Expository Writing Program
Office hours by appointment
Writing the Essay
Writing the Essay is a workshop-style writing class, a forum for students to develop complex ideas, think about the characteristics of effective and compelling writing, and engage in a conversation about the essay form. The goal of the course is for you to improve as a writer, reader, and critical and creative thinker, and for you to write essays that are finished products of high quality.
An essay must turn a question into a quest, to borrow the words of the writer John Fowles. A truly engaging essay shows the movement of the writer’s thinking—every new piece of evidence becomes an opportunity for the essayist to evolve as an interpreter. For that reason, every essay needs a coherent structure (beginning, middle and end) that gives the writer space to explore a complex question and share her or his discoveries with a reader.
You will write three different essays this semester. Each one will begin with the act of interpreting other texts—essays by professional writers, for example, but also other readable texts such as art objects and images, and scenes from your life. Your essays will be built on writing exercises that seek to move away from basic forms and toward more commodious and complicated nets of thinking and questioning.
Occasions for Writing: Evidence, Idea Essay. Ed. Robert DiYanni and Pat C. Hoy II. The Little, Brown Essential Handbook. Jane E. Aaron.
Mercer Street, 2012-2013.
Here are the major writing requirements of the course:
1) In-class and journal writing amounting to around 25 pages. 2) Sixteen to eighteen peer-and-instructor evaluated writing exercises. Length will be specified on each assignment. 3) Three peer-evaluated/instructor-graded essays. Length will be specified on each assignment sheet. 4) A final portfolio, preferably a sturdy two-pocket folder packed with drafts, exercises, in-class writing, and final essays, collected at the end of the semester.
You and I will meet for two required conferences during the semester. You’re also welcome to schedule additional conferences with me. Be sure to bring a printed copy of your latest draft. These conferences involve writing as well as talking, so please bring your journal with you too (see below).
Students must always submit drafts of the major essays, not just the final version. Final versions are graded. There will be an opportunity to revise either the first or second essay; however, you must provide substantive revision to improve your grade. Keep all writing done in the course, including drafts, final papers and informal writing (e.g. journal entries, homework, in-class writing) as a portfolio of work organized in a sturdy folder.
Completion of all assigned writing exercises is a prerequisite to turning in final essays. Essays that are part of an incomplete portfolio won’t be graded; ungraded essays will be considered late. Please bring a printed copy of your writing assignment or draft to class on the day it’s due. All written work should be typed and double-spaced, with page numbers.
Keep a separate notebook for the class, for use as a reading journal and a record of in-class discussion and writing. It is not enough to have a laptop in class; there will be entire classes when I ask you write with a pen and paper instead. Use the journal or notebook to identify and respond to passages that strike you in the assigned readings. Also, bring the journal with you anytime you have a conference with me. A single-subject wire notebook or composition book should be enough.
All final essays must explore and develop an idea or question in a coherent, interesting way, and have a thoughtful beginning, middle and end, as the description at the start of the syllabus suggests. Final...