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Foundations in Rhetoric and Writing

English 300 l Spring 2013 Nathaniel A. Rivers l Office Hours: TTH, 1:00-2:00
We can now view in better perspective the world of writing in which we live, see better what this world really is, and what functionally literate human beings really are—that is, beings whose thought processes do not grow out of simply natural powers but out of these powers as structured, directly or indirectly, by the technology of writing. Without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing but even when it is composing its thoughts in oral form.
-Walter Ong, S.J., “Writing as a Technology That Restructures Thought.

Writing is part and parcel of nearly every human endeavor and many human endeavors owe their existence and essence to writing. As Walter Ong, S.J., suggests, no matter the course of your life—personally and professionally—writing is one of the primary ways we navigate that life’s contours and complexities. By virtue of this virtue, English 300 traces the roll of writing through a variety of societal endeavors. Likewise, this course introduces students to the field of rhetoric and writing through a sustained engagement with its practices and principles. Students produce a variety of documents (across a variety of genres) in terms of and in the context of key theoretical understandings of that work: namely, rhetorical theory, ethics, information design, and decision architecture. As future professional communicators, students will be continually required Mapping, a key metaphor for writing to analyze (that is, in this course, is an active and creative process, and not merely the theorize) audiences, passive conveyance of data. activities, organizations, and contexts. Successful writing practice is always predicated on a prior theoretical understanding or framework.

In addition to addressing the theory/practice key binary, the course is organized around two key metaphors: writing is mapping and writing is decision architecture. Briefly defined, mapping can be understood as the purposeful selection, arrangement, and presentation of information in a usable, primarily visual format for a specific audience. It is an active and creative process, and not merely the passive conveyance of data. Decision architecture is the rhetorical (understood both symbolically and materially) structuring of environments to promote or prescribe certain actions, decisions, or behaviors. These guiding metaphors influence every stage of the course, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. In this course and in the writing track at large, writing is not merely the transmission or translation of data or information for an uninformed audience. Rather, it is the generative act of creating, maintaining, and reshaping professional and other social environments which in turn structure and guide the thinking and behavior of others (actions with inherently ethical implications). With this in mind, the course asks the following questions: what is writing?, what do (professional) writers do?, and who does (professional) writing? Throughout the semester, students engage readings and one another, complete a variety of in-class exercises, and produce a range of documents in exploring (both theoretically and in practice) the work of professional writing. All work in the course stresses the importance of primary research, document design, effective writing, and audience awareness, considerations that will shape the professional lives of students.

Course Texts
§ § § Professional Writing and Rhetoric. Tim Peeples. Learning from Strangers: Art and Method of Qualitative Interview Studies. Robert Weiss. The Ghost Map. Steven Johnson.

Additional readings are either linked externally to other sites or linked internally as PDFs.

Course Projects
Re-Writing @SLU
To familiarize themselves with the scene of writing at Saint Louis University, students are asked to research and report on a crucial or visible piece of text at SLU. This text can be written, spoken, photographed, or film. Students will then re-write (re-vise or re-imagine) this text in some way. In addition to the re-written text, students compose two memos: one describing the original text and one documenting the re-written, focusing on the why and how of that process.
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Mapping Project
Fully exploring the course themes of decision architecture and mapping, this project asks students to map a campus space or issue @SLU. “Mapping” here means the purposeful selection, arrangement, and presentation of information in a usable, primarily visual format for a specific audience. This project seeks to position the creative and constructive work of writing as important and necessary. “Mapping” here is not to be understood as the passive mirroring of “reality,” but the active creation of meanings and knowledge. In concert with a primary theme of this course, mapping of this sort productively combines theory and practice in requiring students to frame and define both their audience and their object in specific ways (theorize) in planning and composing their map (practice). Maps can be static (e.g., infographics) or dynamic (e.g., audio tours). Additionally, this project stresses document design and primary research in the form of observations, interviews, and perhaps surveys, as well as secondary research.

of interviewing, learning the principles of successful and ethical primary research. While in several ways this assignment stands apart from the others, the same underlying theoretical framework is at work. In the planning stages, students create the interview as an architecture, a technology, for guiding and shaping the responses of their subject. In the report document (and in the subsequent presentation) students then map out the findings of their interview, selecting, arranging, and presenting the information for several different audiences.

