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WRT 205-M260: Critical Research and Inquiry The Prison and the American Imagination

Spring 2014, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:50 p.m., Heroy Geology Building 013 Patrick W. Berry, pwberry@syr.edu, office: HBC 235 office phone: 315-443-1912 office hours: Fridays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. and by appointment http://patrickberry.com/wrt205spring2014

! ! ! “Today, most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration. For more than three decades, images of black men in handcuffs have been a regular staple of the evening news.” —Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

Course Overview The goal of this course is to teach you not only how to write well, but also how to conduct critical inquiry and research. What does it mean to write “critically”? How do you use research effectively to develop an argument? How and where do you find appropriate research? How can you use visual media to advance your claims? To answer these questions, we will explore writing and reading processes, tactics for collecting and representing research, and, perhaps most importantly, rhetorical strategies for crafting effective prose. During the semester, you will compose one short paper (approximately five pages), two short multimedia projects (approximately five pages or the equivalent), and a sustained argument essay (seven pages) as well as complete a series of informal and inventive writing assignments. To do this type of work, we must be willing to listen to views and perspectives that disrupt our thinking. We live in a cultural environment saturated by an unprecedented amount of information competing for our attention, sometimes distracting us, and it can be difficult to slow down and question the assumptions that inform different discourses. In order to succeed as writers, thinkers, and citizens, we need to learn how to ask good questions— questions that trigger an active engagement with issues and concepts. The topic of inquiry for this course is “The Prison and the American Imagination,” through which we will examines “how a nation so famously associated with freedom became internationally identified with imprisonment” (Caleb Smith). This inquiry provides a frame for reading, researching, and writing on an issue that remains nearly invisible to the general public, despite the fact that our prisons house more than 2.2 million people (Glaze 2011). The course
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readings explore how the rapid expansion of U.S. prisons occurred and consider its consequences. We will research and analyze issues related to mass incarceration, the school-toprison pipeline, and the war on drugs. We will also consider popular representations of prisons in the U.S. media and how they shape the public’s understanding of the prison environment.

Course Goals 1. Students will investigate a shared topic of inquiry and develop research questions that engage the social, political, ideological, economic, and historical complexities of, and current debates about, that topic. Students will learn multiple research strategies, including primary research, and develop more extensive knowledge of library databases in order to identify sources appropriate to their research questions. Students will evaluate the validity of their sources in the context of their research questions. Students will read sources rhetorically, which involves considering authors’ positions in relation to audiences, recognizing points of congruence and difference among texts, and establishing a genuine dialogue with others’ ideas. Students will understand the role of genres, sources, styles, and media in communicating with particular audiences and for specific purposes. Students will understand the ways in which digital media shape all stages of the research and writing process—invention, composing, revision, delivery—and how the effects of digital media vary according to audience, genre, context, and purpose. Students will produce texts that demonstrate a nuanced understanding of, and an ethical relationship with, sources and research participants. Students will demonstrate how their dialogue with sources has broadened and enhanced their own thinking about the issue.

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Students will practice and produce analysis, argument, synthesis, and summary as central components of researched writing, completing a series of informal writing assignments as well as at least three sustained, finished texts that respond to specific rhetorical situations. 10. Students will practice the strategy of incorporating the research of others into their own texts in a variety of ways (including summary, paraphrase, and quotation) and will provide textual evidence of where, how, and why sources are being used. 11. Students will develop revision and editing strategies for organization, prose style, and technical control. ! ! Course Texts The following books are available in the SU Bookstore and Follett’s Orange Bookstore: ! Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. Logan: Utah State UP, 2006. ! Wysocki, Anne Frances, and Dennis Lynch. The DK Handbook. Milwaukee: Pearson, 2011.!!

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Other Material/Requirements ! various pdfs available on Blackboard ! approximately $20 for copy expenses over the course of the semester Attendance & Participation Since this course involves regular in-class tutorials, assignments, and workshops, regular attendance is required in order to be successful. If you miss a class, you are expected to stay current by contacting me and/or speaking with a classmate. Coming to class unprepared o r unresponsive, or being more than 20 minutes late, will be considered an absence. If you miss more than four class meetings, you will receive a reduced or failing grade.

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The Writing Center If you need any help with your writing, the Writing Center (http://wc.syr.edu) is an excellent resource. Workshop consultants can help you learn how to improve your writing by offering assistance with planning, drafting, and revising. This resource is free, and I highly recommend it. You are also always welcome to utilize my office hours for help with assignments. Special Needs and Situations If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS), http://disabilityservices.syr.edu, located in Room 309 of 804 University Avenue, or call (315) 443-4498 for an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. ODS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will issue students with documented disabilities Accommodation Authorization Letters as appropriate. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact ODS as soon as possible. Syracuse University and I are committed to your success and to supporting Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This means that in general no individual who is otherwise qualified shall be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity solely by reason of having a disability. Religious Observance SU’s religious observances policy, found at http://supolicies.syr.edu/emp_ben/religious_observance.htm, recognizes the diversity of faiths represented among the campus community and protects the rights of students, faculty, and staff to observe religious holy days according to their tradition. Under the policy, students are provided an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to a religious observance provided they notify their instructors before the end of the second week of classes. For fall and spring semesters, an online notification process is available through MySlice/Student Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances from the first day of class until the end of the second week of class.

