Rhetoric and Inquiry

Writing 2 explores the intersections of investigation, interpretation, and persuasion and hones strategies for writing and research. Students develop specific, practical ways of improving their writing through sustained critical thinking about diverse issues from multiple points of view. Prerequisite(s): satisfaction of the Entry Level Writing and C1 requirements. Enrollment limited to 25. (General Education Code(s): C2.)

Grading Policy and Rubric

Enrollment Procedures:
Writing 2 classes fill quickly. Students needing Writing 2 should try to enroll during their first-pass enrollment appointments.


A History of “Cool”: American Counterculture & the Modern Era

Jazz and the Beat Generation.  Gangsta Rap and Grunge.  Riot Grrrls, Punk Rock and Rebel Without a Cause.  In this class, we will explore the slippery and ubiquitous concept of “cool.”  We will ask how mainstream pop culture reacts to outsiders and innovators; why some subcultures are admired, while others are feared, exploited, parodied, or ignored; and how counterculture impacts (and sometimes creates) generational and cultural identity.  To probe these questions, we will first derive an historical context for “cool,” then survey the various cultural shifts of the last hundred years with a particular emphasis on the dialog between counterculture and the culture at large.  Critical readings will include Susan Sontag, Chuck Klosterman, Anatole Boyard and Donnell Alexander, among others, and essays will be both personal and analytical, exploring both history and the current moment.  Importantly, we will also read, listen to, watch, and otherwise engage some of the major figures and subcultures that have animated the fringes of the modern era, to ask what we can learn from them about different generations, the future, and America in general.

Return to Top


A House Divided: Reading and Writing about Contemporary America

"Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today." So begins Tony Judt's recent commentary, Ill Fares the Land. Jobs are disappearing; the social services that our parents and grandparents erected over the second half of the twentieth century are under threat; public schools are decaying; healthcare is all but unaffordable. Above all, we live in a country divided, divided by religion as well as politics, by belief as much as ideology, where, for many, our sense of belonging and collective identity have eroded under the pressure of violence, economic struggle, and political rancor. What has happened? What divides us from our neighbors and and makes common cause so difficult to find within a haze of social resentment and name calling? While carefully examining the craft of writing--how to generate questions and ideas, how to synthesize and employ evidence, how to structure coherent arguments--we will explore the society we live in, what has gone wrong, and what is to be done. Assignments will embrace all aspects of a collaborative writing process, ranging from invention, research, and drafting, to revision and editing, and will seek to promote the composition of inventive essays that explore the issues that unite all of our lives.

Return to Top

Are We Having Fun Yet?: The Rhetoric of Leisure

In this class, we’ll analyze public spaces and discourses associated with leisure, learn about the history of the weekend, and trace our culture’s ideologies of recreation and entertainment. We’ll be thinking about the media that we consume, the subcultures that we affiliate ourselves with, and the various built environments that we inhabit in our leisure lives. Students will conduct research throughout the quarter related to these issues.

 Return to Top


Big History

Education often seems like a game of momentarily memorizing bits of a blizzard of disconnected "factoids."  This is in large part a reaction to the explosion of information, begun by writing, accelerated by printing, super-novaed by the digital revolution; in response, our natural personal and institutional inclination is to specialize, learning more and more about less and less.  Thus we are drowning in information but starving for meaning.  Big History pulls all these major subject matter "silos" into a single compelling story of eight thresholds we have passed through, beginning with the Big Bang and ending with terra-forming space.  The course will give insight into systems thinking, and into the nature of innovation and creativity required to thrive in the future. We will investigate the nature of social networks and innovation by helping to build James Burke’s Knowledge Web (k-web.org).  As in every Writing 2 course, students in this class will write several substantive essays, including a final research project (which may be a group).

 Return to Top


Breaking Science

We will investigate and make sense out of a variety of complex issues in science, including tracking current news from issues of Science and Nature magazines (www.sciencemag.org and www.nature.com). We will engage in understanding and communicating concepts in the physical and biological sciences, including communicating in different genres for a variety of audiences and purposes. We apply knowledge of rhetoric to form persuasive arguments and proposals. As in every Writing 2 course, students in this class will write several substantive essays, including a research project (literature review) and a convincing, persuasive paper based on researched sources. Emphasis is on the relationships between 1) good science and good writing, and 2) clear thinking and clear writing. Multiple papers with major revisions required.

