Writing and Displacement


Spring 2016



Professor Jennifer Sylvor

MW 2:55-4:35

17 Lex, Room 1302

Office: VC 7-290, cubicle O

Office Hours: W 11-12:15 and by appointment

Email: (the best way to reach me)


Course Blog:




This course will be at once a continuation of English 2100’s introduction to college writing, research, and analytical practices AND an exploration of the concept of “displacement” through literature, journalism, photography, film, and our own lived experiences. What happens when we move from the places we are most rooted and most comfortable into places that are new, strange, and unfamiliar? We will be reading, writing, and thinking about “displacement” as both a literal phenomenon AND a metaphoric one.   Our tentative reading list is as follows:


  • Jhumpa Lahiri, “Unaccustomed Earth”
  • Amy Tan, “Mother Tongue”
  • Richard Rodriguez, “Public and Private Language”
  • Z. Packer, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”
  • Junot Diaz, “Drown”
  • Ben Rawlence, City of Thorns (excerpt)
  • Ta Nehisi Coates, Letter to My Son (excerpt)
  • Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (film)
  • Tim O’Brien, “On the Rainy River”
  • Andre Aciman, “Shadow Cities”
  • Victor Turner, “Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites of Passage”
  • Charlie Chaplin, “The Immigrant” (film)



Central to this course is the difficult, yet satisfying and stimulating work of writing. Formal assignments include personal narrative, analytical essays, and a research project on a subject related to our theme. The course will emphasize both the process and the product of essay writing. Every piece of good, successful writing undergoes an evolution and develops over time through reading, questioning, and careful editing. For this reason, you will learn how to develop, organize, draft, and revise your essays through the processes of critical reading, informal writing assignments, in-class workshops, self-analysis, peer review, and individual conferences with me.   While the schedule below includes due dates for your formal essays, expect that you will be working on your writing in and out of class, in an ongoing way, all semester long.


After completing ENG 2150, students should be able to:

  • identify the key ideas and techniques used in a variety of articles, essays, and literary works, and subject these works to logical analysis;
  • undertake writing as a process requiring the outlining of ideas, multiple drafting, and revision of complete essays;
  • create an original and cogent thesis and develop an imaginative argument in unified and coherent paragraphs;
  • observe sentence boundaries, punctuate correctly, vary sentence structures, and employ the conventions of standard English grammar and usage;
  • engage with different genres of writing and comprehend and use appropriate vocabulary in interpreting the material by paying close attention to language and style;
  • identify, analyze, and synthesize multiple sources as support for written arguments;
  • gauge the value of different strategies for argumentation, including the use of counter-arguments;
  • produce researched essays that incorporate sources and that effectively evaluate multiple (and even conflicting) points of view;
  • avoid plagiarism and understand why it is unacceptable, at the same time learning how to appropriately document your research and ideas;
  • imagine the needs of one’s reader when writing in different rhetorical modes and social contexts and take audience and occasion into account when writing.




Course Policies:


Attendance: Regular attendance and active participation are a critical part of this course and will affect your grade for the semester.   In accordance with college rules, anyone with more than 4 absences may be dropped from the course.   Grounds for excused absences are documented cases of illness or family emergency, observance of religious holidays, and attendance at scheduled university sports competitions. Please notify me well in advance if you know that you will be missing a class.   Students are responsible for all work covered in their absence. I recommend sharing contact information with someone else in the class whom you can reach out to should you need to find out what you missed in class. Do not assume that all assignments will be posted on our class blog. Homework assignments will often be communicated in person in class.


Lateness: Coming to class late is disruptive and disrespectful. Three late arrivals will be treated at an unexcused absence.   Arriving more than 15 minutes late will be considered the same as an absence.


Preparedness: It is your responsibility to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings.   Please come to class with your text (or the ability to access it electronically in class.) Additionally, you should come to each class with a pen and paper, prepared to complete in-class writing assignments. On days when we’ve scheduled peer review, you will be asked to bring copies of your work to share with your peers.


Participation: This class cannot succeed without your participation. I hope you will feel comfortable adding your voice to our classroom conversations on a regular basis.   Expect that you will periodically be asked to share your writing with the group and to offer feedback on your classmates’ writing. Keep The Golden Rule in mind and treat your classmates’ work with the same respect and consideration you’d like your own writing to receive.


