Policy Statement - Coan

CO301A: Writing in the Humanities
Instructor: Cathy Coan
322 Eddy, 491-7251
Office hours: 12:20-1:20 T Th and by appointment

Course Description
CO301A focuses explicitly on reading and writing strategies for accommodating the rhetorical demands of the arts and humanities to the needs of diverse audiences, particularly those outside the arts and humanities. Although you may sometimes write to readers well educated in this field, your work in CO301A is not designed to teach you to do academic writing in it. You can imagine that your readers are patrons of Smithsonian, National Geographic, Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, Times Literary Supplement, Denver Post Arts section, and the like. Your readers may also be patrons of academic journals, but these journals are not where you should imagine your work appearing.

How do writers adapt their texts to diverse audiences? Which styles are most appropriate for specific rhetorical purposes? The first six weeks of the course focus on analyses of and responses to reserve readings intended to help you learn to think and perform critically in context; the rest of the semester is devoted to preparing a portfolio of pieces you've written (see "Portfolio," below). These two sections are linked by an exploration of Best American Essays 1998, a collection of some of the more informed, eloquent, and interesting pieces from large and small publications last year.

I envision the class as an ongoing discussion; rather than a lecture-heavy format, I prefer the freshness of student-driven conversations about our work and reading. Essays, in-class writing activities (such as "dailies" and peer review workshops), and out-of-class writing and reading activities will contribute to your grade. Some of your reading and writing assignments will be designed by you and members of groups to which you will be assigned--I'd rather you explore your interests than mine within the framework of the course.


  • Articles from library reserves and other sources as found/assigned
  • Best American Essays 1998, Atwan and Ozick, eds.
  • Style manual(s) of your choice (I suggest Strunk and White for style/structure and Hacker for format.)

Other Materials

  • Three-ring binder for in-class notes, dailies, and handouts, with pockets for returned writing assignments
  • Folder for portfolio
  • Extra folder (suggested for research notes and materials during second half of course)

Course Requirements

  1. Class participation: Discussion, group work, and items like abstracts and outlines
  2. Three rhetorical context analyses of articles: First six weeks
  3. Three assignments TBA for Best American Essays section
  4. Portfolio (at least 15 pages of final, polished work representing at least two separate pieces written for different types of audiences): Week seven through end of semester

In your portfolio, you will present your writing and some related documents to demonstrate what you have learned about expository writing for particular contexts, about a subject, and about using the methods of the arts and humanities. All of the labor you've invested up to this point in the semester will begin paying off as you apply "how" to "what." The following briefly explains what you will include in the final portfolio.

A) Annotated bibliography. Sources consulted and used both in your pieces and in your context analyses (ten minimum). Include all sources: interviews, library research, Web sources. Use MLA style for the citations. Annotations will include a one- to two-sentence summary of the piece and a one- to two-sentence notation about its usefulness to you. Put a * by each entry actually used as a source for your pieces.

B) Cover sheet. A detailed analysis of the context, purpose, audience, subject, author, and style for each piece of your 15+ pages of writing, and an explanation of how contextual factors influenced particular choices you made in writing each piece. Also, a brief comparison/contrast of your pieces.

C) Postscript. Answers to questions I will provide about the writing process in general and your writing in particular. Also, questions you would like answered by my comments on your portfolio.

D) Grading criteria. A list of the criteria against which your finished pieces should be evaluated (for example, Does it speak to the audience for which it was intended?). We will establish a general set of criteria as a class, and then you will negotiate specific criteria relevant to the contexts in which you are writing.

E) Finished pieces of writing. You will submit at least fifteen pages of finished, polished expository writing directed at particular audiences which focuses on the humanities in form and content. These finished pages must include at least two separate pieces. Each piece must differ in its context in some significant way. Graphics, photographs, and/or artwork certainly may be submitted with your writing to enhance its presentation, but these will not be evaluated and will not count toward the total of finished pages.

AND: Supplementary materials. Prepare a folder (I'd suggest an expandable one) for use along with your in-class binder (which will hold your notes from workshops, lectures, and discussions). In the folder include drafts (besides the two you turn in with each of the first three essays), photocopies of sources, outside notes, scribbles, etc. I reserve the right to ask to see this folder; it tells me that you are using a process and good evidence. The folder will serve as a "background" record of your research and learning from the beginning of the semester to the end, from rhetorical context analyses through your finished portfolio.

Three rhetorical context analysis essays - 30 points
Three Best American assignments - 30 points
Portfolio - 30 points
Dailies (turned in at end of semester)/Other writing assignments - 10 points
Class participation affects all other items

You are in an upper-level college course, paying to be here, so I have no formal attendance policy. Please note, however, that I do take attendance and that consistent attendance is necessary for understanding concepts, receiving assignments, and participating in group work and discussion. My attendance sheet will be kept on record in the English Department, and should you wish to dispute a grade which is lower than you wish or expect, that sheet will hold evidence of this aspect of your commitment to the course.

Intentional plagiarism (passing off someone else's ideas or writing as your own) is grounds for dismissal from the class and an "F." Unintentional plagiarism (forgetting to cite) will substantially lower your grade on any assignment. MLA format is easy to use. Become familiar with it.