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Personal and Exploratory Writing
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The great essayist Michel de Montaigne said “Every [person] has within [themselves] the
entire human condition.” By this, of course, Montaigne didn’t mean that everyone has the
same experiences. Rather, we might take Montaigne to be saying that being human means
that we all react to and are shaped by our experiences.
Thanks to our capacity for language, we can try to communicate our various shades of
reality to others. Why might we want to do this? First, perhaps, to show people that there
ARE many sorts of experiences apart from (and not inferior to) their own; and second, to
provide insight into how these different sorts of experiences might shape how individual
people react to the world.
In a time where many have acknowledged a seeming lack of common ground and shared
values, perhaps this kind of personal and exploratory writing is more important than ever. In
this course, then, we will be delving into our own experience and learning the most effective
ways to share those experiences with others.
LEARNING OBJECTIVES. By the end of the course, you should...
1. Be familiar with many different types of personal writing.
2. Be able to read, comprehend, and analyze personal writing for its effects on audiences.
3. Be able to tell a compelling story using personal experience.
4. Have a better awareness and control of formal features in writing, including literary
techniques, arrangement, style, and mechanics.
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5. Have developed and refined your own writing process through the use of pre-writing,
drafting, revising, and other.
• ENGL 208 does not require a textbook.
• All required readings are posted on the English 208 BbLearn site.
COURSE STRUCTURE AND REQUIREMENTS
You will be producing a combination of polished and unpolished writing for the course,
culminating in a final portfolio.
Complete all major assignments. As per English department policy, you must complete every
major assignment (here, what I’m calling “polished” writing – you can in order to pass the
course. Not completing a major assignment leads automatically to a grade of F in the
Complete homework assignments. For each project, there will be one or more assignments
designed to help “scaffold” the project. There is no “busy work” in this course – every
assignment I give you is meaningful, and is designed to help you develop some important
skill that will help you complete the project.
Participate in online discussions and draft workshops. Some of the work for the course
involves participating with your fellow students. Again, I only assign discussions and
workshops if they are meaningful and help you arrive at an understanding of some concept.
I expect you to participate in a more-than-cursory way; if you choose not to participate, you
will lose the associated points.
A NOTE ON PERSONAL VS. PRIVATE CONTENT
I want to distinguish between personal content and private content. In this course, I hope
you will all feel comfortable sharing personal writing with me and with your peers.
Sometimes sharing personal content makes us uncomfortable, but ultimately it is
meaningful and helps us grow.
But no one is required to share any private content or information—in fact, I discourage you
from writing about anything that you consider private. Sharing private content can be far
more traumatic, and might be more harmful than helpful. To get a sense of the difference, it
might help to think about everything you write for the course as something that is meant to
be shared publicly (as if, for instance, you were to get your writing published). If you would
feel uncomfortable with the public seeing something you’ve written for this course, then you
should probably choose to write about something else.
Also, please know that as a university employee I am a mandatory reporter—that means that
I am required to report to the dean’s office certain information. If in your writing or in a talk
with me you disclose information regarding behavior or incidents that may be sexual
harassment or sexual misconduct, or if you say anything that makes me feel that you or
another member of the campus community is in distress or displaying concerning behavior
(including suicidal ideation), I will have to report it. Reporting it just means that someone
from the university will likely reach out to you to see if you are okay—there is no sort of
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Each project includes a Drop Box for assignments. Assignments are typically due either
Wednesday or Sunday at midnight – the final due dates are clearly listed on each of the
project schedules, and the assignments themselves.
Unless you have gotten permission from me at least 24 hours ahead of time, homework
assignments will lose one letter grade per day they are late. I will make exceptions if you
have serious extenuating circumstances (severe illness, death in the family, etc.), but you
must tell me about these circumstances before the homework is due, and you must provide
the appropriate documentation upon your return.
