Advanced Composition Fall 2013 Syllabus

by Salvatore Pane


ENGL 220-01 Advanced Composition: Expository Writing
MWF 11:00-11:50am
ESCH Hall 264

University of Indianapolis
Assistant Professor Salvatore Pane
Credits: 3.0

Affecting Change Through Writing


Welcome to Advanced Composition

By this point in your academic career, you know how to write an essay and how to contribute meaningfully in class. You’ve settled into your role as a student here at UIndy, but sometimes you find yourself wondering if there are any practical applications of the writing you do here at the university level. Is there any way to connect academic work to the outside world?

In Advanced Composition, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing. We’ll use discussion and essays not only to grapple with complex problems plaguing society on a local and national level, but we’ll use our findings to make real world changes right here in Indianapolis.

Course Description

This is a class in which we will write A LOT. We will write about the reading we do and write about the thinking we do and then write about the writing we do and just plain write. This description may sound exhausting or exciting, but either way, you can be sure that the course will be both challenging and rewarding. The essay assignments and short exercises in this course are designed to help you approach writing from a variety of contexts, using a variety of techniques. We are trying to look beyond pat formulas (such as the five-paragraph essay) while still understanding the writely conventions specific to each piece and how they can be useful. At times, the prompts might ask you to employ a particular strategy or style of a published essayist, but always with the aim of exploring your own range of writing and voices.

Workshopping and revision will be key components of our work in this class. We will put essays from inside and outside of class onto the table to find out what is working or not working for us as readers and writers. The object is to take what we learn from workshop and apply it to our own writing in future drafts and revisions. I encourage you to look at every assignment that you complete as a draft that can be improved rather than a finished product.

Critical engagement and close reading will also be integral to this course. In fact, I hope that they will both become daily practices. A big part of this class is learning to complicate your thinking, to notice the details of language and composition on a micro and macro level. Throughout the term, we will do close reading exercises focusing on various literary and rhetorical devices with the aim of nuancing our own analyses and writing. Producing work that is fresh and insightful depends upon being able to draw out insightful readings of other texts, of ourselves, and of the world. Advanced Composition will push you to ask not only the “how” of writing but also the “why” and the “so what.”

Turning in Your Writing

It’s important that you turn in your writing on time, as late work cannot become part of class discussion. Likewise, because the Essays and Exercises build upon one another, turning in late work means you miss out on comments that would help you with the upcoming assignment. Since you will regularly revise your work, make sure to keep electronic and paper copies. All papers must be written in Times New Roman 12 with one inch margins. Also, please title your work. Do not generically title your papers, “Essay 2” or “Essay on Education.” Papers turned in late will receive a full letter grade penalty. Papers turned in over 24 hours late will result in an automatic failure. These penalties will factor into your final grade.

Readings and Quizzes

All of the assigned readings are on Ace. It is your responsibility to print out the readings we will focus on in any given class session. Everything you will need is explained in the Course Sequence. You only have to read essays marked “Homework.” Otherwise, just print out the reading and bring it with you. If you do not bring print outs of the readings, I will mark you absent. Also, there will be occasional pop quizzes to make sure you’re reading the assigned homework. Quizzes will be one or two questions at most and will be impossible to pass if you haven’t read the material and impossible to fail if you have. Read the homework.


You will receive provisional grades on each of the essays you turn in, but you will have a chance to revise those essays throughout the semester. At your mid-term conference you will receive a provisional grade, which is in no way final and is not factored into your final grade. Rather, this mid-term assessment is intended to give you a sense of how your writing is being evaluated and of your progress in the course. You are always welcome to stop by during office hours to talk about your writing or your grade. You are encouraged to keep on reworking essays that you like throughout the semester.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Classroom participation will affect your grade. Lack of engagement or preparation will lower your grade. Regular comments and involvement with moving the ongoing conversation of the class forward will increase your grade.

Essays & evaluations 60%
Exercises and class participation 25%
Community Presentation 15%

Optional Revision

At the end of the course, you will have an opportunity to revise, cut, and expand your first two papers for a higher grade. This is completely voluntary, however, and we will discuss this in more detail as the semester progresses.

Course Objectives

1) A successful student will add thoughtful and complex commentary to every class discussion.

2) A successful student will hand in thoughtful and complex essays on time for each corresponding assignment.

3) A successful student will complete all of the exercises with great attention to deal.

4) A successful student will be able to analyze difficult texts and think about their place in the world in new and constructive ways.

5) A successful student will be able to make connections between seemingly disparate threads.


At the end of the course, you will be asked to give an eight-to-ten minute presentation exploring your final paper at the Wheeler Arts Center in the vein of the TED conference lectures we’ll watch in class. We’ll go over this in more detail as the semester continues.


Turn off all cell phones, laptops, tablets, and whatever else is invented before this semester ends BEFORE class begins. If, at any point during class, you look at any of this technology, you will be marked absent. I will not disrupt class. You will just be automatically marked absent. Don’t check your phones if you want to pass this class. Don’t look at the readings on phones and laptops. Print them out.


