Intermediate Composition - EPW 210sb

Fall 2006

Mondays, 6:00-8:50 pm

HL 211 (Smart Classroom)

Dr. Kristi Siegel                                        

Associate Professor and Chair,

English Department and Language, Literature, and Communication Division

(414) 258-4810, #287

Office: Fidelis Hall, Rm 228

Office hours: Mondays, 3:00 - 4:00 pm, 5:00 - 5:50 pm, and by appointment

e-mail -




The writer knows her field—what has been done, what could be done, the limits--the way a tennis player knows the court. And like that expert, she, too, plays the edges. That is where the exhilaration is. She hits up the line. In writing, she can push the edges. Beyond this limit, here, the reader must recoil. Reason balks, poetry snaps; some madness enters, or strain. Now, coura­geously and carefully, can she enlarge it, can she nudge the bounds? And enclose what wild power?

                               --Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


Required Texts:

Barnet, Sylvan and Marcia Stubbs, eds. Practical Guide to Writing. 8th Edition.   

Other Materials:

  • Grammar Handbook (HIGHLY recommended); look for one that is thorough, tabbed, spiral bound, and contains detailed information on MLA and APA documentation.
  • Writing journal (for your purposes; journals will not be collected)
  • Dictionary and thesaurus
  • Folder or 3-ring binder to keep handouts

Course Description:

Intermediate Composition is designed for those who have some idea how to write, but want to learn how to write.  Knowing how to write well—versus merely writing competently—gives you immense power and influence. A famous expression (paraphrased) stated that to gain control of a country you should first kill the poets. The point is, of course, if you can write well your options are limited only by your imagination.

 Although innate talent always helps, writing is a skill. As in any other acquired skill, writers learn to write by developing their skills chunk by chunk, a Lego block at a time. We will do the same. A good portion of our class time will be devoted to analyzing prose and doing workshops on various elements of writing: e.g., using effective style, developing a writing voice, creating effective sentences, learning how to pace material, incorporating secondary material optimally, and so forth.

 The best way to approach writing is to remember this thought:  Writing should be written by the living for the living.  


  • to demonstrate, through your written work, the ability to maintain a distinctive writing "voice";
  • to demonstrate, through your written work, improvement in your sentence structure, word choice, sentence variety, pacing, etc. In other words, to demonstrate your ability to improve your writing style;
  • to demonstrate, in class assignments, workshops, and formal essays, your ability to break down writing into manageable skills that may be practiced;
  • to incorporate literary theories such as feminism, archetypal criticism or formalism into a literary analysis;
  • to use literary terminology, correctly and appropriately;
  • to demonstrate the ability to construct a reasoned, logical, and persuasive argument;
  • to demonstrate the ability to identify recurring errors, correct those errors, and effectively edit and revise your writing;
  • to demonstrate, through your oral presentation and class participation, your ability to communicate clearly and engagingly;
  • to demonstrate, through peer review workshops and the assignment learning record essays, your ability to edit your own work and that of others.

Grammar and Mechanics:

Grammar and punctuation: While intermediate composition presumes knowledge of grammar, we will review language skills as necessary during the semester.  Language mechanics will not be a major focus of the course.  If you have difficulties in one or more areas of usage, please take advantage of the computer language skills resources as well as purchasing a good language handbook or basic text in grammar.  


Assignments: There will be several shorter skill-based exercises assigned throughout the semester, and I consider these practice exercises as important as many of the final papers you’ll produce. You’ll also be presenting one short (and fairly informal) oral presentation, as this form of communication is as important as your written skills. Topics will be announced. There will be three papers assigned. Each of these papers will be revised, and the grade on revised papers will be weighed more heavily . Ideally, I like you all to be developing the skill and confidence to know when a paper is good.   

Reading Assignments: Throughout the semester, you will be given assigned readings. The readings give us a chance to look at excellent writing in detail, are used as the basis for several journal assignments and to provoke discussions that help generate ideas for your own writing. Since our limited class time prevents us from discussing all the essays, you should view the essays as a resource guide providing expert examples of various writing strategies.  

