Syllabus: Wk 3-4 Critical/Cultural Studies “If I were President…”


Week 3-4 Critical/Cultural Studies

James Berlin

“Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century”

All three [critical, cultural and feministic pedagogy] focus on having students read about systemic cultural injustices inflicted by dominant societal groups and dominant discourses on those with less power, and upon the empowering possibilities of rhetoric if students are educated to “read” c arefully and “resist” the social texts that help keep some groups subordinated. Andrea Greenbaum has recently argued that cultural studies approaches, critical approaches, many feminist approaches, and even postcolonial approaches can all be seen as similar “emancipatory movements in composition.”

If I were President…

Assignment to be assigned and compiled prior to coming to class:

1.      Political/Cultural/Economical Research: If you were president, what 5 issues would you focus during your term of office?

a.       Write 2-3 sentences for each issue that you would address.

b.      Find 1 article that discusses each article.

c.       Read through each article. Highlight only the important information that would help you make a change for that issue. Be sure to write 2-3 side notes for each page of the article.

2.      Group discussion: Pick the issue that most interests you and be prepared to give a 2 minute discussion on it.

a.       Name the issue.

b.      Summarize the article.

c.       Point out what you find important and how it would apply to your proposed change.

3.      Mini-group discussion: You will be assigned to a group that has members with a similar issue to address.

a.       Compare points of view with each member

b.      Complete a compare and contrast list for POV

                                                              i.      Each group member’s name must be listed

                                                            ii.      Each member must contribute at least 4 opinions to the list

                                                          iii.      Turn in list at end of class. Copies will be distributed to each student at next class period.

4.      Reflection: Write a 1-page reflection describing your experience comparing views. What did you expect? Were your expectations met? Did you have the same opinions as your group members regarding the issue you all chose to address? Why or why not? What differences did you have? Why? What do you think caused each person to have a same and/or different opinion? Did you change your mind after hearing other opinions? How so?

a.       Type your response. It must be double spaced, 12 point font, and 1 inch margins.

b.      Bring enough copies for each member of your group and 1 to turn in to me.

                                                              i.      Regrouping: Each group member will read their response out loud. While you are reading aloud, the other group members will be writing down 2 things that they found interesting about your response and share it with the group aloud after you are done reading. Each person will share once and then you will turn in your response with the group member comments to me.           

5.      Hot Topic Presidential Paper: Write a 3 page, double-spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margin paper discussing your proposal to change the issue you selected. If your opinion changed from your initial presentation, please underline the areas where you changed.



Read my review on The Rhetoric of Cool


  Rice, Jeff. The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2007


Jeff Rice recounts the emergence of composition in The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media. At the 1963 Conference on College Composition and Communication, studies shifted from just discussing student habits to instructors growing more theoretical about the skills they were imparting (12). Rice contends that new technology was kept out of the conference’s target and focuses on the writings of William S. Burroughs, Marshall McLuhan, Jack Kerouac and Kenneth Anger to point out various rhetorical moves made by these compositions that are useful for digital media. Rice defines the typical definition of cool associated with anything that has become popular and contends that his cool has nothing to do with that through various examples. Cool is a concept that is used by various authors that believe that “the culture is getting more demanding…so are the pedagogical practices needed to engage with new media…” (7).

Rice breaks his book up into chapters that reflect the principles that provide “a model for the rhetoric of cool” (27). Each chapter after his introduction contains pedagogy that helps incorporate “ ‘electracy’, which is to digital media what literacy is to alphabetic writing” (x). He points to various rhetorical moves made by these compositions that are useful for digital media but often ignored when composition studies focuses on student writing (8). If only the organization were as clear cut as it sounds. Rice spends an inordinate amount of time in his introduction defending the premise of the book by comparing his use of cool against what it isn’t. Additionally, “the grand narrative” subsection in Chapter 1 doesn’t come across as such, a narrative, that is. He breaks down the development that occurred at the 1963 conference into theoretical analysis about knowledge and the attainment of it (13-14). Reading through the section, a lot of name dropping ensues, as it does throughout the rest of the book, for that matter. Rice includes so much information that his writing starts to overwhelm the reader.

