WRTG 106

The Rhetoric of Space & Place in Washington, DC

Jenny Rice, Distant Publics

“This pedagogy of inquiry asks students to develop a different kind of relation to place, crisis, and discourse. Inquiry becomes a habit, not a precursor to anything else. It does not matter whether one feels injured by the changes or has authentic memory or feelings about the changes, or whether the changes have some kind of decidable value. In fact, it does not matter whether one cares or does not care about the issue at hand. What matters is the challenge of inquiry itself”

Matthew Pavesich, DC/Adapters

“In order to get at the taste of any place, its local flavor, I argue that the subject and the approach co­constitute each other; the study of the local needs ecological methods, that is, and ecological methods need the local.”

Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel

“It is not enough to write monographs. It is not enough to publish. Today, scholars must understand what happens when our research is distributed, and we must write, not for rarified audiences, but for unexpected ones. New-form scholarly publishing requires new-form scholarly (digital) writing. Digital academic publishing may on the surface appear as a lateral move from print to screen, but in fact it brings with it new questions about copyright, data analysis, multimodality, curation, archiving, and how scholarly work finds an audience. The promise of digital publishing is one that begins with the entrance of the written, and one that concludes with distribution, reuse, revision, remixing — and finally, redistribution.”

Jenny Rice, Distant Publics

“Networks are not about fixed indexes of meaning but about relations among elements [. . .] Moreover, the telos of network tracing and rhetorical inquiry is located within the process itself. Inquiry is the rhetorical goal.”

Matthew Pavesich, DC/Adapters

“I’m trying to be both open and systematic in tracking down relations between artifacts and places, as well as coding them for analysis. This balance, between openness and systematicity, indicates the limitations of the latter; systematic, in ecological fieldwork, amounts to something like ‘oriented to the system,’ rather than perfectly pinned down and annotated. I would argue that the need to adapt one’s analytical framework for new findings and to allow for a new disposition as a researcher is always in play no matter what sort of work is pursued.”

What Is This Course About?

In her recent book, Now You See It, Cathy N. Davidson reminds us that twenty-first century skills in a complex global network include learning how to “make connections, synthesize, collaborate, network, manage projects, solve problems, and respond to constantly changing technologies.” In other words, Davidson suggests that to thrive in our networked world, we all must learn to adapt to ever-evolving technologies, make connections between the seemingly unconnected, and collaborate with others who can help us achieve our goals. I’ve designed this course, therefore, to give you opportunities to develop the skills to navigate the complex network we inhabit by creating occasions for you to think rhetorically.

This course aims for three main goals: 1) To give you practice in the technical skills described below in the “Course Objectives,” 2) to further your rhetorical information literacy skills, and 3) to develop in you the importance of the relationship between Rhetoric and Citizenship, which we call “public discourse.” And since that public discourse occurs in what is call the “built environment,” I have designed this course for you to examine the rhetoric of DC’s built environment in order to enter its public discourse. Lastly, this course strives to develop in you a passion for inquiry itself.

To develop these skills, you will use our Writer-as-Witness text, Ruben Castaneda’s S Street Rising, to launch a rhetorical inquiry into DC’s “built environment.” In various multi-modal writing projects, you will begin this inquiry by rhetorically analyzing a single point in your built environment with the goal of ultimately situating that point into DC’s broader network. Through this process, you will explore the complex relationship between DC’s built environment and the life that inhabits it to help us better understand how they influence each other. We will begin by collaborating on creating an annotated map of DC, arising from our own respective inquiry. As you inquiry into your built environment develops and your project emerges, you will add that information to our collaborative map and write a series of essays you will publish to the web which will add to the public discourse.

The various writing assignments you will do in this course aim to inculcate this passion for inquiry, for the unplanned turn, the found object, the mistake, the emergent questions we discover along the way, the complex. This process of inquiry will help you develop the multi-modal research and writing skills that Davidson explains we need. By course’s end, you will not only have been introduced to and extensively practiced the reading, writing, research, and editing skills necessary for academic success, but you will also have worked extensively in multi-modal technologies to write yourself into the global network.

You should see your project as ontological. What you end up writing about will depend upon your inquiry as it emerges.

Ultimately, this class seeks to help you develop the critical thinking skills necessary for you to think through any rhetorical situation. Furthermore, you will leave the class with your own webspace and portfolio to show off to family, friends, and, yes, even future employers.

I can not wait to see what you discover and what I can learn from each of you. And while I expect you to develop your own autonomy and self-reliance during the term, I will be there with you every step along the way. I look forward to it.

