English 496 Professing English Assignments

New Yorker cartoon Thomas P. Miller
ML 425 (Th 8-9, 11:30-1:30)  621-7401


Syllabus | Resources | Assignments

The units of the course are defined by the questions that structure the major writing assignments, though the first two questions will be examined in tandem in the first two units of the course. The assignments for the first major unit appear below.  Use the links below  to navigate the assignments.

1. How do you read and write?  In the first essay (roughly 750 words), you will analyze the reading of a text or texts that you developed in an essay you wrote for a previous class. 
2. How did you learn to be literate, and literary?  The second essay is a literacy narrative (roughly 1000 words) that examines how and what you learned to read and write as an undergraduate English major against the context of the major itself or another context such as graduate school or another major.
3. What do you want to do with this learning? In the third essay (750 words), you will review a book that addresses issues that will help you achieve your goals (for example, a how to book on getting into graduate school, a scholarly book on an area that you want to continue studying, or a book on the publishing industry). (rough draft 2/22, revision due 3/1)
4. How can you improve your writing by revising more effectively?  The fourth essay will be a revision of an essay that you wrote for a previous course. (rough draft 3/8, revision due 3/15)
5.How can you achieve what you want to do? In this unit, you will acquaint yourself with how to create a web page and prepare job application materials.  We will work with Netscape Composer in class to create a Frequently Asked Questions page for English majors at the U of A.  For extra credit, you may create a more extensive web page or write a researched paper exploring issues involved in achieving the goals that you have been exploring this semester.  Everyone will write a three-part assignment: a one-page memo outlining job trends and considerations in a particular field and/or market such as teaching or publishing, a job application letter for a particular job announcement that you have found, and a resume. (draft due 4/12, revision due 4/19)
6.How should you represent what you have learned in college?  The final course project is a portfolio of at least five pieces that you wrote in this and previous classes and a cover letter in which you reflect upon what you have learned.  A revised application letter and resume will be included among these writings. (portfolio workshop on 4/19, reflective letter workshop on 4/26, and portfolio due on 5/3)
Unit 1: How do you read and write?
Weekly Assignments

As you can see below, you will be writing each week.  Rather than reading a book every few weeks, as is common in upper-division English classes, you will develop lines lines of inquiry into what you have learned and how you can use it.  As with most of what you have done in college, you will get out of the assignments what you put into them.  Our class only meets once a week, so you will have a week's assignments for each class,  If you wait to do them until the night before you class, you will not get as much out of them as you will if you work on them through the week.

1/11 introduction to the course

We will discuss the goals of this "capstone course" for your undergraduate studies, the structure of the course, and the ways it can serve your needs.  Then we will downshift to some specifics and examine how we have learned to read stories and poems, focusing particularly on Holst's "Zebra Storyteller," Hemingway's "Very Short Story," and Harjo's "Autobiography."  From our readings of these texts, we will develop some generalizations about genre and the strategies that can be used to interpret and compose more diverse genres than are included within traditional concepts of "literature."  You will break up into groups reflect upon all this, and then we will look more specifically at the assignments for the coming weeks.
1/18 composing a sense of yourself as a writer in college
We will continue our discussions of how you write by examining the courses that are the only universal requirements in the undergraduate curriculum: first-year composition courses.  We will discuss how these courses served your needs then and how they compare to what you read and write now, with your literacy logs as our point of reference for what you read and write on a weekly basis.
Assignment for class:
Document your week as a writer and reader, and begin gathering your past writings.  Every time that you pick up a book or a pen or turn on the computer, note the time, and write a little when you get done--just informal notes to yourself about what you did and why you did it.  Gather your previous writings together, and reflect back over what you wrote and read in the last few years.  Remember how you wrote, and review your instructors' responses to what you wrote.  Don't focus on the grades but on how the task of writing was set out in your classes, how you undertook the work of writing, and how your writing developed through differing assignments and responses.  Using your notes on what you wrote and read this week and over the last several years, write at least three pages.  Feel free to be playful, and do not worry about editing.  This writing is for you, though you should be ready to read one part of it (100 words or so) in class. 

