Rhetoric and Inquiry

Writing 2 Provides declarative knowledge about writing, with a special focus on writing from research, composing in multiple genres, and transferring knowledge about writing to new contexts. Prerequisite(s): College 1 and satisfaction of the Entry Level Writing; or College 80A, 80D, or 80F and satisfaction of the C1 requirement. Enrollment is restricted to frosh, sophomore and junior students. Enrollment limited to 25. (General Education Code(s): C.).

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

Check Class Schedule for Fall 2019 open seats. 

Fall 2019 Sections - Enrollments end at 4:00pm, Friday, October 4


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.

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Writing the Urban Landscape

The journey of this course will provide class members the space to read, think, and write about architecture, buildings, communities, urban studies, social justice – and the relationship(s) among them.  We’ll read and work with a series of texts that engage architectural and urban studies topics such as public space, gentrification, buildings and their relationship with people, and other topics of related interest selected by members of the class.  Course readings and materials will vary from scholarly texts to news articles to multi-media sources. Through reading, class discussion, and independent work, students will gain greater awareness of the writing process, of different approaches to and forms of academic and professional writing; additionally, students will develop methods for successful independent editing of their writing.  Coursework will include 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.

Are We Having Fun Yet?: The Rhetoric of Leisure

This course is devoted to deconstructing “fun”: What does our culture consider fun/leisurely/entertaining, and why? Where do we learn how to be entertained? What can we learn about our broader cultural values and motivations by studying what we do in our free time? 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, gaining experience with primary, secondary, and mixed methods research; undertaking both social sciences and humanities approaches to research; and writing for a range of audiences, both scholarly and popular.

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 research topic, then complete several writing assignments that navigate the process of writing up research. 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 research project. 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 writing up research in any discipline.

Happiness in Modern Society

Does money make us happy?  Can meditation improve our state of mind?  Is nature essential to our well-being? In this section of Writing 2 we will discuss these questions and many others relating to the topic of happiness.  The readings for this course are drawn from a number of different disciplines and traditions: psychology, philosophy, sociology, self-help, and Buddhism.  These readings explore not only the personal choices and conditions that contribute to our individual well-being, but also the social norms and expectations that affect all of us in American society today.  Through a thoughtful engagement with these ideas, you will be encouraged to think critically and write papers that you really care about. All students will engage in class discussions, participate in collaborative group work, write compositions in different genres, submit some type of writing before most class sessions, and complete the course with a multi-stage research project.

Cyberspace and the Biosphere

In this composition course, we will explore two interrelated and profoundly relevant realms, cyberspace and the biosphere. How does the increasing amount of time we spend inhabiting cyberspace affect our identity and relationships? Do our digital devices offer enhancement, distraction, or addiction? Has our immersion in cyberspace cut us off from a deep connection to the biosphere? We will then turn to the question of creating a sustainable future for the planet. We will explore political, economic, and spiritual solutions to the threat of catastrophic climate change. We will finish the quarter by studying the psychology of happiness and mindfulness. How can we live satisfied, meaningful lives in the midst of so much distraction and tumultuous change? You do not need a scientific background for this course, but only a willingness to explore through writing your personal future and the future of the planet. You will compose an essay on the place you call home, reflect on our increasing immersion in the digital world, research your own future occupation, and persuade others on pressing issues of environmental concern. Through sharing our writing online and through participation in small group and class discussions, we will create a classroom community that improves our ability to write and leads to academic success at the university.

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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 us with 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.

Our readings take up the concept of writing as a practice of everyday life through a variety of genres, ranging from essays, journalism, critical theory and scholarly research to memoirs, diaries, poems and manifestoes. We examine everyday life through questions of race, gender, labor, history, psychology, spatial and temporal experience, embodiment, technology, and more. Moving forward, students investigate aspects of daily life, develop research skills, and design projects through stages of inquiry, drafting, and revision. This project culminates in a final portfolio submission at the end of the quarter.

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How to Create Knowledge

Students and faculty are knowledge workers, and the University is our workshop. In this course, you will learn how to develop and refine writing and research practices that you can transfer to a variety of writing situations across social, professional, and academic contexts. Through an inquiry-based approach into how experts and novices create new knowledge, we will explore key concepts about rhetoric and inquiry, and you will learn how to identify and practice these concepts for a variety of knowledge producing situations, including those you are likely encounter at a research university. Projects will invite you to develop multidisciplinary practices in research-based writing and to sustain inquiry in a topic of your choice by composing in multiple genres and media.

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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 in order to develop better media literacy, 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, On the Media and others.  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.

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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.

