Eng 497: Seminar in Rhetoric and Writing Studies

Spring 2008

Topic: Studies in Authorship and Collaboration


Instructor: Virginia Crank

Office: 431B                    Office Phone: 785-6933 E-mail: crank.virg@uwlax.edu

Office Hours: MW 2:15-3:15, TTh 11:30-12:30, or by appointment


Course Description: Eng 497 is designed to give advanced study in rhetoric and composition. This semester’s course will focus on historical and theoretical definitions of authorship, exploring the tensions between notions of individual genius and social construction and examining how these theories have influenced our understanding of composing processes, collaboration, and authority.

Prerequisites: Eng 333 and junior standing.


Required Texts:

To be purchased:

Carbondale, IL: SIU P, 1987.

To be rented:

          Collaborative Writing. Carbondale, IL: SIU P, 1990.

Packet of readings from instructor.


A Note on the “Seminar:”

You have noticed, I hope, that this class is called a seminar. That designation carries with it a set of expectations, a mood and tone which may differ significantly from what you’ve experienced in other classes. A seminar requires that all participants engage fully in the readings and discussions, that the course is, in fact, a conversation about ideas. The role of the professor is to listen, redirect, insert perspectives, encourage further discussion through questioning, NOT to lecture, direct, or indoctrinate. A seminar also assumes that students will be interested in going beyond the requirements of the course, that the readings and ideas introduced by the professor will serve to spur further reading and research on the students’ part. So, the traditional “What does the teacher want us to do with these ideas?” is met by the equal impulse: “What do I want to do with these ideas?”


Course Requirements:

Journal: You will write a weekly reading/response journal reflecting on the readings and discussions. After reading the week’s assigned text(s), write a journal of at least one page (typed, single-spaced) reflecting on and responding to the ideas presented. The journal may be submitted at any time during the week, up until class time on Thursday, so you may choose to write your journal early in the week or after some discussion and further reading. The journal will be scored according to participation and engagement in thinking, not according to formal writing standards.


Discussion Questions: For each class meeting, students will be responsible for submitting, at the beginning of class time (or before), at least two questions/talking points for the day’s discussion. These questions/talking points may be questions about the readings, previous discussions, broader implications of theories or ideas related to the day’s discussion, etc. Primarily, you should be thinking about bringing up the ideas, questions, connections, perceptions, theories, experiences that occurred to you as you read and prepared for class and that you think will engage your classmates in the conversation about ideas. Although you don’t have to submit questions every day, you should be sure that, by the end of the semester, you have submitted questions at least 10 times.


Annotated Bibliography: Because we’ll be merely beginning to explore all the issues within the histories and theories of authorship, you will write an annotated bibliography of at least four sources that deal more specifically with some issue within the general ideas we’re exploring (one and only one of these four sources may come from my list of additional readings, as described in the “Article Summary Report” section below). An annotated bibliography is a list of sources, each with a short annotation summarizing and/or describing the information in the source. Topics may include things such as gender issues in authorship, students as authors, race and/or social class and authorship, electronic publishing and authorship, the invisibility of the author, etc. Students must approve the topic with the instructor. The goal of the annotated bibliography is to offer you the chance to read more deeply in one area and record your findings to share with the class. Additionally, you will have constructed a bibliography of sources that might prove fruitful for future research/writing. You’ll find Rebecca Moore Howard’s excellent bibliographies compiled online at http://wrt-howard.syr.edu/bibs.html; I have made hard copies of bibliographies for topics related to this course, which are available on reserve at the library.


Article Summary Report:

To further develop your breadth of understanding of this topic, you’ll be asked to choose a supplementary scholarly article to read, summarize, and report on for the class. I’ve created a list for you to choose from, organized by subject area; the article you choose may also be one that you include in your annotated bibliography, if you choose to write it on that topic. The articles are available on reserve in the library; most are also easily available as full-text through the library’s databases or another online source. Your task will be to thoroughly read and analyze the information presented in the article, to summarize it for your classmates, and to discuss how the ideas connect to those we’ve been reading together. Prepare a one-page handout for your classmates that can serve as a resource for them (be sure to make 18 copies to bring to class the day you present, or to e-mail me the handout well before class time so that I can make the copies), including bibliographical information, the summary, important quotations and whatever else you think will provide them a clear understanding of the article. You’ll also be asked to present this summary to the class. This report should be more fully developed than the short annotation you might do for the annotated bibliography.


Synthesis Essay: You will be reading a wide range of perspectives on the social construction of knowledge, and a synthesis essay will help to organize and make sense of these various perspectives. You will write an essay which brings together and integrates the various theories/perspectives, with the goal of creating a better understanding of how scholars approach the topic, particularly on a narrower question or problem within the readings. We will work in class on finding a focus for your synthesis within the sources on social construction. This essay will not require any outside research, as the goal is really to help you more fully synthesize what you’ve already read.


Ethnography: The culminating project for the seminar will be a collaborative ethnographic study of an actual writing group. By both observing and analyzing the collaboration of a real group AND by working as a real group, you will apply and test the theories you’ve read about all semester. An ethnography is an in-depth sociological analysis of some phenomenon, one that uses the observer’s experiences as well as interviews, research, theory, and analysis.

          In addition to the report, your group will also write a reflective “preface” to the report, commenting on your own collaborative experience, group process, and dynamics.



          Journal                    200

          DQs                          50

          Annotated Bib         150

          Article Summary       150

          Synthesis                 200

          Ethnography            200

          Group Reflection      50



The total of 1000 points will be converted to a percentage and the percentage assigned a letter grade, according to the following scale:


A       100-94

A/B    93-90

B        89-84

B/C    83-80

C        79-70

D        69-62

F        61-0



Attendance/Late Work: Please see the above note about the seminar. I expect you to be here each time we meet or to be mature and responsible about necessary absences. I will not accept late submissions of journals or discussions questions. I will accept late papers up to 48 hours after their due date, with a 10% reduction in the final grade on the paper.


Disability Resources: Any student with a documented disability (e.g., physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, or hearing, etc.) who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations must contact the instructor and Disability Resource Services, 165 Murphy Library, at the beginning of the semester. Students who are currently using Disability Resource Services will have a copy of a contract that verifies they are qualified students with disabilities who have documentation on file in the Disability Resource Service Office.