Advanced Writing: On the Social Sciences
English 302 SO1, MWF 9:30-10:20AM Robinson Hall A248
Dr. Ellen Moody

This is an advanced writing course. In some ways it may remind you of the introductory college freshmen writing course you took a few semesters ago. We will talk about how to write plainly and clearly, about the ways of constructing "arguments", about how to synthesize materials to compose a research paper, about punctuation, documentation--about, in short, everything we can think of having to do with writing essays; and we will read and discuss two novels, short stories, one essay, one play, and some poetry.

The course will, however, differ from the introductory course in that you will be asked to use these skills we review to write essays about a few great and popular American books. Although since the "Community Text" for this year in the English Department is Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, we will be reading books written by Southern and Western American writers, our general area of study will still be our culture in all its concrete manifestations of class, sex, race, war, occupations, religion, and art with an emphasis on how these affect our individual private lives.

Required Texts (in the order we will read them):

I have ordered into the bookstore the following editions, but you may use any edition of the texts you like:

Optional book:

Optional film:

Required Writing:

You are required to write three essays outside class (typed or printed), two essays in class, and to give one short talk.

The First Essay (#1) On the Vietnam Memorial and Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country

I will ask you to go to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D. C. and describe the Memorial, and your experience there in the light of what we have discussed in class from reading Mason's In Country. You are encouraged to bring in memories you have been told by your parents or other older relatives or friends.

The idea is to to stretch your use of language to convey to the reader in clear exact words what you suggest that reader would see and feel had he gone to the Memorial. We will discuss how to construct a piece of prose so as to enable a reader to visualize something. My aim is also to ask you to reflect on this object of real significance in American culture and to use language to write down such reflections in an ordered clear way. Finally you are asked to practise writing about a novel from the point of view of the social issues it presents.

You can research the life or work of Mason and the building or history of the Memorial. You don't have to, but if you do, you should document your sources, all quotations, and paraphrases. We will review documentation before this essay is due. Length: 3-5 double-spaced typed pages.

The Second Essay (#2) An Essay on A Tidewater Morning and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

I will ask you to write an essay comparing a young boy's growing up in America as depicted in two novels one century apart.

The idea here will be to pick a central theme which unites these two books and show how the two books deal with it in both similar and different ways. You can trace changes in attitudes towards violence and aggression, towards race, towards children, towards occupations and class. You can also compare the different moods of the books and their structures.

Again you can research the lives and works of Styron and Twain, but I would prefer that you concentrate not so much on how these books reflect the lives of their individual authors but rather how they mirror our culture at two different points in time. In this it would help a great deal to know something about Twain's and Styron's lives, milieus, and opinions, or about their books (depending on your thesis). Be sure to document your sources, all quotations, and paraphrases; and be careful not to plagiarize. Length: 3-5 double-spaced typed pages.

The Third Essay (#5) In Search of Lost Time.

This is our "term project." I will ask you early in the semester to find, read, and then write about a favorite book of your own choice from your early adolescence or teenage years (a list of such books to show you the kind of thing I mean is provided--see attachment). You are asked to try to remember what you were when you first read this book and the circumstances of your life; then to try to remember why you liked it; and then, when you read, be aware of how your present reading may differ from that first one. Write an essay on the two different selves reading this book. Our short talks will in fact be "little talking practices" of how to analyze a literary text using short stories; you are then expected to take what we have learned in class and apply it to your favorite book from later childhood. Our last book, Bobbie Ann Mason's The Girl Sleuth is in fact an example of just what I am asking everyone to do: she goes in search of lost time by rereading some favorite and popular books during her childhood and adolescent years and then writes her book out of the perspectives she had when young and the one she has now.

I do not rule out books from earlier childhood, but experience has shown me that a book which relies as much upon words as pictures leads to a more successful essay; it is also easier to remember our later childhood than our very early years. See appended list of books. The problem is our earliest memories may be vivid and have had a profound influence on how you became what you are thus far, but these memories are fragmentary and unclear. The idea is to use memory and literary analysis. So, for example, Dr Seuss and the Madeleine books are good for this assignment, but very early childhood books, such as Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are will probably not provide you with the material you need to write.

