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Shannon Carter, PhD
Associate Professor of English Office Hours: T, 4:30-5:15 and W, 11-12 Appointments are especially welcome.
HL 209 * (903) 886-5492 Email is, by far, the best way to reach me.

English 677: Spring 2010

English 677 is called “Argumentative Discourse.” Noting the ubiquity of argumentative discourse in our
everyday lives, rhetoricians like Andrea Lunsford insist that “everything is an argument.” For this and
countless other reasons, English 677 focuses on argumentative discourse in everyday contexts.

Course Objectives:

To examine rhetoric in everyday contexts via extensive fieldwork and rigorous use of archival materials.
Course goals include preparing rhetoricians and literacy scholars to research writing and writers in local
contexts, particularly among marginalized populations.

To meet these goals, students will work with a variety of archival materials associated with a common
research site: the Norris Community in Commerce, Texas.

Required Texts
Listed in order they’ll appear on course calendar. I’ve included ISBNs so you can explore purchase options online.

Brandt, Deborah. Literacy in American Lives. Cambridge UP, 2001. ISBN: 0521003067

Street, Brian V. and Adam Lefstein. Literacy: An Advanced Resource Book. Routledge, 2007. ISBN:

Wright, Richard. 12 Million Black Voices. ISBN: 1560254467

Kirsch, Gesa E. and Liz Rohan. Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process. Southern Illinois UP,
2008. ISBN: 9780809328406

Gold, David. Rhetoric at the Margins: Revising the History of Writing Instruction in American Colleges,
1873-1947. Southern Illinois UP, 2008. ISBN: 9780809328345

Galman, Sally Campbell. Shane, The Lone Ethnographer: A Beginner’s Guide to Ethnography. Altamira
Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780759103443

Sustein, Bonnie Stone and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater. Fieldworking: Reading and Writing Research, 3rd
Edition. Bedford/St. Martins, 2007. ISBN: 9780312438418

Heath, Shirley Brice. Ways with Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms.
Cambridge UP, 1983. 9780521273190
Required Texts Available on Reserve (Gee Library)

Duffy, John. “Other Gods and Countries: The Rhetorics of Literacy.” Towards a Rhetoric of Everyday
Life: New Directions in Research on Writing, Text, and Discourse. Martin Nystrand and John Duffy, Eds.
University of Wisconsin Press, 2003. 38-57.

“Introduction,” Portrait of America (see “Recommended Texts” below for complete citation)

Mutnick, Deborah. “Inscribing the World: An Oral History Project in Brooklyn.” College Composition
and Communication 58.4 (June 2007): 626-47.

“School Days,” Freedom Colonies (see “Recommended Texts” below for complete citation)

Recommended Texts

Hirsch, Jerrold. Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project. University of
North Carolina Press, 2003. ISBN: 0807854891

Sitton, Thad and James H. Conrad. Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim
Crow. University of Texas Press, 2003. ISBN: 0292706421

Street, Brian V. and Shirley Brice Heath. On Ethnography: Approaches to Language and Literacy.
Routledge, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-8077-4866-4

Grading Criteria

Your grade will be determined by your weekly contributions to the discussion (online and face-to-face),
research journal entries which you will post by Monday of each week, and obvious evidence of rigorous
fieldwork in the form of a Research Portfolio, other relevant writing assignments and, of course, your
final project. All of these activities are described in detail below.

20% Reading Responses (10 required, plus responses to classmates)

20% Research Proposal, Annotated Bibliography, Final Reflections, NCoW

10% Translation Project

20% Final Project

10% Presentation

20% Research Portfolio

Course Policies and Procedures

Much of the work we do in this class depends on your coming each week, prepared to work. I count on
you all to teach and learn from each other and to each be an important presence in our weekly
discussions. “Being prepared” means having read everything assigned for that week and developed
effective responses worth exploring together. It means speaking up in class with an informed opinion
(informed by both your classmates, the required readings, and various, associated activities described
below). It means treating the contributions of others with utmost respect.

