ENG 7360: Writing for the Public, 1700-Now
Instructor: Crystal B. Lake
Contact: lake.crystal@gmail.com (the best way to reach me)
Class Time: T 5:00-7:40pm
Office Hours: make an appointment at youcanbookme.com
(available times: Tuesdays 12:00-1:30 & 3:30-4:30pm; Thursdays 12:00-1:30)
Link to Course Schedule

Course Description: Recently, a range of venues have emerged for academic (and academic-adjacent) writers to publish their work for non-specialist readers. This surge of interest in public writing has also inspired debate about the value as well as the hazards of being “public intellectuals” who write “public-facing scholarship.” This course will examine this “new” sector of publishing opportunities and the genres it supports within a longer historical context, asking such questions as: What topics do public writers write about the most? What techniques do they use to write about them? How have aspects of pubic writing changed over time? How have other aspects endured? What conflicts characterize public-facing critical writing in the past as well as in the present?

In addition to introducing students to the history of public writing about literature, history, and culture from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries, this course also aims to offer students practical opportunities to develop their own style and content for venues that publish public-facing criticism and scholarship today. Assigned readings will include classic periodical essays from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (by Joseph Addison, Samuel Johnson, and William Hazlitt, among others) as well as important nonfiction essays from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (by Joan Didion, Italo Calvino, David Foster Wallace, and Roxane Gay, among others).

Required Texts:

  • Kramer, Mark and Wendy Call, eds. Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide. New York: Plume, 2007. (ISBN: 978-0452287556)
  • Strunk, William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 4th New York: Pearson, 1999. (ISBN: 9780205309023)
  • The vast majorities of our readings this semester will be available as PDFs. Please plan (financially and pragmatically) to print hard copiesof assigned materials and bring those hard copies to class. In my experience, students who are looking at assigned course materials on their phone, tablet, or laptop have difficulty toggling between their devices and class discussions.
  • Some of our readings may contain graphic violence and represent scenes or entertain ideas that make readers uncomfortable. Please take a second to preview and learn about all of the assigned readings by the end of the first week of the class in order to assess your willingness and ability to engage with course content. Feel free to make an appointment with me if you have any concerns you’d like to discuss about assigned texts in this class.

Grading Criteria:

  • 3 Imitation Prose Paragraphs with 3 Ideas/Research Documents: 15%
  • 5 Completed Drafts of Essays (minimum: 1000 words): 20%
  • Portfolio of 3 Final Essays with Pitches & Specified Venues: 40%
  • Topic Proposal with Outline and Bibliography for Future Seminar Paper: 25%

3 Imitation Prose Paragraphs with 3 Ideas/Research Documents: In weeks 2, 3, and 4 you will work on preparing two documents. One of these is a 250-word paragraph of imitative prose in which you attempt to write exactly in the style of one of the assigned eighteenth- or nineteenth-century periodicals essays about a twenty-first century topic. The other document should be an “ideas with related research” document developed following the template provided on the assignment sheet. Each of these documents will be a record of possible topics, inspired by the reading you completed for the course, that you think would be viable topics to explore in both a future seminar paper as well as a public-facing writing project. The purpose of this assignment is to get you in the habit of writing regularly and to give you opportunities to practice careful reading skills.

5 Completed Drafts of Essays (minimum: 1000 words): Beginning in Week 7, you will need to come to class with a completed draft of a new essay each week suitable for submission to an online publishing venue. The purpose of this assignment is to get you generating a body of work that you will revise for the final portfolio in the course. There are six opportunities to turn in a completed draft of essays, and you may miss one without any penalty.

Portfolio of Three Final Essays (1,500 – 3,000 words) with Pitches & Specified Venues: During Finals week, you will turn in a portfolio of three different essays suitable for submission to specific, online publishing venues along with a short pitch (no more than 250 words) that you may use to pique the interest of the venues’ editors. Please see the assignment sheet for formatting and length requirements as well as a grading rubric.

Topic Proposal with Outline and Bibliography for Future Seminar Paper:During Finals Week, you will also turn in a topic proposal (500 words) for a seminar paper based on research you completed or developed throughout the course and as you worked on your public-facing essays—along with a robust outline and bibliography for the project (outline: 1-2 pages; bibliography: 15 secondary, scholarly sources including a mix of both monographs and peer-reviewed articles). Please see the assignment sheet for formatting and length requirements as well as a grading rubric.