The aim is to search into your memory and self, to enact a group of beliefs; to wit, that people primarily read literature for pleasure, that they take away from it what they bring to it, and that, its value to them is individual. I would like you to chose a book which meant or still means something to you. If you begin with a genuine interest, the labor of analysis and research and all the rest of it may (I hope) be felt as a labor of love and the process be valuable to you in ways beyond learning how to write about books. Length: 4-6 double-spaced typed pages.

The Annotated Bibliography: As part of this third essay, you will be asked to hand in an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography provides short summaries and evaluations of the books and essays used in a research paper. The skill of synopsis will be reviewed. Models will be provided. You are asked to have four sources on your chosen book or its author or type or children's literature.

An Abstract or Precis: You will also be asked to hand in an abstract of your own essay. We will in class learn to and practice the art of Précis writing, summarizing, paraphrasing, and writing synopses.

The Short Talk.

Talk is primary and writing secondary. I believe everyone can learn to write more clearly and enjoy writing more if he or she would only learn to talk on paper, to use the real language he or she might use in the classroom or any other natural situation which demands a certain coherence. Our course Bible, John Trimble's Writing With Style is based on this belief. My "lectures" on writing will be devoted to trying to get everyone to use his or her tongue. A writer must learn to think of his material as something he is communicating to someone else; not something he or she is mumbling to him or herself in the hopeless hope that no-one will actually read it, much less read it aloud. To do a short talk forces the student to experience these assumptions.

Thus, each student will be asked to prepare a coherent seven to fifteen minute talk for classroom presentation on one of our set texts.. The talks are listed in the calendar and you give your talk during the week it is scheduled; the talks will begin the third week of the semester. The idea is to practice inventing a clear thesis-statement which is supported by analysis of the text including concrete details from that text and your own experience.

The whole class will listen and try to respond; their response will tell the student whether he or she has made him or herself clear; the ensuing dialogue and the student's own later thoughts about either what happened when he or she or another student talked will (it is hoped) teach everyone something about the basis of writing--again, clear thinking in clear language which comes naturally to the speaker-writer.

Each student is asked to hand in an outline or cards (hand-written or typed) which he or she used to talk from, and I will return this material with the grade for the talk in the following session.

In-Class Writing:

You will be asked to write the following in class: 1) an essay (#3) on James Baldwin's Nobody Knows My Name and 2) a book review (#4) of a book of literary criticism about the various series of books for girls which have been produced by syndicates and best-sellers during most of the 20th century, Bobbie Ann Mason's The Girl Sleuth. We will discuss how a good book review usually includes some or all of the following points: the book's thesis (or theses); a synopsis or summary of its contents; the author's background or biases; his evidence; the book's context; its audience; your evaluation of it. We will also review the skills needed for literary analysis

Other Requirements:

Assumptions behind this course: a) I believe something is to be gained by coming to class, and that we all can learn a great deal from one another; b) I believe that good writing can be discussed in simple words, and exemplified, learned, practiced, and improved through imitation of models; c) I believe that the only way to improve one's writing is by much practice over a long period of time; d) I do not believe that writing is a mysterious process whose tenets can be communicated by a sort of osmosis of inspired joint-creativity; e) I have observed that people who write well are people who read a lot; thus:
  1. Classwork: I want everyone to attend class faithfully, to read all the books, and to participate in class discussions. If you miss a shorter writing assignment or one of the three in-class essays, you are expected to do the shorter writing assignment at home on the computer or a typewriter and in lieu of the in-class essays you must write a 3 page typed or printed book review of the book. I will accept nothing hand-written from home. I ask that you limit your unexcused absences to a minimum; I regard weeks of absence as one basis for a failing grade. In this class you will find that continual absence is the road to bewilderment.
  2. Writing Assignments: I have allowed: a) sufficient time for revision of each essay; b) time for work as a group so we may define, and see how one goes about doing the various kinds of mental jobs and writing that make up a clear essay; c) time for the class to turn into a sort of "group workshop" to listen to one or more of the essays someone in the class has written. For each of the essays assigned I will give out student models which we will use as "handles" to give everyone ideas and patterns which can help in figuring out in a conscious unfrightened way the kind of organization and thinking which best suits a topic and the tasks one must do before and during writing a particular composition.

