Syllabus - timothy r dougherty

WRT 205: critical re se arch & inquiry
Syracuse University -- Spring 2012
T-TH 2:00-3:20 pm
Shaw 029H
Section #293
Tim Dougherty
HBC 006
[email protected]
Office Hours: Th 3:30-4:30 PM
c o urs e d e s c rip tio n : e xp lo rin g la n g ua g e p o litic s
“Writing is not an activity that features social
responsibility as an option. Writing is social
responsibility. When you write, you are being
responsible to some social entity even if that
entity is yourself. You can be irresponsible as
a writer, but you cannot be non-responsible.”
~Keith Gilyard, Letʼs Flip the Script, 19961
Words. Palabras. Sometimes we want to believe theyʼre harmless. Remember “sticks and
stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? Sure. Weʼve all said it. But, if
words are so benign, why did my Mom wash my mouth out with soap when I was five?
Why did some British dude get famous for plagiarizing some ancient Greek dude with the
classic line, “The pen is mightier than the sword”? Which is it? Is language a powerful,
deadly weapon? Or just a harmless tool, a mere social technology?
These questions make no sense in the abstract. They require attention to context:
language-in-use, by certain people, in certain places, in a certain moment, in a certain
medium, aimed at certain other people for a certain purpose. These factors make up
what language theorists have called the “rhetorical situation” or the “rhetorical ecology.”
And, though we may not often think consciously about the complex rhetorical ecologies
surrounding our language use, we often adjust to them quite naturally: who among us
would tell the same story the same exact way to audiences as diverse as their best friends,
their prim grandmother, the cops, their RA, or their boring writing professor? Weʼre always
exercising rhetorical decision-making in our daily life. And the more adept we are at
adapting to a given rhetorical ecology, the more likely our message will be successful, the
more likely weʼll gain the credibility to transform the situation we find ourselves in. And, as
Dr. Gilyard reminds us in the quotation at the top of this syllabus, we cannot divest
ourselves of responsibility in our language use. We can only decide whom we will be
responsible to and to write/speak/make/text accordingly.
But these interwoven factors lead us to further tensions. For instance, who decides what
language is appropriate, for whom, in what place, and in what moment? And what happens
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when there are competing definitions of appropriate language happening in the same place
at the same time? Viewed this way, it doesnʼt take long to see that language use—in
speech, in writing, and in countless other digital contexts—has deep political connotations,
that it is shaped by and helps to shape our identities, and that struggles over whatʼs
appropriate are always tied to struggles over power.
According to the MIT Indigenous Language Initiative2, there are currently 6000 languages
spoken in the world. And 165 of those are indigenous languages that pre-existed European
tongues right here on this continent. To make this even more local, the very name of the
land weʼre learning on right now is contested: Syracuse, NY or Onondaga Territory in the
Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Yet, in the midst of all this language diversity, a mere 600
of these 6000 languages are expected to survive through this century. What, if anything, is
being lost as the world hurtles towards such rapid language homogenization? Who
decides, and on what basis, which languages are worthy of preservation? What role does
our education system play in language standardization and/or language preservation?
How, both historically and currently, might language policy and everyday usage participate
in or resist projects of colonization, of racial or gender or sexual oppression?
“Accoridng to reseacrh at an Engilsh Univeristy, it does'nt matetr in waht odrer the lettres in a wrod
are, the olny imoprtant thnig is taht the frist and lsat lteters be in the rihgt palces. The rset can be a
ttoal mses and you can stlil raed it wihtout prolbem. Tihs is becasue the hmuan mnid deos not raed
evrey lteter by istelf, but the wrod as a whloe.”3
In all likelihood, you had little trouble comprehending that quotation, despite the fact that
nearly every word was misspelled. If such blatant mistakes donʼt necessarily restrict
comprehension, why is writing and literacy instruction so often intent on pinpointing and
correcting “mistakes”? What rhetorical, political, ethical, or social purposes
are served by a focus on mechanical correctness and fixing surface
mistakes? What might this educational focus say about the current
priorities in our schooling system? Put more broadly, is a grammatically
flawless piece of writing necessarily “good” writing? Is a grammatically
deviant piece of writing necessarily “bad?” Who decides? How? Perhaps
we, as writers, must:
“say some thing, one thing, or no thing; tie/untie, read/unread, discard their forms;
scrutinize the grammatical habits of your writing and decide for yourself whether
they free or repress. Again, order(s). Shake syntax, smash the myths, and if you
lose, slide one, unearth some new linguistic paths. Do you surprise? Do you
shock? Do you have a choice?” ~Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other, 19894
2 3‐misspell‐words‐to‐avoid‐detection/
4 Image found at:‐ridiculous‐misspelled‐tea‐party‐protest‐signs‐
gallery‐1.1918 dougherty | 205 syllabus | Spring 2012
These fundamental questions of language diversity and language correctness are only the
tip of proverbial iceberg. They will provide one of many possible avenues for our shared
inquiry into language politics this semester, and it will be up to us to chart a shared course
based on the personal interests, commitments, and investments that we all bring to the
classroom. Since language politics form the background for myriad social issues, the
possibilities for your own research are nearly endless. Here are a few quick examples:
• a qualitative study of the gendered approaches to writing in the Syracuse student
• an investigation into some aspect of the racial politics in US literacy education;
• an investigation into some aspect of English Language Learning in US higher
• a tracing of the implications of the proliferation of global Englishes across borders;
• a rhetorical investigation of the ways language policing is used to silence dissenting
opinions in online forums;
• a research project on an aspect of the Plain Language Movement or the English
Only Movement;
• an investigation of the different rhetorical strategies in mainstream vs. conscious hip
• an historical tracing of the evolution of a forbidden or “dirty” word;
• an investigation into the language practices of a particular counter-public: feminist
blogs, indie music blogs, fanzines, political subcultures, etc.;
• an analysis of the manipulation of language for political or commercial messaging;
• an analysis of bureaucratic jargon as a particular form of insidious social action;
• an investigation into how texting and twitter are changing what it means to be
“literate” in the 21st century.