I will do everything I can to make the classroom atmosphere a comfortable and inviting one. I do not
tolerate disrespect, so you can rest assured that at no time will your comments be ridiculed or made fun
of by me or anyone else in the class. I want this to be a place where intellectual inquiry is the norm. And
if at any time you feel that someone has exhibited disrespect, let me know immediately. We should be
able to challenge each other’s readings and field experiences in professional ways that stimulate
discussion, not shut it down.

Reading Responses: Each week you will wrote a 250-word post (more or less) in which you focus on
one issue that arose in your reading of that week’s assigned texts. Your Reading Response should clearly
indicate the section(s) of the assigned texts that is the subject of your concern or interest. Use page
numbers so we can go to that place in the text if we need to. You may use this as an opportunity to try out
an argument you have with the assigned reading or as a way to explore a particular theme or critical
position emerging from your readings and field experiences.

For this, you will create a blog or other interactive forum and post each Reading Response there. Your
classmates will be required to respond to these blogs as well, and I hope they will become a regular part
of our face-to-face discussions.

Each 250-word Reading Response should be posted to your blog by noon each Monday, in preparation
for that week’s class discussion. A deadline like this gives others time to read and respond to your post
and further enrich our face-to-face conversations.

Note that I am requiring only 10 Reading Responses, but there will be 12 opportunities to write these
organized Reading Responses. You select the weeks you wish to skip. If I were you, I’d save it up for the
end of the semester when you know you are going to be busy and everything is coming due at once. Up
to you, though. I will not keep track of this for you; you will need to do that. Remember, of course, that
on the weeks you skip the Reading Response post, you are still expected to do the reading and contribute
to the discussion.

Research Proposal: What is your research plan? That is, what do you want to know, why is it important,
what research methods will you use to obtain the information you need, why is the proposed research site
the most appropriate one for your project's goals, and how will your research project--as proposed--
extend/resist/otherwise make use of the readings and key arguments appearing in our readings and class
discussions. Also worth mentioning here: what form might your final project take? Your final project can
be presented in most any genre (scholarly essay, video essay, audio essay, other creative work). If you
know what form you expect the results to take, propose that here. Why this form and not another? Before
entering the field, we’ll discuss this proposal in one-on-one conferences (around midterm). Don’t forget
about those important permissions!

Annotated Bibliography: Develop a list of 25 articles, books, other publications, interviews conducted,
artifacts collected, sites visited, and other items relevant to your study. Each item should include a
complete citation; follow each citation with 3-5 sentences describing the item itself and how it will
contribute to your overall project.

NCoW Contribution: Contribute two artifacts of your choice to the National Conversation on Writing,
a collection or oral histories and other artifacts about writing and writers (see Much
more about this soon, but know now that the only expectation here is that you will select two artifacts,
develop effective summaries and keywords for each, and complete a submission form (see “contribute”
at above link). The NCoW team will process these artifacts and make them available to future researchers
via the NCoW Digital Collection.

Translation Project (Public Writing): A widely-accessible text emerging from your extensive field
research. Texts generated should be useful to beginning researchers or the general public yet credible to
experienced researchers familiar with the subjects at hand (ie, “public writing”). For this you are
basically translating vigorous fieldwork and extensive research informed by key scholarship into texts
accessible to a much broader audience. Think encyclopedia entry or newspaper article or video essay or
audio essay or photo essay or something else entirely. The form this writing takes is entirely up to you, as
long as it is somehow sharable with future researchers or other potential enthusiasts.
Suggestions include:
• Encyclopedia entry on person, place, event, or other specific item of key importance to your research
(examples from the Norris Community include Billy Reed, Opal Panell, Ivory Moore Park, Norris
Community, Norris Community Club, or other local items not included in Spencer’s Handbook of
Commerce, Texas: 1873-1985).
• Video essay or audio essay on item from above
• Newspaper article or other text for general audiences
• Creative nonfiction or other (generally accessible) creative work emerging from fieldwork
The most immediate audience for these texts are first-year students taking English 102 in the very near
future, so plan accordingly.

You should think of this as directly related to your final project. In fact, for some this might serve as an
early draft of this final project.

Final Project: Using one or more of the research methods introduced (life history research, oral history,
research via formal and informal archives, ethnography), you will explore literacy as it manifests itself at
Texas A&M-Commerce and in the surrounding community--currently and/or over time.

