The University of Chicago

University of Chicago Writing Program

Writing Program courses

The Writing Program specializes in courses geared towards the needs of writers who are experts in scholarly, research, and professional fields. We also introduce first year students to the study and practice of expert writing, and we offer graduate students and advanced undergraduates courses in special writing topics such as argument, style, legal writing, and non-fiction narrative. Looking for courses in fiction and poetry? Visit the Creative Writing program. Looking for courses in academic and professional writing or the rhetoric of persuasion? That's us.

Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

Do you want to write clear, effective academic or professional prose? If so, the Writing Program has a course for you. Academic and Professional Writing (aka "The Little Red Schoolhouse," English 13000/33000) offers principles of clear writing that will allow you to anticipate and to change how readers respond to your work -- whether those readers are professors, professionals, or the general public.

Because different writers have different needs, we offer several versions of this course. For more information, please click on one of the following links. (Please note: if you are taking a course to train for a writing program or humanities division job, you need to take one of our pedagogy courses instead.)

All versions of the course meet twice a week: once in a plenary lecture session, and once in small writing seminars during which students exchange and critique papers. To ensure that students receive individualized attention to their writing, enrollment is strictly limited so that there are no more than seven students per writing seminar. No exceptions!

For information on how to register for English 13000/33000 this quarter, please go to the LRS registration information page. Please note: there are no books to buy for this course, but there is a twenty-five dollar materials fee for the lecture handouts that constitute our weekly in-class readings.

Special writing topics courses for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students

For upper-level undergraduates and graduate students interested in advanced writing topics, the Writing Program offers a cluster of advanced writing courses. To ensure that students receive individualized attention to their writing, enrollment in each course is strictly limited to twelve students. No exceptions!

Courses offered in 2013-14

Writing Persuasion (English 12704/32704) (Winter 2014) A course in persuasive techniques that do not rely on overt arguments. It would not be entirely inaccurate to call this a course in the theory, practice, and critique of sophistry. We will explore how putatively neutral narratives may be inflected to advance a (sometimes unstated) position; how writing can exploit readers' cognitive biases; how a writer's persona on the page -- what Aristotle might call her ethos -- may be constructed to influence her readers. Half the writing assignments will put into practice persuasive techniques such as these. The other half will analyze course readings (by Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, Lippmann, Cialdini, Sunstein, Orwell, Edmund Burke, and others) debating whether persuasion -- in the strong sense of actually changing a reader's mind -- is possible. Faculty: Tracy Weiner

Composing Composition (English 32705) (Spring 2014; consent of instructors required) Many academic teaching positions in a wide variety of fields now require instructors to include a writing component in their courses. Whether you're in the humanities, the social sciences, or the sciences, some teaching of writing may lie in your future, and preparation for this eventuality can be an important part of your job application process. This class is intended for graduate students who plan to work as teachers or who are entering the academic job market. Our goal is to give you scholarly context and practical exercises that will help prepare you for the challenges of writing-related jobs in institutional contexts ranging from large research universities to community colleges to small liberal arts schools.

In this course we'll study some of the most widespread and influential methods of teaching writing in use at such institutions. We will have two goals. First, you will have the opportunity to practice integrating the findings of writing scholarship into the syllabi, assignments, and classroom techniques that you'd use both here and at other institutions. Second, we will help you prepare to discuss the teaching of writing in applications to and interviews for academic jobs and fellowships. To these ends, we will use as taking-off points for discussion influential scholarly work on the teaching of writing. The anticipated reading load will be two or three articles per week. In weekly practicum seminars, you'll develop over the course of the quarter a writing assignment sequences and a sample syllabus for a projected writing-intensive course in your field. At the end of the quarter, you'll discuss your syllabus in a mock interview and prepare a teaching statement for use in job interviews.

