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Composing the Self Syllabus Fall 2017

Catalog Description

In English 208 students explore the relationship between identity and writing. Students will study a variety of genres (personal essays, researched essays, academic articles, journalism, case studies, and ethnographies) and theoretical approaches to learn how and why writers create versions of themselves for rhetorical effect. While investigating identity construction in writing, students will hone their own rhetorical and stylistic skills. Students will compose narratives, essays, reports, and multi-genre compositions, drawing from personal experience, observation, and primary and secondary sources. The course will also address the role of self in the research-writing process by requiring students to conduct original academic research projects. This course is appropriate for all majors, and no specialized writing experience is assumed.

Guiding Questions:

  1. How and why do we compose ourselves in our writing?
  2. How do readers perceive us? How does a writer’s identity affect the interpretation of the text?
  3. Why bring the personal into writing?
  4. Why should or shouldn’t we write on topics to which we have a personal connection?
  5. What kinds of knowledge do personal experience, self-reflection, and self-exposure create?
  1. How and why should a researcher reflect on his/ her personal connections to the research topic and/ or study participants?

Course Objectives

Click the link above to access the programmatic and course student learning outcomes.

Course Format

The class will be a collaborative exploration into the complexity of writing, using the rhetorical position of the self as the central starting place. We will read texts that act as both theoretical and practical spaces of inquiry into the guiding questions above, and we will put theory to practice in our own writing, from low stakes exercises and activities to formal published pieces. Both in the classroom and in virtual spaces online, we will have lively intellectual discussions about texts—both those assigned and those we write—and through these collaborative conversations attempt to broaden our understanding of the role of the self in rhetoric and writing. Thus, commitment to attendance and active participation, including the highest level of preparation, is mandatory to succeed in this course.


In our digital age, we cannot ignored the ways in which compositions of self are mediated by various forms and writing environments, particularly the online public sphere. To this end, all student writing will be published on individual student blogs using the free service of  This means that student writers will have real audiences beyond the instructor, and perhaps even beyond their peers.


I chose this service because of its freedom from advertising and its wide range of customability. Student blogs will be linked through my teaching blog,, allowing for accessibility and sharing within our classroom community. Students retain the choice to make work public or private.

The following categories spell out how the course will work:

Required Texts

Technology Requirements

Grade Breakdown

Areas of Evaluation

Classroom Environment

University Policies and Procedures

Click the link above to access university policies on Academic Integrity, Students with Disabilities, and Equity and Diversity.

Course Calendar

Click the link above to access the calendar of classes and readings.