courses / Fall 2012 / The Craft of Writing

Fall 2012

1A 005 - The Craft of Writing

Instructor  Ragini Srinivasan

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “to write” in a number of ways: to score; to outline; to draw; to incise; to record; to impress; to stamp; to delineate; to express; to present; to translate; to exhibit; to pen… In this class, we will expand on each of these definitions and add one more of our own: “to write” is “to make a world.”

Most of us read and/or write something every day—from textbooks and text messages, to emails, chats, and blogs. This semester, we will take a step back from the world of abundant, instant feeds and tweets in order to critically examine the practice of writing as not only a means of communication, but as an occasion for world making. How, we will ask, are words used to create sentences, paragraphs, and arguments? Who is it that writes when we write? What subjects demand what form of writing? Why do we write? Is writing an effective means for “righting” the world? What does (and what can) our writing do?

We will begin with the premise that reading and writing are both forms of “doing” with broad philosophical, socio-cultural, personal, and political import. We will think critically about writing as a formative practice, through which we as writers are born into new forms of subjectivity, and through which our readers may come to view the world in fresh, provocative, and transformative ways.

Materials engaged in this course will include critical theory, novels (and excerpts), poetry, drama, essays, and (at least one) film, and we will be attentive to the demands and possibilities of different literary and philosophical genres. Readings will include the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, J.L. Austin, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Italo Calvino, G.V. Desani, Frantz Fanon, Donna Haraway, David Ives, V.S. Naipaul, Edward Said, Joan Scott, Zadie Smith, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Raymond Williams, among others. No prior knowledge of these authors and texts will be assumed.

By approaching every text and assignment as if we are learning to read and write for the first time, we will hone our close reading skills and learn to craft rhetorical arguments. Analysis of the selected texts will be accompanied by workshops on writing mechanics, the tools of interpretation, and the art of persuasion.

This course satisfies the first half of Berkeley’s Reading and Composition (R&C) requirement.