If you miss class five times, you will fail. The ONLY excuses I will accept are a doctor’s excuse or some kind of family emergency.

You should always be on time for class. If you are late, you will not get credit for attending an entire class. If you are absent, it’s up to you to contact me to find out what you must make up.

If you are unprepared for discussion or workshop, I cannot give you credit for attendance that day.


The syllabus is subject to change. I will only push assignments and readings back however. No assignment will ever be due earlier than it’s listed here.

Special Assistance

If you have a disability that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations, please inform me immediately so that your learning needs may be appropriately met. Students with a disability must register with the Services for Students with Disabilities office (SSD) in Schwitzer Center 206 (317-788-6153 / for disability verification and for determination of reasonable academic accommodations. You are responsible for initiating arrangements for accommodations for tests and other assignments in collaboration with the SSD and the faculty.


Intellectual theft, like any other kind of theft, is a crime, and is especially dangerous on a college campus. Plagiarism is defined as any use of another person’s thoughts or words as your own. I don’t expect to see plagiarism in this class, and if I do each case will be dealt with on an individual basis, but the MINIMUM penalty will be failure for the assignment in question. Failing the entire course is not out of the question. If you are doing research and are unsure how to incorporate someone else’s work into your own in a valid manner, please ask—I’ll be more than happy to help you out so that there’s no danger of confusion.

Course Sequence

Week One
August 26
Syllabus and Introductions
Catherine Rampell “Many With New College Degree Find Job Market Humbling”
In Class Writing

August 28
Farhad Manjoo “Is Facebook a Fad?”

August 30
Zoe Kleinman “Is the Internet Changing Language”

Week Two
September 4
Roger Ebert’s Twitter Feed
Watch Kellee Santiago “Are Video Games Art?”
HOMEWORK: Read Nicholas Carr “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

September 6
Nicholas Carr “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

Week Three
September 9
Discuss Essay 1
Jane Wakefield “3D Proves a Hit in the Classroom”

September 11
Examples of Essay 1

September 13
Maya Rupert “The NBA: Where Racism Happens?”

Week Four
September 16
In Class Workshop

September 18
In Class Workshop

September 20
2 Page Draft Peer Review

Week Five
September 23
Essay 1 Due
Peer Review

September 25
Watch Ken Robinson “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

September 27

Week Six
September 30
Jeff Selingo “Fixing College”

October 2
Student Conferences

October 4
Student Conferences

Week Seven
October 7
Revision Pamphlet
Discuss Optional Revisions 1 and 2

October 9
Ray Fisman “Clean Out Your Desks”

October 11
Ray Fisman Continued
Homework Read Richard Rodriguez “The Achievement of Desire”

Week Eight
October 16
Richard Rodriguez “The Achievement of Desire”

October 18
Scott Gerber “How Liberal Arts Colleges Are Failing America”
Homework Read Paulo Freire “The Banking Concept of Education”

Week Nine
October 21
Paulo Freire “The Banking Concept of Education”
Discuss Essay 2

October 23
Examples of Essay 2

October 25
In Class Workshop

Week 10
October 28
In Class Workshop

October 30
2 Page Peer Review

November 1
Watch Adelph Molinari “Let’s Bridge the Digital Divide!”
Discuss Final Project + Abstract

Week 11
November 4
Essay 2 Due
Peer Review

November 6

November 8

Week 12
November 11

November 13
In Class Workshop

November 15
In Class Workshop
Abstract Due

Week 13
November 18
Revision Workshops

November 20
Student Visit + Reading TBA

November 22
In Class Workshop

Week 14
November 25
2 Page Peer Review

Week 15
December 2
Volunteer Student Conferences

December 4
Volunteer Student Conferences

December 6
Presentations at the Wheeler Arts Center

Finals Week
December 9
Essay #3 Plus Optional Revisions Due

In-Class Writing

For this first writing assignment, we would like you to discuss authority in Catherine Rampell’s “Many With New College Degree Find Job Market Humbling.”

At some point in your response, we would like you to focus in on specifics. Which details capture your attention and why? As you describe what you read, consider what gives Rampell “authority.” Authority, on the page, is when readers believe what a writer writers. What makes you believe that Rampell knows what she’s talking about? Is it because she is a reporter? Is it because she uses a lot of facts? Or do you not believe her, and if so, why not?

While you may come to some interesting conclusions by the end of your response, you should not feel obligated to wrap things up neatly or to offer a definitive set of statements. In fact, rather than driving toward a pre-determined conclusion, we want to encourage you to surprise yourself, to discover new interpretive territory. Try writing without knowing quite where you will land. You may even find that as your understanding deepens, a whole new set of questions arises.

You will have the rest of class to complete your response.

Essay #1 (1300 words)

“And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski. I’m not the only one.”