  • Look through A Student's Guide to First-Year Composition and consider how its assumptions, goals, and emphases relate to how you work and play with writing.  Be prepared to direct the class discussion to specific points in the textbook that seem useful, wrong, or strange. 
  • Browse around the resource page and reflect on what you want to learn from this class.  Be prepared to ask questions and suggest what you want the class to include.
    1/25 reading and writing in general and in english class meets in CCIT 311

We will then follow through your program of study to look at the general education and English courses that you took to reflect upon what it all meant and what you can learn from what you learned.
Assignment for class:
Review of one of the classes that you took
that helped you improve your writing and reading.  Outline what you learned and how and when you learned it.  Examine the specific papers and assignments in the class.  How was what you learned evident or not evident in what you wrote?  Reexamine what you wrote about, including the notes, the text or whatever evidence you have of what you wrote. 

  • Examine the general education curriculum at the University of Arizona, the principles that distinguish and organize the different areas, specific courses that are currently offered, and the overall purposes that the general education program is meant to achieve.  Be prepared to offer a "reading" of the general education program that is guided by a specific interpretation and includes particular details from the program, its parts, and individual courses.  This reading may be stated as a claim ("The general education program tries to achieve X by doing Y as is evident in Z from this course") or as a research question ("How is the this overall purpose achieved by dividing up courses in this way or by having this course defined in this way?").'
    Here are some sites on the general education program at the University of Arizona that can help you with this assignment:
    General education in a nutshell
    Guidelines for writing-intensive requirement of general education
    Expected outcomes for general education
  • Write a draft of the first essay and bring it to class on a disk so that we can post it to Caucus.

Essay Assignment 1
(Rough draft due 1/23, final draft due 2/1)
Send the paper to me as an attachment via email before class and bring a hard copy to class.

In the first essay (roughly 750 words), you will analyze the reading of a text or texts that you developed in an essay you wrote for a previous class.  In a literacy log that will serve as a discovery draft for the essay and is required for submission along with the essay, you will record and reflect upon how you read and write on a daily basis and in general.  To write the essay itself, you will review the papers you have written and the responses that you have received, and then use a particular paper to focus some of your reflections on your reading and writing.  Some of these questions may help you to think about your background as a reader and writer: Do you like to read, to write?  Why?  Think back to a book that you really enjoyed reading or a piece you enjoyed writing.  Why did you enjoy it, and how did you read or write it?  What do you read and/or write each day?  Consider how you read and write more mundane texts.  What parts do you read, and why do you focus on them? How do you begin with writing?  What comes easily and is most fun?  What is hardest or most mysterious about writing for you?  How much time do you spend reading and writing on average each week?  Why did you choose a major that demands so much reading and writing?  How have your reading and writing changed over the years?  What are your strengths and weaknesses as a reader and writer, and how are you going to build upon the former to alleviate the latter?  Consider these questions as you review what you have written and the responses you received to the essays that you wrote in previous classes.  If you have questions about this assignment, post them to our listserve.
Unit 2. How did you learn to be literate, and literary
Weekly Assignments
2/1 what's an english major for?
class meets in CCIT 311

We will look at the English major at the University of Arizona in the context of broader trends in undergraduate education, with the Boyer Commission Report as our point of reference.
Assignments for class:
Send me a copy of Essay 1 as an email attachment and bring a hard copy to class.  Remember that there are penalties for late submissions.
Assess the Undergraduate English major, focusing on how your studies and departmental courses offerings match up with the Outcomes for the major.  You should refer to the outcomes for the major in the Undergraduate English Course Description Catalogue that I gave you in class on 1/18.  If you have limited access to the internet outside of class, you may use the course offerings in the Catalogue for this assignment, but the on-line offerings and the rest of the undergraduate studies homepage may be a better data set.
    Read Reinventing Undergraduate Education.  Read the Boyer Commission Report online or download a copy to a disk, send it to yourself as an email attachment to read on your computer at home, or just print it out.  The Report is thirty-five pages long.  Remember you are reading for a purpose--to examine questions about how your undergraduate studies compare to a influential model for undergraduate reform and to reflect upon what you have learned and need to learn.
 Decide on a line of research to develop your assessment of your undergraduate studies.  In class we will set up research teams to explore lines of inquiry that you want to pursue.  These research questions readily suggest themselves, but you may want to set out in other directions.

  • How do professors and students understand the purposes of the English major?  This group would enable you to interview professors and others to learn more about what goes on in English departments and how the environment of the discipline has shaped your studies and could shape graduate studies in the field.
  • How does the English major compare to other majors?  This group could be useful for double majors or others who are thinking about going to graduate school in an area other than English.  You might compare requirements, the differences between what the disciplines do and how they do it, or opportunities in the fields.
  • How does what you learned prepare you to teach?  This group will look at certification processes and/or consider how your experiences as a student, reader and writer can provide you with resources for teaching English
  •  How does the English major prepare you to leave school and find work?  This line of inquiry could be useful if you are not interested in graduate school and want to explore jobs other than teaching.

