Writing is a Social Act


Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 quarters

Taught by

writing, research, and information systems

You write alone but you always write for others: readers matter. Here, you will keep company with great authors and your peers as you master the rhetorical tools needed to write persuasively, compellingly, and beautifully. We will proceed from Annie Dillard’s advice that if you like sentences, then you can become a writer because you have a place to start—not to mention a passion for what makes writing lively and pleasurable. Storytelling will feature prominently in our common work, especially descriptive practices that move prose toward shape and meaning. In other words, we will learn how to show, rather than just tell, a story.

We will begin with a review of sentence structure focusing on subjects and verbs, clauses and phrases. With the aim of achieving clarity, students will study editing techniques, especially ways to rewrite overly abstract prose. Working with samples of professional writing, students will learn how to use agent-action analysis, how to start and end sentences and paragraphs, and how to coordinate and balance the parts of longer sentences. Rather than focusing on writing rules, we will approach style as the range of choices available in different rhetorical contexts. Students will also revise a piece of their own writing to identify patterns and problems in their craft. After these trial runs, they will begin original composition in a genre, mode, or vein of their choosing.

Readings include three types of texts: those about the practice and theory of rhetoric, from Plato and Aristotle to Stanley Fish and Barbara Tufte; those that exemplify beauty, eloquence and force, from Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy to Darwin and Watson and Crick; and those that fail to persuade, from examples of academic discourse to the ghastly delights of purple prose. Students will search for an author who will teach them how the commitment of close reading fuses with the practice of good writing. Students must reach for the development of aesthetic standards that should inform any piece of writing that’s worth reading and that merits any meaningful critical response.

Our work will be collaborative and social. The class blends lectures, student presentations, workshops, and seminar periods. Students will present their work regularly for critique (generally in small sections), and they will enjoy the difficult work of responding to their peers with concrete suggestions. Students from all disciplines are welcome, especially since effective writing and rhetoric is a fundamental part of a good liberal arts education.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

law, medicine, teaching, science, literary studies and writing.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

No Required Online Learning: No access to web tools required. Any web tools provided are optional for students.


Date Revision
October 31st, 2013 This program will not accept new enrollment winter quarter.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 12


Course Reference Number

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 10136

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.


Enrollment Closed

Course Reference Numbers

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 20134
Jr - Sr (1-16 credits): 20414

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.

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