 Return to Top


Censorship and the Power of Words

This writing course, structured around the theme of censorship and the power of words, will provide students with the skills to construct persuasive arguments, rhetorically analyze a variety of mediums, and engage in critical thinking and discussion. Words have emotional and material effects: they can motivate, offend, politicize, problematize, upset, and transform social and institutional structures. Words can also raise difficult questions of race, class, gender, and sexuality, or confront taboos that some would rather be kept quiet. Students will be asked to rethink their assumptions about what censorship is, where and how it occurs, and by whom. Students will critically read and analyze a variety of controversial texts, songs, and examples in literature and film in order to understand how censorship operates across mediums. Students will also be exposed to arguments both in favor and against censorship and develop the necessary tools for identifying and analyzing the audience, purpose, context, and genre of each source, as well as how to cite these sources and pull out key quotes and passages as evidence for an argument.censorship and develop the necessary tools for identifying and analyzing the audience, purpose, context, and genre of each source, as well as how to cite these sources and pull out key quotes and passages as evidence for an argument.

 Return to Top


Climate Change, Biodiversity, and the Environment

Students will explore a major ecological problem: global climate change and the loss of biodiversity on planet Earth. Students choose a major essay topic, then complete several writing assignments that navigate the process of writing a research essay. Each student follows the same process as a scientist or policy analyst reviewing the current state of knowledge on a scientific or environmental issue. Individual writing assignments will be revised and then incorporated into the final essay. Although the class emphasizes reading, understanding, and writing scientific and policy reviews and arguments, non-science students will find the step-by-step writing process helpful for crafting written arguments in any discipline.

Return to Top


Composition For Creatives: Ignite Your Prose With Passion and Purpose


“For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

                                                                 —T.S. Eliot


This writing course is designed to help makers make meaning. Whether you write fiction, journalism, code, or create in any medium--visual arts, performance, game design--you’ll have the opportunity to evolve your purpose through crafting your presence on the page. In what ways is writing a tool we can use to better our lives and lead to new understandings for our audiences and ourselves? How can failure, uncertainty, and Negative Capability be useful places to dwell rather than recoil from? We will investigate purpose, audience, genre, stakes, and ways in which prominent thinkers in creative fields utilize the essay as a form of expression. Our process culminates with the creation of a piece in the genre of your vocation. For the research component, you will have the opportunity to either deepen your project through helpful source-work or to compose an intellectual profile of a hero/ine working professionally in your chosen genre. We may also investigate possibilities for real-world publication of our writing.

Return to Top 


Fun and Games: Writing about Play

In a society so focused on work and achievement, the word “play” is often equated with laziness, procrastination, and frivolity. However, play has been proven to be a vital aspect of these work-obsessed societies and our everyday personal lives. In this class, we will explore the topic of play through a variety of lenses, focusing mainly on its intersections with sociological and psychological issues. We will use this theme as a vehicle for exploring a variety of genres and analyzing the rhetorical strategies and situations involved in the composition of successful texts. As with any Writing 2 class, significant writing and research will be required.

 Return to Top

Fun, Food and Fantasy:  Mass Media Representations of Health, Nutrition and Well Being

Students will research and question how mass media shape human perceptions of food, nutrition and body image, as well as critically examine written arguments and films about the politics of health. In this course students will investigate several genres of criticism about the ways that mass media and other channels of social communication promote messages about health and well being. Students will have the opportunity to examine how their own perspectives about health and well being have been influenced--for better or worse--by mass media.  Assignments will include class discussions, working in peer groups, several expository papers, and a research essay.

 Return to Top

Interrogating Education

Why are many students apathetic about what courses they take, the papers they "have" to write? If a course (like this one) is “required,” who’s doing the requiring, and why? And why are the woes of higher education so much in the news? In this class we’ll explore who decides what “good” writing is and who benefits/who is excluded by these criteria, and we’ll investigate who determines what constitutes an “education” and what political/social consequences accrue from various definitions, priorities, and choices. As you dig into debates about what’s wrong with education (are students at fault? or teachers? or administrators? or legislators? or taxpayers? or…?), you’ll become more adept as critical thinkers and interrogators of situations and issues (better able to discern writers’ hidden agendas, competing values, unspoken assumptions, and slippery uses of evidence). And as you learn that professors/professionals read/write/think in ways differently from most students, you’ll become more strategic users of language (more proficient in arguing, organizing, marshalling evidence, and in general employing the “secret codes” of academia, but also able to interrogate the conventions of academic writing).