            In Chapter 2, “Chora,” Rice describes “chora” as being the space that information in digital technology occupies that “…teaches [him]…to bring together disparate events and texts from 1963… [and] how to make connections” (35). By presenting a Gap ad, he shows how cool can be adopted in media forms. The Gap ad has people dancing in their “…‘cool khakis’…” mimicking West Side Story but “…replacing the film’s street toughs with khaki wearing teenagers dancing against a sanitized prison backdrop to Leonard Bernstein’s song from the movie,   ‘Cool’ ” (30). He also employs the Aristotelian term “topos” to refer to the place for cool to reside but what follows is more of the statements that cool makes (31). The ideas he presents are more about what place in theory cool resides in rather than the actual space in the technology. The rest of the chapter Rice illustrates more examples and their relationship to rhetorical theory. It isn’t until he states, “Media is the choral thread…that unites…” his ideas together, that he makes sense (44). He actually provides classroom instructions for an assignment where students “locate and research [online] other meanings associated with that term [a word that relates to their field of interest] from other disciplines, events, moments, and media” (44). Online research provides students options to “…further explore the choral moves they discover through hyperlinks and image placement” (45).

            In Chapter 3, “Appropriation,” Rice explains how he finds inspiration outside of academia to inspire his writing. He goes into great detail about where cool is found, yet again, and then cites even the city of Detroit as being a place where he finds cool. Governor Jennifer Granholm’s 2003 “ ‘Bright Future/Cool Cities’ ” campaign is explained as a way to attract successful suburbanites into run-down Detroit neighborhoods by offering developmental grants to participants (49). It also has its own website. Rice connects the “technology connection Detroit makes with the Cool Cities plan” as an “appropriation” of “a generic meaning for a purpose of categorization” (50-51).  He then goes on to differentiate ways that the campaign makes Detroit cool (52). Appropriation hits home when Rice makes a strong analogy comparing the process of DJs remixing sounds to create fresh hip-hop sounds. He said, “Mimicking may occur in an assignment…” (72). The point Rice makes is to lead students to their own realizations about what influences in their lives they can borrow from to create a relationship with electronic writing. They should be able to make connections that they might not have been able to otherwise.

            In Chapter 4, “Juxtaposition,” Rice quotes Douglas Engelbart’s words regarding the “idea of ‘composing and rearranging text’ into a series of window -like boxes.” Rice calls Engelbart’s 1963 methods cool “for how it replicates the same logic behind Marshall McLuhan’s…1963 insistence that cool media involve the rhetorical act of juxtaposition” (73-74). Rice explains that since the reader is forced to mix ideas, words and images that “scholarly prose often cannot” that electracy can lead readers to making new connections (74). Then, he references the “Burroughs writing machine… [which] mirrors the types of cultural, social, and technological” pairing writing interacts “with in the digital world” (75). Basically, any interaction with the Web today adheres to this model. The 1963 decision to keep “…communication studies…” out of composition studies is to blame, Rice points out, for the reason why “print based rhetoric” lacks association with technology (77-78). Coming back to his DJ analogy, Rice says that the test for composition studies is to decode the “…theoretical principles of juxtaposition…” to instruction suitable for electronic writing, a “hip-hop pedagogy.” Just as hip-hop DJs borrow music from various inspirations, compositional studies needs to borrow “…rhetorical strategies centered around juxtaposition, which are often found in digital sampling and which can be written within new media like hypertext.” The configurations encourage readers and writers “to find unrealized connections among disparate events and material things.” Essentially, writers don’t worry about trying to master any topic but rather work a variety of them together in order to compose (91).

