Expository Writing S-20e: The Essay
This course offers a brief introduction to the form of the essay as it has developed over the last 200 years, and will focus on the diverse array of rhetorical strategies that authors past and present have used to advance specific arguments about a variety of subjects. Our readings will come from a wide range of historical periods and national contexts, and will challenge us to think more deeply about a host of difficult issues – from the politics of writing to the burdens of celebrity, the public role of visual art to the drive for self-reliance. By examining essays that will challenge, affirm, and complicate our current understanding of what persuasive writing is meant to achieve, we will see how the form of an essay can help to convey an author’s argument, and how we might better comprehend the continued power of the essay in our contemporary moment.
Just as important as our reading, though, is our writing. Throughout the summer, we will focus on the process of writing an argumentative essay, using the texts we encounter in class as models for presenting clear yet challenging arguments. Beginning with a response paper that will test your thinking about the ideas we encounter in our reading, each unit of the course will culminate in a longer critical essay, in which you will present a clear and sustained argument about a specific topic related to that unit. Our course should familiarize you with the practice of academic writing by focusing on such essential elements as: organizing an essay, formulating poignant and arguable theses, revising one’s work, critiquing the work of one’s peers, and using evidence productively and appropriately. The course’s objective is to make you confident academic writers, both in this class and in others you may take in the future. Consequently, we’ll spend some time discussing how certain practices you encounter in this class might (or might not) transfer to other kinds of writing, and why exactly that is.