Course Grades
Arts & Sciences Grading Scale
A AB+ 4.0 3.7 3.3 B BC+ 3.0 2.7 2.3 C CD 2.0 1.7 1 F 1

100% Class Participation1
You are authors in this class. That means you are expected to learn about and follow the social and cultural conventions of professional academic behavior, which I will help you learn during the semester. Because this class focuses a great deal on professional development and writing/authoring, my grading schema reflects that professionalism. Assigning letter or number grades does not improve your learning, just as telling an author that the journal rejects his/her work for publication— without any explanation as to why—doesn’t make him/her a better writer in the profession. I have set up this class so you can achieve the learning outcomes and excellence by providing structuring assignments that enhance your critical and creative thinking, and by offering a lot of informal and formal feedback on your in-progress work.

Feedback often comes in the form of informal in-class discussions about your assignments and individual or group conferences. For instance, when I and your peers offer critiques of your draft projects, we assume that you will implement those revision suggestions into your drafts. When you don’t, you should have a very good reason in relation to the purpose of the text for not doing so. Otherwise, when I am reviewing your final project, I should be able to see your progress on the text from the time it was workshopped as well as from informal, inclass feedback or conferences with me. I hope that this grading system will allow you the freedom and flexibility to take risks in your assignments while also providing

Interview Report
In order to explore the work of (professional) writers and to learn of career opportunities in the field, this project asks students to first locate a professional writer, secure an interview, prepare a set of interview questions, and develop an interviewing strategy. Students then conduct the interview and write-up a formal document reporting their findings. Students engage readings on the practice


Grading scheme borrowed from Cheryl Ball at Illinois State University.

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time for you to re-envision and revise those drafts into more usable, sophisticated, and polished texts by the end of the term.




Attendance: You are required to attend every class session unless the schedule specifically indicates that class is canceled that day. There are no such things as excused vs. unexcused absences—if you’re not here, I don’t much care why. If your absence is caused by a funeral or similar extenuating circumstances, I will take that into consideration when I consider your grade. If you miss more than one class, consider your grade in jeopardy. If you miss a workshop, you’ll be doubly in jeopardy. Also, attendance at out-of-class conferences with me is considered the same as class time. If you miss a conference, you will be counted absent. Timeliness: If you show up late or leave early or disappear (or fall asleep) for 15 minutes in the middle of class, it will affect your participation. Timeliness also refers to the time-sensitive nature of completing assignments and turning in equipment on time. Late work is completely unacceptable, and I will not give you feedback on it. If you do not have a major assignment ready in time for our workshop days, it is your responsibility to get feedback from your classmates outside of class upon (or before) your return. If you return borrowed equipment late, consider your participation grade in jeopardy. If you fail to return borrowed equipment at all (like, you lose it or break it beyond repair), you are responsible for replacing the equipment with the same kind, and I will hold your final grade submission until it has been replaced. Readiness: Readiness is different from timeliness in that it relates specifically to being prepared by the start-time of the class period (and any outsideof-class work that we negotiate to do). All homework must be completed before class starts. For instance, printing of assignments or uploading of files after the class period has begun will result in a delay of class, which will negatively impact your grade. This bullet also refers to workshop participation and group work participation in that if you do not have a draft ready on workshop day, you are unprepared to provide feedback to your workshop peers, or you are unwilling/unable to perform the responsibilities of your group work, your grade will suffer.