Investigating Erasures

The Oxford English Dictionary offers the following as one definition of “erasure”: “the action of erasing or obliterating.” What we create in this class will likely problematize, respond to, or investigate the stakes of erasures—be they cultural, historical, environmental, political, or even disciplinary. Not coincidentally, our course materials privilege historically marginalized or underrepresented voices who similarly investigate and problematize an erasure that they seek to highlight and learn from. Thus, the course asks us to consider how such writers position themselves strategically amongst stakeholders, and through their rhetorical tactics or research methodologies. The course tasks us with contemplating—more personally—what content and perspectives writers and researchers in our own chosen disciplines of interest commonly omit, sideline, forget, or overlook. Consequently, it challenges us as writers to consider highlighting and reckoning with some of these absences through our own research and development of new ideas.

Return to Top


Is Higher Education Worth the Costs?

Why are you here? What is the purpose of an undergraduate education? To get a degree, a job, a life? To find yourself, or satisfy societal (or familial) expectations? In this class, we will begin to take on some of these questions, as we investigate the complex issues around higher education. We will specifically look at the university from a historical perspective, examine the current political climate of higher education, and consider whether an undergraduate education is really worth it’s many sacrifices. By reading, writing, conversing, researching and thinking about these issues, we will hone our abilities to engage deeply with others’ writing and ideas (as well as our own), refine our use of scholarly conventions as a means to more effectively enter into academic ‘conversations,’ and better understand the significance (as well as the limits) of academic discourses—all skills that will prove valuable in later coursework. By the end of the quarter, you will have a better understanding about your own purpose and meaning for being here, as well as the types of skills needed to be successful.

Return to Top

Language in Context

What language(s) do you speak to your family? to your friends? to your professors? What kind of lingo do you use in a text message? in a job interview? with your friends from back home? Whether you speak English only or you are bi- or tri-lingual, chances are you are fluent in many ways of communicating, and you are accustomed to choosing the appropriate language or lingo to use for a particular context. In this Writing 2 course, we will explore these kinds of language choices in order to better understand the choices each writer must make in order to present ideas to an audience. Course readings will include texts in which writers explore their own experiences with writing, reading, speaking, translating, understanding, and misunderstanding language(s), as well as texts exploring important Writing Studies concepts such as audience, genre, and rhetorical situation.  Each student will choose a research topic to pursue over the course of the quarter, and the goal of the course will be for each student to learn writing concepts and strategies that will be useful in a variety of disciplines and divisions--from Physical and Biological Sciences to Humanities and Arts, and from Social Sciences to Engineering--and for each student to complete the course with writing knowledge that will transfer to a variety of future writing situations.

Return to Top


Mapping the Neighborhood: Writing about Communities, Social Justice, Social Change

In this course we will read about, explore, and write on a number of contemporary social problems and social justice issues, particularly as they pertain to the communities we inhabit and know. We’ll focus on urban studies, race and class, gentrification, community identities and activism, and other current topics of interest to class members. Readings will include selections by Howard Zinn, bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldúa, Mike Davis, Luis Rodriguez, and others.  We will also work with news articles, scholarly texts, and multi-media sources. Through reading, class discussion, and independent work, students will gain greater awareness of the writing process, of different rhetorical moves writers make, of various genres relevant to writing both inside and outside the university, and will develop methods for successful independent editing.  Students will write several short papers as well as one longer research project that will involve an overview of the research process. Revision will be a major focus of all writing projects.