The “final project” is the actual write up of your findings, and everything you read, write, collect,
discuss, analyze, report, and reflect upon this term will lead to this important and complex project. The
form this final project takes is up to you (see above), but regardless of the actual genre you select to
present your findings the findings should be informed (clearly, obviously) by much rigorous fieldwork
and reflection and a clear understanding of the project’s place in the larger scholarly conversation
represented in literacy studies.

We’ll talk MUCH more about this throughout the term. In fact, everything we do, read, and discuss will
be about this final project. So when the time comes, you’ll be ready!

Final Reflections (Memo): A memo to accompany your final project that describes your research and
writing experiences and the reasons behind the choices you made in the final project. In other words,
what evidence can you offer for the claims made in your final project? Where did this evidence come
from (interviews, observations, other sources)? How did you arrive at the conclusions you made, and
why did you choose to present your findings in this way as opposed to another? What did you learn from
this research process? What surprised you? What did you expect? What would you do differently next
time? the same? The memo should be around 5-7 pages long and narrate relevant aspects of your
research and writing process, especially as it pertains to how you arrived at the findings presented in your
final project and how you experienced the process itself.

Research Portfolio: The Research Portfolio will "house both the process and the product of [your]
fieldwork. . . . .As you assemble and revise your portfolio, you'll develop a behind-the-scenes account of
the story of your research, which you'll want to share with others. Naturally, the research portfolio will
include your final ethnographic essay, but your selection will also show artifacts from the thinking
process that led to this project. You'll want to represent selections from the reading, writing, and materials
you've relied on along the way: writing exercises, fieldnotes, interview questions, charts, methods of
analysis, and whatever else helped you think your way through final written project" (FieldWorking,
56-57). "To keep track of your project," Sustein and Chiseri-Strater suggest, "you'll move back and forth
among four key activities: collecting, selecting, reflecting, and projecting" (57). See FieldWorking for
much more about how (and why) to begin this process and negotiate these activities (56-58; 112;
167-168; 220; 300; 352;412; 463)

Attendance is mandatory. Don't skip a week. I will not let you make up the work unless you
experience something dire--and I don't wish that on anyone. If something is going on that's getting
in the way of your class time, please let me know.
Late assignments
You must keep up with the reading and, since each assignment builds on the previous one, I cannot
accept late assignments. If you experience truly exceptional circumstances, please contact me
Writing Center
The Writing Center (or the “Communication Skills Center”) offers writers free, one-on-one
assistance. We welcome all writers, majors, and disciplines—undergraduate and graduate students
alike. In fact, we work from the premise that all writers, no matter their ability level, benefit from
the feedback of knowledgeable readers. The Writing Center staff is trained to provide writers with
just this service. In short, we are here to help you help yourself. In order to ensure the most
effective session possible, we offer visitors the following suggestions: (1) Get started on your
writing project early, and visit the Writing Center at least one day before your final draft is due.
You will need time to work with the ideas and suggestions generated in your tutorial sessions. (2)
Bring a written copy of your assignment, any relevant readings, and one or two specific questions
or concerns you would like to discuss with us. We are located in the Hall of Languages, Room 103
(903-886-5280) and online at <>.

Academic Honesty
The official departmental policy: “Instructors in the Department of Literature and Languages do
not tolerate plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonestly. Instructors uphold and support
the highest academic standards, and students are expected to do likewise. Penalties for students
guilty of academic dishonesty include disciplinary probation, suspension, and expulsion. (Texas
A&M University-Commerce Code of Student Conduct 5.b [1,2,3])If you ever have any questions
about a particular use of a source, always ask your instructor. They want you to avoid plagiarism,
too, so they will help you do so whenever and wherever they can. Do what you can to take
advantage of this support—to look innocent in addition to being innocent when it comes to
charges of plagiarism.

On University-Sanctioned Activities
To accommodate students who participate in university-sanctioned activities, the First-Year
Composition Program offers sections of this course at various times of the day and week. If you
think that this course may conflict with a university-sanctioned activity in which you are
involved--athletics, etc.--please see me after class today.

