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English 872 (Rhetoric): What Is Writing For?
Pedagogy and Purpose in Contemporary Writing Studies
Prof. David Gold
TR, 4:00-5:30 PM, 2401 Mason Hall

Over the last generation, the field of rhetoric, composition, and writing studies has achieved remarkable consensus on how to teach the processes of writing, but it remains divided on the purposes of writing, from the politically and pedagogically fraught arena of first-year composition to the emerging undergraduate rhetoric and writing major. What is writing—and writing instruction—for? Can writing studies promulgate a coherent vision of writing in the academy and beyond?

This course will examine current conversations about the ends of writing and how to enact them in three broad spheres of concern—academic, public, and professional. Should we be teaching students broad-based academic argumentation? Genre-specific disciplinary conventions? Public argument for the purposes of citizenship and civic engagement? Community writing for public service? Professional writing genres for success in the labor market? And what are the pedagogical challenges and costs of enacting these sometimes convergent, sometimes competing goals? We’ll examine both more and less successful pedagogical interventions and consider the means by which we might design and test them. For your final course project, you’ll have the opportunity to either design a new writing course or propose a research project that answers a question in the teaching of writing.

My goal is that you will emerge from this course with a richer understanding of the varied purposes for writing that animate contemporary scholarly conversations as well as the ability to articulate your own purposes as a writing teacher, scholar, and advocate.


Required texts: You are responsible for bringing to class hardcopies of each day’s assigned readings (e.g., physical books or printouts of PDFs). To reduce your purchasing costs, most of the required texts may be downloaded at no charge through either a library database (Project MUSE, etc.), the WAC Clearinghouse, or other platform.

  • Elenore Long, Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Local Publics (WAC)
  • Anne Beaufort, College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writing Instruction (Ebook or $)
  • Mary Soliday, Everyday Genres: Writing Assignments across the Disciplines ($ or reserve)
  • Kathleen Yancey, Liane Robertson, and Kara Taczak, Writing across Contexts: Transfer, Composition, and Sites of Writing (MUSE)


Attendance and participation (20%): Be the student you would like to have in your own course. Come to every class on time and fully prepared to participate; read, write, speak, and listen with critical engagement; ask good questions; be helpful to your peers. You may miss one class without penalty.

Weekly written work (25%): Each week, you will be responsible for one written homework assignment (I’ll divide the class into Tuesday and Thursday slots), due at the beginning of class. Typically, this will take the form of a 2-3-page reaction paper in response to the day’s readings. Your reaction paper should not summarize the readings but make an argument or ask critical questions about them. The goals for these are to promote lively class discussion and to offer us some practice making the discursive moves required of working scholars; if you are not writing on a given day, be prepared to respond thoughtfully to your peers’ comments.

Final project (50%): For your final project, you will design either a pedagogical or scholarly intervention in response to a question raised by the class materials and conversation. Drafts due 4/7; final due 4/27.

  • Pedagogical intervention: Design a new writing course and craft a complete syllabus, along with a rationale in the form of a formal course proposal. I will provide guidelines and models.
  • Scholarly intervention: Identify a significant research question and propose a line of inquiry to address it in the form of a research prospectus (10-15 pages) for a project you might initiate over the summer.

CCCC proposal (5%): Write a formal proposal for CCCC 2016. Due 4/21.


Online readings may be downloaded from the course website (username=student, password=kairos). Optional readings are denoted by an asterisk (*).

Week 1, Introduction
R 1/8
CWPA, “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition” (rev. 2014)
CCCC, “Principles for the Post-Secondary Teaching of Writing” (rev. 2013)
“Mt. Oread Manifesto on Rhetorical Education 2013” (2013)

*Kathleen Blake Yancey, “Writing in the 21st Century”
*Richard Fulkerson, “Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century”
*CE Symposium: “On the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing” (K-12)
*Thomas P. Miller, “Working Past the Profession”
*Douglas Hesse, “The Place of Creative Writing in Composition Studies”

Week 2, Civic spaces
T 1/13
John Duffy, “Ethical Dispositions: A Discourse for Rhetoric and Composition”
Craig Rood, “‘Moves’ toward Rhetorical Civility”
R 1/15
Shamoon and Medeiros, “Not Politics as Usual: Public Writing as Writing for Engagement”
Brian Gogan, “Expanding the Aims of Public Rhetoric and Writing Pedagogy: Writing Letters to Editors”
Kerrie R. H. Farkas, “Preparing Students for Active and Informed Civic Discourse”

Week 3, Civic spaces
T 1/20
Long, Community Literacy, chs. 1-3 (1-54)
R 1/22
Long, chs. 4-6 (55-105)

Week 4, Civic spaces
T 1/27
Long, chs. 7-9 (106-99)
R 1/29
Anne Beaufort, College Writing and Beyond, chs. 1-2 (1-59)

