Course Description

In this course, we will explore the relationship between the writer and society through a specific (though widely conceived) genre: the literacy narrative. Literacy narratives are autobiographical accounts that can address a wide range of questions: What is literacy and how does it help us construct our identity and define ourselves in the world? How do literacy and language connect us through the written word to culture, the economy, politics, and history? How has our process of language acquisition shaped the ways we think, learn, and write? While exploring the autobiographical narratives of others, and contextualizing that writing within the framework of texts written by academics who analyze the use of voice, audience, motive, style, structure, and other rhetorical elements of narrative discourse, we will write in order to consider what it means to express “self” in the midst of a broader society. We will transfer the knowledge we gain from the writing about others’ literacy narratives to help us articulate and write about our experiences in our own educational autobiographies, and to explore the challenges presented to all those seeking a liberal arts education in a twenty-first century global society. Our course focuses on the power of the written word, helping us to investigate and articulate the ways in which literacy and language dictate our place in the world.

Rationale for Writing Assignments

The purpose of the first assignment is to give writers practice analyzing a single text, with a focus on selecting evidence that will support a working defining of the genre of the “literacy narrative.” The purpose of the second assignment is to analyze the relationship between narrative and theoretical analysis, moving writers beyond identifying main claims and asking them to consider the choices an author has made about diction, tone, structure, and use of evidence. The third assignment aims to help writers place an author’s personal account in the context of a broader issue-based conversation. (This assignment could also be split in two, making an annotated bibliography one assignment and the research essay another.) The capstone assignment for the course, the literacy narrative, asks writers to apply the analytical strategies they have used to interpret other texts to their retellings of their own educational histories. While often personal narratives are placed at the beginning of an assignment sequence, this assignment invites students to apply the analytical skills they tested in earlier assignments—summary and paraphrase, narrowing a topic, analyzing the relationship between style and content, and explaining cause and effect—in the service of their own narrative.

The materials and description for this course were revised in 2012.

Course Documents

Pre-Draft Assignments and Activities:

Previous versions of the syllabus:

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