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Writing Across the Curriculum


English 14

English 14.001
Spring 2005
3 Credits
MW 10:00-12:50 , H215
Instructor: Michael Sohn
Office: H400B
Office Hours: MW 1:00-2, TTH 4:30-5:30 , or by appointment
Phone: 488-3351 (office), 488-1050 (Eng. Dept. Secretary)
e-mail: michael.sohn@liu.edu

Course Description

The world bristles with questions and so will English 14. Asking questions, however, isn't always as easy as it seems. We will learn how to question through reading and writing critically . What does this mean? The deceptively simple answer: taking neither what we read nor what we and our classmates write for granted. We need look for the various strategies writers use to organize their material and to convince us. Seeing how a writer structures and argues an essay, noting the vocabulary he uses, or the way she incorporates examples, or how they lay out an argument or tell a story provides us with tools and strategies we can use in our own writing. Yet these same questions lead us to more “theoretical” or “political” queries: what was the writer's “agenda” in this essay? How can we see that in how he writes? Does he try to hide it? From what social and historical context does she write? How does this affect her choices as a writer? We need, of course, to ask these very same questions about ourselves. Does the way we read and the way we write both reveal and conceal things about us, about our own individual histories and the cultures to which we willingly and/or unwillingly belong?

As I said, bristling with questions. But we will try to make them as specific as possible by reading and writing essays that, on the whole, question the way we write ourselves into existence. We will start the course by considering how memories — our own as well as those of others — influence the way we speak about ourselves, how our “identity”, as complex as it is, does not really differ from a story over which we do not always have complete control. How do we write these and other memories into ourselves? How do we tell ourselves to other people? And what's at stake for them and for us in the telling? Then we'll move on to think more closely about the “types” of language we use and how they have already made many of our decisions. What types of languages do we speak and what do they reveal about us and about the communities — in the largest sense of the word — to which we belong? Do we always mean what we say? And what are the consequences of how we talk, the language we choose, and the type of writing that ensues? This will lead us to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby , a novel about the “American Dream”, which may in the end be just another story we tell each other. In this unit we will learn how to read closely, how to look for patterns, and how to deal with headaches. Finally, we will watch a classic movie dealing with point of view and begin to think about how point of view affects what we know and has already affected all the work we have done in class.

This course, then aims to strengthen and sharpen your reading and writing skills. Reading doesn't just happen but is made : simply to decipher words on the page is not enough; you will have to interpret and respond to the assigned reading and to your own and your classmates' writing. You will learn about the process of revision by writing successive drafts for each of the major assigned papers. By the end of the semester, in addition to gaining increasing fluency, clarity, and correctness in your writing, you should start to analyze the strategic choices made by authors — audience, voice, arguments, examples — and to begin to develop your own writing strategies. You will begin to see your own writing as no different from the other texts we will read in class — as open to the same questions and comments and confusion and pleasures that plagued you throughout the semester.


Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan, The Writer's Presence 4 th Edition.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (Scribner).
Larry Beason and Mark Lester, A Commonsense Guide to Grammar and Usage,
3 rd Edition .
A good dictionary.

Instructors' Responsibilities:

  1. To create an environment in which you feel free to comment and ask questions and chuckle
  2. To respond to your writing regularly through discussion and written commentary
  3. To be clear
  4. To expose you to handwriting that could only have been born in Hell
  5. To engage in dialogue rather than merely lecture about reading assignments
  6. To discuss your writing or any other concern during office hours or by appointment

Students' Responsibilities:

  1. Attendance. You are responsible to the group and must be at all the class meetings on time and stay there for the whole class period. I keep track of lateness — and of the times you leave early — and this will be added to your absences. After 3 absences your grade will be lowered one step, another 2 will drop it a whole grade. After 6 absences you will fail the course. This class is work intensive and it is difficult to catch up when you fall behind. I understand that sometimes you cannot make it to class, but it is your responsibility to inform me you will be absent (if possible) and to find out from a classmate what you may have missed.
  2. Preparation. You need to come to class prepared to participate. Thus you must have done the assigned reading and/or have assignments ready to hand in or to discuss. Make sure you have a notebook to write in and something to write with. Complete all the work for the course on time. Assignments are due at the beginning of a class.
  3. Participate in class discussions and take notes in class no matter who is speaking.
  4. Make sure I'm clear. Ask questions when I'm not.
  5. Occasionally be funny.


Essays. You will be writing 3 4-5 page formal essays (and 1 4-5 page self assessment essay) each of which you will revise at least once. Final drafts MUST BE TYPED AND AT LEAST 4 FULL PAGES (12 pt. Times Roman font, 1 inch margins). Rough drafts may be written by hand on 8 1/2 x 11 lined paper. Write IN PEN AND ON EVERY OTHER LINE to leave me room to comment. I will do my best to comment legibly on both. All drafts final or not should be accompanied by a letter to the reader (see below). You may continue to revise any essay up until the last day of the course, but must turn in a second draft on the day the final draft is due and make an appointment to see me to talk about revision .