Week 5, Academic spaces
T 2/3
Beaufort, chs. 3-5 (59-141)
R 2/5
Beaufort, ch. 6-App. C (142-222)

Week 6, Academic spaces
T 2/10
Soliday, Everyday Genres, pref.-ch. 2 (xi-70)
R 2/12
Soliday, ch. 3-App. 6 (70-136)

Week 7, Academic spaces
T 2/17
Yancey, Robertson, and Taczak, Writing across Contexts, chs. 1-3 (1-102)
R 2/19
Yancey, Robertson, and Taczak, ch. 4-App. C (103-68)

Week 8, Professional spaces
T 2/24
Peeples and Hart-Davidson, “Remapping Professional Writing: Articulating the State of the Art and Composition Studies”
Henze, Sharer, and Tovey, “Disciplinary Identities: Professional Writing, Rhetorical Studies, and Rethinking ‘English'”
R 2/26
Lisa Shaver, “Using Key Messages to Explore Rhetoric in Professional Writing”
Wolfe, Britt, and Alexander, “Teaching the IMRaD Genre: Sentence Combining and Pattern Practice Revisited”

Week 9
T 3/3
Spring Break
R 3/5
Spring Break

Week 10, Professional spaces
T 3/10
Sidler and Jones, “Genetics Interfaces: Representing Science and Enacting Public Discourse in Online Spaces”
Simmons and Zoetewey, “Productive Usability: Fostering Civic Engagement and Creating More Useful Online Spaces for Public Deliberation”
Karen Kopelson, “Risky Appeals: Recruiting to the Environmental Breast Cancer Movement in the Age of ‘Pink Fatigue'”
R 3/12
Jo Mackiewicz, “The Co-construction of Credibility in Online Product Reviews”
Catherine Quick, “From the Workplace to Academia: Nontraditional Students and the Relevance of Workplace Experience in Technical Writing Pedagogy”

Week 11
T 3/17 CCCC
R 3/19 CCCC

Week 12, Imagining interventions
T 3/24
Elizabeth Ervin, “Learning to Write with a Civic Tongue”
Ball, Bowen, and Fenn, “Genre and Transfer in a Multimodal Composition Class”
R 3/26
Elizabeth Wardle, “‘Mutt Genres’ and the Goal of FYC: Can We Help Students Write the Genres of the University?”
Doug Downs and Elizabeth Wardle, “Reimagining the Nature of FYC Trends in Writing-about-Writing Pedagogies”

Week 13, Imagining interventions
T 3/31
Lauer and Sanchez, “Visuospatial Thinking in the Professional Writing Classroom”
Johnson-Sheehan and Morgan, “Conservation Writing: An Emerging Field in Technical Communication”
R 4/2
Joanna Wolfe, “Rhetorical Numbers: A Case for Quantitative Writing in the Composition Class”
Wendy Hayden, “‘Gifts of the Archives’: A Pedagogy for Undergraduate Research”

Week 14, Workshops
T 4/7
Pedagogical intervention drafts
_____________________ _____________________
R 4/9
_____________________ _____________________

Week 15, Workshops
T 4/14
Scholarly intervention drafts
_____________________ _____________________
R 4/16
_____________________ _____________________

Week 16
T 4/21 Last class day, wrap up
HW (all): CCCC 2016 proposals



You may find some of the following helpful for planning your final project.

  • Anis S. Bawarshi and Mary Jo Reiff, Genre: An Introduction to History, Theory, Research, and Pedagogy (WAC)
  • David Franke, Alex Reid, and Anthony Di Renzo, eds., Design Discourse: Composing and Revising Programs in Professional and Technical Writing (WAC)
  • Tracey Bowen and Carl Whithaus, eds., Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres (MUSE)
  • Phyllis Mentzell Ryder, Rhetorics for Community Action: Public Writing and Writing Publics
  • Nancy Welch, Living Room: Teaching Public Writing in a Privatized World
  • Nicholas N. Behm, Gregory R. Glau, and Deborah H. Holdstein, eds., The WPA Outcomes Statement: A Decade Later (EBSCO)
  • John Ramage, Micheal Callaway, Jennifer Clary-Lemon, and Zachary Waggoner, Argument in Composition (WAC)
  • Dan Melzer, Assignments across the Curriculum: A Survey of College Writing (MUSE)
  • Laura Wilder, Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies: Teaching and Writing in the Disciplines (MUSE)
  • Tim Mayers, (Re)Writing Craft: Composition, Creative Writing, and the Future of English Studies
  • Lee Nickoson and Mary P. Sheridan, eds., Writing Studies Research in Practice: Methods and Methodologies (MUSE)
  • Kelly Ritter and Paul Matsuda, eds., Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, Perspectives (MUSE)
  • Greg A. Giberson and Thomas A. Moriarty, eds., What We Are Becoming: Developments in Undergraduate Writing Majors (Utah State UP)