Additional Official Statements
Student Conduct: All students enrolled at the University shall follow the tenets of common
decency and acceptable behavior conducive to a positive learning environment. In addition, you
are requested to turn off your cell phones before entering the classroom. Common courtesy says
you do not receive or answer calls during class. If there is an emergency that requires you to leave
your phone on, talk to me about it beforehand and switch the phone to vibrate so you don't surprise
me when you leave class to take a call and you don't interrupt class when the call comes in. Also,
Instant/Text Messaging is off limits. Americans with Disabilities Act Statement: Students
requesting accommodations for disabilities must go through the Academic Support Committee.
For more information, please contact the Director of Disability Resources and Services, Gee
Library, Room 102, (903) 886-5835. Additional information available online at http://www.tamu-
Tentative Calendar

“Tentative,” thus subject to change. But unlikely to change.
Expect regular “field trips” together and guest speakers. Scheduled and announced soon.

date readings due
WK 1 Introductions

1/19 Course Overview
Norris Community
Bill Moyers Journal, “Fondly Do We Hope . . . Fervently Do We
Pray” (PBS, December 2009)

WK 2 The Literacy of “Argumentative Discourse”

John Duffy, “Other Gods and Countries: The Rhetorics of Literacy,”
Towards a Rhetoric of Everyday Life: New Directions in Research on
Writing, Text, and Discourse (reserve)

Jerrold Hirsch, “Introduction,” Portrait of America: A Cultural
History of the Federal Writers Project (reserve)

1/26 “Section A: Introduction,” Literacy (Street and Lefstein)

WK 3 Life History Research

Chapters 1-3, Literacy in American Lives (Brandt)

Deborah Mutnick, “Inscribing the World: An Oral History Project in
Brooklyn” (reserve)

“Introduction” and at least two additional chapters (your choice)
from Woven with Words: A Collection of African American History in
Berks County, Pennsylvania (available online at http://

WK 4 Life History Research

“Section B, Unit B1: Keywords” (49-61), Literacy

Chapters 4-end, Literacy in American Lives (Brandt)

Thad Sitton and James H. Conrad, “School Days,” Freedom
Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow
2/9 (reserve)
date readings due
WK 5 Oral History

“Section B, Unit B3: Consequences of Literacy” (97-141), Literacy

“Historic Black Schools in the South Restored as Landmarks,” New
York Times, 1/15/2010 (reserve)

Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices

Texas Historical Commission, Fundamentals of Oral History: Texas
Preservation Guidelines (available online at http://

WK 6 In the Archives

“Section B, Unit B4: Literacy as Social Practice,” Literacy

“Part I,” Beyond the Archives

2/23 Chapters 1-2, Rhetoric at the Margins (Gold)

WK 7 In the Archives

Chapter 3-end, Rhetoric at the Margins (Gold)

3/2 “Part II-IV,” Beyond the Archives

WK 8 Ethnography

Shane: The Lone Ethnographer

“Section C, Unit C1: Exploring Literacy as a Social Practice,”

Beverly Moss, “Ethnography and Composition” (reserve)

3/9 John F. Szwed, “The Ethnography of Literacy Studies” (reserve)


WK 9 Research Plan Research Proposal

3/23 Chapters 1-2, Fieldworking

WK 10 Fieldwork

Chapters 3-5, Fieldworking

3/30 Ways with Words (Heath)
date readings due
WK 11 Fieldwork to Public Writing Translation Project

Chapters 6-8, Fieldworking

4/6 Ways with Words (Heath)

WK 12 Fieldwork to Public Writing

Chapters 6-8, Fieldworking

4/13 Ways with Words (Heath)

WK 13 Marking a Trail Annotated
Annotated Bibliography
Metadata for TWO artifacts to be included in the National NCoW contributions
4/20 Conversation on Writing (

WK 14 Marking a Trail Research Portfolio due
for Peer Review
Research Portfolio

WK 15 Results Final project due for
Peer Review, along
Final Project, with Reflections with reflections
describing choices
5/4 made)

Finals Presentations Research Portfolio,
Week with revised Final
Project, Reflections,
and complete