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.).

Writing 2 classes fill quickly. Students needing Writing 2 should enroll during their first-pass enrollment appointments.

Fall 2021 Sections - Course enrollments and Waitlist enrollments ends at 4:00PM, Friday, October 1


Perspectives on Happiness and Well-Being

Does money make us happy?  Can meditation improve our well-being?  How can we make this country a place where everyone can pursue a life of meaning and purpose?  In this section of Writing 2 we will discuss these questions and many others relating to the topic of happiness and well-being.  The readings for this course are drawn from a number of different traditions and disciplines:  psychology, philosophy, sociology, social criticism, and Buddhism.  These readings explore not only the personal choices that contribute to our individual well-being, but also the wider social beliefs and expectations that influence the way we think and act.  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, write compositions in different genres, submit some type of informal writing before most class sessions, and complete the course with a multi-stage research project.

Communicating about Climate Change 

Concerned about climate change?  This writing class will use material from multiple genres (book chapters, scientific articles, popular press articles, policy reviews, speeches, blogs, films, etc) to investigate why and how people communicate about (or deny) climate change. 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), as well as 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.

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.

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 investigate the role bullshit plays in our “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, then write about 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; the class will be primarily asynchronous, but requires your participation in weekly writing community and tutoring appointments via Zoom.

The Future: Utopia or Dystopia?

Humanity stands at a turning point in planetary history. We have the knowledge and technological tools to create a utopia, yet our trajectory as a species appears to be accelerating toward dystopia or even extinction. How we perceive and react to this crisis is determined to a large extent by the words written about it. In this composition course, we will closely read and respond to contemporary texts in diverse genres, from Black Mirror episodes to peer-reviewed research. A primary text for the course will be Bill McKibben’s Falter, a book connecting the seemingly disparate dangers posed by runaway climate change, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and libertarianism. We will research and respond to these controversial issues by examining McKibben’s sources, composing in multiple genres, and revising through multiple drafts. 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, leads to academic success, and illuminates a path forward through these troubled times. A note of caution: in this course, we will grapple with difficult global issues at a time when many students are struggling with their own personal issues. If you feel you are on the edge, this may not be the course for you. 

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?  We will also study recent social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter, in the context of emerging technologies and future political agendas. 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. 

Writing For the Digital Ecosystem

This course treats memes and TikToks with the scholarly seriousness they deserve. The digital revolution of the past 30 years has completely transformed literacy. To be successful with our writing in this exciting, yet perilous age, we must understand the complexity and dynamism of the digital ecosystem. In this course you will learn the fundamental properties and systems that shape writing in the contemporary moment. And you will acquire strategies for advanced digital research and composing practices in both popular and scholarly genres. Students will have flexibility in choosing research questions around topics such as: the spread of misinformation, polarization and extremism, algorithms and biases, writing and machine learning, surveillance capitalism, digital activism, and online identity formation.

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.

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

In this fully online course, 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 follow the same process as a scientist or policy analyst reviewing the current state of knowledge on a scientific or environmental problem. The class will emphasize the development of research-level information literacy skills across disciplines, and assignments will navigate the process of writing up research. Individual writing assignment genres may include: a critical analysis, literature review, argument essay, abstract, problem statement, and/or a conference poster. Although the class emphasizes reading, understanding, and writing up scientific research, non-science students will find the class helpful for writing up research in any discipline.

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 researcher and 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 write about your own emerging knowledge of Africa.

#Trending: Exploring Viral Stories

What does it mean to “go viral”? And why does such virality matter? We will answer these questions by unpacking viral stories that pique our curiosities, examining them over the course of the quarter for different purposes. For instance, we will analyze the popularity of our stories, making sense of their motivations and effects; tease out their facts and possible fictions, digging deeper into their social, cultural, political, or historical layers; and produce our own multimodal projects through which we advance conversations on these stories or shift their narratives.  In doing so, we will engage with different genres, as both consumers and creators; conduct research by employing a range of strategies, navigating both public and university databases; and evaluate texts for credibility and authority.  Key to this work will be drafting and revising in stages so as to compose projects that meet our audiences’ needs and convey our purposes in precise, ethical, and impactful ways.  Please note that this section of Writing 2 will be taught remotely in a synchronous format. We will meet via Zoom at the assigned time, participating in both full-class discussions and breakout-room activities.

Writing Journalism

In this class we will study the practice of writing through a focus on journalism, taking up the present moment as a shared site of investigation and critical inquiry. Throughout the course we will read about and write in a variety of genres (both journalistic and academic), and also draw important connections between journalistic methods of investigation and scholarly research.

