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Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition: Introductory Program

General Principles of the Introductory Curriculum

The introductory curriculum is based on ongoing research in writing studies, composition and rhetoric.  It starts from the assumption that the forms texts assume are related to the functions they serve and the environments within which they circulate and have consequence. Genres are shaped by social and material processes that are negotiated by writers with regard to their understanding of contexts and purposes.  Composing is therefore always attuned to situations, and sophisticated writing requires sophisticated cultural understanding: there are no universal modes of writing that can be mechanically transferred from one situation to the next.  So when we talk about “academic writing” it is not in terms of a specific textual form or forms, all-purpose hermeneutics, or a singular set of conventions.  Academic composing requires an adaptive stance toward language, genre, tools and disciplinary cultures, and it potentially encompasses a broad range of textual forms, methods, conventions and specialized vocabularies. 

Some additional assumptions:

  • The development of writers is varied, recursive and individualized, not subject to regular and distinct stages. Students enter the university on their own literate trajectories, having communicated and written in a variety of school and non-school settings. Regardless of their development when they enter the university, students will continue their trajectories throughout their lives in education and beyond, building on prior experiences and understandings.
  • Linguistic and rhetorical norms are continually emergent in different contexts, and students should learn to be agile with language in professionally and culturally diverse communities.
  • Our writing program recognizes the legitimacy and richness of linguistic diversity.  Many students enter the university with the ability to communicate not only in many settings, but in different languages and dialects. Lack of fluency in “Standard American English” should not overshadow the other rhetorical and linguistic competencies that students bring to our classrooms. Language competencies are not at war with each other. We do not need to extinguish or subordinate one dialect or language in order to become adept at another. 
  • Writing is a complex activity that is inextricably tied to power, identity, ideologies and agency.  It is also tied to relationships among the people, things and happenings that make up the dynamic environments of composition and circulation.  The study of writing is therefore also the study of cultures and places. 
  • Quality teaching happens in ongoing relationship with research in writing education. 

General Introduction

Course Descriptions and Learning Outcomes