Formal Essays:

 Paper no. 1................. Memoir/personal narrative - due Sep 18

 Paper no. 2................. Memoir/personal narrative (Revised) - due Oct 2

 Paper no. 3................. Analysis/Persuasion/Critique of Culture or Advertising - due Oct 9

 Paper no. 4................. Persuasive Essay (Revised) - due Oct 30

 Paper no. 5................. Researched Essay on a work of literature - due Nov 13

 Paper no. 6................. Literary Analysis (Revised) - Nov 27

Group Work:

Throughout the semester, you will be working in a writing group. Ideally, your writing group will let you know when your writing is communicating. Your job as a writing group commenter is to tell the reader when her writing is clear and when it is lapsing into “Engfish.” Your group will be valuable to your writing only to the degree that each group member is honest, sensitive, and attentive. For your writing group to be effective, you are also required to be present and have your work ready to be critiqued.


Rubric for Intermediate Composition Essays - Grading Criteria* 

95-100: AExcellent writing: minimal number of minor errors in grammar or style, with a standard use of language and punctuation; sentence structure is logical and rhetorically effective with superior use of transitions between sentences and paragraphs; paragraphs are unified, developed, and effectively placed within the paper’s context. The essay surpasses the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, a substantial use of references for the level of research required in class will be present.

91-94: AB; 87-89: B – Above average writing: competent writing with some errors in grammar or style that affect comprehension; sentence structure is logical and rhetorically effective with some transitions between sentences and paragraphs; paragraphs are generally unified and developed but may lack the maturity found in an “A” quality essay. The essay exceeds the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, an above average use of references for the level of research required in class will be present.

83-86: BC; 79-82: C – Average writing: acceptable writing with assorted errors, some serious, in grammar or style that affects comprehension; sentence structure is adequate but lacking in thematic focus and specificity; paragraphs have some problems with focus, unity, and development with minimal or no presence of transitions. There are some problems in mechanics of punctuation, spelling, and grammar that hamper effective communication. The essay fulfills the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, there will be an adequate use and number of references for the level of research required in class.
75-78: CD; 70-74: D – Below average writing: generally inadequate writing that displays several severe errors that dramatically affect comprehension; sentence structure is often substandard with underdeveloped or undeveloped focus; paragraphs lack transitions and logical placement within the essay. There are a significant number of mechanical problems of punctuation, spelling, and grammar that undermine the effectiveness of the essay. The essay inadequately fulfills the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, there is an inadequate number of references for the level of research required in class.
Below 70: F – Unacceptable writing; there are several major errors that reflect inadequate writing for comprehension; sentence structure is generally substandard with no focus or thesis concern; paragraphs lack transitions, development, and all logical placement within the essay. The mechanical numbers are excessive for college-level writing and reflect a failure to grasp English fundamentals. The essay fails to fulfill the minimum features of the essay assignment. When research is required for the essay, there is an insufficient number of references for the level of research required in class.

*Source: Dr. Ray Wheeler, Dickinson State U, North Dakota .

Grade Breakdown:

  • 30% - Midterm, workshops, group work, short assignments, and participation

  • 15% - Grade on Initial Papers

  • 30% - Grades on Revised Papers

  • 10% - Grade on Oral Presentation

  • 15% - Final Portfolio  

Course Policies:

Attendance: Attendance is expected. More than two absences may result in a “no-credit” for the course. If you absolutely cannot make it to class, please e-mail or call to explain. It is your responsibility to make up any work missed and to meet with me if necessary.

Late Work: Late assignments will not be accepted. If--under rare circumstances a late paper is accepted, it's likely to be subject to a lower grade.

Academic Honesty and Integrity: In keeping with the values of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Mount Mary mission, the College is an academic community dedicated to the intellectual, social and ethical development of each of its members. In keeping with these goals, all students are expected to strive for integrity in both academic and non-academic pursuits. Acts that involve any attempt to deceive, to present another's ideas as one's own, or to enhance one's grade through dishonest means violate the integrity of both the student and the College. A faculty member has the right and authority to deal with such violations the first time they may occur with a given student; however, a a student who commits multiple violations against academic integrity shall be be subject to administrative disciplinary action, which may include suspension or dismissal from the College.

