Jared Gibbs’ 1105 Syllabus

Course Description: In this course we will use the concept of “rhetorical situation” as a lens through which to approach a variety of reading and writing assignments throughout the semester. Focusing on various texts’ rhetorical dimensions is a way to help you develop critical thinking skills and critical writing skills (in fact, you cannot perform the latter without using the former). Looking beyond the composition classroom, we require, as citizens living in the “information age,” the ability to efficiently organize and interpret the information that floods us daily. To this end, our rhetorical and analytical/critical work will focus on public texts—newspaper articles, opinion pieces, speeches, printed advertisements, television commercials, internet videos, etc.

Required Texts:

  • Virginia Tech Dept of English, Composition at Virginia Tech (2009-2010)

ISBN: 0-558-19908-9 [ISBN-13: 978-0-558-19908-1]

  • Andrea A. Lunsford & John J. Ruszkiewicz, Everything’s an Argument, 4th edition, 2007.

ISBN: 0-312-44749-3 [ISBN-13: 978-0-312-44749-6]

  • Various supplemental readings will be posted on Scholar.

Assignments: The following are brief descriptions of the assignments you will complete in this course. You will receive more-thorough descriptions as they are assigned.

  • Daily Writing: Very brief writing assignments will be given at the beginning of many classes. You will need to keep up with the reading in order to complete these successfully. (These writings make up your participation grade.)
  • Discourse Community Map and Reflection: This assignment will help you begin thinking about communication and language in various contexts. (Can context dictate the form and character of our communication? Can it determine who we are?) It also serves as an introduction to the idea of a “Rhetorical Situation.”
  • Slang Dictionary Project: This assignment directly connects with the discourse community map assignment, combining both individual work and group work. Each group will compile a list of slang terms/lingo and definitions/meanings peculiar to the discourse communities each group member uses for his or her map, producing a short web-based dictionary. As individuals, you will write a five-paragraph “Meditation on One Word” essay (to be explained) and a 2-3 page reflection. In conjunction with this, we will view excerpts from the PBS documentary, “Do You Speak American?”
  • Rhetorical Analysis: You will write a rhetorical analysis (at least 5 pages) of a text of your choosing (dependent on my approval). We will use this assignment to look at the writing process, elements of critical/analytical writing, etc.
  • Pecha Kucha Presentation: Pecha Kucha is a presentation format developed in Japan by two architects. It is specifically designed to work against “death by PowerPoint,” imposing on the presenter the restriction of using only 20 slides, each visible for only 20 seconds. The entire presentation should therefore be 6 minutes 40 seconds long. I’m combining this idea with the sort of “PowerPoint dialogue” Stephen Colbert uses to such great effect in his “Word” segments. You will be free to develop a presentation related to your discourse community map & reflection, slang dictionary project, or rhetorical analysis. There will be a slide time constraint similar to Pecha Kucha, and there must be a dialogic aspect to each presentation, placing its oral component in conversation with its visual component. More about Pecha Kucha:





  • Class participation – 15% (Daily Writing)
  • Discourse Community Map and Reflection—10%
  • Slang Dictionary Project—25%
  • Rhetorical Analysis—35%
  • Pecha Kucha Presentation—15%

Course Policies:

  • Attendance – Attendance is expected; no in-class work may be completed for credit at a later time.
  • Due Dates – All assignments must be turned in on time—there will be no partial credit given for late submissions. (Exceptions include but are not limited to: family/health emergencies; family death—your grandmother/grandfather/great uncle/favorite pet may die only once; the disruption of campus by looting and rioting following another complete economic meltdown.) In all seriousness, extensions will be given at my discretion.
  • Virginia Tech Honor Code – The honor code will be strictly enforced in this course. All assignments submitted shall be considered graded work, unless otherwise noted. All aspects of your coursework are covered in the Honor System. Any suspected violations of the Honor Code will be promptly reported to the Honor System. For a complete authoritative list of all code violations, visit <http://www.honorsystem.vt.edu&gt;.
  • Principles of Community – This class is a learning community, and for it to function effectively we must engage one another in a respectful manner. Please follow the Virginia Tech Principles of Community; you may find them on the inside cover of Composition at Virginia Tech, or at < http://www.vt.edu/diversity/principles-of-community.html&gt;.
  • Students with Disabilities – If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. For more information, please visit the Services for Students with Disabilities website: <http://www.ssd.vt.edu&gt;.

Daily Schedule:

(This is a tentative schedule—I reserve the right to change it at any time.)

M 8/24—Course introduction / Intro to discourse community assignment

W 8/26—Everything’s an Argument, Chapter 1

F 8/28—Everything’s an Argument, Chapter 1

M 8/31—Assignment Due: Discourse Community Map & Reflection / Intro to slang dictionary assignment

W 9/2—Groups assigned / Intro to dictionary website

F 9/4—Words and meaning

M 9/7— Assignment Due: Individual word lists and “Meditation on One Word” essay / Group work / [Labor Day: Classes meet as usual]

W 9/9— Video: Excerpt from “Do You Speak American?”

F 9/11— Video: Excerpt from “Do You Speak American?”

M 9/14—Language and Society: Writing and discussion about “Do You Speak American?”

W 9/16— Wiki workday

F 9/18— Assignment Due: Slang Dictionary Wiki & Individual Reflection / Group mini-presentations

M 9/21—Analyzing Cultural Artifacts

W 9/23—Analyzing Cultural Artifacts

F 9/25—Analyzing Cultural Artifacts

M 9/28—Group Presentations

W 9/30—Group Presentations / Introduction to Rhetorical Analysis assignment

F 10/2— The “Rhetorical Situation”: CVT chapter 2

M 10/5— Thinking Rhetorically: Everything’s an Argument, chapter 5

W 10/7— Bring in a text to analyze / Thinking Rhetorically: Everything’s…, chapter 5

F 10/9—Fall Break: No Class

M 10/12— 1st Brief Rhetorical Analysis due / Thinking Rhetorically cont’d…

W 10/14— Types of Arguments: Selections from Everything’s…, Chapters 7-11

F 10/16— Bring in a text to analyze / Types of Arguments: Selections from Everything’s…, Chapters 7-11

M 10/19—2nd Brief Rhetorical Analysis due / Types of Arguments cont’d…

W 10/21—“Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing”: CVT Chapter 3

F 10/23— Bring in a text to analyze / Critical Thinking cont’d…

M 10/26—3rd Brief Rhetorical Analysis due / Critical Thinking cont’d…

W 10/28—Conventions, Grammar, Usage, & Mechanics: CVT Chapter 5

F 10/30—Ways to expand your analysis

M 11/2—Pick an analysis to expand / writing workshop

W 11/4—Rhetorical Analysis review

F 11/6— Writing workshop

M 11/9—Rhetorical Analysis: Full draft due

W 11/11—Catch our breath / Introduction to Pecha Kucha

F 11/13—Catch our breath / more Pecha Kucha

M 11/16—Pecha Kucha cont’d

W 11/18—Pecha Kucha cont’d

F 11/20—Drafts returned—<<Revised Final Drafts due to me by Friday 12/11/09>>

11/21—11/29: Thanksgiving Break

M 11/30—Pecha Kucha Presentations

W 12/2—Pecha Kucha Presentations

F 12/4—Pecha Kucha Presentations

M 12/7—Pecha Kucha Presentations

W 12/9—Pecha Kucha Presentations (Last Day of Class)

Thursday 12/10—Reading Day

Friday 12/11—Thursday 12/17: Final Exams

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