Letter to the Reader. This letter serves several purposes. The most obvious is to let me and your classmates know who your audience actually is. Even though we will all read your essay, none of us may be the “intended” reader. The letter will also permit you to discuss places where you've had problems, where you would like someone to look closer, questions you may have had in writing the essay, parts you're pleased with. The letter that accompanies the final draft will allow you to talk about why you did what you did when you revised, comments that you found helpful, confusing, etc . In particular, the letter for the final draft (which will be different from the letter accompanying your 1st draft) provides a place for you to specifically raise writing questions: things you wish you had time to look at, questions/issues that you didn't have the time or the space or the information to deal with, reasons you chose to follow or ignore your classmates' or my own suggested revisions. I consider these letters an important part of the whole writing process , and they help me to understand better how you are moving from draft to draft. They should be at least 3/4 of a page in length.

In class essays . Two timed (2 hr.) in-class essays and two 2-period (2 x 2 hr.) in-class essays (one class to write, one class to revise).

Journals . In addition to the formal assignments, you will keep a journal in which you will write responses to EVERY reading (at least 100 words each — about 1/2 a normal size handwritten page). I will collect the journals at the midterm and at the end of the semester. Your responses can become material for your essays.


Portfolios . English 14 is a portfolio course. This means that at the end of the semester you'll put together a portfolio that should represent your best work. Portfolios will consist of the following items: 1) self-assessment essay; 2) two formal revised essays with at least 2 drafts attached; 3) one two period in-class essay; 4) one one period in-class essay; 5) ALL YOUR OTHER WORK (“unofficial” portfolio). Your portfolio will be evaluated by three other English 14 instructors, and it must be given a passing grade for you to pass the course . I will give you a progress report at midterm to help you understand where you stand in the course.

Plagiarism . The Council of Writing Program Administrators defines plagiarism thus: “In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else's language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledging its source” (www.wpacouncil.org). This is a pretty good definition, and you should keep it in mind whenever you write. If the idea and/or the writing is not your own, you need to document it; if you are not sure and cannot ask me, document to be safe . Plagiarism is theft and can lead to failing the class and even to suspension; it's serious and you should not do it.

Grading. You final portfolio will constitute 50% of your grade. The two essays not included in your portfolio will be worth 15% each, and the remaining 20% class participation and attendance.

Class Schedule:

WP = The Writer's Presence ; G= The Great Gatsby ; please bring the Commonsense Guide to class unless instructed otherwise


In Class

Reading Due

Writing Due

W 1/19

Introductions and interviews; notions of identity: truth or fiction?


Who am I?

M 1/24

Syllabus; assign Essay 1; diagnostic writing



W 1/26

Identity and others: defining self; writing memory in the present

Ephron, WP 117


M 1/31

Fractured identity, whole writing; memory, story, or essay?

Rich, WP 205, Kincaid, WP 154

Memory (1-2 pp.)

W 2/2

Lying to tell the truth or stories we tell ourselves and others

Kingston, WP 434


M 2/7

Large group workshop


Draft of Essay 1 with letter to reader, 4 volunteers bring 10 copies of paper, everyone else bring 2 copies

W 2/9

Peer review; conferences


Make sure you bring the copy of your paper for peer review

M 2/14

Assign Essay 2; language and memory?

Hass and Simic (handouts)


W 2/16

Language? In class essay 1 ( Bring WP )

Steiner (handout)

Essay 1 (with draft and NEW letter to reader)

T 2/22

Stories; language and power

Morrison (handout); Baldwin, WP 610

Language Experience

W 2/23

Slang or language?

Jordan (handout)


M 2/28

Peer review; conferences


Draft of Essay 2 (2 copies, letter to reader)

W 3/2

Culture and assimilation; language and intimacy; conferences

Rodriguez, WP 221-237


M 3/7

2 Class In Class Essay ( Bring WP, handouts )


Essay 2 (with draft and NEW letter to reader)

W 3/9

2 Class In Class Essay







M 3/21


G. Ch. 1-2


W 3/23


G. Ch. 3

Theme (1-2 pp.)

M 3/28

Writing about literature

G Ch. 4-5


W 3/30


G Ch. 6


M 4/4


G Ch. 7-8


W 4/6

Plagiarism workshop

G Ch. 9


M 4/11

Small group workshops; conferences


Draft of Essay 3 (2 copies, letter to reader)

W 4/13

Point of View; assign self assessment essay

Rashoman (film)


M 4/18

2 Class In Class Essay ( Bring G )


Essay 3 (with draft and NEW letter to reader)

W 4/20

2 Class In Class Essay ( Bring G)



M 4/25

Point of view on point of view

Rashoman articles

Draft of Self Assessement Essay

W 4/27


O'Connor, WP 854


M 5/2

Final Impromptu In Class Essay; eat and make melancholy merry


Portfolios (including Self Assessement Essay

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