N.B. I am heavily indebted to Prof. Robin Wharton and Prof. Matthew Pavesich, from whom I have borrowed heavily, both conceptually and materially, in terms of Web design (Wharton) and assignments (Wharton, Pavesich). I thank them both for being so generous with their time and with their materials.

What Do Complexity and Emergence Have to Do With Writing?

Many people see writing as a static, stable process, just like when we drive from point A to point B. We generally think of a few known possible routes and we might flex arrival / departure times based on perceived traffic patterns. In short, many liken “writing” to the old AAA Trip Tiks. These old maps, though useful, provided static information based on known circumstances at the time you received it. While these maps certainly could advise you where known construction sites were and perhaps even alert you to a known speed trap, these maps produced a simple, reductive world of static information. Today, of course, such maps seem absurdly unhelpful when compared to navigation apps, such as Waze. These new navigation apps constantly adapt to emergent conditions. If an obstruction happens ahead of us, the app will divert us to a route we may not have ever been aware of. Such apps show us how we are influenced and in turn influence the traffic environment. In short, we see that we are part of the network, of the complex system.

But the network extends even beyond the immediacy of our daily commute. These tools have changed the way we situate ourselves in this network. Most of us don’t remember anymore how we got from A to B because that information seems superfluous to us today. However, this change of how internally map our environment influences our vision of how we situate ourselves in it. In short, by tracing these various networks, we better understand the rhetorical nature of our particular place and time.



We are therefore better equipped to make the best decisions in how we participate in the network. What is more, these apps make money by using the data we generate and by selling us real time advertising linked to what an algorithm anticipates we desire and so forth. We are aware of a fraction of the complex network we inhabit; however, we don’t see much of it.

This course, then, seeks to provide you with the tools better navigate this ever adapting complex network. As a part of the undergraduate community, you will be faced with writing in myriad situations, some of these situations will feel quite familiar to you. You will certainly write static essay where your professor will be your primary audience and your primary goal will be to show the professor you understand the particular concepts you have covered. Others, however, may be new or unforeseen. This class will empower you to enter those situations with confidence.

Projects:  the Flâneur and “the desiring machine” 

The projects start with more familiar rhetorical tasks and move into rhetorical complexity as you move through the semester. Note that the projects accrue. That is, your first major assignment builds towards your final project.

I’ve designed these multimodal assignments, so that you may use your own expertise, experience and knowledge to enhance your work. Perhaps you have a particular skill or interest in design or photography or music or engineering or art or sociology, these assignment encourage you to use your range of skills. In fact, I follow Byron Hawk by encouraging you to “bring [your] own interests and goals to the classroom, and that [I] should facilitate the expression of those interests and goals in multiple genres and media, which then transform those interests and goals into a multitude of possibilities, thus revealing the complexity of invention” (Roderick). In other words, don’t expect to be handed a problem to solve or a question to be answered. Those things will emerge from your immersion into your Complex Local System (the rhetoric of the built environment).

Instead I have designed these assignments to develop your comfort with complexity and ambiguity. Do not conflate “Confusion” (conflicting due dates, for example) with that initial feeling of being overwhelmed by ambiguity or by the fear of standing in front of your space and going “now what?” In fact, if you don’t feel overwhelmed initially, then perhaps you are overly simplifying your rhetorical situation by closing down too many real possibilities. When we encounter the unfamiliar, the information can seem chaotic. But  just as James Agee reminds us we should “be glad of it, when art hurts us, we should also embrace complexity.

At this point, particularly when we are less experienced navigating such complexity (or what we may even consider chaos!), we construct a tight box around the part of the network that we believe we understand and either overly reduce the complexity to a provable truth based on an opinion. We’ve all written that essay we’re we “prove” that gun control either saves lives or takes away freedom of self-defense or prove that the drinking age should be reduced to 18 from 21.

However, those who feel more comfortable navigating ambiguity might take a different approach. They build connections or relations to things they know (or nodes, if you will). Then they connect that new relation to some other things they know (a new node). They then begin to make meaning (interpretations) of what those relations mean, which is itself a new relation (and another node). As they develop this network, they begin to build more nuanced and sophisticated relations and then can begin making ever more sophisticated interpretations and can adapt more easily to this new situation. Think of how a waze helps continually adapt to ever changing driving conditions. Yet think of all the various meanings that in that complex system that Waze exposes in 24 hours of mapping Parisian driving patterns, for example. Pretty soon, we should develop a new sense of being overwhelmed by the possible exponential growth of this network.