Regarding late policies for polished writing assignments and the Final Portfolio, see the
“Grading, Self-Evaluation, and Missed Work Policies” link on the BbLearn course menu.
I will grade your work based on the following general criteria, though I’ll provide you with
more specific criteria for each assignment:
• A: superior; the work is of near-professional quality. The assignment meets or
exceeds all objectives. The content is mature, thorough, and well suited for the
audience; the style is clear, accurate, and forceful; the information is well organized
and formatted so that it is accessible and attractive; the mechanics and grammar are
• B: good; the paper meets the objectives of the assignment, but it needs improvement
in style, or it contains easily correctable errors in grammar, format, or content, or its
content is superficial.
• C: competent; the paper needs significant improvement in concept, details,
development, organization, grammar, or format. It may be formally correct but
superficial in content.
• D: marginally acceptable; the paper meets some of the objectives but ignores others;
the content is inadequately developed; or it contains numerous or major errors.
• F: unacceptable; the paper does not have enough information, does something other
than the assignment required, or it contains major errors or excessive errors.
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Your final grade will be determined by the grades you receive on written and in-class
assignments, based on the following weighting:
Homework Assignments. These consist of short writing exercises,
brainstorming sessions, and peer reviews for each unit.
Assignment 1: Imitative List Essay 100
Assignment 2: Epistolary Essay 100
Assignment 3: A Personal Object Essay 100
Assignment 4: Writing About a Song 100
Assignment 5: Audio Essay (pitch, script, audio) 150
Final Portfolio 100
Total Points Possible 1000
1. Technology Requirements.
• Computer in good working order.
• Microsoft Word. Students are strongly encouraged to use Microsoft Word because it
is the most commonly used software in the workplace today. Often it is the only
software that will open in bblearn assignments.
Microsoft Office is provided at no extra cost to all students and as part of the UI
Microsoft Licensing Agreement. You can install it on up to five separate devices. To
install, go to ITS Technology Services.
• Microphone. Most computers have an integrated microphone that will work fine for
this course. If you need to purchase one, however, here are two inexpensive
microphones that bblearn recommends:
Logitech 1 ($14.99) and Logitech 2 ($19.99).
• Reliable Backup. You will need a reliable backup to store the latest drafts of your
work other than the hard drive of your computer or an easily lost thumb drive. Here is
one I recommend http://www.dropbox.com
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2. Accepted File Formats. The following are the only accepted file formats:
• Essays: Word or PDF
• Audio Essay: URL where the file is hosted. Digital media files (MP3, MP4, etc.) are not
accepted in this course. Your media file must be hosted in the cloud and play without
a user needing to download it first.
3. Deadlines. All work is due by 11:59 PM on the day/date indicated in the project
schedules. Late assignments will lose one letter grade (or the equivalent number of
points) per day.
If, when I start to grade your work, a file will not open or a URL link does not work, I will
notify you by email, and you will be given 24 hours to submit work correctly in bblearn
and a late work point penalty will apply. To avoid this problem, verify your submission.
4. Verify Submissions to Avoid Point Penalties. When submitting assignments, students are
responsible for verifying that files they uploaded; are not corrupted; will open; and that
the URL to the slidecast works.
This means you must return to the submissions box and open any files you uploaded and
check that a URL works. If your work does not submit correctly or if you failed to submit
part of it, you will need to submit all work again in a single attempt because the last
submission is the only one I grade.
5. University Disability Support Services. Reasonable accommodations will be made for
students with disabilities. Disability Support Services must approve your request: (208)
6. Academic Dishonesty. Consequences for academic dishonesty will certainly include
failing the assignment; students who plagiarize may also receive an F in the course. If
you’re not sure what plagiarism is, you can read the University of Idaho’s Academic
Honesty Policy online at http://www.if.uidaho.edu/docs/academic_honesty.pdf.F'.
7. Contacting Me. You are invited to email me when you have a question or to request a
writing conference. You may expect a reply within 24 hours and probably quite quickly.