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Course Descriptions

Undergraduate Only

ENG 105-0 – Expository Writing

Expository Writing is designed for any student who wants a strong introductory course in college-level writing. Students write three or four extended pieces of expository writing, developing each through a process of planning, drafting, revising, and editing. Students also complete several briefer exercises in which they experiment with specific writing techniques or use informal writing as a tool for exploring ideas. Class meetings are conducted as seminar discussions and workshops. In addition, the instructor meets regularly with students in individual conferences.

ENG 105-6-20 – How Writing Works

This seminar is designed for students who want to advance their ability to write clearly, thoughtfully, and effectively in many situations, both in college and beyond. We will consider the activity of writing from several perspectives, aiming to increase each student’s understanding of, and control over, writing viewed as (1) a way of speaking; (2) a process of composition; (3) the deliberate construction of sentences; and (4) an instrument for thinking, learning, and imagining. We will also read widely, allowing students to analyze and emulate writing techniques evident in the work of other writers. Throughout the quarter, students will be able to relate their work in the seminar to their own individual interests and goals.

ENG 105-6-20 – Language and Everyday Experience

This seminar will examine the spoken and written language we use and observe in a variety of everyday situations to explore language as part of our social experience. We will consider such questions as: Why do we call some language varieties “dialects” and others “languages?” Why do some people think you have an accent while others think you don’t? Has your own language changed since you came to Northwestern? What patterns govern the conversations we have, and how do we create social relationships, communities, and identities in those conversations? Why do some people mix multiple languages when they speak and write? Is it, like, ok for me to, like, use like so much? What about um or ain’t or ya know? Students will formulate and consider their own questions about language and social life in papers and presentations.

ENG 105-6-22 – How to Become an Expert in Roughly Ten Weeks

Every day on television and radio, on the streets and in classrooms, we hear people expressing opinions about a variety of topics. The people who are most persuasive, however, are those who are most informed. This course is designed to give students the tools to develop an informed opinion, to present that opinion to others orally and in writing, and to persuade others to consider (and even accept) their point of view. In this seminar, you will have the opportunity to select a topic of your choice and research it in depth, using library resources, the Internet, interviews and surveys. You will also learn a number of techniques for presenting your ideas persuasively, both orally and in writing. By the end of the course, you will be in position to discuss your ideas in a thoughtful, authoritative way. In this sense, you will have earned the right to call yourself an expert on your topic.

ENG 105-6-23 – Immigrant Stories

We live in a time when hostility towards immigrants has made many Americans forget that, as President Obama said, “We are and always will be a nation of immigrants" and has obscured the complex reality of their lives. In this course, we will study literary works by immigrants and their children in order to understand that complex reality. We will explore such questions as: How do immigrant experiences differ based on the era and country of origin, and in what ways are they similar? What happens to the relationships between parents and children through the process of acculturation into American society? How do social institutions and structures impact the lives of immigrants as they seek to pursue the American Dream? How do differences in national origin connect with other differences, particularly gender, race, ethnicity, and class? We will read novels, short stories, and poetry that were written over the last 100 years and that tell stories of immigrants from Vietnam, Mexico, Russia, Barbados, and elsewhere.

ENG 105-6-24 – Truth in Representation

Hoaxes are ancient phenomena, but in our current “post truth” landscape we might wonder if they are more pervasive than ever before. Are they? If so, why? Are today’s hoaxes different in anything other than quantity? What are their historical precedents? And, perhaps most important, what truths can we learn from studying outright lies? This course will allow us to explore these questions—and more—through the examination of several historical and contemporary hoaxes. We will use these case studies to explore topics including ideology, originality, authenticity, identity, memory, and authorship. Additionally, your final paper will provide you with an opportunity to research a hoax of your own choosing in order to argue why it should be added to future iterations of this class.

ENG 105-6-25 – The Credible Writer

What makes a writer credible? In other words, how do readers determine what writers deserve their trust? Every day we place our confidence in strangers who advise us on matters that range from the immediate (movies and restaurants) to the long-term (our money and our health). Yet debates over “fake news,” “authentic” experience, and scientific principles remind us that we must not place our faith too casually. In this course, we will examine the relationship between writers and their readers with an eye to understanding how the style, social context, and unspoken assumptions readers bring to a written work help inspire our confidence or elicit our disbelief. Students will be asked to consider the ethical responsibilities both of readers, alert to the possibility of misrepresentation or fraud, and of writers seeking to establish their own credibility and authority. Course readings will include works of fiction, journalism, business, and writings from the natural and social sciences. We will also consider practical topics such as how University library resources and experts can help students locate and evaluate key sources and develop authoritative voices and arguments.