• an analysis into some aspect of intellectual property rights controveries in the age of
SOPA and digital reproduction (music piracy, free internet libraries, etc.);
• The list could go on! The linguistic sky is, figuratively, the limit!
If your head is spinning a bit, thatʼs a good thing. If you donʼt see something above that
immediately grabs you, worry not! Weʼll take portions of nearly every class in the first
couple weeks to explore concrete moments of language politics in everyday life that should
serve to get your own ideas going.
course traje ctory
Weʼll start with four shared texts that will introduce us to some basic theoretical, historical,
and methodological approaches to the links between language and identity. With this
shared context, youʼll then develop your own researchable question about a
pressing issue in language politics. Over the course of 4 units, weʼll:
• Familiarize ourselves with the conversation through close reading, careful research,
and practice in crafting critical summaries of other peopleʼs work (Units 1 & 2);
• Combine primary research techniques with a thorough conversation amongst your
chosen source to put forth a nuanced, argumentative synthesis essay (Unit 3);
dougherty | 205 syllabus | Spring 2012
Practice translating your expertise into different digital media of your choice in order
to effectively communicate your research to a new audience (Unit 4).
Unit 1: Flashpoints Portfolio (20%)
We will write four critical summaries of shared readings from the unit plus one outside
source of your own choosing. We will work our way toward a researchable question framed
by the course inquiry into language politics. In essence, we will “enter the conversation”
through readings and class discussions, and learn to engage texts with greater agency
and confidence.
Revised portfolio of flashpoint summaries for the shared readings + your chosen reading is
due on Thursday, February 9th, 2012.
Readings (in chronological order):
Harris, Joseph. “Coming to Terms.” Rewriting: How to do Things with Texts. Utah State
Press, 2006.
Radiolab. “Words.” Season 8, Episode 2. August 9, 2010.
Smitherman, Geneva. “African-American English: From the Hood to the Amen Corner.”
Transcript from a lecture given at University of Minnesota, 1996.
Kumar, Amitava. “Language.” Passport Photos. Berkeley, CA: U Cal Press. 2000.
Lyons, Scott. “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What do American Indians Want from Writing?”
CCC 51.3 (2000): 447-468.
Unit 2: Source Analysis Essay (30%)
You will develop and narrow a researchable and writeable question specific to the course
inquiry, and the research question must allow for primary research of some sort (donʼt
worry: weʼll get to this!). You will conduct secondary research related to your
question/topic, and you will engage more deeply with databases (specifically locating and
evaluating sources for your project). After reading/skimming lots of potential articles, you
will decide which three secondary sources are most relevant to or most important for your
own synthesis essay, and youʼll write a rhetorical précis for each source (10% of the Unit
grade). You will then write a 6-page essay in which you analyze your chosen sources.
Final Source Analysis Essay is due on Thursday, March 8, 2012.
Readings in this unit will largely be chosen by you, in consultation with me, based on your
individual inquiry.
Unit 3: Research Synthesis Essay (30%)
Building off of Unit 2ʼs research, you will write an 8 page synthesis essay, directed
toward a specific audience, and drawing on no more than three secondary sources
dougherty | 205 syllabus | Spring 2012
and primary research. You will continue to practice interpreting and positioning your
secondary sources, as well as learn to work with primary research as evidence; you will
also deepen your understanding of the rhetorical features of argument.
Final Synthesis Essay is due on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.
