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Writing: Written Rhetoric

Taking Written Rhetoric (English 101 or English 100 and 102)

Written Rhetoric is the foundational course for the Academic Writing Program and an important part of the core curriculum at Calvin College. In your Written Rhetoric course, you will gain knowledge of the rhetorical principles that shape both perception and production of written texts. You will learn the philosophical perspectives that govern scholarly analysis of writing, such as the pervasiveness of persuasive aims, definitions of the audience role, and the goals of argumentation. In this way, you will learn to recognize the intellectual traditions that inform your use of written texts. Some instructors include additional content in theme-driven or linked courses so that students can apply this rhetorical knowledge to other knowledge areas and, through this application, can experience the ways that rhetorical knowledge and other knowledge areas influence each other.

Developing core skills in Written Rhetoric

In this course, you will develop several core skills. Analyzing the written texts of others, you will deepen your discipline for reading. You will develop knowledge of and experience in the rhetoric of the written word through text analysis and your own production of the expository essays, informal writing assignments, argumentation, and language study. In discussing theories of argumentation, in analyzing the arguments of others, and in developing their own arguments, you will develop the general art of reasoning. In exploring the words and ideas of others to support research-based writing skills you develop the art of executing a research project.

Developing core virtues in Written Rhetoric

Written Rhetoric directly encourages the core virtues in three ways: by promoting creativity, by demanding excellence, and by fostering a sense of service. First, promoting creativity, Written Rhetoric instructors guide students as they craft written texts that please as well as persuade and as they invent novel logical connections such as analogies and metaphors. Second, building on the message of Malachi 1, Written Rhetoric instructors encourage students to bring their best efforts before the Lord. The conjunction of this encouragement, a process-based pedagogy, and the inherent difficulty of writing well promotes the virtues of diligence, patience, and humility. As students work and rework essays to clarify their thesis, to better integrate their research, or to enhance the loveliness of a passage, they learn to persevere. Furthermore, in researching and in representing the words and ideas of others, students learn to write in a way that honors the virtue of honesty. Third, Written Rhetoric prepares students to use their skills in written rhetoric to restore our fallen creation. Working through the challenges of writing redemptively, students practice the virtues of empathy and charity. Students must recognize that the challenges of writing redemptively will draw them into potentially uncomfortable situations, situations that require stewardly use of their writing skills. And we must encourage them that the virtues of courage and hope will enable them meet these challenges.

The content of Written Rhetoric

Instructors of Written Rhetoric organize the sequence of writing assignments to match their teaching style. However, each section of Written Rhetoric includes the following:

  1. Christian perspective on written rhetoric: Because Written Rhetoric instructors value the ways that writing helps us learn and enables us to participate in God's on-going redemptive work, instructors encourage students to respect the power of writing and its potential to foster evil as well as good. Instructors challenge students to equip themselves for lives of Christian service by helping them develop a keen eye for analyzing the written texts of others and a trustworthy voice for communicating effectively in their own writing.
  2. Rhetorical principles: Students learn the rhetorical principles that shape their writing. They explore the relationship of author, audience, and text such as the elements of the rhetorical situation, the rhetorical appeals, methods of logical argumentation, organizational patterns, and stylistic devices.
  3. Expository essays (5-7): In writing essays, students apply rhetorical principles to writing tasks, learning to refine a thesis; to develop supporting points, introductions, and conclusions; and to choose an effective format. Students develop reliable composing processes, the invention and revision strategies that will help them write efficiently and effectively. And they learn editing skills that produce clarity, grace, and correctness in their writing.
  4. Informal writing assignments: In informal writing assignments, students develop ideas by writing about them. Examples of informal writing assignments include journals, extemporaneous essays, reading summaries, research annotations, and web-based discussion groups.
  5. Argumentation: Students learn rhetorical principles that govern argumentation in written texts, analyze the arguments in the written texts of others, and produce their own written arguments. Students learn to respect the power of written argumentation, its capacity to communicate truth (to promote peace and to encourage justice, for example) as well as to corrupt truth (to defile and to lie, for example).
  6. Research-based writing: Students develop their research skills in the context of complex writing tasks: They learn to integrate the rhetorical demands of the argument and the available data, they assess the validity and truthfulness of data, and they learn to use the words and ideas of others ethically and effectively.
  7. Reading assignments: By analyzing the written words of others, students learn to value writing as an effective means of conveying information and as a powerfully persuasive tool. When reading in Written Rhetoric, students consider the rhetorical consequences of such features as an author's argumentative strategies, genre selection, and stylistic choices.
  8. Language study: By exploring issues such as diction, usage, and sentence structure, students come to understand the importance of fitting thought to expression. Recognizing that familiarity with the conventions of written English will improve their writing, students review grammar and usage, paying special attention to issues that affect their ability to communicate clearly in formal written texts. Students demonstrate their comprehension of grammar, punctuation, and usage in a 100-item exam.

A Christian perspective on the content of Written Rhetoric

This course will help you think of written rhetoric as part of a creation that was created good, that was utterly corrupted by sin, and that is redeemed in Christ. When analyzing written texts, you will experience the sin-saturated nature of unredeemed use of written language; that is, you will see first-hand how writers can abuse the beauty of language to disguise its message and how writers can muddle written language to mask truth. As well, you will read texts that respect the truth about a subject, that honor the need of your readers, and that value elegance of expression. Additionally, in Written Rhetoric, you will learn to write in ways that encourage both you and readers to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God, and you will learn writing skills that will equip them for lives of service to their creator. We hope that you will apply the skills of written rhetoric to the writing they do in the rest of your academic career and after you graduate. We hope that on the job and as leaders in the community you will write honoring God's on-going work in our world.

Written Rhetoric requirements:

During the semester, you will write five to seven essays, at least one of which includes a research component as well as informal writing assignments such as journals, free writes, in-class writing assignments, and writing exercises. You will take a 100-item grammar exam as part of their final exam for Written Rhetoric.

Written Rhetoric textbooks:

Instructors use a variety of texts when they teach Written Rhetoric, and each section of Written Rhetoric requires The New St. Martin's Handbook as a guide to grammar, usage, mechanics, and documentation style.

Grading in Written Rhetoric:

Regardless of which Written Rhetoric section you select, you will earn your final grade based on the grades for your papers and final exam. Individual instructors may, at their discretion, add additional elements to the grading scheme such as class attendance, reading quizzes, collaborative projects, journals, web pages, and the like. If you earn a C- or lower in Written Rhetoric, Calvin College requires you to repeat the course until you earn a C or better.

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