2/8 what are some alternative models for what you studied?
class meets in CCIT 311

We will workshop drafts of your second essay, review several of the essays that were submitted for the first assignment, and work in the groups that you selected last class to advance the inquiries you chose to develop in preparation for the class presentations on 2/15 to Professor Laura Berry.
Assignments for class:
Post the draft of your paper to the Caucus site by Tuesday, February 6 at 5:00
Write reviews of the drafts posted by the members of your team.
Meet with me during office hours to discuss your plans if you want to submit a course contract with alternative assignments.
Select at least one undergraduate major that could serve as a model for change that would serve the needs of students.  From the websites of English departments from around the world, come to class with specifics on how and why you think the program of study offered by another English department could serve as a model for reforms of the English major here at the University of Arizona.
2/15 what needs to done to improve our undergraduate major, and how can you represent what you have learned through it?
class meets in ML 313

In the first half of class, each of the research groups will give an informal presentation of 10 minutes to Professor Laura Berry, the Undergraduate Advisor the English major here, and in the second half of class we will discuss how to inventory your experiences and expertise to begin the process of composing resumes, job applications or graduate school applications.

Assignments for class:
Your second essay is due by class.
Send it to me as an attachment via email before class and bring a hard copy to class.
Be prepared to provide Professor Laura Berry with specific assessments on how you think the undergraduate major served your needs, how well it helped you achieve the objectives that have been set for it, and how you think it might be improved, following up on the specific lines of inquiry that your group began with in class on 2/1.

Essay Assignment 2

(Rough draft due 2/8, revision due 2/15)
Post the rough draft.
Send the revision to me as an attachment via email before class and bring a hard copy to class

The second essay calls for you to reflect upon how you learned to read and write against a context that shaped or will shape that ongoing process.  You began this process of reflection and analysis with the first essay, and parts of that essay could be redeveloped for this essay.  For example, a class or essay that you discussed in the first essay could also be used to support your analysis in this essay.  The focus in this assignment shifts from how you learned to read and write to how that learning was shaped by a broader context.  That context could be the assumptions and goals of the English major, the broader environment of undergraduate studies, the differences between majors you studied, or the goals that you will pursue after graduation.  In the roughly four page essay, you could develop an analysis of how your studies will prepare you for a specific job or program of study, or you could simply continue the line of reflection that you began with the last essay.  In either case, you will need well-defined specifics and a clearly developed line of inquiry, but you may cast the essay as a literacy narrative that tells the story of what you have learned, as an evaluation of the program of study that you are about to complete, or as an inquiry into what you need to learn to achieve your goals.
3. What do you want to do with this learning?
Weekly Assignments

2/22 so how do i get their from here?
class meets in CCIT 311

In groups, you will discuss the drafts of the reviews you wrote, and your collaborators will give you additional feedback on the responses that they wrote.  Then, in the second half of class, we will discuss the books that you reviewed and your responses to the reading from Williams's book on style.

Assignments for class:
Post the draft of your paper to the Caucus site by Tuesday, February 20 at 5:00
Write reviews of the drafts posted by the members of your team.

Read pages 1-37 in Williams's Style, Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, and come to class ready to discuss how it supports or contradicts what you have been taught about style.  Reflect back over what instructors wrote on papers, what your classmates told you in workshops, and other rules that you have made up for yourself.  Be ready to share one rule with us (such as never ending a sentence with preposition).  Think of rules you are unsure of or have heard contradictory ideas about.  Where do such rules come from?  Is there a kernel of truth in them?  How do know what is a rule and what is not?

3/1 name that problem
class meets in CCIT 311
We will discuss the readings from Williams's book, and we will work with samples of your writing to discuss the problems and ideas in the readings.
Assignments for class:
Send your paper to me as an attachment to email before class and bring a hard copy to class.
Read Williams's Style pages 39-96 and do exercises 3.13 (page 63) and 4.8 (page 92).  Send me these exercises as a second attachment to your email.
Essay Assignment 3

(Rough draft due 2/22, revision due 3/1)
Post the rough draft to our Caucus site.
Send the revision to me as an attachment via email before class and bring a hard copy to class.