ADA Statement: Mount Mary College complies with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Acts of 1973, which stipulates that the College will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. If you have a disability that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations please see the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs or Marci Ocker, Coordinator of Disability Services (NDH 153) so that such accommodations may be accepted.


Date Activities Assignments
Aug 28
Week One
Introduction to course; introduction to each other. Data sheets
Vocabulary assessment.
Online grammar assessment.
Learning Record Impromptu:
  • How do you write?
  • What do writers do?
  • What pre-writing techniques do you use?
  • How do you handle writer's block?
  • What constitutes excellent writing?

Sending and receiving e-mail attachments.
Essay no. 1 (Memoir/Literary Nonfiction) distributed and explained.
Discussion of fact and fiction; autobiography and memory; memoir vs. autobiography.

Complete typed rough draft of Essay no. 1 for next class (Sep 11).
Read: "The Peckerwood Dentist" (handout) and "Graduation" (pp. 483-490) by Maya Angelou and "No Name Woman" (handout) by Maxine Hong Kingston. "Graduation" is a straight personal narrative; the other two writings are memoirs. What's the difference between "Graduation" and the other two essays? Be prepared to discuss the essay on September 11.
Read: Chapters 1 (Discovering Ideas) & 10 (Describing) in PGW - be prepared to discuss the chapters.
Read "Engfish," "Developing a Thesis" and "Using Effective Description" (from my website)
Sep 4
Week Two
Labor Day Holiday - no class  
Sep 11
Week Three
Discussion of Assessments.
Discussion of Learning Record philosophy.
Discussion of Engfish
Video on Writing groups
Groups assigned - writing groups on Essay no. 1
Workshop on description - discussion of filler and "under" writing"
"Glossing" for coherency
Mini-workshop on grammar as needed.



Essay no. 1 due, typed, without fail, on Sep 18 at the beginning of class. All assignments are submitted by hard copy AND by e-mail attachment to
Read: "Sample Narrative," "Pre-Writing Techniques," "Pacing," "Using a Hook," and "Varying Sentence Length" (from my website)
Read: "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell, pp. 538-543
Read: Chapters 2 (Drafting and Revising) and 3 (Shaping Paragraphs) - be prepared to discuss these chapters.
Locate an advertisement that you could critique briefly or find an example of a cultural critique (these critiques are everywhere, from Dave Barry's funny columns to editorials). Philip Roth's essay, "Reflections on the Death of Library" is an example of a cultural critique. Roth analyzes the past and present of Newark's library system, and offers a persuasive critique to demonstrate why the libraries should be kept open.
Sep 18
Week Four
Collect Paper no. 1 (Memoir) - Task analysis
Discussion of web link readings and Orwell essay.
Sample Word Root presentation - sign up sheet for Word Root presentations (in pairs)
Paper no. 2: Cultural Critique of Advertisement of Aspect of Culture - Analysis/Persuasion assigned.
Discussion of paper no. 2.
Listen to "The Endless Autumn"; take notes on what points Nicolaus Mills is making (what is his analysis? what is he critiquing? how would you describe his tone? do you agree with him?). Class discussion on essay.
Discussion on essays and ads you were assigned to bring in.
Freewriting and topic building on essay no. 2
Workshop on transitions.
Mini-workshop on grammar as needed.
Rough draft (typed) of Paper no. 2 due next class (Sep 25).

Read: "The World of Wrestling" by Roland Barthes (online); "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift, pp. 559-565. Be prepared to discuss essays.

Read: Chapter 4, "Revising Sentences for Conciseness" (read this chapter carefully! It's important.) 

