Writing & Rhetoric

Overview | Requirements | Courses | Faculty

Overview

Occidental expects its graduates to demonstrate superior writing ability. The Writing Program prepares students in all disciplines to write effectively: to develop complex concepts clearly and fully, to organize essays and reports logically, and to maintain the conventions of standard written English. This standard of writing performance is upheld in all College courses.

To achieve this goal, the College emphasizes expository writing and research skills in the Core curriculum, in courses emphasizing the methodologies of various disciplines, and in the composition courses in the English Writing Department. The foundation of the College’s Writing Program is the first-year instructional program in Cultural Studies. First-year students take year-long, sequenced seminars that help students develop
college-level writing strategies in rich disciplinary content to further their knowledge and communication of the topics they study.

In addition to the Core curriculum in writing, the English Writing Department offers courses to students who want to concentrate on the most effective strategies for writing in and out of the academy. These include English Writing 201, a class that centers on the processes and skills necessary to fine writing, and the College’s advanced writing courses, English Writing 301 and 401. Any student seeking individual instruction in writing or assistance with a particular paper will find support and advice available at the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE), where English Writing professors work as writing specialists, and where student writing advisors collaborate with student writers. The Director of Writing Programs will gladly advise students of all resources available for developing their writing ability.

Requirements

Proficiency in writing is a requirement for graduation. Students meet this requirement in two stages, the first of which is passing the first-stage Writing Proficiency evaluation in the Cultural Studies Program. Completion of the Cultural Studies courses does not by itself satisfy the writing requirement. An additional measure of writing proficiency is required; most recently this measure has been participation in a shared intellectual experience with required reading. Frosh are expected to pass the writing exercise that culminates the experience.  Those who do not pass the Cultural Studies Writing evaluations will be asked to pass with a C or better a course in the Department of English Writing (201) or another writing course designated by the Director of Writing Programs in conjunction with the Director of the Core Program. The second stage of the 33.

FIRST STAGE WRITING REQUIREMENT FOR TRANSFER STUDENTS

In order to fulfill the First Stage Writing Requirement, transfer students must: 1) have completed two writing courses (minimum six semester units) with specific writing instruction (not simply a course offered in an English department, nor any literature, creative writing, “writing intensive” courses) prior to transferring to the College; any courses not approved by the Registrar upon entrance must be appealed through the
Writing Program; or 2) complete English Writing 201 or 401 after entering the College; or 3) submit a petition and portfolio before the senior year. Students must contact Writing Programs at the CAE to receive instructions.

Each student should receive, at the time of declaring the major, a description of the particular Second Stage Writing Requirement for the department. However, an overview of the department options follows:

FIRST STAGE WRITING PORTFOLIO OPTION FOR TRANSFER STUDENTS

Generally compiled over the sophomore and junior years, three papers are drawn from departmental work. Revisions are encouraged or may be required. One paper may be a retrospective analysis of the student’s writing. A reflective analysis of the portfolio may be required in addition to the three papers. Portfolios are read by more than one faculty member. The requirements for submitting a portfolio are available in the Writing Programs Office. The Writing Programs Department and the Director of the Core Program make every effort to work with an individual student’s portfolio submissions.

SECOND STAGE WRITING

Writing-Intensive Seminars: Most departments require a single junior-year seminar that includes a considerable amount of writing. The final product is read by more than one professor. A grade of B- is usually required, depending on the department. Fulfillment of the requirement is met through additional coursework when the grade in the seminar is not satisfactory.

Writing Across the Major: Some departments have deemed all upper-division courses writing intensive. A few departments require more than one writing-intensive course in order to complete the Second Stage Writing Requirement in the major. An average grade of B- is generally required, depending on the department. See department chair for specifics.

Creative Writing: It is recommended that students interested in creative writing choose a major or minor that will provide them background in literature. Of special interest is the Writing Emphasis in the English and Comparative Literary Studies department. The College believes that it is essential to understand a tradition of literature and authorship in order to become a writer oneself. There are also offerings in various creative arts at the College that would support such an emphasis. Students interested in journalistic writing  should consider the importance of intellectual background and training available in the different programs in the humanities, arts, sciences, and social sciences. Students also have the opportunity to take independent studies in creative writing, and in special cases, to elect Senior Year Honors Projects in writing. Specific courses that address creative writing include ECLS 380 (Creative Writing), English Writing 286 (Principles of Journalism II), English Writing 301 (Creative Non-Fiction), English Writing 401 (Writing Across the Curriculum), French 343 (Theory and Practice of Translation), Theater 201 (Alternative Voices in American Theater), and Theater 380 (Playwriting). Writers also are invited regularly to ECLS creative writing classes and to the Intercultural Community Center, events that are open to the campus at large.

