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What E110 instructors have to say about their classes…

Dr. Christine Cucciarre

In my E110 class, students choose their own topics to research but instead of choosing topics that are meant to be solved, I encourage conceptual topics that often argue for a more thorough understanding of an issue. The reader should walk away after reading the paper knowing more and thinking more about a rich and complicated topic. Students spend almost one and half months working on their papers, so I urge them to pick something that is both interesting and rich in research possibilities. From early in the semester we discuss that there are few, if any, topics that are black and white and that one of the magical things about being in college is how welcoming the grey area can be when one admits that they can never know everything about an issue. Student research centers around this idea of the comfort in not knowing and desire in finding out more.

Brett Seekford

In this class, we will seek to understand writing as an expression of identity. The act of writing allows us to affirm our own identities, share our experiences, and put our lives in conversation with a broader audience. At the same time, the writing process can also serve as a means of discovery, helping us learn from communities with which we do not identify and advocate for issues relevant to them. This section of ENGL110, therefore, seeks to situate our identities within a larger culture and society. To do so, we will consult several instructional and creative texts to model our writing assignments, which include a personal narrative and larger research paper. The goal of this class, above all, is to conceptualize your own identity in order to ethically engage with stories and lives that differ from your own. As we will learn, writing can help reveal the self and others.

Dr. Tiffany Probasco

In my sections of E110, we always start by inquiring – Who am I? Who was I? Who do I want to become? It is through this lens that we interrogate our positionality in an academic context and how we want to “show up” in our work. We used They Say, I Say with Readings by Cathy Bernstein, Russel Durst, and Gerald Graff, 4th Edition, to guide us through the moves of an argument and construct multiple drafts, each with a specific audience and purpose. Students in the section usually choose a research paper project topic that relates to their major or is a topic of interest that has affected the writer. This assignment is crafted as a process, a journey, if you will. Prior to the final research paper, students submit a series of writing projects that culminate in the creation of the final argumentative paper product. It is my hope that in the end, students come to realize that it is less about what you want to research and more about why you want to research it. How does this topic affect you? How does it affect the world around us? Approaching the research paper in this way allows students to develop critical thinking skills that will support them in whichever field they choose to explore.

Dr. Jessica Jones

In my ENGL110 course, students are asked to go into territory of the unknown by questioning their previous ideas about language and community, the purpose of our education system, and conceptions of effective writing. Throughout the semester, students work to develop rhetorical awareness and techniques in order to appeal to and persuade different audiences. The final project of the course allows students to implement these skills in a research-based essay on a topic of their own choosing. In order to embrace the openness of the assignment, rather than fall into already known or predictable areas of inquiry, students work through a series of directed prompts to generate topics that both surprised them and that they were fully invested in. Students then create research questions related to these topics, visit the library to find scholarly sources with which to put their own work in conversation, and engage in peer-review as well as periodic conferences with me throughout the planning and drafting process. In my experience, this combination of freedom to choose their own research topics and scaffolded guidance encourages students to explore unknown areas of inquiry that are of real interest to them, producing some of the most compelling writing in the course.

Dr. Frank Hillson

My research project provides the inquisitive and motivated student an opportunity to investigate any topic which strikes his or her fancy, as long as it is approved by the instructor. The topic generally emerges from a personal interest or perhaps a desire to investigate an intriguing concern, but it must satisfy four basic requirements: is it researchable, is it arguable, is it significant, and is it likable. This last query highlights the large amount of time and effort (approximately two months) the writer will spend on composing, drafting, and editing a researched argument of approximately 10 pages. Hopefully, it should be a pleasurable, albeit challenging, writing experience.