Thoughtfulness: Thoughtfulness translates to critical awareness and participation in all manners of class activities. This may include activities such as having useful, productive questions or discussion items based on homework (readings, assignments, or peer-review work), collegial work completed with your group mates, or thoughtful work demonstrated in the major assignments themselves. In addition (a note for those of you who like to talk a lot), thoughtfulness means that if you constantly need to share in class, but your sharing is largely off-topic, disruptive, or unhelpful, your participation may be more distracting than useful. I will probably talk to you about this before your grade suffers. If you have questions at any time about your grade potential, please make an appointment with me. If I believe that you are on a trajectory toward a C, D, or F, I will let you know by mid-term. If you’re participating in the basics of the class, then you’re probably passing and should only be concerned with your individual goals for earning a B or A, described in more detail below. Everyone in this class starts with a B/C. How you participate changes that grade higher or lower. Students earn As (see below), Bs (for mediocre participation in class, usually related to group work), a few Cs (usually related to multiple absences), and Fs (for failure to turn in a large number of assignments or skipping out altogether).


Earning an A
The grade of A is reserved for excellent work. Excellent work does not equate with showing up every day, participating once in a while, and turning in completed drafts on time. Those are the average requirements of any class setting, and average equates to a C in this academic setting. Here are some ways to earn an A: § Produce excellent assignments. What constitutes excellence? Doing more than simply completing the terms of the assignment. An excellent assignment may meet any number of qualities, depending on its purpose and genre. We’ll spend much time analyzing possible qualities for your work, which means you’ll be creating evaluation criteria for your own work. If your texts live up to your own criteria, it’s likely your work will be excellent. § Participate excellently in class. Excellence in class participation means not simply speaking frequently, but all of the ways I mention in the class participation section above. As some examples, you should contribute in an active and generous way to the work of the class as a whole
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by asking questions, offering interpretations, politely challenging your classmates, graciously accepting challenges in return, and being a productive group member. Be an excellent citizen-scholar. Specifically, be able to demonstrate to me (through discussions, group work, assignment drafts) that you (a) understand and can reflect on the content of this class and show progress toward that knowledge in your final portfolio; (b) reason logically, critically, creatively, independently and consensually, and are able to address issues in a broad and constantly shifting context; (c) recognize different ways of thinking, creating, expressing, and communicating through a variety of media; (d) understand diversity in value systems and cultures in an interdependent world; and (e) develop a capacity for self-assessment and transferable learning.
§ § § § § § § § § §

Project Management
§ understanding, developing, and deploying various strategies for planning, researching, drafting, revising, and editing documents both individually and collaboratively selecting and using appropriate styles and technologies that effectively and ethically address contexts and audiences building ethos through voice, evidence, documentation and accountability



Document Design
Make rhetorical design decisions about documents (and other compositions), including: § § § § understanding and adapting to genre conventions and audience expectations understanding and implementing design principles of format and layout interpreting and arguing with design drafting, researching, testing, and revising visual designs and information architecture

Productive Participation
have a collegial attitude bring your materials to class every day ask for help well in advance of a deadline accept responsibility for late or incomplete assignments ask your classmates for missed content if you are absent be attentive in class so that I avoid needless repetition provide me assignments on time and in the assigned medium ask your classmates (or Google) for help during open-lab sessions, then… …if stumped, raising your hand, calling me, and waiting patiently for help use email, appointments, or some other agreedupon conferencing medium for private or involved questions understand that strategic (and sometimes maximum) effort results in excellent work

Learn and apply strategies for successful teamwork and collaboration, such as: § § § § § § working online with colleagues determining roles and responsibilities managing team conflicts constructively responding constructively to peers' work soliciting and using peer feedback effectively achieving team goals

Understand and use various research methods and sources to produce quality documents, including: § § analyzing historical and contemporary contexts locating, evaluating, and using print and online information selectively for particular audiences and purposes triangulating sources of evidence


Course Goals
Writing in Context
Analyze cultures, social contexts, and audiences to determine how they shape the various purposes and forms of writing, such as persuasion, organizational communication, and public discourse, with an emphasis on: § § writing for a range of defined audiences and stakeholders negotiating the ethical dimensions of rhetorical action


Use and evaluate rhetorical technologies such as emailing, instant messaging, image editing, audio editing, video editing, presentation design and delivery, HTML editing, Web browsing, content management, and desktop publishing technologies.