Technology: I understand that some of you may choose to use laptops or other devices to take notes or to access assigned texts in class. However, let me be clear: there is absolutely no texting, no cell phone usage, and no internet use during class time. If you fail to adhere to this policy, you will be asked to leave the room, and you will be considered absent for that session.


Blog: We will be making ample use of our class blog this semester. In order to be added to our blog (as a contributor), you must have a Baruch email address. Please see me ASAP if you don’t yet have a college email account. I will upload all handouts and assignments to the site. You will find links to our readings on the blog. We will also be using the blog to share and comment on outside sources related to our theme. If you have ideas about how we might make better use of this or other technology, please let me know.


Essays: All written work will either be submitted at the beginning of class on its due date or submitted electronically via (I will be providing separate instructions for using Grades will be reduced at a rate of one half-grade a day for each day an essay is late.   Essays must be typewritten in 12 pt. type and double-spaced.   Informal writing assignments may be handwritten. Late drafts will receive no feedback.


Academic Integrity: Plagiarism and cheating are serious academic offenses and will not be tolerated. Plagiarism means presenting another author’s words or ideas without crediting them to their source. When you include another author’s words in your work, whether from a printed source, from the internet, or from a live presentation, those words must appear in quotation marks and be properly cited. When you include another person’s ideas in your work, you must indicate where you found those ideas, even if you are paraphrasing rather than quoting them. If you have any questions at all about what constitutes plagiarism, please consult me. Any work submitted for this course that has been plagiarized will receive a failing grade and be reported to the dean.


Cheating is also a serious academic offense.   Examples of cheating include, but are not limited to: submitting essays or portions of essays written by other people, including friends and family; collaborating on an assignment without the explicit permission of the instructor; submitting an essay written for one course to another course without the explicit permission of both instructors; submitting work as one’s own that has been purchased or copied from a paper preparation service or website. All work submitted in this course must be entirely your own!


Writing Center: I will always be available to work with you on developing and executing ideas for your essays, reviewing writing mechanics, and revising and refining your work. For additional support, you are encouraged to visit the Baruch College Writing Center in VC 8-185. You can call 646-312-4012 to make an appointment or send an e-mail to




Your grade will be calculated as follows:

Attendance and participation (including homework and in-class writing)     20%

Essay #1 Personal Narrative                                                                          15%

Essay #2 Literary Analysis                                                                           15%

Essay #3 Humans of New York (HONY) Style Project                               15%

Essay #4 Research Based Analytical Essay                                                  20%

Oral Presentation of Research Project                                                            15%




What follows is a tentative schedule for the semester. Expect that we will be modifying the schedule as the semester progresses.

M 2/1              Introductions, Introductory Essay

W 2/3              Amy Tan, “Mother Tongue” and Richard Rodriguez, “Public and Private     Language”


M 2/8              Andre Aciman, “Shadow Cities”, introduction of Personal Narrative Assignment

W 2/10                        Andre Aciman, “Shadow Cities”


M 2/15                        Presidents’ Day – College Closed

W 2/17                        Writers’ Workshop

Su 2/21                       Essay #1 due by 11 p.m. (electronic submission)


M 2/22                        Jhumpa Lahiri, “Unaccustomed Earth”

W 2/24                        Jhumpa Lahiri, “Unaccustomed Earth”

M 2/29                        Junot Diaz, “Drown”

W 3/2                           Junot Diaz, “Drown”


M 3/7                         Tim O’Brien, “On the Rainy River”

W 3/9                         Tim O’Brien, “On the Rainy River”


M 3/14

W 3/16                        Writers’ Workshop

Su 3/20                      Essay #2 due by 11 p.m. (electronic submission)


M 3/21                        Persepolis

W 3/23                        No Class – College follows Friday Schedule


M 3/28                        Persepolis – Discussion

W 3/30                        Humans of New York – refugee series



M 4/4                          Humans of New York , Introduction to Final Project

W 4/6

Su 4/10                      Humans of New York style project due – uploaded by 11 p.m.

M 4/11                        Z.Z. Packer, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

W 4/13                        Z.Z. Packer, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”


M 4/18                        Ta Nehisi Coates, Letter to My Son

W 4/20                        Ta Nehisi Coates, Letter to My Son


M 4/25                        No Class – Spring Break

W 4/27                        No Class – Spring Break


M 5/2                         Ben Rawlence, City of Thorns

W 5/4                         Ben Rawlence, City of Thorns


M 5/9

W 5/11                        Presentations


M 5/16                        Presentations

W 5/18                       Presentations