Mindfulness of the Creative Experience

In this course we explore how mindfulness, and paying attention to the process of our creative experiences, makes us stronger writers as we move through different writing genres that prepare us for our professional, personal, and academic lives. Through mindfulness writing practice, we begin to realize that creativity is paradoxical. It requires expertise and hard work yet involves freedom and spontaneity. The creative process brings joy and delight yet is fraught with fear, frustration, and even terror. How do we prepare ourselves to be open and responsive to whatever writing challenge awaits us? Be it drafting a cover letter to a potential employer, writing a eulogy for a loved one’s funeral, or completing a lengthy investigative research report. As writers in this course, we engage critically with readings that examine creativity and mindfulness in both theory and practice. We also explore the questions: How do we learn to ignite awareness and compassion for ourselves as writers and for the subjects of our writing? Once this awareness and compassion ignites, how do we use rhetoric and inquiry to help us sustain our passion? Lastly, as writers, for whom do we create? Is our audience professional, personal, and academic as stated above? Or do we sometimes create for a more wilder divine that points to something more unspeakable and unknown? As a way of promoting good will towards ourselves and our writing practice, this course will include mindfulness based stress reduction writing and meditation practices.


Return to Top


Rhetoric & Bullshit

In this course, we will learn what it takes to be a bullshit artist by exploring the relationship between rhetoric and taurascatics -- or, the study of bullshit. Together we will analyze, reflect, critique, and interact with a variety of “texts” that explore a myriad of rhetorical situations -- both ancient and modern, political and popular; this, I am sure, will enable us to understand -- and enact -- conventions of persuasion and “truth-telling” in a world where “truth” may be obsolete. So please, join us in becoming more critical and engaged citizens, writers, consumers, bullshitters of the world.

Rhetoric &  Inquiry
Our work in this course will be motivated by five concepts that are fundamental to understanding how to write effectively: rhetorical situation, ethics, genre, research, and network. By studying these five concepts, you will gain conceptual knowledge about writing that will help you to become a more confident and informed writer. Through completing course projects, you will better understand how to successfully write for different types of situations and audiences. Major course projects will be interconnected and invite you to sustain inquiry on a topic of your choosing.

The Art of Living through Writing

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, […] and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”—Henry David Thoreau

We routinely train for a sport, for endurance, for the realization of long term goals, but we rarely train for life...yet how much more difficult and important is life?  The single question of “how to live” is one of the oldest questions preoccupying some of the greatest thinkers around the world from the beginning of writing. This course engages the philosophical writings of both classical Western thinkers (such as Thoreau, Montaigne, Plato, and Epictetus) and non–western texts (such as the Tao Te Ching) to explore the connections between writing and living purposefully.  In addition to learning from these classics something about the art of living, we’ll also learn how writing is tied to self-knowledge and empowerment. This course is writing intensive and engages the full writing process from experimental, informal, reflective writing to research and revision. Specifically, the writing process in this course will begin by using Plato’s Dialogues to learn the basics of academic argumentation including logical reasoning, debate, and the elements of persuasion.  Next, we move into research writing by learning how to generate research questions and how to situate our ideas within a larger scholarly conversation by drawing connections between Thoreau’s Walden and Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching.  Finally, seeking inspiration from Montaigne--the inventor of the modern essay--students will write a reflective essay applying the course readings to their own lives.


The Story

This course focuses on the theme of stories:  From narratives where what actually happened is questionable, to how we can think of intellectual writing as telling a story.  We will write a personal story, analyze long-form journalism—both print and audio—look at media coverage of current events, and write an investigative essay based on student research.  Texts include articles from The New Yorker, Wired, The New York Times and others;  podcasts of This American Life, The Moth, RadioLab, Studio 360, Bullseye, Snap Judgement and On the Media.  This course prepares students to write across the disciplines.  Students can expect to learn about all steps of the writing process—planning, researching, drafting, revising and editing—to read, listen, and watch interesting texts, and to engage in lively discussion.  

The Ten-Dollar Founding Father Without a Father: Writing About Hamilton: An American Musical

When it was first staged in 2015, no one expected much from a musical about the nation’s first Treasury Secretary.  Yet somehow, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical become a cultural sensation. People will sleep on the ground for days to try to get one of its sold-out tickets, while the upcoming national tour sold out within hours. But Alexander Hamilton--Founding Father, the face of the $10 bill, and the center of the nation’s first sex scandal--started out as a fatherless orphaned Caribbean immigrant. How did he achieve so much before he was shot and killed by Vice President Aaron Burr? He was a great writer.

