English R1A

Reading & Composition: The Essay: Evidence and Idea

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
14 Fall 2012 Speirs, Kenneth
MW 10:30-12 305 Wheeler

Book List

Lahiri, Jhumpa: Interpreter of Maladies

Other Readings and Media

a course reader


Our work in this class will focus on the essay.  Not the five-paragraph one.  Not the one that begins with a simple assertion and moves forward, sometimes ploddingly, point by point.  The essays we will write in this class are exploratory as well as persuasive; they move forward as a form of inquiry, turning on themselves again and again, surprising even the writer as she writes.  Every good essay, we will discover, yearns to be sui generis, unlike any of its predecessors.

But of course, even the most unusual essay has features in common with all the others:  an idea, or, more properly, a network of ideas that shape and bind the many parts of the essay together, whether those parts be stories of experience, observations of the world, or reflections about written texts or images; a three-part structure (beginning, middle, ending); and, finally, every good essay reveals how the mind writing it actually makes sense of things.  That final element may be the most fundamental of all.

The essay we have in mind here does not prove, repeat, or reiterate; it is not a static litany of facts.  Instead, the essay in this class, like the idea, develops, changes, and expands as the writer considers both her subject and her readers, both new kinds of evidence and what her audience will need to know about this particular piece of evidence.  When she gets the words right, when she figures out what she has to say and how to say it, the writing becomes compelling, the subject and the idea more interesting, the reader captivated.


Back to Semester List