Dr. Steve Taylor

In my sections of ENGL110, we use Daniel Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen’s Writing Analytically, 8th Edition, as a guiding text for the course, which promotes a focus on genres of expository prose, such as analysis and argument, more than on thematic content. This approach allows for consideration of a range of texts of the kind students may encounter in their college years, such as paintings, speeches, commercials, editorials, opinion pieces, articles in popular periodicals, and belle lettres, as well as research reports from academic journals. The approach to expository prose advocated by Rosenwasser and Stephen emphasizes looking at a single issue from divergent points of view and employing effective devices such as representative examples and organizational patterns like “saving the best for last,” which ensure that writers present progressively more subtle and revealing points as the piece moves forward. In terms of the process of writing [the major research paper], the assignment covered the final five weeks of the course and included many opportunities for consultation with me and for feedback from both me and peers on a formal outline, two anonymous peer reviews via canvas, and several other elements, such as the introduction and thesis.

Dr. Délice Williams

The fall 2018 section of Honors English 110 focused on Hamilton and the Idea of America A fundamental premise of the course is that America is, among other things, an idea, and a highly contested one. A second premise is that much of the contestation of this idea takes place in and through writing. We spent most of the course focused on the ways that writers, including and especially Lin Manuel Miranda, rendered and defended particular visions of America in essays, articles, monuments, and songs. Despite our focus on this theme, I also wanted to give students as much room as possible to explore a research topic of their interest for the final project. It was important to me that students not feel inordinately constrained in their choices. So my instructions were very general: The only requirement for choosing a research topic was that it needed to be an argument “about an issue of national or societal importance,” offering students that most American of American values: freedom.

Dr. Joe Harris

I like to ground the work we do in E110 in a book by a writer I admire, and whose methods and ideas I think students can put to use in their own essays. I change the book we use almost every semester. In Fall 2016 we worked with the ideas put forward by Elizabeth Spelman in her 2003 book, Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. Spelman believes one of the things that defines us as humans is our need to fix things—not only objects, but relationships and communities. So I asked students to identify a “project of repair” in a field of study interested them, and to see if they could use Spelman’s ideas in writing about it.

Arline Wilson

From movies, books, cartoons, video games, music videos and contemporary art, zombies in American culture are quite literally everywhere. However, these rotten, creepy, horrifying gothic monsters, hell-bent on one thing–eating braaaiiinnnns–serve a far more meaningful purpose than their ‘gorish’ appearance and appetites let on. Zombies serve as empty containers for all that society fears and what our world refuses to acknowledge, deal with, or admit about itself. In this zombie themed E110 course, we will explore our cultural fixation with zombies and unpack the fears they contain and what these discoveries tell us about ourselves. We will read and analyze what critics have to say about zombies and will view popular zombie films, such as Shaun of the Dead, Get Out, The Walking Dead and even South Park, to explore how these films speak to our current cultural moment of dis-ease and our fears of contamination and the Covid-19 pandemic, fears of others and the border wall, fears of political oppression and the January insurrection, fears of racial/gender oppression and the BLM and MeToo Movements, and Generation-Z’s fear of missing out (FOMO) and living a soul-starved life. The class will create a Wiki-page for all things zombie, engage in open, meaningful discussions, and enjoy writing about zombies, as we all try to figure out “what’s eating us.”

Christina Durborow

With Tansy Hoskin’s Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion as the starting point in a semester-long conversation, this E110 course centers on questions of fast fashion. We began the difficult work of trying to understanding the complex environmental, humanitarian, cultural, economic and sociological issues related to the clothing industry on local, national and global levels.

The major research assignment included meeting with me to discuss initial ideas about a project topic; writing a research sketch that required students to defend the complexity of their topics, analyze what other scholars had to say about it and develop a list of questions students hoped to answer through their research; and multiple one-on-one meetings with a writing fellow on the first and second drafts in addition to peer review.

