English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Confessing Animal

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2009 Browning, Catherine Cronquist
Browning, Catherine
MWF 11-12 222 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Augustine, Confessions; De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater; Hacker, A Writer’s Reference (6th ed. 2007); Hogg, Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner; Rousseau, Confessions; and a Course Reader.


Written and oral confessions are a mainstay of western culture, with manifestations as different as Augustine's fourth-century spiritual autobiography and Rousseau's shocking eighteenth-century tell-all memoir. Confession in a variety of forms is central to many religious faiths, to our criminal justice system, and to our popular culture.  Confessions play a part in psychoanalysis and in politics.  This course will explore the phenomenon of confession, asking such questions as:  What is confession? How and why do we value it?  What social, literary, and political conventions govern its performance?  How does confession both reinforce and destabilize the social order?

As part of the university’s Reading and Composition requirement, this course develops reading, writing, and research skills that are applicable across the curriculum.  We will focus on how to find, evaluate, and make effective use of research tools and resources for analytic writing.  The primary writing assignments for the course will be three progressively longer papers (2-3 pages, 6-8 pages, 8-10 pages), combining analysis of primary texts with research from secondary sources.  The first paper will be a personal essay in response to Augustine’s Confessions; the second, an argumentative essay supported by research and evidence; and the third, an expository research paper.  Strategies for revision will form another major focus of the course, and the second and third papers will include substantial work (and feedback) at the prewriting and draft stages of composition.

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