As noted on the syllabus for the course, this essay is a three-page review of a book that will help you achieve the goals that you want to pursue after graduation.  Possible books are included on Arizona State's English Department career  web page.  You may write the book review for students such as yourself, or you may write it in a more formal style if you prefer.  In either case, you should cite at least two other related books that you have looked at in the introduction, and you should inform your reader why the book that you chose is more useful than those books.  The body of the essay should summarize the content of the book in some detail, and your summary and the concluding evaluations should be supported with specifics from the book.  The essay will be evaluated by how well you develop your response by effectively summarizing the argument of the book, developing a unified analysis of the book, and including apt specifics to support your points.

    If you are planning on doing a website for the fifth assignment, then you may wish to do an alternative review of related websites for this assignment.   If you select this alternative then, you should consult the web development guides and evaluation sites in the computer section of the resource page.  You should evaluate at least one site in depth, using links in the essay, which I will read in the version you send via email, meaning that you do not have to describe the page only analyze it.  You should also cite other websites in the introduction and elsewhere to develop your analyses of the website you are reviewing.  I will assess your review by how well you have applied the design and evaluation criteria as well as by how well you develop your analyses themselves.

4.How can you improve your writing by revising more effectively?
Weekly Assignments

3/8 revision is more than editing
class meets in CCIT 311
In groups, you will discuss the essay that you chose to revise for this assignment.  With your cover memo as the point of departure, your collaborators will give you additional feedback on the responses that they posted to the Caucus site.  Then, in the second half of class, we will discuss  the reading from Williams's book on style, the revision materials on the Resources page, and the ways that they can help you improve your revision strategies.

Assignments for class:

Post the essay you have selected to revise and a cover memo to the Caucus site by Tuesday, March 6 at 5:00.  The cover memo should include three paragraphs: 1) an outline of the context for which you wrote this essay, including the course, the assignment, and the criticism and commentary that you received (if the essay comes from this class, then you should still summarize what your peer editors and I noted on the essay);  2) a summary of your plans for the revision, including comments on your plans for revising the overall development, your assessment of the paragraphs that need work, and at least two aspects of your style that you want to work on; and 3) several specific question about your writing that you would like your peer respondents to comment upon.
Write reviews of the drafts posted by the members of your team by Wednesday, 7:00 pm.
Read pages  97-136 of Style, Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, and come to class ready to discuss how it applies to your writing.  Be ready to talk about at least two aspects of your style that you want to work on in this unit.  After discussing the issues in your group, we will review the highlights of your group's discussions of editing, with the assigned reading as our point of departure. 

Review the materials on revision included on our Resource page and be ready to talk about your strengths and weaknesses working on revision at the paragraph and essay levels.   Using the materials on revision, we will then discuss editing as a part of revision.  Be ready to discuss at least two specific revision strategies that you found useful in the on-line materials and/or your own reading and work with revision.
Review the Computer-Based Tutorial website and decide upon one tutorial that you would like to begin with.  In class we will get oriented to the site and address questions that you may have about how to get started on the tutorials.  The Quick Start page provides details on how to get started with the Computer-Based Tutorials.
3/22 improving your syntax
class meets in ML 313
Continuing our discussions of revision and editing, we will review readings from Williams's book and an article by Maxine Hairston, "Not All Errors Are Created Equal," which reports on a survey of college graduates' assessments of the most serious grammatical errors.  Using Williams's appendices on grammar and punctuation and related materials from the Resource page, we will discuss the syntactic problems that you discovered when you reviewed the papers that you and your collaborators have written. 
Assignments for class:
Send your paper to me as an attachment to email before class and bring a hard copy to class in a folder with previous essays, including those that you have submitted this semester, and essays from other classes that seem relevant for this assignment. 
Read pages 139-190 of Williams's Style.
Review the papers you have written in this and other classes, and come to class with at least two examples of constructions and punctuation that you are unsure of the "rules" for, two examples of awkward constructions or stylistic infelicities that you have tended to use, and two other stylistic patterns that you commonly use that you think work well. 

Essay 4

(Draft for revision with cover memo due 3/6 to Caucus, revision due 3/22)

Post your cover memo and the essay that you will revise to our Caucus site.
Send the revision to me as an attachment via email before class and bring a hard copy to class along with a folder containing your previous essays.

In this unit, you will revise an essay that you have already written.  You should choose an essay that needs work and shows promise, not one that merely needs editing.  The unit focuses on revision and editing, and I will assess your revision against how effectively you have integrated our work into your writing, not simply according to the quality of the essay itself.  To do so, I will consider how much improvement you made with the revision and whether you have addressed the concerns that I and others have noted on previous essays and drafts, including how well you have learned to rethink the overall development of the essay, to tighten and develop paragraphs, and improve your style and eliminate problems with mechanics.

