mukherjee “Two Ways to Belong in America” 
10/11/22Fall Break 
10/13/22Peer Review 
10/18/22Read “Composing Together” in Understanding RhetoricNature/Travel Essay Due
10/20/22Read “Research: More than Detective Work” in Understanding Rhetoric 
10/25/22In-Class Activity 
10/27/22Read David Sedaris “I Like Guys” and Brent Staples “Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space” 
11/1/22Read Nancy Maris “On Being a Cripple” and Judith Ortiz Cofer “The Myth of the Latin Woman” 
11/8/22Read Zora Neal Hurston “How it Feels to be Colored Me” and Maya Angelou “Graduation” 
11/10/22Peer Review 
11/15/22Read Sandra Cisneros “Only Daughter” and Randa Jarrar “Bibliocast”*Personal Identity Narrative Due
11/17/22Read Mike Rose “I Just Wanna be Average” and Jennine Capó Crucet’s “What We Pack”* 
11/22/22Work on essays in class 
11/24/22Thanksgiving Break 
11/29/22Peer Review 
12/1/22 Expanded Personal Identity Narrative Due

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