            In Chapter 5, “Commutation” is defined as “…the exchange of…” symbols with no concern for “…referentiality.” This means when a writer learns about various media formats that might not seem like a reliable source, the writer learns to classify those formats without being judgmental (Rice 93). Rice points out that each part of the country has different kinds of students who will not have the same compositional experience. Furthermore, he says that this flaw causes composition instructing methods to be stagnant when it comes to digital technology. “In fixed places of argumentation…composition studies argues that substance [writing experience] can be located and made permanent [not changed].” Specifically, he points the finger at Dartmouth as being the “…thesis for the rest of higher education” (94). If composition studies included the cool of rhetoric it wouldn’t have that problem of fixed meaning. Rice says, “Cool signifies technology and cocktails; it can be morphed; it’s twenty-first century and 1950s” (98). Avant-garde films from the 1960s are described as a way to show how digital writing doesn’t have to be tied in to a traditional storyline (102-104). These examples, while obscure, do prove his point. For the third time, the DJ mix is used to illustrate yet another point. This time he focuses on digital sampling stating, “… [It] has become the most recognizable writing space for the mix.” Sound bites are captured from various artist tracks and are compiled into a rhetorical practice that is highly recognizable and successful—“…Kool’s Mixx and Sprite’s Remix [ad] campaign” (106). Rice points out that since “Sprite does not appear worried that mixing and remixing its product meaning will affect sales” that composition studies shouldn’t be afraid to “…be visual [use online images and]…also…desire to write commutative practices, much as advertising strives to accomplish” (107). As a classroom application, Rice describes a “Dead Elvis” assignment where students aren’t allowed to use their own words to “write” about the important figure they have chosen to research (110). This assignment really ties all his ideas thus far in the book together—a digital collage of sorts.

            In Chapter 6, “Nonlinearity” challenges the traditional approach to writing in in a straight forward fashion (Rice 110-112). Rice presents various theories that argue the point of keeping composition studies linear. He states, “Since the invention of the World Wide Web,” non-traditional writing has been highlighted as the cause that “…‘the end of linear writing is indeed the end of the book.’ ” Many opponents of including cool media in composition studies agree with this theory that by allowing nonlinear progression to ensue, the format of book writing would cease to exist as it wouldn’t make sense (112-113).  Rice cites Shelly Jackson’s Patchwork Girl as being a literary work that makes several nonlinear references [“Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and Shelly Jackson’s own narrative”] but still makes sense. Moreover, he comments, “Narrative paths are chosen through one’s reading experiences (reading of texts and other cultural phenomenon).” The routes that readers take are like the routes that clicking on hyperlinks can take readers on. He contends that composition studies needs to be open and go beyond offering different routes (114). This means offering a variety of narratives at the same time, to be read, so that a full range of responses can be explored. Rice dismisses calling computer media “ ‘interactive’ ” as being too simplistic citing critics who proclaim that composition studies needs to “explore interactivity beyond its ‘literal interpretation’ of clicking on pages, pressing buttons, and…following ‘pre-programmed, objectively existing associations’ ” (114). Jack Kerouac is identified as an author who breaks away from linear writing and “…poses the…process as a method of composing in an information economy dominated by too much information to reasonably navigate through individual strands” (120). Applying this idea to the Web, Rice cites as a site that does just that—‘generates[s] connections among user purchases based on word choice, titles of products, or associative gestures…” (125). Additionally, Hewlett-Packard’s project called “Cooltown” is a failed attempt to try to “…mix…education and corporate investment” (125). Rice commends HP for trying the project but berates them for using the traditional linear approach to education and not interconnecting the online classroom communities for a more layered learning experience (125-130).

