Writing Assignments

Major Writing Projects

Major Project 1: Literacy Narrative

20% of course grade / 1250-1500 words

This project offers you a chance to reflect on your personal relationship to the theme of imagined futures by telling a story about your literacy practices, specifically in regard to the discourse of future possibilities. Building on the forward-looking questions and concerns of our class, your narrative should pay credence to your literacy in one of the topics bulleted below. I welcome your contributions to this list and encourage you to make additions in the form of a Google Doc, which I will soon share with the group at large.

With your literacy narrative, it’s important to recognize that you must not only illustrate but also interrelated specific times in your life when you’ve engaged with the conventions of your topic, as well as situated yourself in the conversations of its discourse community. For your narrative to be a narrative, that is, you have to acknowledge the progressive means by which literacy grows over time. Such memories should be interlocking and relational, driving the transitional logic of your story in such a way as to converge on the present moment and eventually the imaginative possibilities of your future growth. To that end, your narrative should conclude on a note of possibility, if only to gesture toward the potential ways in which you might imagine yourself learning more about this topic, both at Baruch and beyond.

  • Internet futures (e.g the death of privacy; internet freedom; social media; “fake news” and misinformation; big data; digital selves; online activism)
  • Technological futures (e.g. hyper-automation; artificial intelligence; virtual reality; natural language processing; cybersecurity; robotics; biotechnology)
  • Environmental futures (e.g. global warming activism; green economies; rare and endangered species; biodiversity; renewable energy; overpopulation)
  • Educational futures (e.g. distance learning; educational technology; tuition-free college; public humanities; workforce readiness; interdisciplinary studies)
  • Economic futures (e.g. coronavirus recession; gig economy; universal basic income; globalization/outsourcing; gender wage gap; gentrification; big pharma)
  • Political futures (e.g. political polarization; gun control; geopolitics; democratic socialism; universal healthcare; capital punishment; immigration law; populism)
  • Social-civil futures (e.g. social inequality; systemic racism; intersectionality; social distancing; gender identity; multiculturalism; linguistic diversity)

As you write, ask yourself:

  • What do I know about this topic and how specifically did I accumulate this knowledge over time?
  • How have I engaged in conversations around this topic in the past and when exactly have I situated myself in its discourse community?
  • How do my individual memories of learning about this topic build on one another in meaningful and constructive ways?
  • How might I learn more about this topic and broaden my engagement with its discourse community?
  • In which ways could I begin to imagine new possibilities around this topic and why does its unrealized potential matter to me at all?

Grading criteria

Narrative (30%) Do you tell a compelling story with realistic interactions, sensory description (show not tell), and vivid details that make readers want to keep reading? While you may include reflective writing about the topic for the assignment, do you avoid clichés, generalizations, and vague reflections, and instead focus primarily on one particular moment or example that captures the value of your ongoing literacy in your chosen topic? Do you move between specific memories in ways that are interlocking and relational, and which build on one another so as to reflect the progressive growth of your literacy over? Does your narrative conclude on a note of possibility regarding how you might imagine yourself learning more about this topic? Do you reflect on the imaginative possibilities your future growth by attempting in earnest to push the boundaries of your current working knowledge?

Focus/Analysis (30%): How thematically relevant is your literacy narrative to the problems and concerns of the course? Is there a discernible argument and/or urgency to your narrative? What insight does it offer about the ongoing development of your literacy practices? How effectively do you interweave reflective and analytical thought into the narrative growth of your literacy in the topic? Do you use concepts and key terms from the course text about literacy, literacy practices,  conventions, discourse, and discourse communities to provide an analytical component to your piece?

Organization (20%): How clearly and intelligibly do you organize the narrative progression of your paper? Is the organizational logic of your paper both coherent and readable? Does your paper maintain consistent transitional logic between and among each individual paragraph?

Style, Grammar, and Editing (10%): How precisely have you edited and proofread so that no grammatical or spelling errors detract from the narrative and your credibility as a writer? Does the syntax and diction of your prose clearly convey the subject matter and reinforce the topical focus of your paper?


Major Project 2: Rhetorical Analysis

25% of course grade / 1600-1900 words

In your second major project for the term, you will rhetorically analyze two self-chosen texts related to the topic of your literacy narrative and/or your second blog post. Ranging from our course texts to TED and NPR to the NYT and the WSJ, it’s up to you where you locate these texts so long as they’re focused on the possible futures of associated topics.

Your first goal for this paper will be to analyze the rhetorical situations of your two texts, which includes identifying and unpacking their audiencesexigences, and constraints. You’ll then present an argument about how each of your texts employs genre conventions to effect change in the audience of its rhetorical situation. You might decide to contrast how two texts of the same genre address your topic under different pretenses, or instead you may wish to compare how two texts from separate genres approach your topic in complementary ways: the choice is yours. In either case, your goal will be take up a position about the rhetorical discourse of these texts in regard to the possible futures of the topic(s) at hand.

