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WRT 400: Rhetorical Listening and Composition

Fall 2013, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:50 p.m., Tolley 304 Patrick W. Berry, pwberry@syr.edu, office: HBC 235 office phone: 315-443-1912

office hours: Tuesdays, 9:00-11:00 a.m. and by appointment http://patrickberry.com/listeningfall13


Project #1: Listening and Freedom For the past few weeks, we have been reading about theories of listening and how it might help us as writers and readers. Rhetorical listening offers us the potential to see things differently, and it can sometimes help others do so as well. Given the varied ways in which people use language in everyday life, it is inevitable that language will sometimes reflect bias, misunderstanding, and assumptions. The Listening and Freedom project asks you to bring together three areas that weve been studying (or will study): 1) theories of listening; 2) felt sense; and 3) issues of mass incarceration. The assignment is designed to give you practice producing an essay for Prison Perspectives, a hypothetical college-in-prison magazine for upper-level incarcerated students. Heres the scenario: Prison Perspectives is doing a special issue on the theme of listening and freedom. It has invited writers to craft an article that is inspired by the ideas put forth by Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow in which they reflect on their own experiences with related issues, such as crime, race, and freedom. You should think of your essay as a piece that one might find in a serious publication such as The New Yorker. Your essay should reflect a nuanced understanding of issues raised by mass incarceration. Youll want to consider the demographics of your audience and strike an appropriate tone, considering the issue of speaking for others that weve discussed in class. To select a focus, you should choose an issue raised by Alexanderfor example, the consequences of the war on drugs, or Obamas speech about fathers. You should then discuss your topic by weaving the ideas put forth by Alexander into a piece of creative nonfiction. For example, you might write an essay about how a memory related to race or crime informs your understanding of mass incarceration and/or freedom. If appropriate, you may incorporate the ideas of our listening theorists; however, if you do this, please keep it brief and work to make sure that the ideas are understandable to readers unfamiliar with these works. Your essay should be a powerful piece of creative nonfiction, 7-10 pages long, that has 1) a strong introduction and conclusion and 2) a clear focus on a particular aspect of an issue raised by Alexander.

You will receive a letter grade for this assignment (20% of your course grade) based on the extent to which you meets these requirements and your submission of a complete draft by the due date and participation in the review process. A complete draft is due 9/26, and we will workshop the drafts on this day. Ill ask you to bring a revised version to class on 10/1 when Sondra Perl visits. The final project is due 10/3.