            Lastly, Chapter 7, “Imagery,” is written as the culmination for all the tropes Rice thoroughly describes. Rice points out verbal and visual components aren’t part of composition studies because “the role of cool” is ignored. Academia is still too focused on print words (135). He suggests combining them as working with media doesn’t need to replace any other discourse (136). Next, Rice describes the invention of a Sketchpad that allows a person to draw with an electronic pen and how McLuhan claims that “…electronic visuality opens up new types of senses and awareness that cannot be accounted for in alphabetic literacy. Because of its cool status (its ability to generate involvement at greater rates of print)… [it] has the potential to transform ‘fragmented and specialist extensions into a seamless Web of experience’ ” (137). Sketchpad is likened to Adobe Photoshop as a cool writer’s tool for being able to go beyond the print word (138). The invention of the typewriter is even described as a way that composition studies could have utilized it for educational purposes. It was advertised in 1882 as being a tool to “ ‘aid in learning to read, write, spell, and punctuate.’ ” Unfortunately, it was never adopted as a serious means of teaching (139-140). Rice states, “The connections, commutations, and juxtapositions the rhetoric of cool teaches are meant to produce a type of new media writing while also altering a perception of what composition entails” (143). Going back to the Sprite ad, Rice says, “Image is everything” meaning that composition studies needs to look at all avenues to make sure it is imagining writing in general (157).

            This book, although not very readable at the first run through, does provide an interesting and fresh perspective on why composition studies is the way it is today and offers a varied approach to incorporate modern technology into traditional pedagogy. One might never know that one single conference altered the course of composition studies as drastically as the 1963 4C did if one doesn’t read Rice’s book. The reader needs to be aware of existing pedagogical views or otherwise be prepared to have to reread sections in order to make the necessary connections that Rice presumes his audience already knows. Hopefully, enough has been said to forewarn interested readers about what to expect. This book is definitely suitable for any serious instructor looking to understand why incorporating digital media into the writing curriculum is important.


Reviewed by Kimberly Clark, University of Michigan-Flint


Feminism..say what? Ladylike?


Here’s what I read out of Pamela J. Annas’s “A Feminist Approach to the Teaching of Writing”:


“I ask students to become self-conscious about their writing process so that they can make it less mysterious and have more control over it. The writing pro-cess paper asks them to describe in step-by-step detail how they go about writing a paper, from the moment they get the assignment to the time they turn it in-with particular emphasis on the material conditions of their writing and what their lives are like when they’re writing. Where do they write (in the library, in bed, at the kitchen table); when do they write (the night before the paper’s due, as soon as they get the assignment, one page a day for a week); on what do they write (note cards, long ruled yellow pads, a typewriter, a word processor); what techniques do they feel most comfortable with:… “


“Women students need to move from a kind of writing bounded at one end by what Robin Lakoff in Language and Women’s Place calls “women’s language,” a hesitant ladylike language characterized (in speech) by tag questions, rising in-flections, and vague intensifiers, and by a focus on the particular which is crip-pling and limited. They need to travel through what the French feminist linguists have been calling the transforming power of silence in which one discovers (somewhat mystically, I admit) one’s own meanings in the holes in patriarchal discourse,14 to discover or rediscover a new women’s language, a kind of writ-ing which is confident in asserting the particulars of women’s experience-both in content and in form.” (12)

But this is what I see…


Freshman Composition Syllabus Wk 1-2


I’m working on my final. For week 1-2 in composition, I want to address the following:

Week 1-2  Expressivism

Autobiographical sketch/memoir/topics that relate to the student in his or her community

Allow students to gain a sense of self and gain some confidence in their own writing as they begin their first week in college writing.

Personal narratives and observations provide students with a way in to the writing process. The teacher teaches prewriting techniques such as freewriting, mapping, clustering, and the use of journals.

I need your opinion on the two different approaches to the first writing assignment: Memoir. After discussing what it is and providing some samples of the good, the bad and the ugly (still to be determined), they will receive some handouts. What works? What doesn’t? Let me know.

Personal Memoir Writing Assignment


An autobiography is when a person tells the story of his or her life.

A personal memoir is a true story about just one very important incident in a person’s life.