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Writing the Emerging Africa: beyond the four D’s

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, an award-winning American journalist who worked in Johannesburg, South Africa for NPR and CNN, stated in an interview for her book New News out of Africa that Americans “aren’t getting the information they need to understand Africa. Reporting [in the US] is dominated by the four d’s ... death, disease, disaster and despair. ... If all you hear about is hunger, drought, disease and conflict, people conclude that Africa’s problems are intractable and that nothing in Africa ever changes.” In this course, we will examine two common American notions of Africa as a lost continent: first, that Africa is lost from our view, or as in Hunter-Gault’s criticism of American media, only partially—and usually negatively—viewed; second, that Africa is somehow hopelessly lost due to “the four d’s. ... death, disease, disaster and despair.” In this research and composition course, we will examine these four d’s, but we will also discover, through research, critical reading, and analytical writing, other, more complex and balanced visions of an Africa emerging into our view. We will research popular and scholarly texts to find a new set of “d’s” of our own, with the intention of composing original, informative, and elegantly written responses. Goals of this course include helping you become a stronger reader, a more incisive thinker, and a more effective writer. The course will encourage you to create new strategies for generating and supporting ideas, improve your skill and confidence as a researcher and writer, and expand your understanding of the writing process through active revision—all while you articulate your own emerging knowledge of Africa.

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Curiosity, Engagement, Persistence, and Reflection

What is writing if not an attempt to make visible one’s own thoughts and interpretations of the worlds in which they live? What is the value of one’s own thoughts if they do not come from a place of sincere curiosity, an engagement with and an exploration of these worlds? How could strong writing be created without practice and persistence? How could compelling writing be created without a writer’s delight in the puzzle of word choice, syntax, and arrangement of ideas so that a reader might also participate in the writer’s ideas? How could a writer hope to become a stronger writer without an awareness of choices and reflection on past decisions?

Students in this course will practice becoming curious, engaged, persistent, reflective writers. The work in this course will require you to choose one topic to examine, research, and write about for the entire quarter. As in other Writing 2 courses, expect to compose in multiple genres and transfer knowledge about writing to new contexts.

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Writing the Future

In this course, we will explore the human tendency to shape futures that benefit ourselves in the short-term only.  In the context of Moore’s law, and a climate changing more rapidly than predicted, we are all now living inside the cliche: the future is now.  How can we make future-focused decisions around technological developments that outpace our ethical and political frameworks for responding to them?  How can we not only write the future, but right the future? In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud explored the tension between individuals’ desire for freedom and society’s need for conformity. Our climate crisis clearly reflects this tension. We will analyze the need for energy and emissions regulation in the context of deregulated capitalism. We will also explore the possibilities and discontents of digital connectivity, and the triumphs and trials of transhumanism.  Robots and digital mind clones sound exciting, but what about the effects of automation upon our jobs or the environment? All these explorations are focused on the development of college-level writing practices. From invention, to research, to analysis, to argument, we will learn to make rhetorical choices appropriate to the genres we are writing. From scholarly articles, to magazine articles, to science fiction, the genres we read will influence the genres we write.  

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The Climate Change Debate

Concerned about climate change? Or wondering if concerns are a little overblown? Climate change discussions generate a lot of heat (pun intended), so this writing class will use material from multiple genres (book chapters, scientific articles, popular press articles, policy reviews, speeches, blogs, films, etc) to investigate the different “sides” of this debate, as well as the reasons why tempers flare and resistance to change is strong in both camps. As in other W2 courses, you yourself will learn to write in multiple genres for different audiences and strengthen your arguments, organization, research skills, and rhetorical techniques.  But this course will also spend some time on affective writing (emotional appeals), and on techniques you can be aware of as a reader, and use as a writer, that go beyond the “create logical arguments/use strong evidence” approach that most writing texts teach.

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Writing our Relationship to Animals

In this composition course, we will read and write various genres to explore human attitudes toward and treatment of other animals. The messages we give and get about animals in human society come to us in many forms, and can shape our views and behavior if they are composed with rhetorical awareness. Understanding who your audience is and what message you want to convey to them will help you figure out which rhetorical strategies to use yourself. Through research, you will have the opportunity to investigate an animal-related issue that interests you and write about it in a various genres. The habits and strategies you practice in thinking and writing rhetorically about animals should serve you beyond this class and topic.

