courses / Spring 2012 / Reading & Composition

Spring 2012

1A 001 - Reading & Composition


In Declaring Independence, Fliegelman argues that “The Declaration of Independence” was essentially meant to be read aloud and that in reading this document silently to ourselves, we fail to grasp its true meaning and potential. Furthermore, he maintains, America is a culture and society built on the affective and rational dimensions of listening. In this course we will interrogate the ways in which America and Americans are composed, solidified, and contested through the sounds and voices of literature, oratory, music, cinema, news, and radio. From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner,” we will ask, what is particular about American sounds and voices, and what makes them “American?” Can sounds and voices question and test the borders of that assignation even while participating in the rich fabric of American sound? Why do we rally around voices and sounds? What does it mean to listen to America from outside of America? Can American sounds come from beyond its borders, and vice versa, leave its borders to become something else, thereby contributing to a broader sense of nation?

Your papers, of course, will be the perfect place to explore these questions. Alongside of these questions, we will ask:

•    What is “analytical” writing?
•    What makes a good paper?
•    How do we read and interpret a text, develop claims, gather evidence, and express our claims to others in ways that are clear, compelling, and convincing?
•    Why do we need to know how to interpret what we read, hear, and see?
•    Why do we need to know how to write persuasively and clearly?

This course provides a series of tools with which to approach these important questions, and they are tools that will last well beyond college. Readings and class discussions will inform your process, and our schedule will provide necessary scaffolding for reading, thinking, writing, and rewriting. Our study of rhetoric will challenge you to continue to consider how knowledge is shaped by the intentions of the writer or speaker and the expectations of the audience. We will learn how arguments surround us in daily life and how rhetoric does not stop at texts, and that “texts” are themselves sounds, images, experiences, writings, and things.

Three formal essays will demand (interesting) support of a (compelling) thesis.  Shorter assignments and papers, both in content and structure, will lead cumulatively to the expectations of a final paper. You will write approximately 30 pages over the course of the semester. You will learn to weave together a variety of writing techniques in the investigation and support of a variety of claims about a variety of texts. The final paper will reflect not only your ability to bring together relevant information, but to synthesize, reflect on, and interpret it.

You will also be required to develop your public speaking skills, presenting your positions to the class, while also giving a more formal presentation of your final paper. As rhetors, we will learn how reading, thinking, and speaking go hand in hand.