Please note: this course is NOT part of the training program for teaching positions in either the Writing Program or the English Department. It is intended to assist students who face the challenge of using teaching and classroom experiences here as a basis for teaching writing at other institutions with varying institutional structures, student demographics, and theoretical commitments. Potential topics will include: writing across the curriculum, writing in the disciplines, technical writing, multilingual writers, developmental writing, digital rhetoric, online instruction, writing assessment, visual rhetoric, multiple literacies, service learning, and community engagement projects. Faculty: Tracy Weiner, Linda Smith, Kathy Cochran

Writing Speeches: Reagan and Obama. (Spring 2014) Political speech-writers and political philosophers have been known to sneer at each other: the writers seeing the philosophers as ivory tower dreamers; the philosophers seeing the writers as brainless hacks. This course will be an experiment in linking these two fields. Working from a few of the most successful speeches of Presidents Reagan and Obama, we will look to see how the pragmatic and the philosophical shape each other. We will spend roughly half our time on language nuts-and-bolts, and half our time on some of the philosophical commitments reflected in the language. (In addition to the speeches themselves, the course reading will include philosophical texts that will provide a frame for examining these commitments.) Assignments for the course will be similarly divided between exercises in writing speeches and short papers extending our analysis of the conceptual groundings of the speeches. Faculty: Larry McEnerney

Courses offered in 2014-15

Writing Around Images (ENGL 11710/31710 CRWR 26002/46002) This is an intensive writing course designed around a problem: How do writers make effective choices when their language does its work alongside, against, or around visual modes of communication, including, for instance, graphics and images? In a "multimodal" text, one containing both words and visual elements, how do writers ensure that the writing and the visual elements work together in a system, to achieve a particular purpose? This is not a course in graphic design, advertising layout, the psychology of color perception, stylistics, or visual rhetoric. Even so, students will refer to current work in these fields, as well as theory of the visual and the image, to identify problems for writing and to experiment with strategies for composition and editing in different genres for specific purposes. Readings will include selections from Bazerman, Kress and van Leeuwen, Tufte, McLuhan, Mitchell, Barthes, and Lyotard, among others. About half of the class sessions will be devoted to analyzing examples presenting specific design or composition problems, in the context of accompanying readings. In the other sessions, students will analyze and suggest revisions for each other's work. Students should expect to write often, and to do a longer final project. Faculty: Kathy Cochran

Writing Argument (English 11701/31701)
Writing Argument is a pragmatic course in the rhetoric of arguments. The emphasis on "rhetoric" means that we won't be asking whether an argument is internally valid; instead, we'll look at what's on the page, and ask why it is more or less successful in persuading readers. The emphasis on "pragmatic" means that we'll focus mainly on your own arguments.

Students in the course can expect three kinds of work: writing new arguments, analyzing arguments, and revising. The central goal is for you to use a method of analyzing arguments that will enhance your ability to write arguments, arguments that succeed with your readers, in your field. And you'll revise the argument you make for your field, probably many times.

In most weeks, we'll spend each Tuesday in small groups, discussing your exercises. We'll spend each Thursday in a plenary session, one in which we expand upon, refine (and criticize) the rhetorical analysis of argument. In the final week or so of the course, we will look at arguments that class members have chosen for discussion, and we'll look at other approaches to argument. Faculty: Kathryn Cochran.

For first-year undergraduates: required writing sequence

Humanities 19100 Humanities Core Writing Seminars. These seminars are available in combination with either a two-quarter or a three-quarter general education sequence in the Humanities. They introduce students to the analysis and practice of expert academic writing. The seminars do not repeat or extend the substantive discussion of the Humanities class; they use the discussions and assignments from those classes as a tool for the advanced study of writing. We study various methods for the construction of sophisticated and well-structured arguments, but also for understanding the complications and limits of those arguments. We also address issues of readership and communication within expert communities. As students present papers in the seminars, we use the reactions of the audience to introduce techniques that expert writers can use to transform a text from one that serves the writer to one that serves readers. All University of Chicago undergraduate students must complete two quarters of this course for graduation; students do not register for the course directly, but are registered automatically when they register for a Humanities Core course. (Available every year, Autumn, Winter, Spring).

Pedagogy courses for graduate student instructors

The Writing Program offers two courses in writing pedagogy for graduate students who have been hired to teach for the Writing Program or who are training to teach within their own department or program. Pedagogies of Writing (Humanities 50000, offered in Spring and Summer quarters), is for graduate students who will be working as Writing Interns in the Humanities Common Core and for students who plan to work as CAs in Humanities Division courses. Principles of Teaching Writing (English 50300, offered in Autumn only) is for graduate students who have been hired to teach The Little Red Schoolhouse. Contact your division administrator to see if you are eligible for payment or teaching credit for taking these courses.

Fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction

Fiction and poetry courses are available through the Creative Writing Program. For further information, contact Kate Soto in Walker 411: (773) 834-8524 and creativewriting@uchicago.edu.