A personal memoir is written in the first person, using the pronoun I. It has clear narrative structure – A beginning, middle, and an end. Because it is an important event, a memoir usually reveals something about the person’s personality. When writing a memoir, include information about the time and place as background to your story. Remember to write about an important moment or event in your life that reveals something about your personality and a “so what” moment.


memoir, n. a written record set down as material for a history or biography: a biographical sketch: a record of some study investigated by the writer: (in pl.) the transactions of a society. [Fr. mémoire — L. memoria, memory — memor, mindful.]

Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, New Edition, 1972.


memoir, n. [Fr. mémoire, masc., a memorandum, memoir, fem., memory < L. memoria, MEMORY] 1. a biography or biographical notice, usually written by a relative or personal friend of the subject 2. [pl.] an autobiography, usually a full or highly personal account 3. [pl.] a report or record of important events based on the writer’s personal observation, special knowledge, etc. 4. A report or record of a scholarly investigation, scientific study, etc. 5. [pl.] the record of the proceedings of a learned society

Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition.


memoir, n. a fiction designed to flatter the subject and to impress the reader.

With apologies to Ambrose Bierce


When writing your memoir, include the following:


v  Voice – voice is the personality and point of view that the writer wants to communicate to the reader. Voice is mostly communicated in the writer’s choice of words.


v  Select an event that you could describe in a short personal narrative (minimum of five paragraphs long). This may be an important event in your life or something fun that you think other people might find interesting. Use your senses to recall this event. Think of the colors, smells, and sounds. How did you feel at the time? Express your ideas in your voice – use the words that come naturally to you.


v  Use your graphic organizer to help you plan your memoir, and remember to emphasize the emotions. Also, remember to slow down the action with a lot of description on your selected section.


v  Write in some dialogue; this will help show what people are like and how they’re feeling.


v  Write your draft. Make your writing as clear as possible, buy don’t worry too much about correct spelling, punctuation, or grammar at this stage.


v  Revise your draft by checking your paragraphs, making sure you’ve indented your sentences. Re-read your story to check for proper sentences and appropriate word choice, spelling, grammar, etc… in this revising stage, you move sentences, paragraphs, etc… to make sure your writing is clear.


v  Edit your piece of writing by checking for last minute mistakes. Read it aloud to ensure that it has good flow. Re-write into good copy to be passed in.


Coming of Age

Personal Memoir ROUGH DRAFT


Remember, narrative writing is a true account of something that has happened in your life—it is your story.


Using all the pre-writing material you have created in the narrative writing technique worksheet packets, you are going to create a narrative essay based on a childhood event that you have learned something from.


1st person point of view


·        Beginning: Introduction and Rising Action

·        Middle: Climax

·        Ending: Falling Action and Ending



The Introduction:

(use the SETTING paragraph you wrote from your narrative writing packet)

1.      Setting regarding current state of mind.

2.     Flashback prompt:     I remember when…

a.     What are you like at first?


Then, the intro deals with dialogue between you and the other main character involved in this story as well as the setting. The audience must be introduced to the arising conflict. You must use said, but do not overuse it so please be sure to use dialogue tags similar to the ones listed below:

























































For example:

If we choose two words to use as descriptive dialogue tags, like spat and hacked, let’s see if we can create a scene where these tags would be appropriate to more accurately define the character.

Let’s say that a woman has just announced to her husband (Charlie) that she’s taken a lover and wants a divorce. He glares at her, and stomps toward her, waving his fist in the air.

“Who is he?” Charlie spat. “That cook at the diner?”

From using the word “spat,” we get a better picture of how angry Charlie is, and his words follow his nasty reaction.

Now let’s substitute the word “hacked” and see what type of response that evokes.

“Again?” Charlie hacked, reaching for his favorite bottle of scotch.

The word hacked used in this instance would imply a chronic smoker’s cough or a bark. Perhaps it’s his alcohol consumption that leaves him with a raspy voice. In either instance, aren’t those tags more effective than using said or asked? For example,

“Who is he?” Charlie asked. “That cook at the diner?


“Again?” Charlie said, reaching for his favorite bottle of scotch.