Rather than resorting to the comfort of the overly reductive or the inarguable opinion, I’ve designed these assignments to create occasion for you to “see rhetoric as an adaptive process that requires a proliferation of methods at every instant, [instead of] pre-ordained processes or methods” (Roderick). Sometimes we might use this rhetorical tool and that modality; other times, we might use that genre and this tool in that modality. In short, the assignments seek to give you practice in rhetorical dexterity.

I mean it when I say I am with you. I am new to much of this technology, and I very much look forward to learning from the expertise you bring to this class. These projects should allow us all to share our strengths with each other, so we can all benefit.

All major projects may be revised for a retroactively-assigned new grade in the final portfolio.

Class Map

Due Dates

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Each of you has been assigned a section of S Street Rising. You should drop pins on any spot the text references and annotate that pin with pertinent textual information. You should add page numbers for every textual mention and use quotation marks and other citations where necessary.

Some of these references will require research. For example,  maybe Castaneda references a place, like the night club, Is This It?, without giving a full address. Such cases require research to find the exact address.

Project Overview

Reading Analyses (200-400 points)

In academic writing and in most other sincere, serious work, writers are constantly engaging a conversation other writers have begun or standard views that a culture holds. In their own writing, then, these writers must accurately reflect those texts and ideas. The trouble is, however, scholarship has shown that many college students are not developing these important skills. This assignment aims to help you do just that.

Every genre, indeed every rhetorical situation, has its own form. These assignment, then, give you practice writing in the academic genre. While these analytical principle cross genres, the academic discourse demands a specific set of forms. This assignment introduces you and exposes you to those forms. Of course, an understanding of the form guides you to the content and shapes it for you. For example, think of how a structure, such as “In her Now You See It, Cathy N. Davidson explains ______________,” shapes how you approach the text. Rather than regurgitating the text linearly–first she says this, and then she says this, and so forth–you now must read Davidson’s text holistically, as part of a larger conversation, in order to make your own “reading” of what you consider to be her main argument. When writing your own original argument, you would then use your reading / analysis to suit your own purpose. In fact, a good rule of thumb is whenever you find yourself regurgitating your sources, you have probably not developed your own claim. In other words, you should be doing something your sources in some combination of background information, analysis, methodology, or argument.

Since this assignment focuses developing your analytical reading skills, you do not need to make an original argument or do something with the text you are explicating. Rather, you should focus on the academic forms this genre demands and using those forms to make defendable analysis of the text.

During the semester, you should compose no fewer than six reading analyses, each worth up to 200 points. In order to successfully complete this assignment, you should earn no fewer than 300 points.

Due Dates
  1. Thursday, 9/22: Draft 1: Reading Analysis 1 (Have in a Google doc. Not a word doc.). While you may post your draft to your page, if you like, do not submit it to me using the form. We will do that together in class.
  2. Monday, 9/26: Submit Reading Analysis 1 & 2
  3. Reading Analysis 3 & 4: TBA
  4. Reading Analysis 5 & 6: TBA

How to compose a summary analysis:

For the first two analyses, you should take one section of a text we’ve read this semester: Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, Schindler’s, “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” or Rice’s “Inquiry as Social Action.” In other words, you might choose “Part I” in Schindler or “Part 2” in Fleming.

Project Purpose and Goals: This exercise gives you practice analyzing complex academic essays. Accomplishing this task requires several moves. First, we must comprehend the text we are analyzing in order to locate its main argument, which will become our claim. Then we must support this claim with textual evidence. And, finally, put the claim in context by explaining the broader conversion in which the text arises. A reading analysis differs from a “plot summary” because we do not chronologically repeat the author’s text in our words; rather, we distill what we think the text’s main argument is for our own purposes.

This analysis should mostly be in your own words, but you might want to quote a few key words and phrases that you think particularly articulate the author’s main argument.

You may want read the text or particular sections of the text multiple times before beginning your analysis. I encourage you to first compose your analysis in your own words without looking at the text before returning to it to add some key words and phrases to bolster your claims or help your audience better understand your claim.

In your conclusion, you should discuss the “so what?” Why does this argument matter? How might it be useful to someone doing the kind of research you are doing in this class? What’s at stake?

In short, a reading analysis creates what Graff and Birkenstein call a “They Say.”

This project is designed as an opportunity to practice gathering, summarizing, synthesizing, and explaining information from various sources.

Instructional Readings for writing summaries:

See Graff, Ch 1-3.


*Use the literary present tense, i. e. “Thomas Jefferson argues . . .”

