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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 – Sustaining Sociolinguistic Diversity for Equity and Inclusion

Scholars of language and writing argue that language and its modes, varieties, genres, and rhetorical strategies are always shifting, flexible, and contested. Thus, sociolinguistic diversity—differences across and within spoken and written languages and dialects—is inevitable. This seminar will explore the ways in which language difference is situated in current discourses, considering language in written, spoken, and signed forms. We will disrupt monolingual ideologies that infiltrate those discourses, focusing on the ways in which difference in language is an asset to individuals, cultures, and institutions. The course will consider how our sociolinguistic diversity sustains us, how we can sustain sociolinguistic diversity, and how we can create more equity and inclusion around language differences in a variety of social contexts. Students will formulate and consider their own questions about sociolinguistic diversity, equity, and inclusion in papers and presentations. Students of all sociolinguistic backgrounds are welcome to take this seminar, and our course design will provide direct benefits to students who identify as international, multilingual, and/or native speakers of non-mainstream Englishes. 

English 105-6-21 – Mapping American Literature

Where are you from? What does your hometown look like, sound like, feel like? This is a crash course in learning how to write about places, partly by way of surveying American regionalism, a genre often criticized for its narrow focus on local histories, cultural manners, and peoples of particular places and geographies rather than on larger national themes. Instead of isolating our readings of regional works, we will place texts focusing on three different regions of the United States in conversation with one another. We will study the South through Alice Dunbar-Nelson, New England through Sarah Orne Jewett, and the Great Plains through Zitkála-Šá. Using Digital Humanities tools such as StoryMap and ArcGIS we will build visual, digital maps tracing and connecting our readings of regionalist works. We will expand our map, potentially beyond the borders of the United States, by experimenting with our own regional writing, critically reflecting not only on the places where we are from or have come to love, but also on the Chicago/Northwestern region where we currently reside. (No prior training in digital tools nor skills in storymaking are required for this course).​

ENG 105-6-22 – How to Become and 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 – Writing and Social Justice

What principles and institutions are important for a just society? How can these take into account and address the impact of current and past injustices regarding race, class, gender and the environment? In this seminar we'll examine these questions primarily in the context of the US. We'll engage with some general ideas and theories of justice and a number of specific analyses and critiques of social conditions and practices in the US regarding justice. We'll examine not just the content of these arguments about social justice, but also their form, their strategies for or approaches to communicating about social justice. You'll also have the option of writing about your own experiences related to social justice.

ENG 105-6-27 – Stories from Diverse America

Contemporary US culture has competing definitions of what it means to be an American. This seminar will ask students to consider the following set of questions: who or what is an American?; what forms do stories of the nation and of citizenship within it take?; and how and why do ideas of otherness remain complex in US history and culture? Students will contemplate these questions through two different types of readings: a series of scholarly and popular expository non-fiction essays, and a selection of short stories, plays, and poems. The essays will help students better understand what we mean when we say the words ‘nation,’ ‘citizenship,’ ‘otherness,’ and ‘culture’; the short stories, plays, and poems will help students understand the American experience through the lives of the many rich and diverse populations who help define it including immigrants, racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities. Students will demonstrate their new knowledge about the connections between such populations and Americanness through drafting and revising a series of analytical papers.

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 106-2/DSGN 106-2 – 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 and 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 570-0 – 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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