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Joining Conversations in a Changing World

We live in turbulent times, and often we may feel that our ideas get lost in the many opinions that divide people rather than prompting them to simply listen to others’ voices.  So what can we do? We can write. In this class we will look at the ways that writing can play a part in social change. In a variety of formats we will examine the many perspectives that enter into the conversations and the controversies that affect the many people whose voices might not be heard in the turmoil. And then we will use writing to join that social conversation.  Students will write about self-chosen topics that truly matter to them, and in the process examine the many genres that can allow for multiple perspectives to be heard. Research work will run throughout the quarter, in a different form for each type of writing we practice. Social justice, equality, and passion for the transformations possible in this society will center our work as writers in a changing world.

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What’s in the New Yorker This Week?

What makes writing interesting? 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.

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Adventures in Journalistic Genres: Writing the Profile

A profile is a type of article written about a person in order to make a point not only about that person, but a broader question or controversy. In this course, we’ll analyze published profiles as examples and conduct a series of writing exercises to investigate and apply conventions of this genre. You’ll then compose your own profile of a living individual working in a field in which you have interest, with an eye toward the question, How can a story about a person help us gain insight into a high-stakes issue? Throughout this journey, you’ll acquire the skills to decipher what writing assignments require of you, how to grab your reader’s attention, work with sources, conduct professional research and interviews, organize ideas, and polish your prose. By quarter’s end, you’ll have revised and readied your profile to submit to online magazines/newspapers while also having learned writing and revision processes to carry forward both in and beyond academic settings.

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Rhetoric & Bullshit

Is bullshit the excess of our collective bowel, or the force that keeps it “regular”?

The stench of bullshit is near and clear, and yet it lingers -- why? In this online course, we will explore the role bullshit plays in a “democratic society” by analyzing its relationship to rhetoric; to do this, we will write, read, critique, reflect, and interact with a variety of “texts” that explore a myriad of rhetorical situations and discursive formations -- ancient and modern, political and popular, fabricated and factual -- as a means for studying the excrement of our society. In short, this class will interrogate the shit that stains our collective un/conscious. Note: this is an online course, which means you will need a functional device(s) and stable internet access.

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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.

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Fun, Food and Fantasy: Contemporary Narratives of Health, Nutrition and Well Being

How does culture and mass media shape perceptions of food, nutrition, and body image? In this class we will negotiate 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 culture.  Assignments will include class discussions, peer group workshops, several analytical writing assignments, and a research essay.

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Choices and Apologies

This course is fundamentally a project-based course, which means that rather than working on a smaller series of papers (such as 5-6 papers or weekly responses), all class activities - such as readings, smaller writings, and the like - are geared toward three larger projects.

In completing these projects, we’ll focus on rhetorics of choice and rhetorics of apology. (I recognize that “choice” is often limited to discussions of abortion, but that is NOT our narrow focus.) We’ll ask: What does it mean to choose one thing over another? (Are we really so empowered in most areas of our lives?) In the digital age, what choices do we make and what choices are made for us? (Or, what did I search for to make Google keep trying to sell me this ugly sleeping bag?) When is choice an illusion, as there are few choices available? (Do people “choose” to be homeless, for example?) To focus our discussion, we’ll also consider choices made in apologizing, particularly in public apologies (for sexual harassment, among other things).

At each step, students will reflect on what they are learning and why, as research reveals that such reflection increases student learning. Students are encouraged to be in touch about their specific learning needs, including disability accommodations, before the course begins so I can design a course that works for all students.

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Storytelling and Narrative

“The most powerful thing you can hear, and the only thing that ever persuades any of us in our own lives, is [when] you meet somebody whose story contradicts the thing you think you know. At that point, it’s possible to question what you know, because the authenticity of their experience is real enough to do it.” – Ira Glass

How do stories argue? How do they have a persuasive role in shaping our political, social, and moral selves?​ In this course we’ll aim to broaden our understanding of storytelling as a multidimensional​ activity, simultaneously engaging our intellects, emotions, ideologies, and ethics.​ We’ll develop skills to understand the power of stories more profoundly; to use them in our own lives and within the frameworks of professional organizations; to identify better social change strategies; and to become aware of emerging fields that are recognizing the importance of storytelling to enhance effectiveness and emotional connection.


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Confronting the Blank Page: Writing through and about fear

In this Writing 2 course, we will consider fear from the individual level up to the societal level. The theme of “fear” will inform both what we write about in this class and how we write. Our writing will address what “fear,” as both psychological and cultural phenomena, means in US society today, as well as our own fears about writing. We will re-imagine what it means to start writing (“confronting the blank page”) and what it means to revise. Over the course of the quarter, our assignments will build from short, informal writing exercises that help you develop confidence in your own writing, to research-based writing in both academic and non-academic genres. You will leave this course with a range of tools you can use to write confidently in future university courses and beyond.