What to Expect

To Do This Semester

Your work for this course will center on researching, drafting, and revising two mid-length critical essays.  In the first half of the semester, I’ll ask you to write an essay in the mode of Virginia Woolf in a A Room of One’s Own. The final draft of this piece will be due as we leave for spring break. When we return from break, I’ll ask you to write an essay about a text that particularly interests you in a voice that feels your own. This second essay will be due the last week of classes. (See Essay One and Essay Two for more details.)

But you will be writing all the time. This is a course that rewards consistent and thoughtful work. Beginning in week three, you will have a piece due each Monday—either a draft or revision of one of your two main essays. You’ll also be asked to do about 30 pages or so of reading for most of our class meetings, especially in the first several weeks of the term, and I may give spot quizzes to make sure you have done so.  (See Schedule for details.)

You will also learn about the process of writing a critical essay: How to distinguish between, drafting, revising, and editing; how to make thoughtful use of feedback on your work; how to offer helpful advice to other writers; and how to design a stylish and effective document.

You’ll take both essays you write for this course through at least three drafts. You will get a lot of feedback on and support for your writing as you work on these pieces, and so my expectations for the quality of your writing will be high. At the end of this semester, you should feel that you’ve been part of some interesting conversations, and that you’ve done some writing of which you feel proud. Take the work of this course seriously, and I promise you that will happen.

To Do Each Class

You’ll find that almost all of our class meetings will have us working with texts—either those written by published authors or pieces that you and your classmates have written. So please come to class having done the reading and ready to talk about moments in the text that interest you.

I like to get started on time, so please be ready to begin work promptly at 12:30. If we run out of things to do before 1:45, we will break early. I will ask you to do some writing during nearly every class, so please bring pen and paper with you. Since we only have 75 minutes for each class, we need to focus on the work going on in the room. So please silence and put away your phones. Drinks are okay; food is not.

I use exit tickets to keep track of attendance. An exit ticket is a brief piece of writing you turn in at the end of each class. It tells me not only that you were present but that you were working. On occasion your exit ticket will be a quiz on the reading for the day, or some work with a piece of writing I’ve asked you to print out and bring to class.  I’ll return your exit ticket at the start of our next class. Keep track of them, along with the other work you do for this course.

My job is to make our class meetings useful and interesting; your job is to work hard and learn.

To Do as a Student

This is a course that rewards steady and thoughtful work. It is not the sort of course that will ask you to compile a massive paper at the end of term, or to cram frantically for midterm or final exams. But neither is it the kind of course in which you can hope to skip class and get the notes, or miss a few readings or assignments and still try to keep up. You need to be present—reading done, writing done, ready to work—for each class.

Here is what I expect from you:

  • Attend all class meetings, workshops, and conferences. Be ready to work and participate.
  • Complete all assigned readings and in-class writing exercises.
  • Turn in all drafts, revisions, and process assignments on time.

The usual calculus is that you should work two hours out of class for each hour in class. This means you should set aside six hours each week to keep up with the reading and writing assigned for this course.

See Grades for details on how I will keep track of your writing and attendance.