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Core Course Policies
Technology Expectations
§ § § § ability to interact with the course website and other websites access to word processing, visual design, podcasting, and web design software a suitable email account checked regularly for course-related business a Flash drive or other means to backup coursework

responsibility of any student who observes such dishonest conduct to call it to the attention of a faculty member or administrator.

Student Conduct
This course’s code of student conduct is informed by Saint Louis University’s own code of student conduct, best encapsulated by the following statement: “All members of the University community are expected to contribute to the development and sustainability of community through word and action. Our community is characterized by respect for the dignity of others, honesty, and the pursuit of truth.” Insults, slurs, or attacks of any kind are not allowed in this class (this includes f2f meetings and on the course site). Any student who engages in this type of behavior in the classroom will be permanently removed from the class. This code of conduct is equally important to maintain during group meetings outside of class. In order to have an effective teaching and learning environment we must practice both respect and tolerance, without question. The remainder of the university’s code of student conduct can be found at

Routine work with technology is a component of this course. Students need not be technological experts to succeed in this course, but digital technology interaction is integral and computer problems are not valid excuses for incomplete work. Practice the core principle of digital data work: redundant backup. Digital technology will fail; be prepared for that eventuality.

Personal Technology Devices
Students may use laptops, cell phones, and other digital devices during class, provided that they do not disrupt other students’ learning. This is not a trick. This course is situated in an increasingly connected multimedia environment. Each student is responsible for his or her own engagement with class meetings, and thus his or her resultant success or failure.

Availability of Online Material
Because of the nature of the course, some material posted to the course website may be publicly accessible through the Web. (A student’s grades and personal information will not be shared publicly.) Additionally, any material posted to the course website may be used anonymously for teaching or published research purposes. For these reasons, students are encouraged to select usernames that are different from their real names.

English as a Second Language
Help is available at the ESL Resource Center, where tutors are specialized to work with second-language concerns. They work with any international student, undergraduate or graduate, who wishes to seek assistance. In one-on-one consultations and workshops, our ESL writing coaches provide feedback and offer strategies to improve your writing at every stage, from brainstorming for ideas to polishing final drafts. We also offer workshops and individual assistance in other language-related areas, including TOEFL test-taking strategies, multi-media projects, grammar, research, and conversation skills. For more information, to make or cancel an appointment contact Christian Rayner at 314977-3052 or visit

SLU Statement of Academic Integrity
The University is a community of learning, whose effectiveness requires an environment of mutual trust and integrity, such as would be expected at a Jesuit, Catholic institution. As members of this community, students, faculty, and staff members share the responsibility to maintain this environment. Academic dishonesty violates it. Although not all forms of academic dishonesty can be listed here, it can be said in general that soliciting, receiving, or providing any unauthorized assistance in the completion of any work submitted toward academic credit is dishonest. It not only violates the mutual trust necessary between faculty and students but also undermines the validity of the University’s evaluation of students and takes unfair advantage of fellow students. Further, it is the

Students with Special Needs
In recognition that people learn in a variety of ways and that learning is influenced by multiple factors (e.g., prior experience, study skills, learning disability), resources to support student success are available on campus. Students who think they might benefit from these resources can find out more about:

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Course-level support (e.g., faculty member, departmental resources, etc.) by asking the course instructor. University-level support (e.g., tutoring/writing services, Disability Services) by visiting the Student Success Center (BSC 331) or by going to

Students who believe that, due to a disability, they could benefit from academic accommodations are encouraged to contact Disability Services at 314-977-8885 or visit the Student Success Center. Confidentiality will be observed in all inquiries. Course instructors support student accommodation requests when an approved letter from Disability Services has been received and when students discuss these accommodations with the instructor after receipt of the approved letter.