    I will, in turn, try my best to write comments on your essays which will help you see how better to write clearly and gracefully and how better to organize your thoughts--the latter the hardest task of all and one people can be helped with.

  3. Reading: I have also assigned books which are both popular and serious. All were meant to and did sell widely. I have found that student anthologies of essays and literature which have been especially concocted for students considered as a target captive audience are often dull, puzzling, and hard to understand; they are also faddish--they are written in conformance with this year's politically correct stance and what publishers think school boards across the US will not be angered by. To choose materials which are narrowly-conceived for a captive or coterie audience in a college course which is supposed to be about how to write intelligently, gracefully, and successfully (which last means in a way that so attracts readers that they will buy and read your work) seems to me an exercise in futility and counterproductive.

We have one optional book which offers advice on how to write clearly and vividly. I will be going over the content of this in class, but if you think owning a book which provides very specific "handles" on what to do in specific instances, it is there for you to purchase. I have ordered for the whole class a general book which provides sensible advice which can be followed on how to write good prose essays on any and all subjects. Trimble's Writing with Style will be the first book we read, and we will be making reference to Trimble's outlook and advice throughout the term.


By the end of the term there should be six grades for each student on my roster. These I will average together to form the final grade. I should have three grades for the three essays written outside class (#s1, 2, & 5) and two for the essays written in class (Lettered 3, 4). (The grades for the the annotated bibliography and abstract of Essay #3 will be included in the grade for that paper.) The sixth grade will be for the short talk. All writing assignments and the short talk are due on the day set; if your essay is late, the grade will be pulled down one element for every session, it is late. You must give your talk on the day cited on the short talk schedule (which will be handed out by the end of the second or beginning of the third week of the term) so as to ensure only one person will talk on a given day.

Still the average of many students' grades will not fall neatly on a letter, but either be above or below a letter or perhaps just off a letter; that's when I remember and check 1) your attendance record; 2) your participation in class; 3) if you came for help if you needed it (i.e., planning the essay, thinking up a perspective; organizing it, revising it and so on); and, 3) those essays or short talks which showed that you cared, that you really thought about your subject and made an effort to find something out about it or to explore it and to write something intelligent and coherent and complete. While I, of course, will not deny the genius his or her A, I always also take hard work into account and will reward someone who has journeyed from a lesser place to a better one through effort. I also take attendance and class participation into account; it matters to me whether you come and it matters whether you have done the reading or participate or not (see "Assumptions" above).

To talk to me outside class:

Without an appointment:

Write to me by e-mail:; you can write me 24 hours a day; I look at my mail at least twice a day, and I write back. Be sure to type the e- mail address to which you wish me to send my reply at the end of your message.

You can call the phone in the office I use (993-1176) or the English office (993- 1160) or leave a message in my box in the English Office, which is in Robinson Hall on the fourth floor. It is, however, well to remember that I am on campus only 3 days a week from around 9:10 am to 1:30, and the secretaries don't call me; they simply place put the note in my box. Further, leaving essays in my box is a chancy business because materials get lost this way. No-one stands guard over the boxes. The safest speediest way to get a late essay to me is to bring it to the next class and give it to me warm hand to warm hand.

With an appointment:

Private conferences are available by appointment M/W/F from 11:30AM-12:20 PM in Robinson Hall A455. Sign up on the stenography pad which will be placed on the corner of my desk every time the class meets.

