English R50

Freshman and Sophomore Studies: Writing America

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2007 Fujie, Kristin
MWF 11-12 103 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Melville, Benito Cereno; F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby; Gloria Anzaldua: Borderlands; Chang Rae-Lee, Native Speaker; a course reader including essays and short stories


"The American historian Frederick Jackson Turner argued in 1893 that the United States was essentially born on the frontier, that it had forged its unique national, legislative, social, and intellectual identity upon the ?hither edge of free land.? To study the frontier, Turner argued, was to study the ?really American part of our history.? We?ll start off the semester with Turner?s now famous essay and then borrow the questions it raises as launch points for our own investigations: What is ?really American? about America? What defines American character, American culture, American-ness? How does one ?study? America? Where and with whom does its meaning lie? Turner approached these questions as an historian, but the topic of ?America? has fueled the writings of travelers, poets, novelists, journalists and others. Our readings from these sources will be necessarily selective, and our goal not to settle the question of what defines ?America,? but rather to explore some of the different ways this country has been represented and theorized. Your project for the semester will be to immerse yourself in this debate, and to discover therein something that interests, inspires, disturbs, tickles, infuriates or otherwise affects you sufficiently to make you want to find out more about it!

Taking ?America? as our central point of reference, this course will serve as an introduction to the wide world of scholarly research and writing, as well as to the more specific realm of literary study. You will learn how to read texts critically, generate original questions out of these readings, develop these questions into research projects, seek out and assess relevant published essays and books, and make new contributions to a scholarly debate. If this all sounds overwhelming, don?t despair! We will break down the writing process into manageable steps, and much of our energy and attention will focus upon strategies for inspiring, crafting and delivering strong critical writing. The ultimate purpose of this class is less to bequeath you with a predetermined body of knowledge than to embolden you to generate and pursue your own ideas. Students who choose to enroll should therefore bring an open mind and a willingness to engage in class discussion.

Writing Requirements: Students will complete informal weekly assignments targeting specific reading, writing and research skills, and then apply these skills toward three formal essays of increasing length and complexity. The final project for the course will require students to generate their own topic and conduct independent library research. "

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