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Foundations in Rhetoric and Writing
English 300 l Spring 2013 Nathaniel A. Rivers l Office Hours: TTH, 1:00-2:00

Jan. 15 Rhetoric and Writing Introduction Syllabus Review Icebreaker Syllabus Review Weak/Strong/Strange Defense of Rhetoric Ice Breaker

Assignment for Next Time
Read: (1/22): Peeples, ix-xi and 1-100

Jan. 17

Explore: Writing @SLU to rewrite

Jan. 22 Introduce Project #1: Re-Writing @ SLU Reading Discussion Text as Technology/Readers as Users Memo for Project #1 Due

Assignment for Next Time
Read (1/29): Peeples, 100-170 Memo: Writing to Rewrite (500 words) Read: “American Collapse” (pdf), “Preface” from Infrastructure (pdf), and “Flow” from How Buildings Learn (pdf)

Jan. 24

Jan. 29 Jan. 31 Maps, Infrastructure, Rhetoric Maps, Infrastructure, Rhetoric Project #1 Workshop

Assignment for Next Time
Read: Case and Sunstein and Peeples, 319-383

Feb. 5 Project #1 Due Project #1 Postmortem Memo Due Introduce Project #2: Mapping Introduce The Ghost Map (Handout) In-Class Map Analyses Read: The Ghost Map: 1-79 Read: selection from Compose Design Advocate

Assignment for Next Time

Feb. 7

Feb. 12 Progress Reports (Project #2) Book Discussion: Perspective and Scope (“Why are we reading this?”) Mapping Project Proposal Due Proposal Workshop

Assignment for Next Time
Read: Interview/Observation Handout

Feb. 14

Read: The Ghost Map: 80-156 Readings on Audience and Context

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Feb. 19 Feb. 21 Audience and Context of Use Progress Reports (Project #2) Map Workshop

Assignment for Next Time

Read: The Ghost Map, 159-228

Feb. 26 Feb. 28 Reading Discussion Map Workshop Discuss Presentations (Handout)

Assignment for Next Time

Mar. 5 Mapping Project (Project #2) Due Presentations (5 minutes with handout) Mapping Project (Project #2) Due Presentations (5 minutes with handout)

Assignment for Next Time

Mar. 7

Read: Weiss, 1-60

Mar. 12 Mar. 14 Spring Break Spring Break

Assignment for Next Time

Mar. 19 Introduce Project #3: Interview Report Reading Discussion In-Class Interview Exercise Reading Discussion In-Class Interview Exercise Review: Professional Interview

Assignment for Next Time
Read: Weiss, 61-150

Mar. 21

Read: Weiss, 150-222 (read all appendices) Compose: Interview Proposal

Mar. 26 Mar. 28 Interview Proposal Due Holy Thursday

Assignment for Next Time

Apr. 2 Apr. 4 Develop Interview Questions Progress Reports (Project #3)

Assignment for Next Time

Read: Peeples, 171-218

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Apr. 9 Apr. 11 Ethics Exercise: TMNT Ethics Exercise: TMNT Progress Reports (Project #3)

Assignment for Next Time

Readings on Effective Language

Apr. 16 Apr. 18 Effective Language: Concise and Concrete Interview Report Draft Due Report Workshop

Assignment for Next Time

Read: Rivers, “Some Assembly Required”

Apr. 23 Progress Reports (Project #3) Reading Discussion Revisit Presentations (Handout) Workshop and Conferences

Assignment for Next Time
Read: Peeples, 385-441

Apr. 25

Apr. 30 May 2 Interview Report Presentations Interview Report Presentations

Assignment for Next Time

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