This is a project-based course in which students work in groups to create their own print publication by the end of the quarter. These projects will feature multiple writings from each student in the group, and also reflect a collaborative process of research, drafting, revision, copyediting, and creative design. By the end of the quarter, each student will submit an individual portfolio alongside their group publication project. 

What’s in the New Yorker This Week? 

What makes writing interesting? We'll read & write in response to The New Yorker magazine--one of the oldest American magazines currently publishing, and noted for its reporting, commentary, cover art, and cartoons. In 2016, The New Yorker magazine won the first Pulitzers given to any magazine: one to Emily Nussbaum for television criticism, one for Feature Writing (Kathryn Schulz "The Really Big One"), another for UCSC Alum William Finnegan's biography Barbarian Days. In 2018, Ronan Farrow won for his reporting on Harvey Weinstein. In 2020, artist Barry Blitt won for Editorial Cartooning, and Colson Whitehead's "The Nickel Boys", winner in the Fiction category, was excerpted in the magazine. How did they get so good? We'll employ the classic tools of rhetoric, analysis, and research to find out. Readings will include The New Yorker, They Say, I Say 4th edition, and Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers (a free, online textbook). Students will write regularly, revise often, and frequently work with peers. You can see the current issue at www.newyorker.com.

A House Divided: Reading and Writing about Contemporary America

How did we get here? Fulfilling jobs are harder and harder to come by; the social services that our parents and grandparents established over the second half of the twentieth century are under threat; public schools are decaying; healthcare is all but unaffordable; many of us have lost the sense that our lives will be better or even as good as those that were promised to previous generations. 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 makes common cause so difficult to find within a haze of anger, 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 in which we live, 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.

Writing and Listening 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. Reading and writing a variety of genres and 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.  We will use writing to see how we can 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.

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.

Retrowave: Inventing the Futurepast

From Stranger Things to vaporwave memes, Retrowave is a movement that crystalizes and interprets the nostalgic aesthetics and sounds of the 1980s for contemporary times. We’ll explore the revival of the neon 80s and other rebirths of classic aesthetic time periods as a lens through which to examine the nuances of multimodal communication, noting and analyzing the subtext residing at the intersection of eras colliding and being reimagined. Are pop culture eras repeating themselves at a faster rate? What is nostalgia to you—commodity, curiosity, trend? What else might be at play? Can we spot the differences between original artifacts and replicants, and how?

This course will be in person and contain two major writing projects focusing on critique, comparison, and your authorial voice, plus various in-class exercises, activities, discussions, and viewings. We will explore a variety of genres and media types centered on Retrowave and other Retrofuturistic imaginings largely sourced from 20th century Western media, though some discussion of global movements will be touched upon and are welcome and encouraged in student work. Through close observation and comparison we’ll practice writing in a way that integrates these defined eras with ourselves and explores our connection with the futurepast.

#StraightOutOfATelenovela:

Studying Rhetoric through Jane the Virgin

 CW television show Jane the Virgin (2014-2019) combines humor and heart as it recounts the twists and turns of the life of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, a first-generation college student and aspiring writer, who, through a series of extraordinary events, suddenly finds herself a pregnant virgin after being accidentally artificially inseminated. As the witty and anonymous “Latin Lover” narrator repeatedly tells the audience, the fantastical events of the show are like something “straight out of a telenovela,” a genre which this television show pays homage to as well as parodies and expands into a type of political and social commentary on intersections of race, class, and gender.

 The narrator’s commentary points to another key aspect of this show—that Jane the Virgin is a metanarrative—a story about telling a story. Through its witty narration and key focus on Jane as writer, the show explores the brave act of writing, an act filled with both possibilities and problematics. Our course will focus on what Jane the Virgin teaches us about the act of writing—both writing strategies (such as metacommentary and trajectory development) as well as the necessity of critical reflection about rhetorical choices. As a student in this class, you will be tasked with exploring your own rhetorical choices and constraints when writing in various forms (from research genres to pop culture genres such as hashtags and Instagram posts) and critically reflecting about the ethical and social impact of your choices.  

 While asynchronous, as a student you will be required to meet weekly in virtual small groups to discuss the course content and receive feedback on your thinking and writing. There will be various times slots available (TBD) from which you may select. In this course, you will need to be able to access and watch Jane the Virgin through Netflix, Prime, or the DVDs

Rhetoric and Inquiry

All of your work in this class will be aimed at two complementary goals: learning more about writing (the "rhetoric" part of the course title) and answering a research question of your own choosing (the "inquiry" part of the course title). The first goal is primary, but the means of accomplishing it involves the second goal. Thus, the theme of our course is "rhetoric and inquiry."