In the spirit of great writers like Hamilton and Miranda, this course will help you to develop good composition and revision processes, expand your rhetorical knowledge and control, and provide you with tools to write for different audiences, genres, and purposes. We will experiment with language to explore your own personal style and voice. We will also practice careful textual analysis as we read and listen to the soundtrack (itself a work of great writing!) and think critically about representations of race, gender, class, and immigrants in Hamilton’s America and our own. We will conclude with an extended research project on a question of interest to you and a multimodal #Ham4Ham collaborative presentation. If you want to spend time writing about and enjoying a hip-hop, rap, pop musical with hints of Tupac, Destiny’s Child, the Beatles, and Les Mis, this is the class for you!

Understanding Argument

This class is dedicated to writing and thinking about argument— and to unpacking and using the tools that make effective arguments work. The course focuses on analytical reading, writing, and thinking as the building blocks of our critical engagement with problems and challenges in the world around us. Over the course of the quarter, you will analyze and interpret a variety of texts and debates and produce a series of reasoned, purposeful writings on questions and issues of your own. Using arguments from across genres as our guides, we will explore and discuss ideas, conduct careful research, grapple with the insights and opinions of others, and propose our own solutions. We will consider what persuasive communication across a broad range of rhetorical situations requires, and explore approaches that address different audiences, needs, and purposes. You will learn techniques for structuring and developing your thoughts in writing and practice drafting, revising, and editing toward a polished final product. Significant work on peer consultation and review will contribute to your skills as both a reader and a writer. Attention to the writing process, from idea generation and drafting to presentation, peer workshops and conferences, will culminate in a portfolio of informed and successful arguments.

What’s in the New Yorker This Week?

What makes writing good? To examine what makes a good discussion of something, students in this class will read and write about The New Yorker, the national magazine most noted for its peerless writing and cartoons. What do you find interesting? What is the role of surprise? How can surprise lead to analysis? How can you use writing as a tool for both analysis of a topic and expression to an audience? These and other questions will spur your own writing. There will be frequent writing assignments, formal and informal, in class and out, drawing on what you learn about good writing from reading it every week. Required texts for this course include They Say I Say Third Edition by Gerald Graff and Birkenstein; Writing Analytically (7th edition) by  David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen, and a subscription to The New Yorker magazine. You can see the current issue at www.newyorker.com.

Writing About Photography

Do photographs tell the truth or conceal it? To what extent can photographs create compassion and encourage justice? How do the photographs we take to share on social media shape the way we experience our lives? How do rhetorical concepts explain the way writers, photographers, and people in general communicate?  By asking questions about photography and the writing it has inspired, we will develop strategies for entering a range of conversations on any topic--in the university and beyond. Throughout the quarter we will view, read about, and create photographs as we strive to develop effective strategies for reading and writing. We will analyze and create texts in a variety of genres, considering how the context, the writer or photographer’s purposes, and the audiences’ expectations shape the texts we make and read. We will also explore and reflect on methods for inventing and developing ideas, for organizing ideas intentionally, and for drafting, revising, and editing.

Writing Against the Silence

So many silences are created by societies, by societies’ need to obscure their operational power. And as a writer you dwell in silences. You dwell in what’s not being said, you dwell in what’s not being discussed, you dwell in what’s being erased. And from my point of view, no matter what [you] write about, it has a way of working against, cutting across the grain of a society that wants you to forget and not to see.

--Pulitzer Prize Winner Junot Diaz, Smithsonian interview  “In His Own Words”

What does it mean to dwell in the silences created by society? To enter into ongoing conversations and assess what perspectives are being left out, what narratives need to be developed, challenged, advanced? What does it mean to speak out of these silences, to write against, as Junot Diaz says, “the grain of a society that wants you to forget and not to see?” And, how do we most effectively write against these silences? In this course, we will analyze texts in a variety of genres and medias about suppressed groups (racial, ethnic, cultural) in the Americas in order to help answer these questions and to explore effective and diverse techniques for writing.

We will focus on the significance of rhetorical situations (including context, audience, and purpose) and will sequentially and recursively build academic writing skills (summary, citation, synthesis, analysis, argument). As a research project, students will be asked to dwell in some aspect of silence and write to address that silence. Topics may be chosen from our course texts, from the “text” of your life, or from our current society. A cumulative portfolio project will be due at the end of the course.