Self-selected essays and primary source material.
Harris, Joseph. “Forwarding.” Rewriting: How to do Things with Texts. Utah State Press,
--------, ---------. “Countering.” Rewriting: How to do Things with Texts. Utah State Press,
Unit 4: Translation (20%)
As a fantastically fun capstone to this course, you will translate your fantastic work from
Units 2&3 into a visual presentation or “trailer” using some form of technology (power
point, pecha kucha, prezi, etc). You will learn about visual rhetoric (specifically
arrangement and delivery), you will continue to research appropriate and relevant sources,
and you will compose a final reflection in which you analyze and otherwise account for
your rhetorical choices in the presentation.
Final Translation Project is due on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012.
Self-selected sources used to help you “translate” your research.
Harris, Joseph. “Revising.” Rewriting: How to do Things with Texts. Utah State Press,
WRT 205 le arning outcome s
1. investigate a topic of inquiry and engage the
complexities (social, political, ideological,
economic, historical) of and current debates
about that topic.
3. read and evaluate sources rhetorically,
considering authors' positions in relation to
audiences, recognizing points of connection
and difference among texts, and establishing a
critical dialogue with others' ideas. critically examine how digital media shape all
stages of the research and writing process-invention, composing, revision, delivery--and
consider how the effects of digital media vary
according to audience, genre, context, and
purpose. 2. read and evaluate sources rhetorically,
considering authors' positions in relation to
audiences, recognizing points of connection
and difference among texts, and establishing a
critical dialogue with others' ideas. 4. understand the role of genres, styles, and
technologies in communicating with particular
audiences and for specific purposes.
6. engage in informal writing as part of their
composing processes and produce at least two
to three sustained, finished texts that respond
to specific rhetorical situations.
dougherty | 205 syllabus | Spring 2012
8. practice the strategies of incorporating the
7. practice and produce analysis, argument,
synthesis, and summary as central
components of researched writing.
9. produce texts that demonstrate a nuanced
understanding of and an ethical relationship
with source texts and research participants. 11. edit for organization, prose style, and technical
control as they produce finished texts research of others into their own texts in a
variety of ways (including summary,
paraphrase, quotation) and provide textual
evidence of where, how, and why sources are
being used. 10. develop revision strategies that reflect an
understanding of audience and rhetorical
situation. course te xts and mate rials Harris, Joseph.
Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts.
Wysocki, Anne & Dennis Lynch
The DK Handbook
Various Authors
.pdfs on Blackboard
(Texts are available at both the University Bookstore and Follettʼs Orange Bookstore.)
You should also be prepared to provide copies of your work for everyone in the class (or in your
peer response group) at various times during the semester. These can be xerox copies (CNY
Printing and Copy Services in Marshall Square Mall, Alteracts, and the library offer low cost, selfservice copying) or additional copies printed out from your computer. Plan on spending as much
as $10 over the course of the semester.
fe e d b a c k
You will receive many different kinds of feedback during this course. Some will come from
fellow students and some will come from me. Both are important; they tell you in various
ways how your readers are responding to your writing. This feedback will also help you
learn how to assess your own work.
In general, you will only receive copious written feedback from me on your final essays.
Other work you turn in to blackboard will count towards your participation grade.
g ra d in g
Grading in this course is as follows:
A: excellent work that abundantly meets assignment expectations
B: good work that meets expectations
C: satisfactory work that generally satisfies the assignment but with common and
significant problems
D: unsatisfactory work that exhibits very significant problems
F: failing work that does not meet university-level requirements
Pluses (+) and minuses (-) allow for more grading precision and will be used in this course.
Final Grades are based on a traditional letter grade scale:
dougherty | 205 syllabus | Spring 2012
A 95-100
A- 90-94
B+ 87-89
B 84-86
B- 80-83
C+ 77-79
C 74-77
C- 70-73
D 60-69
The point breakdown is as follows:
Unit 1: Flashpoints Portfolio
Unit 2: Source analysis essay
Unit 3: Research Synthesis Essay
Unit 4: Translation
59 or below
atte ndance and participation
Writing studios are courses in language learning, and language is learned in communities;
therefore, it is essential that you attend class and participate. Absences and lack of preparation for
class will affect your classmates' work as well as your own. The work you do in class, the work you
do to prepare for each class, is as important as any polished assignment you turn in for a grade. In
addition, each unit calendar is only a projection and may be subject to occasional changes and
revisions as it seems appropriate, necessary, or just interesting. That is another reason why your
attendance is vital.
If you must miss a class, you are responsible for work assigned. Please realize, however, that
class time cannot be reconstructed or made up, and that your performance, your work, and your
final course grade will be affected by absences. If you miss the equivalent of three weeks of
classes or more without any official documented excuse it is unlikely you will pass the course. I
donʼt anticipate any of you will be in that position, however, so letʼs all agree to do the work, come
to class, learn a lot, and make the course a meaningful experience.