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Assignments Project #1

Flashpoints Portfolio (20%) Using the critical reading guidelines outlined in chapter 1 of Joseph Harris’s book— “Coming to Terms”—you will compose critical summaries of three assigned readings and one text you locate through database research. You will also generate a researchable question specific to the course inquiry topic. (Length: five pages) Multimedia Source Analysis and Presentation (30%) In a multimedia project and 10-minute presentation, you will analyze the secondary sources you have located (specific to your research question) and account for how your perspective on your research topic has changed as a result of your encounters with other ideas, perspectives, and positions. (Length: five pages or the equivalent) Working with Primary Research (30%) In a multimedia presentation, you will draw on primary research to explore your research question. (Length: five pages or the equivalent)

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Project #2

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Project #3

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Project #4 Synthesis Essay Drawing on Primary and Secondary Research (30%) You will write a research essay, directed toward a specific audience and drawing on no more than three secondary sources as well as primary research. (Length: seven pages)

Academic Honesty The academic community requires ethical behavior from all of its participants. For writers, this means that the work we claim as ours must truly be ours. At the same time, we are not always expected to come up with new ideas; we often build our thinking on the ideas of others. We are expected, however, to credit others with their contributions and to clearly indicate the boundaries of our own thinking. In cases where academic dishonesty is detected (the fraudulent submission of another’s work, in whole or in part, as your own), you may be subject to a failing grade for the project or the course, and in the worst case to academic probation or expulsion. For a more detailed description of the guidelines for adhering to academic honesty in the College of Arts and Sciences, go to http://academicintegrity.syr.edu.
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Student Writing Texts written in this course are generally public. You may be asked to share them with a peer, the class, or me. It is understood that registration for and continued enrollment in this course constitutes permission by the student for the instructor to use any work resulting from the course.
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Course Schedule for Unit 1 (subject to change) Date
WEEK 1 Tues., Jan.14

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In class
Introduction to the course, the inquiry, and the Unit 1 assignment.

At home (due the following class)
Read and annotate chapter 1, “Coming to Terms,” in Harris. Then read selection from Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer’s Race to Incarceration: A Graphic Retelling (available on Blackboard). !

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Write down three “flashpoints” from Jones and Mauer’s work at the top of a Word document and compose a 200-word summary that accurately represents what the authors are trying to “do” (by defining the writer’s project and assessing the text’s uses and limits). Your summary should connect with the quotes you select. Download, read, and bring to class the Unit 1 Flashpoints Portfolio assignment. Read and annotate selection from Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Pedro Noguera’s “Preventing and Producing Violence” (both available on Blackboard). For each article, write one flashpoint and a 200-word critical summary, once again drawing on the guidelines in Harris.

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Thurs., Jan.16 We will take up Harris’s strategies for “coming to terms with” a text and share and respond to one another’s summaries of the Jones and Mauer excerpt. We will also review the Unit 1 assignment. We will share our summaries of Alexander and Noguera and deepen our understanding of and engagement with the readings. We will also begin discussing research methods.

WEEK 2 Tues., Jan. 21

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Read a selection from Caleb Smith’s The Prison & the American Imagination, then: Write a flashpoint and a 200-word critical summary, continuing to practice the critical reading strategies in Harris. Begin searching the library databases for possible articles.

Thurs., Jan. 23

We will take up the Smith selection, share our flashpoints, and attend to and revise our summaries of the text. We will also discuss search results and prepare to select and post our articles to Blackboard. We will discuss the differences between longer and shorter summaries.

Select the article you want to use to round out your portfolio summaries. Write a critical summary, with flashpoint, of the text. Send me an email containing a twosentence summary.

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WEEK 3 Tues., Jan. 28

Thurs., Jan. 30

WEEK 4 Tues., Feb. 4

Pre-writing toward the portfolio reflection. Please have the original unit assignment with you as well as all of your summaries. Revising on the sentence level—a workshop. Bring your summaries to class along with The DK Handbook. We will work with pages 240259 and attend to the academic styling of our texts. Flashpoints Portfolio due. Introduction to Unit 2 assignment. Refining the researchable question. Database searches vs. Web searches— in-class exercise.

Draft your portfolio reflection and post to Blackboard by Thursday. Read and respond to one classmate’s reflection by Friday (I’ll assign classmates to reflect upon each other’s work on Thursday).

Decide which summaries you want to submit in your portfolio (remember. you only need to submit three of the four summaries of assigned articles and one summary of an article you found through research’ then revise and finalize your portfolio documents. Provide feedback on one peer’s reflection by Friday night.

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