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Spring 2006

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 4 months ago

Instructor: Kem Crimmins

Office: Burrowes 167

Office hours: M 8-10AM, W 3:30-4:30PM, and by appointment

E-mail: kdc11@psu.edu

Course website: epochewiki.pbwiki.com

Course Objectives


English 15 at Penn State challenges you to an ambitious semester-long inquiry into the subject of rhetoric, an ancient art that has always been closely associated with education and with democratic institutions. The course has a simple goal: to help you to become "critical citizens" inside and outside the university, people who engage actively and influentially with the communities they belong to because they have an awareness of how communities are created and influenced through language and other symbols. The course proposes to create a safe and yet provocative environment where you can develop sophistication as a producer and consumer of discourse.


Rhetoric is the study of how language works and how to make it work well. All human beings are somewhat skilled in rhetoric, in more or less intuitive ways. But the difference between intuitive rhetoric and conscious, artful rhetoric is something like the difference between walking and dancing, or between tossing a ball around and playing an organized sport. Our goal, then, is to develop more conscious skill, especially in what broadly might be called "argument."


Acquiring skill in rhetoric and argument means learning to write (and speak) with a coherent sense of audience and purpose, and with a strategic sense of argument and design. It also means learning to read (and listen) rhetorically, with a critical yet open-minded attention to the methods of persuasion employed by others. Such methods may be used to teach, explain, create knowledge, alter beliefs, protect the innocent, recommend actions, reform society; they also may be used to manipulate, exploit, and deceive. Let us together learn to look at rhetoric creatively and analytically, lest we put ourselves in powerless situations; let us avoid being the dupe of others.


In this course we will focus attention on the main aspects of effective discourse (logos, ethos, pathos, structure, style) and on the elements of the writing process (planning, inventing, arranging, drafting, revising, editing). By the end of this semester, you should be better able to evaluate the quality of others' arguments and to develop and articulate your own position clearly, thoughtfully, persuasively, and even eloquently.


Some things to keep in mind: This course asks not simply for self-expression, but for your participation in public discourse on matters of public interest--such as might be expected of educated adults in the world outside of school. Interesting, important discourse develops not in isolated egos, but within communities committed to some mutual inquiry or to some shared question. In consequence, this course depends greatly on what you bring to it, so you need to make a real commitment to the work and to your peers in the classroom. The University sometimes estimates that students should spend a minimum of two hours of study time outside of class for every hour in class, so in our course you can expect to have various kinds of reading and writing homework due at virtually every meeting of this class. But think positively: yes, I will expect you to come to class prepared and ambitious; but I will also be doing my best to make your studies interesting, vital, and unforgettable.

Required Textbooks and Materials:

  • Everything's An Argument. Lunnsford and Ruzkiewicz, eds. 3rd edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.
  • The New York Times or USA Today (both are available free on campus)
  • PSU e-mail account
  • personal blog on epochewiki

Course Requirements


To pass the course you must satisfactorily fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete all papers
  • Submit papers and drafts on time
  • Complete all homework assignments (both reading and writing)
  • Maintain regular attendence and active participation both as a reader and a writer in all class activities

Assignments and Grades

  • Please carefully read the English Department's grading standards here.


Possible final grades in this course include: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, D, and F. When figuring the final grade, I will use the following formula.


Blogs and Prompted Responses (four times per week) 15%
Definition Paper 10%
Evaluation Paper 15%
Causal Paper 20%
Proposal Paper 20%
Final Paper 20%


Class attendance is mandatory. According to Faculty Senate Policy 42-27 "the fact that classes are scheduled is evidence that the faculty believes instruction is important. It is implicit, therefore, that class attendance is important for the benefit of students." Attendance in this section of English 15 is required. While it is understood that emergencies / University-sanctioned activities may arise which result in your missing one or more classes, frequent absences may negatively affect your final grade. As a rule, one or two absences will have little impact on your final grade, assuming you participate enthusiastically when you are in class and realize you are responsible for all material covered during the missed class(es). In the event that your attendance, or lack thereof, becomes a problem, I will ask you to meet with me to discuss our options. These options may include a failing grade or a lower grade than you might have earned had you attended classes regularly.

Academic Integrity Policy

The University and Department of English's plagiarism policy can be found here. If you have questions after reading it, please ask. All cases of plagiarism will be reported to the Office of Judicial Affairs, which may recommend academic probation, suspension, or expulsion for academic dishonesty.


Information Management


Please back up everything you write for this course. You should either write your wiki posts in a word processor and save before posting, or write directly in the wiki and cut and paste to an open word processing window as you go along. Information technologies are perhaps inherently volatile, so it is always good to have redundancy in your writing process: make copies and put them in different places!


Freedom of Speech and Cognitive Liberty


As you will see, classrooms and wikis are both spaces devoted to free inquiry. This is a rhetorical space, one where composers are response-able to each other: they think and write in response to each other, and not to a preconceived notion of each other. Assume the best in those you study with and be generous with your respect, and you will teach them to respond in kind.


Penn State's Statement on Intolerance

Daily Assignments

English 15 moves quickly, but the rewards are many. One of the requirements is to come prepared to class. To do so, one must complete the assigned readings and responses before entering the classroom. Click on the below link for the course schedule. (N.B. The schedule is subject to change, so please review it often.)


Course Schedule, Spring 2006

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