The criteria that I will use to evaluate the essay:
1.  The essay should lay out a well-defined approach, including a thesis sentence if appropriate, in the introduction.
2.  The body of the essay should develop a unified line of analysis that is marked by logical connections among the paragraphs.
3.  The conclusion should summarize or synthesize the analysis and may note additional implications.
4.  The paragraphs should have clearly defined topics developed in topical strings that build from old to new information and are supported with relevant and clearly related specifics.
5.  The sentences should be largely free of problems with punctuations and grammar, and the sentences should generally follow the principles of style that we are studying, including using active verbs and putting the major agents in the subject slots.

Unit 5: How can you achieve what you want to do?

3/29 web authoring workshop

Class meets in CCIT 311.

We will work on using Netscape Composer to create web pages.   You should have completed the Computer-Based Tutorial on Netscape Composer or otherwise learned the basics of Netscape Composer or a comparable web authoring program before class.  If you have problems, please contact me via email.  Various options for how to learn Netscape Composer are included on the computer section of the Resources web page.  We will work together in class to create a web page on frequently asked questions for English majors, so please come to class with three questions that you think English majors would benefit from having answers to and a draft of an answer (a couple of sentences or short paragraph).  We will use this material to begin creating a web page.

Assignments for class:

Come to class with three questions that you think English majors would like to have answered, and draft out a short answer to each.  We will use the questions and answers to work together toward creating a Frequently Asked Questions web page for English majors at the University of Arizona.

Complete at least two Computer-Based Tutorials, attend a workshop on Netscape, or invest several hours in learning Netscape Composer or a similar web authoring program.  The computer section of the resource page provides information on free workshops, open access computer labs, the CBTs, and other on-line tutorials on Netscape composer. 

4/5 web authoring workshop and introduction to searching for jobs

Class meets in CCIT 311.

We will continue our collaborate work on developing websites using Netscape Composer, with a web page on Frequently Asked Questions providing us with a project to work on together.  You may work on your own web page or on this collaborative project.  We will also discuss your research on job trends and review some of the strategies and documents involved in job searches.

Complete at least two other Computer-Based Tutorials on composing web pages or other computer applications such as advanced word processing.  If you do not find the CBTs to be accessible or useful, then you can use other resources, but spend several hours working on upgrading your familiarity with basic computer software.

Review the materials on finding jobs from the course Resource page.

Major Assignment for Unit 5

(Bring drafts of the memo, letter and resume to class on 4/12, revisions are due to me on 4/19)

You will write a memo reporting on your job research, a letter of application for a particular job, and a resume. 

In a one-page single-spaced memo, you will report your research on available jobs and related trends in a particular market, using the on-line sources in the Resource page and other sources such as local web pages or publications.  The memo should report on the types of jobs that are available (in a particular city or area if that is how you are searching), how the jobs are characterized, what qualifications are needed, and what resources you are using to prepare to apply for the jobs (you should have at least three sources that you have studied, for example, websites or publications on a particular organization, general trends in the field of employment, or resources on how to find and secure jobs in the field).   The memo will be evaluated by the quality of the writing, the depth and thoughtfulness of the research, and the effectiveness of your analysis of the field of employment and the points that a job seeker such as yourself needs to consider in securing a job in the field.

Your application letter should be oriented to a specific job.  To write this letter, you will have to conduct a personal inventory using the relevant materials on the Resource page.  The letter should relate your relevant experience, expertise and goals to the requirements of the job and the needs of the organization.  Your letter will be evaluated by the effectiveness of the writing, your characterizations of your major strengths, your use of pointed specifics to demonstrate your strengths, and your identification of your strengths with the needs of the organization.

The personal inventory process will also be important in generating specifics for the resume on what you have done, can do and will do.  We will work with strategies and models in class.  Your resume will be evaluated on its effective use of specific details, clear and appealing format, and careful editing.

Extra Credit Assignment

If you wish to earn up to 5 extra points (which would be equivalent to an improvement of one half letter grade for the final course grade), you may write the longer researched paper that was originally envisioned for this unit rather than a one-page memo.  The paper should be about five pages and should include at least five sources providing research on employment trends, opportunities and qualifications in the area.  If you prefer, you may also write on more general issues in the field.  Please contact me in advance if you wish to write an extra credit paper.