Tentative Calendar:

Week 1: Jan 19th (Mon); 21st (Wed); 23rd (Fri):

Course introduction; explanation of syllabus; Importance of thesis statement; how to formulate; Making Inferences and Defining a Good Thesis. Essay #1.

Assignments: 1) Read for Wed, Fri, and following Mon (Sept 3rd): Trimble, Writing with Style, pp ix-xi, Chs 1, 2, 4, 5, (omitting pp 46-50), 6 & 10.
Begin reading and finish for Week 3 (aim for Mon, Feb 9th): Mason's In Country, Part One, Chs 1-2, and Part Two, Chs 1-20.

Week 2: Jan 26th (Mon), 28th (Wed); 30th (Fri):

Openers; Middles; Closers; How to Write and Fill a Paragraph; What is a Paragraph; what is a Line of Argument; In-Class Vignette. Short Talks thoroughly explained; Documentation begun.

Assignments: You should be reading In Country. You should go or be planning when you are going to go to the Memorial.

Week 3: Feb 2nd (Mon); 4th (Wed); 6th (Fri):

Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country. Mon: Short Talk 1: Part One, Chs 1-4, Part 2, Chs 1-2: The Opening Sequence: The Anonymous Landscape and Popular Culture in the Book and Emmet's desire to see an Egret; Wed: Short Talk 2: Part 2, Chs 3-8: Emmet and Sam's Relationship: Father and Daughter?; and Fri: Short Talk 3: Part 2, Chs 9-14: Memory and Imagination in the Book: How is Vietnam viewed through this perspective?

Assignments: For Week 4 finish Mason's In Country. You should be working on Essay #1.

Week 4: Feb 9th (Mon); 11th (Wed); 13th (Fri):

Mon: Short Talk 4: Part 2, Chs 15-20: The Dance: The Depiction of the other Vietnam Vets in the Book: The Wounded Men, Their Wives, Girlfriends and the Town; Wed: Short Talk 5: Part 2, Chs 21-6: The Return of Irene who doesn't want to remember and Dwayne Hughes' letters: The Use of Irony in the Book; and Fri: Short Talk 6: Part 2, Chs 27-30, Part 3, Chs 1-2: Dwayne Hughes's Diary, the Scene in the Swamp and the Conclusion at the Memorial: Why Are These Juxtaposed in the Way They Are.

Assignments: ESSAY #1 IS DUE ON MON, FEB 16TH. Begin Styron's A Tidewater Morning ("Love Day, "Shadrach" and "A Tidewater Morning") to finish by Mon Feb 23rd:

Week 5: Feb 16th (Mon); 18th (Wed); 20th (Fri):

Mon: Essay #1 Due; Introduce subject of Southern Culture, race relations, the role of military in our culture, families. Wed: Return & discussion of #1. Fri: Short Talk 7: "Love Day." Essay #2 assigned.

Assignments: You should begin reading Huckleberry Finn (aim to finish by Mon, Mar 16th); for Week 7 read Trimble Writing with Style, Chs 8-15.

Week 6: Feb 23rd (Mon); 25th (Wed); 27th (Fri):

Mon: Short Talk 8: "Shadrach;" Wed: Short Talk 9: "A Tidewater Morning." Fri: Achieving clarity, the importance of a voice, review of punctuation & documentation & how to avoid plagiarism.

Assignment: You should begin work on Essay #2; The Name of the Book you intend to write Your "In Search of Lost Time" upon is due Fri, Mar 6th.

Week 7: Mar 2nd (Mon); 4th (Wed); 6th (Fri).

Introducing Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn. Wed: Short Talk 10: Chs 1-7: The Relationship of Huck and Pap to One Another and the Outside World; Fri: Short Talk 11: Chs 8-16: The Relationship of Sam and Huck to One Another and the Outside World.

Assignment: Finish Huckleberry Finn.

Week 8: Spring Recess:

You should be working on Essay #2; it is recommended that you read your favorite book from childhood over the recess.