Read: "Eliminating Clichés," "Developing a Convincing Argument" and "Backing Up Assertions" (from my website)

Sep 25
Week Five
Paper no. 1 (Memoir) returned - Revision due Oct 2.
Word root presentation.
Discussion of Barthes and Swift essays.
Writing groups on Cultural Critique essays.
Workshop on writing concise sentences.
Discussion of advertising techniques and basic strategies of argumentation.
Group analyses of American Tobacco Company ad.
Revision of Personal Essay due next class - Oct 2

Read: Chapter 12, "Persuading"

Read: "Using Quotations" (from my website)

Read: Ad analysis (handout), and "Why We Crave Horror Movies" by Stephen King, pp. 526-528

Oct 2
Week Six
Revised Memoir (Paper no. 1) collected.
Discussion of Chapter 12 (Persuading), ad analysis, and King's essay.
Word root presentation.
Writing groups on Cultural Critique
Paper no. 2 (Cultural Critique) due next class - Oct 9.

Read: Chapter 5, "Revising Sentences for Clarity" and Chapter 6, "Revising Sentences for Emphasis"

Oct 9
Week Seven
Revised Paper no. 1 returned and discussed
Paper no. 2 (Cultural Critique) collected - Task analysis
Workshop on revising sentences for clarity and emphasis
Word root presentation.
Take-home Midterm distributed and explained
Complete Take-Home Midterm (Stylistic Analysis and Learning Record Essay). Your midterm is due, typed, next class - Oct. 16.
Oct 16
Week Eight
Paper no. 2 (Cultural Critique) returned - revision due Oct 30
Midterm Take-Home Exam and Summary Assignment collected.
Word root presentation
Paper no. 3 assigned - Researched Literary Analysis
Readings for literary analysis:
**Poetry: "Immigrants" by Pat Mora, p. 419-420; "The Mother" by Gwendolyn Brooks (handout); "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop (handout); "The Letter" by Amy Lowell (handout)
**Short Stories: "The Cat in the Rain" by Ernest Hemingway, p. 407-410; "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid, p. 410-412; "If You Touched my Heart" by Isabel Allende, p. 412-417, "The Blank Page" by Isak Dinesan (handout)
Read:  Chapter 17, "Writing about Literature"

Read: the poems and short stories that may be used as the basis for your Literary Analysis. Be prepared to discuss the literature in class on Oct 23. 

Read: Narrative and Poetry literary terms (from my website)

Oct 23 
Week Nine
Midterms returned and discussed.
Chapter 17 discussed.
Word root presentation
Small group discussions on literature
Introduction to literary criticism: feminism, archetypal criticism, and new criticism (formalism) - handouts and lecture.
Literary terms discussed (or, perhaps, a pop quiz!)
Topic building on Paper no. 3
Revised Cultural Critique due next class - Oct 30

Rough draft of researched literary analysis due next class - Oct 30. Sign up sheet for individual conferences for Oct 30.

Read: "Introduction to Modern Literary Theory" (from my website; click on the supplementary links for additional information.

Oct 30
Week Ten
Revised Cultural Critiques collected.
Individual conferences - held in Fidelis 228
Typed draft of research literary analysis due next class - Nov 6
Nov 6
Week Eleven
Revised Cultural Critiques returned and discussed.
Word root presentation
Discussion of literary theories
Writing groups on Paper no. 3 - Literary Analysis
Work in library, if time
Researched Literary Analysis due next class - Nov 13

Read: Sample student literary analysis (handout)

Nov 13
Week Twelve
Researched Literary Analysis collected - Task Analysis

Handout on final portfolio
Word root presentation

Read: Chapter 16, "The Research Essay"
Nov 20
Week Thirteen
Literary Analysis papers returned and discussed. Revisions due Nov 27
Discuss Chapter 16
In-class work on literary analysis revisions
Word root presentation

Workshop - TBA

Work on Researched Literary Analysis revision due next class - Nov 27

Nov 27
Week Fourteen
Literary Analysis revisions collected
Writing groups on literary analyses
Word root presentation
Grammar quiz - editing
In-class work on final portfolios
Work on final portfolio - due Dec 11
Dec 4
Week Fifteen
Revised literary analysis papers returned and discussed.
In-class work on final portfolios
Complete final portfolio - due next date exam week - Dec. 11
Dec 11
Exam Week
Portfolios collected Meet in HL 211 at regular time