Our course is loaded on blackboard, a University on-line teaching support system. I expect you to
locate, download, post, and link to a range of course materials with some regularity throughout the
semester. I will also contact you regularly via the blackboard course listserv, which has already
been created using each studentʼs “syr” email address. Please check your syr account at least
once daily throughout the fall.
The url for blackboard is:
Once you access the main page you will be asked for your user ID and password. The following is
from the student help page of blackboard:
Once a student registers for a course that is using Blackboard, a student account is
set up for them and they are automatically enrolled in the appropriate course(s).
Users login to Blackboard using their NetID and password. Your NetID is the portion
of your SU email that appears before the Your NetID password is also
your Blackboard password. If you do not know what your NetID and password
are, visit the ITS website at obtain this information.
You can also obtain this information by calling 443-2677, or by going to the Student
Computing Support Center in your dormitory.
dougherty | 205 syllabus | Spring 2012
spe cial ne e ds and situations
If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please contact the Office of Disability
Services (ODS),, located in Room 309 of 804 University Avenue, or
call (315) 443-4498 for an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting
accommodations. ODS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will
issue students with documented disabilities Accommodation Authorization Letters, as appropriate.
Since accommodations may require early planning and
generally are not provided retroactively, please contact ODS as soon as possible.
Syracuse University and I are committed to your success and to supporting Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This means that in general no individual who is otherwise qualified shall
be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity, solely by reason of having a disability.
You are also welcome to contact me privately to discuss your academic needs although I
cannot arrange for disability-related accommodations. re ligious obse rvance s
at, recognizes the diversity of faiths
represented among the campus community and protects the rights of students, faculty, and staff to
observe religious holy days according to their tradition. Under the policy, students are provided an
opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to a
religious observance provided they notify their instructors before the end of the second week of
classes. For spring semesters, an online notification process is available through MySlice/Student
Services/Enrollment/My Religious Observances from the first day of class until the end of the
second week of class. If this applies to you, please follow proper university procedures, as I will be
unable to honor requests that donʼt follow this policy. Missed work will be due in class the first
day that you return.
use of stude nt writing
It is understood that registration for and continued enrollment in this course constitutes permission
by the student for the instructor to use any student work constructed as a result of said enrollment
in the course.
te chnology use
Most of the work you do for this class will be handed in word-processed and/or posted directly to
our Blackboard site. Final drafts will be turned in electronically via Blackboard. Use an easily
readable font, size 12 point. Include one-inch margins and follow the page layout used by the MLA
format described in your handbook.
I prefer email for contact outside class, and will often send announcements to class via
your “” account. Use email to contact me about your coursework, to set up an
dougherty | 205 syllabus | Spring 2012
appointment to meet with me outside class, or to ask a question. I will typically respond to
your email within 48 hours.
We will be looking at a variety of sites on the Internet at times during the course. Please let me
know if you have not had any experience using a browser such as Firefox, Netscape or Explorer,
and we can get you up and running.
While computers save us great amounts of time over typewriters and make corrections much
simpler, they are also susceptible to crashing and freezing. Save your work frequently, always
make backup copies, and plan your projects with extra time allowed for those inevitable glitches.
the writing ce nte r
Experienced writing consultants at the Writing Center (101 HB Crouse Hall, on the Quad) can
teach you how to succeed on individual assignments and ultimately become a better writer. Theyʼre
prepared to work one-on-one with you at any stage of your process and with any kind of writing
youʼre attempting while attending SU. Whether you need help understanding an assignment,
brainstorming ideas, revising subsequent drafts, or developing editing strategies, face-to-face and
online appointments are available for 25- or 50-minute sessions throughout the semester and can
be reserved up to seven days in advance via their online scheduling program, WCOnline. In
addition, drop-in appointments are welcome Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00
p.m. and brief concerns or questions can be emailed to consultants via the eWC. For more
information on hours, location and services, please visit This is a free resource
to all students and highly recommended for every assignment you work on in this class.
In addition, there are a number of writing center consultants whose professional research focuses
on these very language politics issues. Making appointments with these folks to brainstorm your
inquiry ideas—and any other aspect of the writing processes in this class—could prove invaluable.
acade mic inte grity All writing submitted for this course is understood to be your original work. In cases where
academic dishonesty is detected (the fraudulent submission of another's work, in whole or part, as
your own), you may be subject to a failing grade for the project or the course, and in the worst
case, to academic probation or expulsion. For a more detailed description of the guidelines for
adhering to academic integrity in the College of Arts and Sciences, go to: