|Martin J. Heade
Welcome to EN 121-English Composition Fall 2007:
My hope for this class is that it will be a place where we read, analyze, discuss, respond to, and most importantly, write
about complex, thought provoking texts, including those generated in class, in a variety of ways. You will be expected to
perform a number of writing and research activities, draw on outside sources, compile a bibliography, and use the appropriate
MLA form of internal documentation to indicate that you have referred to additional texts.
The major theme of the course will be family. We all have them--either biological or constructed, and as more than one
person has observed, your class, your workplace, and any group you belong to, may begin to exhibit the characteristics of
a family. A crucial aspect of family includes childhood and we will read and write in response to non-fictional and creative
accounts of childhood and adolescence.
These are the required texts for the class:
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
McBride, James. The Color of Water. New York: Riverhead Books, 1997.
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. New York: Vintage, 2004.
Guest, Judith. Ordinary People. New York: Penguin Books, 1982.
I am also asking you to purchase a grammar handbook for reference purposes. You will find it a useful resource for all
of the courses you take that have a writing component:
Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.
A word about the readings--there are a lot of them. Historically my students have been enthusiastic about reading books,
rather than essays or excerpts from longer works, so I am following the advice they gave me, "Use whole books!"
Of course, it is impossible to choose books for people you don't know, but I've done it nonetheless. I can say that all of
these texts are thoughtful and thought provoking; some are challenging, some moving, and others just downright beautiful.
You will need to have an active FIT e-mail account since there will be an online (Blackboard) component to the class.
You should also have a copy of Microsoft Word.
We will be doing a variety of different kinds of writing. We will keep private journals that no one (except you) will
see, write responses to the texts we read (the prompts for those responses will come from you), and write essays that will
be written as a series of drafts. Here's a breakdown of the writing requirements.
(50%) Four formal essays (4-6 pages)--written as a series of three drafts
(10%) Free Writing
(20%) Reading Response Journal Entries--a place for you to engage with the texts we read (at least two pages for each)
(20%) Active participation in workshop sessions, developing reading journal prompts, leading class discussions
In this class, you will not receive grades on individual papers. You will receive comments from me and your classmates
that will guide you through the revision process. Your grade will be determined as a collaborative effort and will be based
on your commitment to the class and the writing process as exhibited by the Portfolio you compile throughout the course of
the semester. Your participation in class discussions and your engagement in workshop sessions will also contribute to your
grade. Success in this class will depend upon our collaboration. I will not be the sole authority figure. On our best days,
I will be another learner, another voice, but not the voice of the almighty grade giver,the one who knows.
Yes, I know the concept of no grades will make some of you nervous; this is not the kind of schooling you have experienced.
I have been using this system for quite a while and find that, after the initial shock wears off, students produce better
writing, and often earn higher grades than they might have in a more traditional grading setting. There will be much time
for discussion of how the process works. I hope you will give it a chance.
Throughout the semester, you will be creating a body of work, a Portfolio, which will be submitted twice during the semester.
It is absolutely necessary that you keep everything, including all drafts that you write for this class. Each essay should
be carefully labeled (e.g. Essay # 1, Draft #1). This will keep your sanity intact when you attempt to put your portfolio
together. In order for you to have a sense of how you are doing, you will submit a Midterm Portfolio that will contain selections
from your reading response journals, a self assessment, and one essay sequence. After reading and responding to your Portfolios,
I will meet with each of you to discuss your midterm grade. At the end of the course, you will submit a Final Portfolio.
I will meet with each of you during in class conferences and will also be available during office hours. The conference
is your opportunity to work individually with me on the technical aspects of your writing, as well as providing a place to
discuss your ideas. Conferences are by appointment only; so just let me know when you want to meet. My office hours are
listed on the first page of the Course Description.
This is a writing workshop; therefore, it is vital for you to attend this class regularly and on time. In general, there
are no "excused absences." Unexcused absences and habitual lateness will substantially lower your grade. Three unexcused
absences will lower your grade by one half grade. More than five absences will result in a failing grade. A lateness in excess
of fifteen minutes constitutes one-half of an absence. Medical emergencies and the observance of religious holidays are legitimate
excuses for an absence; however, you are still responsible for all of your work. Even if you do not attend a class, you are
still expected to submit the work that is due that day. If you know that you are going to miss a class, you should let me
know and e-mail your work to me. The Syllabus and other course materials are available on the Bb site, so there is no excuse
for not meeting fulfilling the course requirements or meeting deadlines.
Plagiarism is a serious topic. I expect all of the work you do in this class to be your own. You cannot use writing you
are using in other classes or recycle writing you have used elsewhere. If you knowingly plagiarize, you will fail the course
and the school may take other steps that will have serious consequences on your academic career.
All essays (including drafts and reading responses) must be typed, double spaced, with margins of at least 1-1/2 inches
on all four sides on standard 8 1/2" x 11" paper. When e-mailing documents, they should be sent as Word attachments,
not pasted onto an e-mail. You should always include your name, course and section number, the date, and the title of your
paper. Don't forget to number the pages in your work. Preliminary drafts that have been commented on must be handed in along
with your revised essays.
Writers face deadlines. It is expected that all writing assignments will be submitted on time. If not, there will be a
price to pay that will affect your final grade. I will not read drafts of essays that are handed in late.
If you've read this far, you're probably completely overwhelmed and looking for the nearest exit. Yes, there is a lot
of reading and writing for this class and I have high standards and expectations, but if you make the commitment to do the
work, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what you discover about your writing, your thinking, yourself, and one another.
Once again, Welcome!
