E501 – Theories of Composition

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Prerequisite: E402 or permission of the instructor

Description: E501 provides an introduction to and survey of modern writing theory. The primary goal of the course is to illustrate the variety of ways in which the act of writing has been described and analyzed in order to provide a better understanding of how a piece of text is produced. Intended for future writing teachers, writers, and editors, the course prepares students to apply theoretical principles to the practical concerns of writing pedagogy, the act of writing, or editorial work. The specifics of such practice, however, are not the focus of the course itself.

E501 begins with a brief historical overview of the rhetorical tradition out of which modern writing theory emerges. The course then moves to intensive study of modern approaches to writing, which may include all or some of the following: classical, current-traditional, expressive, socio-cognitive, rhetorical, social, deconstructive, feminist, Marxist, and cultural theories of writing. On a more limited scale, the course will also consider, within the context of such theories, research into and relevant to the act of writing. Such research could include studies of composing processes, theories of cognition, linguistics, learning styles, work place studies, classroom research, and literacy studies.

The focus of E501, then, is on theories of meaning-making applied to written discourse production from the perspective of a European and American rhetorical tradition. This tradition approaches communication as a practice which both affects and is influenced by cultural and historical realities. In this way, E501 considers how the act of writing, as a specific form of linguistic and cultural production, influences thinking, communication, and the cultural/social effect of text production on both writers and readers.