Week 9: Mar 16th (Mon); 18th (Wed); 20th (Fri):

Mon: Short Talk 12: Chs 17-21: The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons; The King and Dauphin; The Murder of Boggs by Sherburn: "Life As Farce Without Ceasing to Be Horror;" Wed: Short Talk 13: Chs 24-29: The Episode of the Masquerade as Englishmen: The Idiocy of the Average Person or a Tall Tale?; and Fri, 3/20: Short Talk 14: Chs 31-42: Is this a Serious if Evasive Book About Racism or A Boys' Adventure Story: The Return of Tom Sawyer.

Assignment: For Week 9, ESSAY #2 IS DUE ON MON, MAR 23RD; begin Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, read "Introduction," and Essays 1, 3-4.

Week 10: Mar 23rd (Mon); 25th (Wed); 27th (Fri):

Mon: Essay #2 Due; Introducing Baldwin as One Voice Among Many of American Blacks; Wed: Return and Discussion of #2; Fri: Short Talk 15: Essays 1, 3 & 4: "The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American, " "Fifth Avenue, Uptown" and "East River, Downtown"

Assignment: Read Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, Essays 5-10, 13.

Week 11: Mar 30th (Mon); April 1st (Wed); 3rd (Fri):

Mon: Short Talk 16: Essays 5, 6 & 7: "A Fly in the Buttermilk," "Nobody Knows My Name," "Faulkner and Desegregation;" Wed: Short Talk 17: Essays 9 & 13: "Notes for a Hypothetical Novel" and "The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy;" Fri: Short Talk 18: Essays 2 and 8: "Princes and Powers," and "In Search of a Majority: An Address."

Assignment: Finish Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, Essay 13; PREPARE TO WRITE IN-CLASS ESSAY #3 ON BALDWIN ON WED, APR 8TH.

Week 12: April 6th (Mon); 8th (Wed); 10th (Fri):

Mon: Short Talk 19: Essay 13: "Alas, Poor Richard," all 3 Parts: "Eight Men, "The Exile," and "Alas, Poor Richard;" Wed: In-Class Essay #3 on Baldwin; Fri: Last Remarks on whole subject of American culture; Essay #5 explained.

Assignments: Read Bobbie Anne Mason's The Girl Sleuth, pp ix-xii, 3-18.

Week 13: April 13th (Mon); 15th (Wed); 17th (Fri):

More on Essay #5, Memory and Imagination, Children's Literature; how to write an annotated bibliography; an abstract; back to Bobbie Ann Mason.

Assignments: for Week 14 you should read Mason, The Girl Sleuth, pp 19-98; you should begin work on Essay #5..

Week 14: April 20th (Mon); 22nd (Wed); 24th (Fri):

Short Talk 20: The Earliest & Still Popular Children's Series Books (pp 19-47: "The Land of Milk and Honey Bunch" & "Bobbsey Bourgeois"); How to Write an Abstract; Short Talk 21: The Queen of Them all: Nancy Drew (pp 48-76: "The Once and Future Prom Queen;" Short Talk 22: In the Footprints of Nancy: Judy Bolton & others (pp 76-98: "The Secret of the Pantom Friends")

Assignments: Read for Week 15: Mason, The Girl Sleuth, pp 99-139; you should be working on Essay #5; PREPARE TO WRITE IN-CLASS ESSAY #4 ON MASON'S THE GIRL SLEUTH.

Week 15: April 27th (Mon); 29th (Wed), May 1st (Fri):

Short Talk 23: The Career Girls: Cherry Ames, Vicki Barr & others (pp 99-125: "The Glamour Girls"). Day for telling about Essay #5; In-class essay on Bobbie Ann Mason's The Girl Sleuth


Week 16: Final:

Essay #3, complete with an abstract, and annotated bibliography due on Monday, May 11th, 9:30-10:15 am, in this room.


The English Department Policy on plagiarism:

If you plagiarize I am asked to fail you for the course. DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. What is plagiarism?

"Plagiarism means using words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving that person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books and articles consulted is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting."

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