Welcome to EN 394-American Lives:
In planning this course I had a moment of clarity. In some ways the history of the autobiographical impulse in America
is the evolution of narcissism in America. In general, narcissism has a bad reputation. The writer William Gass described
those who write memoir as greedy attention seekers:
"But what if we really want the world to watch? Look, Ma, I'm breathing. See me take my initial toddle, use the potty,
scratch my sister, win spin the bottle. Gee whiz, my first adultery--what a guy! That surely deserves a commemorative marker
on the superhighway of my life. So now I'm writing my own sweet history. However, there's a rub. What kind of figure can I
count on cutting in another's consciousness or on that most merciless of public stages--the printed page?" ("The
Art of Self: Autobiography in an Age of Narcissism." Harper's Magazine May 1994).
However, there is a continuum from unhealthy narcissism, for example James Frey's contested memoir, A Million Little Pieces
(it even made Oprah angry!) to the healthy narcissism--a proclamation of self that slave narratives offered. They allowed
for the voices of the voiceless to be heard. Even early autobiographers, such as Benjamin Franklin, acknowledged the importance
of a healthy sense of self. He attributed the success of his life to "a considerable share of felicity, the conducing
means of which I made use of" along with "the blessing of God." One of the challenging questions this course
will pose is: where is the line between healthy and all consuming narcissism?"
We will be reading a variety of memoirs--mostly modern and contemporary narratives. Lauren Slater's Lying: A Metaphorical
Memoir questions the validity of the genre; Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Tragicomic reinvents the form. We will be reading
excerpts from older works that trace the need to write one's story as a way to record the history of this country and document
a way of life. We will read excerpts from two slave narratives, one written by a very famous man--Frederick Douglass--and
the other by a woman--Harriet Jacobs--whose work disappeared for a century because it was believed that a woman could not
have written a memoir that was as honest and disturbing as hers. Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple and a historian,
Jean Fagin Yellin, brought the text back to life, proving that it was indeed a true story, written by an African American
woman. We will also read poetry to see that autobiography can be written in a variety of ways.
The largest piece of writing you will write this semester will be a memoir of your own. You will face all of the questions
that all memoirists confront--What do I say? How do I say it? How truthful is true enough? Do I have the right to record the
events of my life? We will also read critical essays that deal with these very questions.
These are the required texts for the class:
Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Slater, Lauren. Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir. New York: Random House, 2000.
Karr, Mary. The Liar's Club. New York: Penguin, 1988.
Flynn, Nick. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005.
There will also be a selection of required readings (available on Bb) and web links to sites where you can read and hear
the writers we will be studying.
Note: This is a writing intensive class. You will be expected to write strongly and openly about your life and experiences.
A word about the readings--there are a lot of them. I expect you to do all of the reading and you will be responsible, in
a variety of ways, for responding to each one.
5%--Freewriting Journal--at the beginning of each class we will write for 10-15 minutes. This is private writing. I will
not be reading/checking your work, but it is understood that you will be in class on time in order for you to write in your
10%--Bb-there will be an online component to the course via Blackboard. This will be the place for you to record your
first responses, comments, and questions regarding the readings and your memoirs. You will also be responding to and in conversation
with one another.
You are required to post on Bb at least one time each week--responding to each assigned reading, by noon on the day before
10%--Reading Journal--for your Midterm Portfolio you will choose an assigned number of your Bb postings to develop in
a deeper and more complex fashion as two-page informal essays.
50%--Memoir/Process Journal--you will be writing a memoir of your own that you will work on over the course of the semester.
For the Midterm Portfolio, you will have completed at least 8-10 pages of finished work. By the Final Portfolio, you will
have a total of at least 16-20 pages of finished work.
10%--Process Journal--as part of the Memoir assignment you will keep a journal in which you will address the issues and
questions that you raise as you attempt to fashion your own life into a text.
15%--Active participation in every aspect of the class.
In this class, you will not receive grades on individual assignments. Your grade will be based on your commitment to the
class as exhibited by the two Portfolios you will submit over the course of the semester. As part of the Midterm Portfolio
review, I will meet with each of you to discuss your work in the class and your midterm grade.
It is vital for you to attend this class regularly and on time. In general, there are no "excused absences."
Unexcused absences and habitual lateness will substantially lower your grade. Three unexcused absences will lower your grade
by one half grade. More than five absences will result in a failing grade. A lateness in excess of fifteen minutes constitutes
one-half of an absence. Medical emergencies and the observance of religious holidays are legitimate excuses for an absence;
however, you are still responsible for all of your work. If you are going to miss a class, you need to contact me (or a group
member) and e-mail me whatever work is due that day.
Plagiarism is a serious topic, one that I have thought about a great deal. It seems to me that one takes the work of another
as his or her own out of ignorance or fear. Ignorance of the fact that plagiarism is a crime--it is an act of theft. Fear
that one's own words can never be worthy enough and therefore anyone else's words are better, more eloquent, and carry more
authority than your own. Learning requires faith and trust and I hope that you will see this class as a place where your thoughts
and words are worthy enough. I expect all of the work you do in this class to be your own. You cannot use writing you are
using in other classes or recycle writing you have used elsewhere. If you knowingly plagiarize, you will fail the course and
the university may take other steps that will have serious consequences on your academic career.
All of your writing must be typed, double spaced, with margins of at least 1-1/2 inches on all four sides on standard
8 1/2" x 11" paper. Trust me, I won't be measuring your papers, but if you don't leave room for comments, you probably
won't receive any. Please put page numbers on all of your work. You should always include your name, course and section number,
the date, and the title of your paper.
Late Work: A Warning
It is expected that all of your assignments will be submitted on time. If not, there will be a price to pay that will
affect your final grade. I will not read work that is handed in late. I have high standards and expectations and if you plan
to earn an "A" in the course be prepared to work harder than you thought possible. Still reading? Take a moment
and think long and hard about the level of commitment that this class calls for. If you're still with me--Welcome to--American