Dr. Lowell Duckert

How is writing “about” nature – the animal, climate change, or pollution – also writing “with” it? The environmental humanities, interdisciplinary at their root, analyze the knotted relationships between place and the imagination. “All matter,” as Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann (2015) argue, “is storied matter.” The field has burgeoned over roughly two decades; what is more, its relevance to modern environmental health and justice movements means that its “stories” must be told – and urgently, at that. But how is “storied matter” written, what ecological work does it do (or fail to do), and what is the human author’s role in the compositional process? In this writing seminar, we read the work of prominent environmental humanists representing ecofeminism, media studies, postcolonial ecocriticism, and queer ecology (to name a few). Students practiced, revised and crafted their writing as well as considered the rhetorical importance of environmental writing for varied audiences. Through in- and outdoor experiential learning opportunities and creative, placed-based writing assignments (such as “eco-journals”), students drew connections between human/nonhuman, nature/culture, and local/global (amongst others); in doing so, they worked to understand how writing theorizes ecology as much as ecological theory informs writing, ultimately advancing their own strategies for storying – and even altering – environmental issues at present.

Dr. Michael Harris-Peyton

My fall 2021 section of Honors ENGL110 considers the Attention Economy—the identification, valuing, and harvesting of human attention as a commodity to be sold or paid out. This core premise is part of all my ENGL110 sections because of our focus on identifying an audience, gaining their attention, and using rhetoric to motivate them to action. The honors section advances this idea by looking into the history and development of those concepts of audience and attention, and how the development of these things as commodities in the 20th and 21st centuries parallels our educational path from essays as “letters to the teacher” to writing for a specific, outside audience in a convincing and ethical way in order to accomplish real-world goals. In both versions of ENGL110, students are free to choose their areas of research. Instead of constraining their topics, the courses’ theme reinforces the need to write beyond the classroom and put their rhetorical skills to practical use: their work is shaped by their specific audiences and desired outcomes.

Dr. Amelia Chaney

My approach to teaching composition privileges students’ development of sophisticated research skills, while at the same time encouraging them to articulate a personal relationship to their chosen field of study. Whereas the course’s early papers focus on critiquing a variety of texts from academic essays to visual advertisements, the research paper requires them to think more critically about how to situate themselves as scholars invested in a particular topic. For instance, in their proposals, I ask them to narrate how and why they initially developed an interest in their research question, necessitating that they think more deeply about how personal experience informs their work. I revisit this aspect when teaching a lesson on opening hooks, where I demonstrate how to use narrative vignettes as attention grabbers for research papers. My fundamental aim throughout the research paper process is for students to hone their rhetorical skills and improve their abilities to interact meaningfully with sources. However, I also want them to learn how to bridge the divide they frequently perceive between personal writing and academic discourse, to show them that scholarship is at once shaped by formal conventions and flexible enough to enable creative approaches.

Dr. John Jebb

Our section of English 110 focused on Law, Crime, and Trials in American Literature. For the first half of our course, we discussed fiction, drama, and journalism about our focus, and students wrote short essays, from one-page to fully developed essays. Then students negotiated what, within the broad topics of our course, they would like to research. The research project involved stages that were scheduled over five weeks. After topic conferences, students submitted a preliminary source list, then later an annotated source list. The assignment asked students to pull from a variety of sources, notably different library networked databases. The annotations stated how the sources served the project: did they coalesce, conflict, show changes over time. Further steps were the oral presentation and draft. For the oral, students submitted extensive outlines; afterward, I gave extensive feedback on these outlines in conferences. Our section had writing tutors assigned; the tutors gave feedback on drafts of sections of the essays. Thus students received feedback on both the arc of the project and on a section. Research should open up thinking and recognize complexity.

Dr. Kevin Burke

This themed E110 was titled, “The Outlaw Mythos: Bad Guys (and Gals) as Heroes.” We began with some of the classic studies of the outlaw archetype by Eric Hobsbawm and Graham Seal and then moved through a wide range of outlaw stories in a variety of media and contexts. Students wrote a number of short essays and response papers, examining the dimensions of the outlaw hero archetype and the relation of outlaw stories to particular social and historical moments. We also had a couple of sessions with reference librarian Tom Melvin who geared his instruction to the subject matter of the course and, in the second session, to the students’ individual projects.