Before you’re cleared to submit this project, I ask that you submit a 250-word cover letter in which you explain the main ideas of your paper, submit a working hypothesis for your paper, and disclose your self-chosen texts via an attached document or link. Soon after, I will respond to your cover letter with suggestions and feedback for moving forward with your writing process.

Project checklist

  • Submit a 250-word cover letter in which you explain the main ideas of your paper, submit a working hypothesis for your paper, and disclose your self-chosen texts via an attached document or link
  • Analyze the rhetorical situation of each text; identify and unpack the audienceexigence, and constraints of each text
  • Present an argument about how each text employs genre conventions to effect change in the audience of its rhetorical situation
  • Take up a position about the rhetorical discourse of these texts in regard to the possible futures of the topic(s) at hand

Suggested pairings

Any combination of two:

Any combination of two:

Any combination of two:

Any combination of two:

Grading criteria

Thesis/Focus (40%): How clearly have you informed your readers about the various rhetorical aspects of the two texts (e.g. rhetorical situation, audience, purpose/exigence, constraints, stylistic language, metaphors, tropes)? How effectively have you asserted analytical conclusions about the similarities and differences between these two texts and the significance of their rhetorical discourse? Have you creatively and cogently framed your argument within the context of our course themes?

Evidence/Support (30%): How thoroughly do you support your analysis with specific textual evidence from the two texts? How efficiently do you integrate direct quotes and paraphrased content from the texts without “padding” your paper? How meaningfully do you synthesize analytical positions based on the textual evidence highlighted over the course of your paper?

Organization (20%): How clearly and intelligibly do you organize the paper? Is the organizational structure of your paper both coherent and readable? Does your paper maintain consistent transitional logic between and among each individual paragraph? Does each body paragraph contain a topic sentence that serves as an illustrative road map for the reader moving forward?

Style, Grammar, and Editing (10%): How precisely have you edited and proofread so that no grammatical or spelling errors detract from the message and your credibility as a writer? Does the syntax and diction of your prose effectively convey the subject matter and analytical orientations of your argument?


Major Project 3: Researched Argument

30% of course grade / 2300-2600 words

Your final project of the term asks you to learn more about a topic related to the course theme or that arises for you from the course readings. You’ll investigate the topic, form a guiding question for your research, and attempt to answer the question, using course texts and sources outside the course. You’ll integrate these sources into your own writing, ultimately coming to a (perhaps tentative) conclusion or claim (thesis) from your research and learning.

Additional parameters and rubric for this assignment will decided upon by the class as a whole in Week 10, toward the end of October.


Writing Exercises

Group Annotations

The practice of active reading, or writing as you read, is essential to your growth as a writer. We will tap into this skill with the use of the social reading application, Hypothesis, which not only will help you to organize your thoughts in preparation for class discussion but will also make visible the comments of your peers across each of our themed class texts.

See here is a link to join our Hypothesis group: https://hypothes.is/groups/7AD9jqLR/eng2100-writing-1-f20

Across many of the texts we will be annotating as a group this semester, you’ll notice that I’ve left a series of in-text comments and prompts to help facilitate your active reading skills, while also guiding your ongoing approach to in-text analysis. Below is one such example:

Here’s a number of helpful links that will support you during the annotation process:

If you’re still experiencing technical troubles after reviewing this page, as well as the above links, please reach out out to me via email at zachary.muhlbauer@baruch.cuny.edu or drop a message in our #tech channel on Discord.


Blog Posts

15% of course grade / 250-300 words per post

There’s a lot to be learned from writing in ways that are at once self-reflective and public-facing, introspective and outward-looking. With this is mind, I’ll be asking you to compose five blog posts over the course of this semester. These “low-stakes” writing exercises are meant to offer a metacognitive space for you to hash out the writing process and organize your thoughts in preparation for our three major writing projects. When writing your posts,  make sure to follow the prompts below and to publish your finished products on our Blogs page, which in turn will require you to follow the steps linked here.

Prompts

Blog Post I

Pause to imagine that your professor one year from now asks you to reflect on your recent growth as a writer, as well as to establish a list of writing goals for yourself moving forward. How do you think your future response to this prompt might differ from your response to the same prompt from our first day of class? In which ways do you envision your writing priorities changing between now and then? How do you anticipate your skill set as a college writer to develop in the meantime?

Blog Post II

Describe an instance in which you participated in the discourse community of the topic you plan to discuss for Major Project 1: Literacy Narrative. Do you consider yourself a member of that discourse community? Why or why not? How has your literacy in the discourse of that topic developed since this experience? How will your description of this experience factor into the broader arc or progression of your literacy narrative?

Blog Post III

To prep for Major Project 2: Rhetorical Analysis, investigate how one of our course texts employs genre convention to persuade its intended audience of a message or argument. Does your text make use of figurative, descriptive, or stylistic language? Any metaphors, tropes, or narrative devices? What about images, graphics, or visualizations? If so, then to what end? How would you identify the audience of this text and why? How do these genre conventions work to effectively convey the text’s message or argument to its intended audience?

Plog Post IV

Coming soon to the socially distanced theater near you.

Blog Post V

Coming soon to the socially distanced theater near you.