You don’t want to overuse tags, but in some scenes, a tag will heighten your character’s description and state of being.

Rising Action: What conflict do you face?

The rising action will start with a narration devoid of any direct dialogue. You will capture the escalating conflict/problem arising with the description of the 3 pivotal events that lead to the climax.


Conflict is the essence of a good story. It creates plot. The conflicts we encounter can usually be identified as one of four kinds.

Man versus Man
Conflict that pits one person against another.

Man versus Nature
A run-in with the forces of nature. On the one hand, it expresses the insignificance of a single human life in the cosmic scheme of things. On the other hand, it tests the limits of a person’s strength and will to live.

Man versus Society
The values and customs by which everyone else lives are being challenged. The character may come to an untimely end as a result of his or her own convictions. The character may, on the other hand, bring others around to a sympathetic point of view, or it may be decided that society was right after all.

Man versus Self
Internal conflict. Not all conflict involves other people. Sometimes people are their own worst enemies. An internal conflict is a good test of a character’s values. Does he give in to temptation or rise above it? Does he demand the most from himself or settle for something less? Does he even bother to struggle? The internal conflicts of a character and how they are resolved are good clues to the character’s inner strength.

You must have at least 2 conflicts covered.


**********************After the rising action you will write a 5 line poem. **********************


Line 1                   Write 1 word: your narrative theme (as represented in the intro)

Line 2                   Write 2 actions that you do to exemplify the theme

Line 3                  Write a 4-word phrase describing the lesson you learned—a life lesson

Line 4                  Write 2 actions that you did at the beginning of the narrative and at the end of it

Line 5                  Write 1 word that best captures how you changed from this event (cannot be the same word used in line 1


Climax: How are you affected?

You will begin the climax off with heavy dialogue, descriptive details. The climax should be the MOST INTERESTING part of your story.

·         This is when your story reaches a high point meaning when the conflict/problem is confronted. The audience should be able intrigued and wondering if the conflict will be resolved in the end.

·         The climax is the turning point of your narrative. It is the most dramatic or exciting moment.

·         The elements of a climax to a story can be a resolution, a decision, or recognition. You realize what has to be done, or understand what you had not seen before or finally make the decision to do whatever has to be done.

·         Basically, you will have changed in some way as a result.


Climax is not the big-ending, but the point of highest conflict for the main character. Commonly, the point at which the plot’s major obstacle is revealed, or how the major obstacle may be defeated is revealed. The flow of action launched by the inciting incident has built in rising action, and culminates at the climax.


Falling Action: What are you going to do to resolve the problem?

During the falling action, or resolution, which is the moment of reversal after the climax, the conflict between you and the other main character unravels, with you either winning or losing against him or her. The falling action might contain a moment of final suspense, during which the final outcome of the conflict is in doubt.


Falling action is events between climax and resolution. In a story that is anti-climactic the plot’s major obstacle resolves outside the protagonists actions, leaving only sub-plots.


ENDING: What’s the final outcome? What did you learn?

The ending is involves tying up all the loose ends to the point that you will end with an emotional impact instead of a complete conflict resolution meaning don’t carry on about WHAT you did to end things, fix things or change things. Instead, focus on the impact. It leaves your readers wanting more and if you do it right, you’ll give them enough information and feeling to let them carry the story on in their mind.

·         Ending with you experiencing an epiphany (a sudden understanding of something that inspires you) or discovering something is one way of achieving this result. Furthering this idea, is there a flaw embedded within the epiphany that you might have been unaware of at the time? (Remember this is a flashback!)

·         Is your character expecting a happy turn of events on the next page that never comes when the reader knows full well that it’s a one way street towards disaster?

·         As you’re aiming for an emotional high note to end on, your two best targets are hope and despair. They’re both make for huge targets and offer vast degrees of specificity, so do some exploring.


**********************After the ending you will write a post script. **********************


Post Script (P.S.):

The post script should include your final feelings on having written a piece about your coming of age memoir!