Writing and the Critique of Everyday Life

This class is about questioning what is otherwise unquestioned: everyday life. While everyday life is sometimes thought to be boring, uneventful, or insignificant, it is also filled with complexities and mysteries that are overlooked, unrecognizable, or taken for granted. Our goal throughout the quarter will be to explore different ways in which our daily experience can provide the critical questions, inspiration, and raw material for writing and research – in university courses and other rhetorical contexts. We will study writing as a practice, requiring a set of habits and strategies for critical thought and inquiry with which to understand, challenge, and transform elements of our everyday life.

The course begins with a brief study of the figure of the writer and the history of writing, posing questions about what motivates the writing process, who gets to be a ‘writer,’ how to define writing as a practice, and how to think of ourselves as writers. Our readings take up the concept of writing as a practice of everyday life through a variety of genres -- ranging from essays, journalism, and critical theory to memoirs, diaries, poems and manifestoes. Moving forward, students will investigate aspects of daily life, develop research skills, and design projects through stages of inquiry, drafting, and revision. This project will culminate in a presentation and final portfolio submission at the end of the quarter.

Writing Across Contexts

In this course, we will learn how to develop writing practices, as well as knowledge about writing, that you can transfer to a variety of writing situations. Together, we will explore key rhetorical concepts--rhetorical situation, audience, genre, and other terms--and you will learn how to identify and practice these concepts for various writing situations, including those you may encounter in the future. Projects will ask you to write about self-selected topics applicable to your area of study or personal interests and to develop primary and/or secondary research skills as you explore and write about your topics. Our goals in this course are to develop a set of concrete writing habits that will enable you to develop your own theory of writing and to learn strategies for becoming a versatile writer who can navigate the demands and expectations of writing in a variety of contexts.

Return to Top


 Writing Across the Genres: Art and Activism

In college and beyond, writers must practice strategies for persuading their intended audience to take their ideas seriously. During times of political division, and when the stakes are high, it is particularly challenging to gain the ear, much less the support, of readers whose viewpoints differ from your own. In this course, we will explore genre as a rhetorical tool for reaching a particular audience with our purpose. By reading and writing in a range of genres--including researched position papers, art and performance reviews, magazine articles, manifestos, and lyric essays—we will become more fluent in the language of genre, employing a variety of conventions to achieve our intended effects.  Caveat emptor: we may perform an intervention on the genre of “the academic paper” that many of you learned in high school and work our way up to more inventive trans-genre writing that draws on your creative interests. Beyond genre interventions, we will study political interventions by innovative writers and artists in diverse fields, analyzing how their written, performative, filmic, and visual rhetoric changes the political and the rhetorical situation.  

Return to Top


Writing for Life

In this class, we will investigate genres and the frameworks that shape various forms of writing so that you will be able to write effectively in many different contexts. You will be able to choose an academic discipline in which you have interest and do a research paper in your chosen field. This will help to prepare you for future coursework at UCSC. Then, the final project will give you the opportunity to creatively convey your research findings to a more general audience by writing in a popular genre of your choice.

 Return to Top

Women's Ways of Writing

In this course we’ll be reading texts written by women that span several centuries. We’ll be looking at these texts as models for our own writing. We’ll do multiple kinds of writing: traditional research and argumentative pieces, but also more personal forms, such as letters and journals. Authors we will read may include: Elizabeth I, Charlotte Brönte, Gloria Anzaldúa, Virginia Woolf, Lady Gaga, Rebecca Solnit, and Alice Walker.

Return to Top


Youth Identity in a Networked Culture

​In this course, ​we will seek to answer questions such as​ these​: How is your constructed online self a mirror​--or distortion--​of your own identity? How have you been defined by your personal involvement with social media, social networks, and digital devices? ​How are our thinking and learning shaped by our interactions in social media and o​ther ​virtual worlds? ​We​ will read and respond to a variety of texts, focusing on the ways in which our identities—including our own digital selves—are created and manipulated online. While ​examining how we invent and reinvent ourselves ​through our participation in social media and other virtual worlds​, w​​e will investigate how to write effectively​ ​by ​crafting ​​a number of essays, including a research paper. Additionally, you will participate in regular writing groups--peer editing conferences designed to help improve the style, content, and structure of your written work.