Course Policies:

Attendance: This course does not have an attendance policy, but attending class sessions where I will deliver lectures, distribute important information about course content and assignments, and lead discussions as well as creative classroom activities will help you succeed in the class. If you have an emergency that will keep you from attending class, please let me know as soon as possible. I can’t promise that I will accommodate you, but I may be able to help you get in touch with an administrator who can help you to complete this and the other courses that will have been affected by your emergency. I do not offer makeup opportunities for missed deadlines except in the case of documented emergencies.

Class Ethos: This course emulates professional climates in order to prepare you for work outside of the classroom. Please approach your relationship with your professor, your peers, your readings and assignments as if you were in a professional setting. Class sessions will be devoted to discussions as well as activities that aim to establish facts and best practices, brainstorm ideas, solve problems, and develop strategies for fulfilling project goals. You should come to class sessions prepared, then, to offer productive comments on assigned readings, respond to others’ ideas with thoughtfulness and respect, and ask questions that are meaningful. You should avoid inviting speculation about your work ethic that will inevitably arise if you seem distracted by electronic devices like phones and laptops, if you seem unprepared, if your personal life consistently interferes with your work, if you cannot stay on task during small-group activities, if you are unable to meet deadlines, if you turn in incomplete work or work that appears to be haphazardly, hastily completed.

Advice on Participating in Class Discussions: Please be sure to let your instructor know about needs you may have regarding accommodation in class discussion—from what name or pronouns you prefer to any techniques you’ve found that work best when it comes to helping you feel comfortable participating in class.The following are good questions to consider when it comes to evaluating how you participate in class discussions (adapted from Sarah Wasserman):

  • Do I push myself to contribute to discussions even when I’d rather remain quiet? Do I recognize that others might require more time to enter a conversation than I do?
  • Am I mindful of the need for students to “take turns” being responsible for class discussion? Do I hold up my end of this responsibility? Do I leave space for others to take their turn? Am I mindful that taking turns means that all students in the class share responsibility both for initiatingdiscussions as well as contributingto discussions that others have initiated? Do I contribute to discussions that not only interest me but also others in the classroom who may have different interests than I do?
  • Do I approach texts and discussions with an open mind – not to demonstrate my knowledge or intelligence but to learn from the text and the conversation? Am I willing to ask even basic questions about things I might not understand or fully grasp regarding assigned texts, discussion points, or concepts?
  • Are my contributions to class conversations consistently on topic and do I try to incorporate a variety of discussion strategies? Do I, for example, balance humor and seriousness, close reading and big picture questions, praise and critique?
  • Do I recognize that despite our best intentions, I, my classmates, and my instructor all sometimes misspeak, misjudge, or get things wrong? Am I willing to risk making a mistake in class discussions? Am I willing to revise my ideas when I discover that I have made a mistake or when new information has been presented to me?

Turning in Work: Work is due at the time and day and in the format as stated on the course schedule or assignment page. Technological difficulties such as a broken printer, a failed hard drive, or a disrupted internet connection are not acceptable excuses for late work. I recommend that you use cloud storage to save your work as well as complete and print work that must be turned in on paper at least 24 hours before the deadline. Use a stapler if your work on paper is more than one page. I do not accept late work either in hard copy or via email, and I only make exceptions to this policy for documented emergencies requiring intervention from Student Services (a death in your immediate family, a serious illness requiring hospitalization).

Academic Integrity: Here is WSU’s academic integrity policy. Assignments submitted by students that violate this policy will automatically be reported and assigned a grade of 0.

Students with Disabilities: If you anticipate needing accommodation for a disability in this course, please register with the Office of Disability Services and email me during the first week of class so that we can find a time to meet and talk about how we can work together to ensure your success in the course.

Social Media Policy: I may share positive and respectful representations of students’ work for this course online. I will never, however, tag a student or post their name or an image of the student online without first asking for their permission to do so. I ask that you treat your online engagement with this course with a similar kind of care. Please do not tag me, post my name, or share images of me without first asking for my permission to do so. Unless we have an arrangement worked out through our Office of Disability, students may not make or disseminate recordings or copies of in-class activities or distributed materials. I often make my PowerPoints as well as my lecture notes freely available for students to download, and you are always welcome to snap pictures of notes on the board at the end of class for your records. If you have concerns about how you or your work in the course may be represented online, please talk to me about them.