Tuesday Thursday 9:30 - 10:50
Instructor: Martin Spinelli
Office: Clemens 618
Office hours: 11:00 - 12:00 Tuesday Thursday
e-mail address: martins@acsu.buffalo.edu


This course is about writing. No matter what your intended major, no matter what kind of job you're shooting for after college, the skills of writing and communicating in a clear and lively way are simply necessary for success. The average mechanical engineer for example spends 60 - 70% of her time not at the drafting board or CAD system, but writing specifications and proposals. All of us, from you and I to Fredric Jameson and Stephen King, can improve our writing.

About what?

We will read and talk about the media's use of language in our culture. How is language used to set limits on discussion and acceptable parameters for debate? What is the connection between language and thinking? How do advertisers use language to get us to buy? How do politicians use language to keep us happy (or quiet)? (Don't worry if all this sounds ominous-- more than you can handle -- this course is really just about looking at how the same story gets told in different voices.)


Our in-class writing and take-home essays will grow out of our discussions and group work on a novel, a book of criticism, the writing on the internet, and a packet of essays and reading selections about media and the news. These exercises are designed to refine a(n)

Writing and reading electronically:

Aside from being able to think and write critically about the language of the media, I also want you to begin to experiment with composing in some new media as well. The new media bring with them their own particular methods, and their own particular ways of constructing the world. Some of the course reading exists only electronically as online hypertexts; these will serve as models for some of our own writing assignments. I want us to begin writing with these new languages and gain some understanding of their particular uses, limitations, and biases.

We will explore writing in this new space every week with responses to reading assignments posted electronically to our class listserv and by using internet archives and user groups to do research. We will also use this new technology in a collaborative writing project later in the semester.

What about those nasty little points?

Try to imagine a situation in your future where an ability to communicate and express yourself as clearly as possible in English would not be an advantage. It is a difficult proposition unless you envisage a very exotic life. Whether writing a history paper in your sophomore year, or negotiating contracts in a board room fifteen years from now, a strong command of English will be invaluable. The aim of this course is not just to improve your writing, but to help you develop a necessary life skill, a skill more valuable than any little number or letter found on an essay or piece of university stationary. Think "writing" not "grades" and you will leave this course with something infinitely more valuable than a letter.

Every essay I return to you will contain extensive comments about its strengths and weaknesses. I will comment on (in no particular order of importance): the content and critical thinking, the amount of genuine revision and real changes made between the drafts, the organization, the awareness of an audience, sentence structure and word choice, and the mechanics of writing (grammar, punctuation, etc.). Although THERE WILL BE NO LETTER GRADE ON YOUR ESSAYS I will comment if I find the work unsatisfactory or of excellent caliber.

Once before the resign deadline, and once in the last third of the semester, we will meet individually to discuss your work and your progress (and, if you insist, your grade). I will, of course, inform you if there is any danger of you failing.

The final grade, only because one must be assessed, will be calculated as follows:

     %40  three 4-5 page essays
     %30  one 6-10 page research paper
     %20  in-class writings (collected in your journal) and responses to readings
          (collected in your journal and sent to the class listserv)
     %10  intelligent class participation and attendance

The "B-" contract:

To encourage you to focus completely on improving your writing, and to end any fixation on grades, anyone who complies with all of the following will automatically get at least a "B-" as a final grade:

I DO NOT READ LATE PAPERS. If you think you will have a problem meeting a deadline you must discuss it with me the class meeting before the paper is due. I will usually grant you an extension if you clear it with me ahead of time; but I have no patience for excuses like "My printer broke", "The computer lab was full", "I didn't know it was due today", "My roommate stole the final draft" etc. on the day the paper is due. Although I will not read late papers all drafts of all papers must be included in your journal for me to examine at the end of the semester.

If you're going to be more than ten minutes late to class please don't bother to show up.