*Cite paraphrased details and quotations (see EasyWriter for in-text citation)

*Limit quotations (1-3, brief, and only if the original language is very important)

*Include the bibliographic information (see EasyWriter MLA guide for end citation)

*Consider multi-modes when composing in the blog post: spatial, visual, linguistic

Click here to see a copy of the evaluation rubric.

On Form:

While your reading analyses’ content certainly matters, you should also pay particular attention their form. Since you are composing using academic conventions, you should use one of the three openings Graff describes in TS/IS. You should also focus on “connecting the parts” (107), on using “signal verbs that fit the action (38), on “framing every quotation” (44), by using signal phrases (46) and commenting on the quote (47) to reveal the connection between claim and evidence.

Category: “readings” and “wrtg106f16”

Tags: “Author” and “reading1” and “x” and “y” of your choosing. Think about why we use tags and why they are helpful and tag accordingly.

Built Environment Descriptions

Built Environment Descriptions

For this project, you will write 1 detailed built environment descriptions (100-200 points each):

  • Description of an exterior site

Compose more descriptions for more points (up to 100 points per submission, for a max total of 200 points for this project).

Your site descriptions will be created as blog posts on your WordPress site, in the category “Built Environment Descriptions,” and tagged appropriately (“Exterior”and “[Site Name]”). You will submit links to your built environment descriptions by sharing it with me in a Google Doc, named (SurnameF_Exterior).

Due Dates & Rubrics

Here’s your rubric.


How to compose a built environment description:

Project Purpose and Goals: This course explores how we can do close, analytical “reading”—which we can phrase alternately as the reading of visual rhetoric and the reading of the rhetoric of artifacts—of the environments and landscapes around us. In order to do this kind of close reading of the built environment, we need to train ourselves to see, and document or describe the details that provide the evidence for our analysis or interpretation of a given site.

This project is designed to help you develop your faculties of observation and multimodal description.

Instructional readings and models of built environment description:


Choosing, observing, and documenting a site

You are required to spend at least one hour observing each of the three spaces you’re writing about for this project. If you choose a private site (i.e. a business) for the interior or exterior site description, you should get permission from the owner or manager to conduct your observation. You should explain the purpose of the project, and that it is a class project.

You will choose your site from the class google map of S Street.

In an ideal world, you would make many trips to your site. For this project, you are only required to make one trip to your site, spending one hour taking photos or video, and writing or recording notes.

During your visit, you are required to document the site in two ways:

  • Create at least five digital records to document the location you’ve chosen. Post these digital records to your blog–each as a separate blog post–with a brief (50-100 words) description of what they are. You can take pictures, create video, make sound recordings, scan brochures/menus/flyers
  • Take written or recorded voice notes in which you create an inventory or catalog of everything that you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste at the site

Use these questions to guide your process of documenting the site:

  • What artifacts or things are present at the site?
  • How are these artifacts or things arranged/located/stored?
  • What is the layout of your site?
  • Is it open and easy to navigate? Or is it closed, crowded with obstacles, etc.?
  • What colors are present in the space?
  • How does the site make you feel and why?
  • How is the site used? Who uses it?
  • How does the site advertise its uses? How does the site target or signal its intended users?

Other Characteristics to Note

Characteristics to Note

Style Aural Structure
Tone Visual Organization
Mood Oral Graphics
Diction Repetition Colors

You will archive each of your digital records as posts on your WordPress site, in the appropriate category (“Images,” “Sounds,”  “Artifacts & Signage”) tagging them appropriately (“Interior,” “Exterior,” or “Digital,” and “[Site Name]”).

You do not need to archive your notes, but if you do, you can earn points for good notes by creating a blog post of them in the category “Field Notes” and tagging it appropriately (“Interior,” “Exterior,” or “Digital,” and “[Site Name]”). You can also get extra credit for archiving extra digital records (10 per record) from your chosen locations. You submit extra credit posts using the form on your WordPress site. To receive credit, submissions must be properly tagged.

Composing your site description

After you have observed and documented each site, you will create a blog post on your WordPress site in which you compose a 250-500 word description of your site that answers the following questions:

  • What site are you describing?
  • Where is it located?
  • When was it created/built?
  • What artifacts or things are present at the site?
  • How are these artifacts or things arranged/located/stored?
  • What is the layout of your site?
  • Is it open and easy to navigate? Or is it closed, crowded with obstacles, etc.?
  • What colors are present in the space?
  • How does the site make you feel and why?
  • How is the site used? Who uses it?
  • How does the site advertise its uses? How does the site target or signal its intended users?

Rather than answering these questions in order, your site description should be in the form of a narrative that provides this information to interested readers of the general public. The description should integrate your digital records associated with the site.

Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography (250-500 Points)

Annotated bibliographies can serve several purposes, such as explaining how your sources inform your work or making sure you fully understand your sources and how to properly cite them. Some professors may ask you to submit one with your final research project. Others may ask you to create one before you begin writing.

This assignment will blend both approaches. That is, you will submit bibliographic entries throughout the term, three (or four) at a time. In the end, you will have annotated ten sources and detailed how you have used each source in accordance with Bizup’s B. E. A. M. Each annotation should be brief, about 150-200 words.

You should also compile all your sources and reading notes in Zotero.


Due Dates & Rubric

Entries 1 & 2: Oct. 6th.


Purpose / Goals: The Annotated Bibliography gives you the opportunity to explain how your research informs your project, in this case, your final Built Environment Analysis. It also encourages you to demonstrate to us how you are using them. This assignment, furthermore, gives you further practice in the academic forms of summary analysis. Rather than thinking of sources as things to check off (must have 3 scholarly sources and 2 popular sources), this assignment asks you to do something with them in accordance with BEAM, which reminds us that no source is inherently good or bad.  

Background: “materials a writer relies on for general information or for factual evidence.”

Exhibit: “materials a writer analyzes or interprets.”

Argument: “materials whose claims a writer engages.”

Method: “materials from which a writer takes a governing concept or derives a manner of working.”

How: The annotations are approximately two paragraph summaries of each of the ten articles (i.e., per work).  Use the Single Author Templates to do this. We will work on how to annotate in class, and I will provide more detailed examples.

I will assess these according to the rubric found here.

Example structure:

  1. Exhibit:

Curzan, A. “Teaching the Politics of Standard English.” Journal of English

Linguistics 30.4 (2002): 339-52. Print.

  • Paragraph 1: Summary / Analysis using the single author template (what you used for the Reading Analysis).
  • Paragraph 2: How you plan to use it and put it in conversation with the other sources.
  1. Background:

Curzan, A. “Teaching the Politics of Standard English.” Journal of English

Linguistics 30.4 (2002): 339-52. Print.

  • Paragraph 1: Summary / Analysis using the single author template.
  • Paragraph 2: How you plan to use it and put it in conversation with the other sources.

Here are some further resources for you: here and here.


Rhetorical Analysis of a Document

This essay marks the first step in your semester-long project which culminates in your final essay. As our readings thus far have argued, all objects are rhetorical, meaning that they are situated in a network, which is in turn rhetorical. For this assignment, the object you will be working with a text within your Complex Local System (CLS) mentioned in S Street Rising and “pinned” in our class Google Maps.

This essay asks you to find a document that circulates through your CLS in order to uncover its “network.”  You may have to do some digging around to find a text to work with. That’s ok. The discovery process will serve you well as your project develops. While you’re not looking to “prove” anything, you will need to think about your audiences that might come across your research. What would be useful for them? What do you find most interesting or ripe for further explanation? (think along those lines). You should probably think about the classical examples of rhetorical situation, but you could also discuss its form (paper? Blog? twitter?)

Use a combination of rhetorical concepts, including but not limited to those listed on class handouts such as genre, audience, purpose, the rhetorical triangle, and likely and/or actual effectiveness.

Think, too, about the content. Does the document borrow ideas or language from other sources? Does it speak to specific group of people?

Due Dates

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To Consider:

When choosing a document for analysis, make sure you choose one that seems important to your CLS, that offers enough to analyze for five pages. Consider documents such as mission statements, open letters, websites, and advertising campaigns.

Strive for an argument more sophisticated than simply: “it’s rhetorical.” Instead, choose what aspects of the document to analyze that help you to make an overall claim. Your thesis-driven, central argument should say something about how the document functions. For example, you might argue that the rhetor really leans on X device because she wants to achieve Y from Z audience in particular. Or, the rhetorical situation limited the options of rhetor, and she fails for Y reasons. Or, X organization arranges their About Us page on their website to convey Y ethos because they hope to achieve Z.

Remember, this is about function — how, you should ask yourself, does this rhetor attempt to achieve something?

On Form:

You should present this information in the best way to serve your various audience’s needs. What’s the conversation you want to have? You should include images and video. If you’d like to incorporate sound, please do so, but no one is required to use sound in this project. What might matter to the public? Ask yourself: what do I need to address if I want to argue X? Work backwards as we practiced in class.

Mapping Commonplaces

Mapping Commonplaces

Using Jenny Rice’s “Keep Austin Weird” example, this project asks you to “map” with a multi-media tool one commonplace within your CLS.  You will practice research as a visibly networked activity, analyze, and use digital tools to represent the movement of your commonplace across a minimum of four separate rhetors and adaptations, and in so doing examine its significance.  The point is to observe rhetors’ agile uses of rhetorical resources and system-level dynamics in order to inform your own rhetorical production. Your map should be able to stand on its own as a text that includes a claim (what we’ll call a “spirit thesis”) and plenty of examples of adaptations of the one commonplace. Furthermore, you will write a three page analysis of rhetors’ choices and, as you see them, the effects of their efforts.

Due Dates

To Consider:

This project asks of you a different kind of research than what you’re likely accustomed to. You can’t choose a commonplace first and then pursue its iterations. Instead, you must immerse yourself even further in your CLS than you already have — and pursue more open and associative kinds of research. Though very different from typical academic research methods, what we’re doing is closer to how you come to coordinate with new spaces of discourses–this is how you come to be a better writer in other, later environments (bio class, your workplace, etc.): immersion and pattern recognition. Doing so prepares you for the later steps of pattern imitation and pattern adaptation.

On Form:

How should you choose a form for your map? And what are your options? Though by no means the only approaches available to you, the most common approaches students take include a geo-spatial map, a narrative map, or a timeline. Each of these suggests a different digital format you can choose. For example, if you pursue a geo-spatial map, you might go with a custom Google Map or Prezi. If you decide your commonplace is best expressed in story form, you might choose to make a short documentary in iMovie; if a timeline, then perhaps Piktochart.

The most important question about the form of this project you can ask yourself, though, is which of these approaches can best allow me to convey the dynamics of commonplace adaptation and circulation in my CLS? One way to realize your account of these dynamics is to grid your findings, like this my example from Rice’s “Keep Austin Weird” findings:

Topos:“Keep Austin Weird”
Rhetor Local business owners Austin city officials UT-Austin Lib Arts College fac and admin Cingular Wireless Local graffiti artists
Purpose keep business in face of big-box incursion Generate excitement around urban planning entertainment initiatives Maintain and create support for college, build community within college Sell product through identifying with local residents Make fun of enthusiasm and popularity of topos
Audience Local shoppers Developers and voters Students, current and prospective Local shoppers Street traffic and pedestrians
Genre bumper stickers Development proposal T-shirts Billboard Painting and stickers
Adaptation Keep Austin Weird …in order to keep Austin unique and weird… Keep Austin Liberal Arts Keepin’ Austin Weird Keep Austin Normal.  Conform.

It can help to look at a similarly simplified representative of your research for you to get a handle on how you want to characterize all this action. From there, it’s time to choose the digital format that allows you to best write these dynamics for others to see.

I know this project can sound a little mystifying at first, but I have a bunch of examples to show you of prior students’ work — and take a look ahead on the calendar to see all the lab time we have for this project. We’ll do this together.

The Common Place Book

IMG_8511Sharon Crowley, in Ancient Rhetoric for Contemporary Students, informs us that “[i]n pre-modern times, most rhetors kept written collections of copied passages; these were called florilegia (flowers of reading) in medieval times, and commonplace books during the Renaissance and into the eighteenth century” (250; emphasis in original; qtd in Micciche). Furthering the point, in her “Making a Case for Rhetorical Grammar,” Laura Micciche explains that “Commonplace books encourage students to read and analyze texts as skillfully crafted documents that convey and perform different kinds of meanings—among them, aesthetic, rhetorical, and political” (724).

Due Dates

Your commonplace book entry should be posted and tagged appropriately by class time every Thursday, unless otherwise noted.


In that spirit, then, once a week, you should post a sentence or sentences from anywhere you may encounter it–a novel you’re reading or from a song you love or from a paper you are working on in another class or even from a syllabus. It could even be an image or video (depending on the specific week’s instructions. Ultimately, you should use this space to explore meaning production through syntax, grammar, and forms. You should explain why your exhibit works or why it doesn’t. In short, this assignment asks you to think closely about the relationship between form and content and the rhetoric that dialectic produces. You should have fun with this and feel free to experiment and take chances and play around.


See the FAQ“Creating Posts & Adding Categories”



Class Participation

I strive to “decenter” my classes as much as possible. That is, I want you to do most of the work in class, while I act as facilitator. In other words, each of you will be responsible at some point during the semester in leading class discussion on one of the readings I’ve assigned. You will also do a lot of peer review of each other’s writing during this term. In short, a big part of this class requires your participation. In return, you’ll earn credit for your work.

Due Dates

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How to Submit your Work?

You will, from start to finish (including all revisions), compose every assignment in a google doc, which you will share with me. To be considered complete, the assignment must using the naming convention listed on the assignment. You will also upload that doc (or copy & paste the text) to your WordPress Site and tagging and categorizing it according to the assignment directions. 

I will not assess any assignment not submitted according to the assignment’s specifications.

Course Materials

Required Texts:

Ruben Castaneda, S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C.

David Fleming, City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America

Graff and Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing 

American University, EasyWriter

A Computer (you can borrow one from the library at anytime).

A cloud-based storage system like google drive or drop box.

Various digital technologies we’ll discuss as the course emerges.


American University uses a four-point grading scale (A = 4.0, A- = 3.67, B+ = 3.33, B = 3.0, B- = 2.67, C+ = 2.33, C = 2.0, C- = 1.67, D = 1.0, F = 0.0). To convert this into a one-hundred-point scale, many professors simply divide each letter grade into thirds.  A “B-,” then, is 80-83.33, a “B” 83.3 – 86.66, and so forth.

In this course, we are going to use an additive grading system. Rather than take points away from you, you will earn points for everything you in the class. The major points begin here:


Course Calendar

You can find our Weekly Schedule here. It will be updated and amended throughout the semester. It is not, as they say, etched in stone.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Learning Outcomes

College Writing courses offer a core set of skills and experiences, emphasizing both continual practice and increasing complexity of reading and writing assignments. All College Writing students should achieve the following objectives, which arise out of programmatic goals and evaluative criteria:

Making Effective Writing Choices

Based on the idea that writing is a recursive series of choices, students should learn how to make effective choices in their own writing.

Critical Feedback

Students should learn how to give critical feedback to their peers’ writing and to receive critical feedback on their writing.

Formulate an Original Thesis

Students should learn how to formulate an original thesis in their writing projects and to develop that thesis into a well-supported argument.

Incorporate Source Material

Students should learn a range of research methods and how to incorporate source material into their writing so that it develops and supports their ideas.

Organizational Strategies

Students should learn effective organizational strategies for their writing.

Critical Thinking and Reading Skills

Students should develop critical thinking and reading skills, so that they can devise original ideas, rather than simply echo the ideas of others.

Evaluate the Credibility of Sources

Students should learn how to evaluate the credibility of sources, to use academic/scholarly resources, and to incorporate sources effectively and ethically.

Academic Integrity Code Violations

American University takes academic dishonesty very seriously; as such, all College Writing Program faculty members are required to report cases to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Please read the AU’s Academic Integrity Code closely, and be sure to ask your professor if you have any questions. The code is available online here.

In writing papers, you must properly cite all sources (1) directly quoted, (2) paraphrased, or (3) consulted in any fashion. Sources include all printed material, any ideas or words you gather from interview or survey subjects, and any ideas or words you acquire from the Internet. Proper citation for this class means using MLA style.

Please note that it is considered plagiarism to submit informal assignments such as drafts and response papers without properly citing sources and acknowledging intellectual debts. And you may not submit one paper for assignments in two different classes without formal permission from both instructors.

The Dean’s standard policy for responding to academic dishonesty is failure of the course.

Campus Resources

If you experience any difficulties in this course, please consult your professor. Information about additional resources that you can take advantage of is provided below.

The Counseling Center is located in Mary Graydon Center 214 and offers confidential assistance and referrals with regard to personal matters ranging from suicidal thoughts to roommate troubles. For more information, call 202-885-3500.

All students may take advantage of the Academic Support and Access Center (Mary Graydon Center 243) for individual academic counseling, skills workshops, tutor referrals, supplemental instruction, and writing appointments. For more information, call 202-885-3360.

The Writer Center is located on the first floor of the library and offers free, confidential consultations to assist you at any stage of the writing process. Call for an appointment: 202-885-2991.

Research librarians can help you to find, evaluate, and cite research materials of all shapes and sizes. [Insert information here about the research librarian that you and your students will be working with over the course of the term. Contact the Director of the College Writing Program, John Hyman, for more information about CWP instructor/AU librarian pairings.]

The College Writing Program’s International Student Coordinator, Angela Dadak, works one-on-one with non-native speakers of English. Whether you are an international student or not, you can meet with Professor Dadak in her office (Battelle 255) about many things related to our class, from writing papers to participating in class discussions. You can contact Professor Dadak as follows: adadak@american.edu or 202-885-2915.

Sharing of Course Content

Students are not permitted to make visual or audio recordings, including live streaming, of classroom lectures or any class related content, using any type of recording devices (e.g., smart phone, computer, digital recorder, etc.) unless prior permission from the instructor is obtained , and there are no objections from any of the students in the class. If permission is granted, personal use and sharing of recordings and any electronic copies of course materials (e.g., PowerPoints, formulas, lecture notes and any classroom discussions online or otherwise) is limited to the personal use of students registered in the course and for educational purposes only, even after the end of the course.

Exceptions will be made for students who present a signed Letter of Accommodation from the Academic Support and Access Center. See: How Do I Request Accommodations?

< http://www.american.edu/ocl/asac/Accommodations.cfm >

To supplement the classroom experience, lectures may be audio or video recorded by faculty and made available to students registered for this class. Faculty may record classroom lectures or discussions for pedagogical use, future student reference, or to meet the accommodation needs of students with a documented disability. These recordings are limited to personal use and may not be distributed (fileshare), sold, or posted on social media outlets without the written permission of faculty.

Unauthorized downloading, file sharing, distribution of any part of a recorded lecture or course materials, or using information for purposes other than the student’s own learning may be deemed a violation ofAmerican University’s Student Conduct Code and subject to disciplinary action (see Student Conduct Code VI. Prohibited Conduct).


American University expressly prohibits any form of discriminatory harassment including sexual harassment, dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The university is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution that operates in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, personal appearance, gender identity and expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, veteran status, an individual’s genetic information or any other bases under federal or local laws in its programs and activities.

If you experience any of the above, you have the option of filing a report with the AU Department of Public Safety (202-885-2527) or the Office of the Dean of Students (dos@american.edu or 202-885-3300). Please keep in mind that all faculty and staff – with the exception of counselors in the Counseling Center, victim advocates in the Wellness Center, medical providers in the Student Health Center, and ordained clergy in the Kay Spiritual Life Center – who are aware of or witness this conduct are required to report this information to the university, regardless of the location of the incident. For more information, including a list of supportive resources on and off-campus, contact OASIS: The Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence (www.american.edu/sexualassault, oasis@american.edu or 202-885-7070), or the Office of the Dean of Student (www.american.edu/ocl/dos).

Incomplete Grades

An “I” is a temporary final course grade assigned in response to an extenuating, documented situation. In order to receive this grade, you must qualify and you must complete a contract with your professor. This contract outlines the work to be done, the completion date, and the default grade should the work go unfinished. I only reserve this for the most serious situations, like family or personal life emergencies. 

Late Work

I do not accept late homework. Every day you submit an essay late lowers your essay grade a letter grade. I do not accept major assignment that you submit more than a week late. If you have extenuating circumstances, please let me know well in advance, so we may work out a plan.

Course Completion

 You must submit all major writing assignments in order to pass this course.

E-Mail and Social Media

Feel free to email me whenever you need to. I usually answer email pretty quickly, but if you don’t hear from me in over twenty-four hours, please feel free to gently remind me. For more general questions about the course or assignments, you should first go to Slack for answers since you’ll probably get a quicker response.

Final Grade Requirement for College Writing

 You must receive a grade of C or better to satisfy AU’s requirement for College Writing.

Extra Credit

Extra credit opportunities for all class members may or may not be provided over the course of the term at my sole discretion. No individualized opportunities for extra credit will be offered.

Essay Revisions

You will have opportunities to revise as a matter of course. See each individual assignment for the proper protocol.


I don’t normally allow for extensions unless you have a serious emergency. If you think you might qualify for an extension due to a major life event, please let me know as soon as possible.

Students with Disabilities and/or Special Needs


If you wish to receive accommodations for a disability, please notify all of your course professors with letters from the Academic Support and Access Center (Mary Graydon Center 243). As accommodations are not retroactive, timely notification at the beginning of the semester, if possible, is requested.


Please note that students with formal athletic obligations are considered students with special needs and should be in contact with all of their professors at the start of every term to discuss scheduling and related matters.

Major Course Requirements


The information provided in this syllabus section is meant only to provide an overview; much more information about each major course assignment will be provided and also discussed in class.

Attendance Policy

The College Writing Program has a policy by which more than three unexcused absences may lead to failure of this course. Excused absences include but are not limited to major religious holidays, a medical reason, athletic participation on an AU team, off-campus activities that are required and related to another class, or a family emergency. I may ask you to provide documentation of your absence.