–Nicholas Carr
It’s difficult to argue that the proliferation of the internet and broadband technology haven’t affected our lives in a number of ways. Farhad Manjoo discusses the power social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter hold over our lives, while Zoe Kleinman shows us how the internet is rapidly reconfiguring the way we communicate offline and online. While Kelle Santiago and Roger Ebert spur endlessly about whether or not video games are art, Jane Wakefield visits schools around the UK who have already adopted 3D technology in middle school classrooms. And then, of course, there’s Nicholas Carr who has written an entire book aiming to prove that the internet has reshaped the way humans process information.

Technology can affect our educations, it can affect our communications and relationships, and it can even affect our minds. For this assignment, we want you to imagine the future. What effect is technology having on us and what are the pros and cons? In this essay, you will try and predict where technology is leading us as a people and what exactly makes you think that. If you believe text messaging will leave future generations unable to spell correctly, that’s fine, but you must show evidence of that in the here and now using sources. The bolded words above are vague enough for you to use your own interests. Do you think experimental German surgeries will allow athletes to play professionally well into their forties, and what are the pros and cons of that (look it up, Kobe Bryant did it, and now a host of other athletes are too)? Do you think the increased dependence on social media over physical relationships will lead to legions of depressed Americans? Will the ever-improving world of technology lead to a glorious new age like Kellee Santiago predicts, or will it leads us into doom like Nicholas Carr imagines? Maybe it’s something in between.

For this paper, you must use four critical sources. Two must come from either the Manjoo, Kleinman, Santiago, Carr, or Wakefield. Two must be critical sources you find on your own via UIndy’s academic databases. We will touch on this in class.

Essay #2 (1300 words)

“Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking” concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is men themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, men cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”

—Paulo Friere in “The ‘Banking’ Concept of Education”

In some form or another, all of you have been affected by education. You all went to grade school, middle school, high school, and now, here you are, in the hallowed halls of higher education at UIndy. And yet, something is off. A class subtly yet perceptibly goes off the rails. You accrue more and more debt. The specter of graduation and finding a job looms large in the future. Is higher education exactly what you imagined?

Over the last few weeks, we’ve discussed various problems with higher education. Things aren’t perfect. There are problems nationally that don’t appear to be especially important to politicians or other people in power. Paulo Friere discusses the “banking” concept of education and how that pedagogy is destroying students’ minds. Richard Rodriguez explores the perils and pratfalls of memorization and how many schools are pumping out students who can remember important dates but can’t think critically. Fisman, Selingo, and Gerber write about the way educators and institutions have failed students, giving them degrees and sending them out into an economy with few opportunities for this young.

For this essay, you will address a single problem within higher education. Be interested in your work. If you are bored with your topic, so will your readers. What links the above writers is that they have all chosen to write about deeply personal matters and use those feelings to write a coherent argument about education. You must critique the educational system. Nearly anything in college is fair game, everything from unfair distribution of scholarships to the job readiness of students to the massive amount of debt students absorb. Locate a problem you’ve experience and write about it. Connect it to other thinkers who’ve thought about similar concerns. Then, come up with a solution.

For this essay, we are requiring that you use four sources. The first will be either Freire or Rodriguez. The second will be either Selingo or Gerber. The final two will be from UIndy’s academic databases. Search out people who agree with your argument. Search out people who disagree with your. Like anything, the debate concerning education is an ongoing conversation. Your paper is not an island, but a mere dialogue in an endless series of conversations.

Essay #3 (3900 words)

The world can be a pretty unjust place. Over the course of this semester we’ve talked about how the internet might melt our brains, the injustice of the American school system, and even the vast digital divide that excludes so many global citizens. We’ve seen videos and read articles of thinkers and average people trying to solve these problems, and yet, solutions are difficult to see. All the writers we’ve read would agree that although equality is a goal we should strive for, it’s an incredibly difficult goal to achieve.

For this essay, you will be asked to transform yourself in a positive force for change. Much like in your educational autobiography earlier this semester, we want you to choose a problem you care about that has to do with equality right here in Indianapolis. Like Adelph Molinari, you must select a real, physical problem—in his case, the lack of internet access in the third world—and try and sketch out a solution. This must be a real life problem with a real, tangible solution. However, you don’t have to be ambitious to the point where you set out to end world poverty. Think locally. What is a problem with equality you have witnessed in your own lives? Have would you solve it? First, explain why this is a problem that must be addressed. Remember how Molinari argues why his cause is so important. Then set forth your explanation, arguing why exactly this is a feasible way forward. Your problem and solution can relate back to education or technology or something completely unrelated.

Additionally, this paper is also meant to serve as a tangible blueprint to solve your problem. You will not only present your paper at the Wheeler Arts Center on First Friday—more about that to come—but you will send your paper to someone who might have the ability to enact said change. For example, you may send your paper to the mayor or a congressperson. You may send your paper to a local neighborhood group or soup kitchen. Be creative. Write about something you care about. In many ways, this is the culmination of everything we’ve discussed this semester. It’s time to take the thinking you’ve done and transform it into something concrete.

You will be required to use four critical sources. They must come from UIndy’s academic databases. Find sources that are related to your problem.