Additionally, every other year a Remsen Bird Visiting Artist gives classes and/or workshops on campus. In the last few years the ECLS Department has sponsored several literary Honors Projects in writing. Specific courses that address creative writing include ECLS 380 (Creative Writing), English Writing 286 (Principles of Journalism II), English Writing 301 (Creative Non-Fiction), English Writing 401 (Writing Across the Curriculum), French 343 (Theory and Practice of Translation), Theater 201 (Alternative Voices in American Theater), and Theater 380 (Playwriting). Writers also are invited regularly to ECLS creative writing classes and to the Intercultural Community Center, events that are open to the campus at large.

Additionally, every other year a Remsen Bird Visiting Artist gives classes and/or workshops on campus. In the last few years the ECLS Department has sponsored several literary conferences with invited guests; the department also sponsors a literary contest with prizes for fiction, poetry, and short drama, and provides support for The Occidental Review, a literary magazine edited by students. Students also have the opportunity to work on the student newspaper, to join literary clubs, and to elect an internship course under the direction of a faculty member. Internships, arranged with the help of the Career
Development Center, have included work at the Mark Taper Forum, the Getty Art Institute, the Huntington Library, the Minority Training Institute, and Dreamworks.

Students at Occidental also have the opportunity to hear distinguished writers on campus; guests in the last several years have included Alice Walker, bell hooks, Walter Mosley, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Sandra Cisneros, Amy Tan, Anna Deavere Smith, Maya Angelou, Gish offers opportunities to hear many other writers at Vroman Bookstore, Beyond Baroque, Skylight Books, and Dawson Books, among others.

Courses

197 - Independent Study in Writing & Rhetoric

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
2 or 4 units

201 - The Art of Essay Writing

The Art of Essay Writing:
An introduction to the analytic forms of the essay. Course work emphasizes the writing processes needed to articulate the complexities of thinking about academic subjects: generating theses, structuring arguments, and developing a clear, cohesive style. The class considers conventional and innovative methods to merge content, form and style. Writing assignments consider multicultural and interdisciplinary texts. Not open to frosh.

The Art of Essay Writing: Race, Class and Gender
An introduction to the analytic forms of the essay. Course work emphasizes the writing processes needed to articulate the complexities of thinking about academic subjects: generating theses, structuring arguments, and developing a clear, cohesive style. The class considers conventional and innovative methods to merge content, form, and style. Writing assignments consider multicultural and interdisciplinary texts. This particular section will explore the narrative and visual presentation of social/cultural assumptions about race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. Not open to frosh.

The Art of Essay Writing: Documentary Film
An introduction to the analytic forms of the essay. Course work emphasizes the writing processes needed to articulate the complexities of thinking about academic subjects: generating theses, structuring arguments, and developing a clear, cohesive style. The class considers conventional and innovative methods to merge content, form, and style. Writing assignments consider multicultural and interdisciplinary texts. This particular section situates writing instruction in documentary film; close attention will be paid to audience, context, and argument. Not open to frosh.

The Art of Essay Writing: Travel
An introduction to the analytic forms of the essay. Course work emphasizes the writing processes needed to articulate the complexities of thinking about academic subjects: generating theses, structuring arguments, and developing a clear, cohesive style. The class considers conventional and innovative methods to merge content, form and style. Writing assignments consider multicultural and interdisciplinary texts. This particular section analyzes travel writing across the centuries, examining historical conditions, intercultural interactions, and post-tourism. Not open to frosh.

250 - Writing with the Community

This course encourages an engaged and dynamic approach to writing studies, as it places writing in real-world contexts by partnering Oxy students with community organizations (in Los Angeles and Pasadena). Through these partnerships, students will identify local cultural and social concerns—specifically on the topics of homelessness, poverty, and immigration, which represent the interests of our particular community groups—and will use writing and rhetorical tools for analyzing and addressing these issues. In this class, we will explore a wide range of research and writing strategies common to both academic environments and the work place situations of our community partners, such as: primary or field research, secondary or library-based research, and both individual and collaborative writing projects. This course will allow students to see community nonprofit organizations, plus the cultural, social, and political issues and rhetoric surrounding them, from the inside out. The work of this class is thus both scholarly and practical, motivating student learning by enlivening and enriching students’ approaches to academic work.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: UNITED STATES and GLOBAL CONNECTIONS

275 - Rhetoric in the Health Professions

This class primarily prepares students to read critically in the multiple contexts necessary for a career in health, as well as guides students in developing a personal statement for post-graduate applications. The course emphasizes critical reading development generally, drawing readings from a variety of fields, and combines those skills with logical strategies for various applications, including communicating with multiple audiences and passing required tests. We will also discuss rhetoric of professional writing in the health professions.
Not open to frosh. 