By the time you leave our class, you will be able to speak with increased confidence about many aspects of writing, including genre, style, and source use. You'll feel more comfortable tackling big, messy writing projects. You'll also be a more sophisticated researcher of a particular type: i.e., someone who is able to synthesize a lot of information to make it useful to others.

Our class will be online, and you will access it through Canvas. We'll also make use of Google Docs and Drive. Having easy, stable access to both Canvas and Google Docs will be essential to your success in the course. Because our class is asynchronous, there will be no "live" class meetings. But there will be opportunities for you to collaborate with others, and you'll have the chance to speak with me (your instructor) and your classmates during Zoom office hours. You won't have to go at this alone.

The type of grading used in this class is called labor-based contract grading. The course syllabus will explain this in detail, but a very brief explanation is as follows: if you do the assigned work to spec (which includes submitting it on time) and in the spirit intended, you are guaranteed to receive a specific grade, which starts at a baseline of "B" and is adjusted upward or downward according to the terms of the syllabus. All assignments in Canvas will be marked as "Complete" or "Incomplete." When I give you feedback, it will be in the form of written or spoken comments, and I will help you understand how to further develop your writing abilities. Ideally, this method of grading should free you up to try new things (because you won't be penalized for experimenting) and put your own learning first.

Neuroscience Narratives of Health and Well Being

How do neuroscientists explain the influence of culture, politics, and physiology on perceptions of success, fitness, intelligence, and other aspects of well-being? And why do some researchers claim that physical health and neuro-emotional intelligence contribute to a person's success in life much more so than idealized physical beauty or high performance on IQ tests, SAT scores and other standardized exams? These are questions to consider as we negotiate several genres of criticism about how health and well-being are advanced or averted by neuro-emotional intelligence.

Students will have the opportunity to examine how their own perspectives about health and well-being have been influenced--for better or worse--by gradations of neuro-emotional intelligence.  Assignments will include class discussions, peer group workshops, several analytical writing assignments, and a research essay.

Writing is a pain. In school, we learn all sorts of ideas about writing that are really bad, outdated, or just not useful. From the five-paragraph essay to not using “I” in your writing, writing is almost always boring and rarely fun. But writing can be much more interesting than what you learned! Did you know that a semicolon caused a social meltdown over Boston’s liquor laws, or that a company lost $10 million over a comma? Would you like to break some writing “rules”?

This course will aim to empower you as a writer, giving you opportunities to write about topics and questions that are meaningful to you. You will have the opportunity to compose in multiple genres and learn to find, evaluate, and cite research materials. You will reflect on your reading and writing practices to help you transfer your knowledge and skills to other tasks. Finally, you will experiment with language as you explore your personal writing style and voice. There’s no one right way to write, so let’s celebrate the diverse, messy, and perfectly imperfect. If you’ve ever felt like you were not a good writer, this course will give you the tools you need to succeed in college and beyond! 

This course is a fully online, asynchronous course on Canvas. We will not have weekly class meetings, although you will work with classmates regularly and have opportunities for individual instructor and small group meetings. Assignments will be regularly scheduled, but you will have more flexibility than in an in-person course. Please reach out to me at bsanfil@ucsc.edu if you have any questions or concerns.

Risky Writing

This Writing 2 course will be about connecting with others and really thinking about what it means to write and be a writer. A lot of our work will focus on breaking free of confining rules of what constitutes  “academic writing” is and reclaiming our writerly selves. 

 This is an in-person course. That said, life events (power outages, fire, COVID developments) could force a few sessions online. The course will utilize Canvas and Discord for communication. 

 The course will consist of three major projects, supported by a variety of smaller assignments. One of the assignments will primarily focus on argument, one on research, and one on creative nonfiction. Each project builds on the skills from the previous unit, while at the same time allowing you to do something “new.” For each project, you will have a chance to select topics, questions, and themes that are interesting to you. While it won’t be a free-for-all (there will be clear assignments, shared readings, and the like), you’ll have room to bring in your ideas and interests. 

The course does not have a single “theme.” Each project moves in a new direction, with attention to how equity, discrimination, and inclusion impact writing and how we think of ourselves as writers. This course will use a form of “contract grading,” which means that you will have the opportunity to take risks and really develop as a writer, rather than trying to do “what the teacher wants.” We’ll talk through the nuts and bolts as a class on the first day.

 Everyone is encouraged to be in touch about their specific learning needs, including disability accommodations. I invite you to reach out (avidali@ucsc.edu) before the course begins so I can have your needs in mind as I design the course for Fall.  

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.

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.