ENG 105-6-26 – What's So Funny? The Art of Comedy

“A pastor always started each service with ‘The Lord be with you.’ The people would respond, ‘and also with you.’ But, one Sunday the PA system wasn’t working so the first thing he said was ‘There’s something wrong with this microphone.’ The people responded, ‘and also with you.’

I think this joke is kind of funny. I mean, it doesn’t make me laugh out loud, but I still think it’s amusing. OK, well, this example teaches us two things: 1) I may have a suspect sense of humor, and 2) it is difficult to describe why something is funny. In this seminar, we will tackle this problem (assuming my sense of humor is a lost cause). I believe this goal goes hand-in-hand with the fact that this course focuses on writing. We will seek, in this class, to develop our ability to express ourselves through the medium of writing. How can we say what we want to say clearly and coherently? How can we push ourselves to explain in a written form that which we understand through instinct or emotion? How can we showcase our knowledge, our creative thoughts, and our inspired interpretations in our writing? Writing and comedy will be mutually supportive in these questions, helping us to better understand the one through an examination of the other. In our foray into comedy we will encounter theories of comedy, historical re-occurrences of comic forms as well as influential performers, such as Dave Chappelle. In our writing projects, for example, we will explore argumentation as you re-cast one of the plays we read with contemporary performers. My overall goals are that we will all leave this class with a stronger ability to express our own views and ideas through writing, a better understanding our own sense of humor, and, hopefully but most importantly, we will get to hear better jokes and laugh together.

ENG 105-6-27 – Making Sense of Crises

This course examines the framing of crises, whether real, imagined, or fabricated. Why and how does a sense of urgency upset some prevailing sense of normalcy? What are the stakes? Who are the stakeholders? We will interrogate presentations of discrete events (like the Cuban Missile Crisis) and broader trends (like the Crisis in the Humanities) as crises of some kind. Exploring the theme of crisis in history, media, politics, academia, and elsewhere will set a context for writing, discussion, and research. The course’s fundamental goal is to help students develop the ability to write thoughtfully and effectively by engaging with sources and the perspectives of others, including authors and classmates. Along with assignments related to various crises, there will be readings and discussions about the craft of writing and originality in academic work.

ENG 106-1/DSGN 106-1 – Writing in Special Contexts

Design Thinking and Communication (DTC), is a required two-quarter course for all first-year students at McCormick. It is also available to any Northwestern undergraduate student interested in design. Every section is co-taught by an instructor from the Writing Program and an instructor from engineering. Part of the Engineering First® curriculum, the course immediately puts students to work on real design problems submitted by individuals, non-profits, entrepreneurs, and industry members. In DTC, all students design for real people and communicate to real audiences.

ENG 205-0 – Intermediate Composition

This course is designed to help you write more clearly, coherently, and complexly about what’s important to you. You’ll write some short exercises and you’ll write and revise several essays, after feedback from classmates and from me. We'll explore a range of writing strategies for finding and developing material and shaping it into essays. We’ll take seriously the idea that writing can change us and can change the world, and we’ll aim to create interesting, illuminating, possibly transformative essays.

ENG 282-0 – Writing & Speaking in Business

Across all industries, employers consistently rank written and oral communication in the top five skills that a new employee needs. However, employers also say that students overestimate their ability to communicate effectively in a workplace context. English 282 is designed to address that gap. The course is designed to help you think strategically about communication, make effective communication decisions, and produce writing and presentations that are well-organized, clear, and compelling. In addition, course assignments provide an opportunity to enhance your critical reading and thinking; your ability to communicate effectively about data; your understanding of visual communication; and your understanding of interpersonal communication. There will be no final exam. However, students must be present on the final day of class for team-based presentations.

ENG 304-0 – Practical Rhetoric

Practical Rhetoric is a course designed to prepare good writers to work as peer tutors in the Writing Place. The course covers composition and tutoring theory and techniques for working with writers at a range of levels, in a range of disciplines, and at various points in the writing process. The course will also give you an opportunity to learn techniques for working with international student writers for whom English is a foreign language. Enrollment is by permission only, for students who have applied to be Writing Place tutors and have been accepted into the program. For information about applying to be a tutor, go to:

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Graduate Only

ENG 570-20 – Seminar in Teaching College Composition

This seminar is designed to serve two purposes. First, it offers an introduction to current theories, practices, and controversies in the teaching of writing in American colleges and universities, placing these matters in the context of various definitions of literacy in American culture. And second, it prepares teaching assistants to teach English 105, Expository Writing, here at Northwestern. Graduate students who expect to teach Expository Writing should take 570; other graduate students interested in the teaching of writing are welcome to enroll.

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