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English 101: Ordinary Lives

This intensive writing course will focus on the personal essay and the place(s) of writing in our everyday lives. We will explore the ways essay writing corresponds with other forms of personal correspondence (including but not limited to blogs, zines, mix tapes, diaries, professional correspondence, and letter writing) as well as the impulse to order our lives, and to direct or touch the lives of others, through writing.

Along the way, your own essays and writer’s journal will serve as your major texts for the course. Additional texts will be comprised of various genres, including: essays by authors ranging chronologically from Michel de Montaigne and Francis Bacon to Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, and David Sedaris; episodes of This American Life and Radiolab; PostSecret postcards; current newspaper articles and editorials; letters and diary entries across the ages, including some by Queen Elizabeth I, John Donne, Samuel Pepys, Anne Frank, and other, less famous writers; songs; zines; and a book length memoir.  Tentative texts may include Lauren Slater’s Lying: A Memoir and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and essays by Lewis Carroll, Garrison Keillor, Lars Eighner, Stephanie Ericsson, Gloria Naylor, Sarah Vowell, Nancy Mairs, George Orwell, and others.  We will also be using Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference.

Students can expect to write and extensively revise four major essays, at least one of which will include a research component. These essays, along with other projects, will be collected into a final portfolio.  Students will also present their major revision projects to the class, keep a writer’s journal, and respond reflectively to their own writing processes via letters to the instructor.