2 units

285 - Principles of Journalism I: Newswriting

This course is an intensive introduction to the theories and practices of a trade that is protected by the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and yet increasingly under threat. Taught by a team of accomplished reporters and editors (Fall 2008's lineup included 6 Pulitzer Prize winners), this class will introduce nuts and bolts journalistic techniques, explore the inner workings of news media, and encourage students to apply critical thinking skills to communications theories and controversies relevant to all academic disciplines and integral to 21st Century global citizenship.

286 - Principles of Journalism II: Narrative Journalism

Taught by some of California's top magazine and newspaper writers, editors and columnists, in this course students will learn to combine the reporter's craft with creative writing skills to produce lucid, compelling non-fiction. Exploring the spectrum of journalistic expression in newspapers, magazines, books, online publications, television and film, students will grapple with issues and controversies concerning media's role in society. The course will also develop students' reporting and interviewing techniques and focus intensely on the craft of writing. Using narrative devices, students will practice a contemplative form of journalism─striving to present richer views of who we are, how we live and the forces that shape our existence.

295 - Argument and Rhetoric Across the Disciplines

This class will engage the historical, theoretical, and cultural dimensions of rhetoric in a range of disciplines in the arts, literature, politics, and philosophy. In readings from Aristotle to poststructuralist theory, we will examine all aspects of the rhetorical situation (exigence, audience, and rhetor) and the contexts in which rhetorical acts occur. We will examine how language practices intersect with culture and identity, including class, race, sexuality, gender, and nation, as we consider how arguments are constructed and how writing and narrative transform culture.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: PRE-1800

301 - Creative Non-Fiction

An advanced composition course, creative non-fiction emphasizes writing for wide, cross-disciplinary audiences. Creative non-fiction shares the characteristics of literature, creative writing, and exposition, encompassing memoir, biography, technological practices, and many forms of the essay. Writing about nature, sports and travel, popular science and history, students will use professional writing and new journalism techniques. The readings will include short non-fiction works from authors such as Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Mary Gordon, Bhanu Kapil Rider, Richard Selzer, Virginia Woolf and Brent Staples. The class will emphasize the particular challenges of several non-fiction genres, encouraging sound writing principles as well as experimentation and exploration. This community of writers will write and rewrite many texts-exploring methods and styles to move from draft to publication. Prerequisite: student must have passed the Core Writing Requirement or taken ENWR 201.
CORE REQUIREMENT MET: FINE ARTS

395 - Theory and Pedagogy of Writing

An exploration of the theory and practice of writing instruction, the class emphasizes rhetorical strategies, audience expectations, and forms of academic discourse. Collaborative techniques and interpersonal dynamics will also be discussed. This class is primarily for Peer Writing Advisors. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. May be repeated for credit.
2 units

397 - Independent Study in Writing & Rhetoric

Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
2 or 4 units

401 - Writing Across the Curriculum

Writing Across the Curriculum: Travel Writing
This version of the course will examine tales of many travelers, from eighteenth and nineteenth century voyagers such as Mary Wortley Montagu and Mark Twain to twentieth century travelers like Truman Capote and Paul Theroux. Be it on the “Grand Tour” or with a “post-tourist” as our guide, we will consider the wide variety of this genre as well as compose travel essays and memoirs in text and multimedia. If you plan to study abroad or to visit parts of Los Angeles you have never seen before, this class is for you! May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: Must have passed first stage writing requirement This course can be repeated twice for credit.

 

Writing Across the Curriculum: Science Writing
This class offers students opportunities to develop and refine their skills in presenting various scientific topics to a wide range of audiences, and encourages students to critically examine social aspects of the dissemination of scientific information. Readings will include contemporary issues in a number of scientific fields, including environmental and ecological science, cognitive science, medicine and health science, as well as a variety of natural and life sciences. We will delve into important ethical and practical constraints that govern the reporting of scientific information and consider the cultural place of science (in the U.S. especially).  Writing tasks will include short analyses of science writing as students work towards crafting their own articles. Not open to frosh.

Faculty

Regular Faculty

Thomas Burkdall, chair

Director of the Center for Academic Excellence; Associate Professor, Writing & Rhetoric

B.A., Pitzer College; M.A., Ph.D., UCLA

Julie Prebel

Assistant Professor, Writing & Rhetoric

B.A., UC Berkeley; M.A., Cal State San Francisco; Ph.D., University of Washington

On Special Appointment

Paul Casey

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Writing & Rhetoric

B.A., M.A., Loyola Marymount University; Ph.D., Bowling Green State University

Robert Sipchen

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Writing & Rhetoric

B.A., UC Santa Barbara

Lisa Tremain

NTT Assistant Professor, Writing & Rhetoric