Course Information:

Title: Writing and Activism
Number: ENG 318-001
Time & Location: TR 11:00–12:15 (MO 204)
Instructor: Dr. Jeremy Tirrell
Office: MO 161
Office Hours: T 2:00–4:00, W 11:00–1:00 (and by appointment)

Course Overview:

This course examines the rhetorical aspects of writing done in the name of social change. We will explore genres used for activist writing and the ways that audiences, contexts, and motives influence and constrain writing. Additionally, we will consider the practical, functional, and ethical aspects of pursuing (cyber)activism in digital spaces.

This course affirms the Seahawk Respect Compact, which will guide class interactions. Political, social, and cultural issues will be engaged in this course, and the class will endeavor to cultivate an appropriate critical environment in which ideas can be discussed freely and civilly. All students must read and understand the policies articulated in this syllabus and sign the course contract in order to remain in the class.

This course counts towards the Women's and Gender Studies minor.

Course Learning Outcomes*:

To complete this course successfully, students should demonstrate the ability to:

  • Identify and define the wide variety of forms of writing done to promote social change
  • Examine the genres most widely adopted for activist writing, interpret the ways in which contexts influence writing, and characterize the impact of motives and audiences upon activist writing
  • Assess and evaluate rhetorical principles and practices at work in activist writing and reactions to that writing
  • Formulate and support arguments about activist writing
  • Interrogate how activist writing changes in electronic spaces
  • Critically analyze the tools and modes used to write, communicate, and mobilize people in electronic spaces
*Women's and Gender Studies minor Student Learning Outcomes:
  • Understand and effectively articulate the roles gender plays in different cultural contexts
  • Analyze women’s participation in, contribution to, and transformation of areas of social life including culture, society, politics, economy, and religion
  • Develop strategies for reducing prejudice and stereotyping of women and minorities.

Required Materials:

  • Rhetoric for Radicals, Jason Del Gandio, 2008.
  • Digital Revolutions: Activism in the Internet Age, Symon Hill, 2013.
  • Online readings provided on the course website

Course Policies:

Technology Expectations:

  • ability to interact with the course website
  • access to visual design software
  • an email account checked regularly for course-related business
  • a networked drive, flash drive, or other means to backup coursework

Routine interaction with technology is an integral component of this class, and computer problems are not valid excuses for incomplete coursework. Students should practice the core principle of digital data hygiene: redundant backup. Digital technology will fail; students should be prepared for that eventuality.

Personal Technology Devices in the Classroom:

Students may use laptops, cell phones, and other digital devices during class, provided that they do not disrupt other students' learning or the instructor's classroom management. This course is situated in an increasingly connected digital environment. Each student is responsible for his or her own engagement with class meetings, and thus his or her resultant success or failure.

Availability of Material Online:

Some material students post online may be publicly accessible on the Web. Any material posted to the course website may be used anonymously for instruction or research purposes. The instructor reserves the right to record and display in-class and online academic interactions for instruction or research purposes.

Collaborative Work:

Teamwork and group projects are required elements of the course. When a group project is assigned, students will participate in activities that help foster successful collaboration. Student groups will be mostly autonomous and all members are expected to function professionally. After the conclusion of group activities, individuals will complete forms assessing the contributions and behavior of group members and the global performance of the team.

Attendance and Punctuality:

Because this class contains a strong workshop and discussion component, class attendance is crucial. Role is taken shortly after class begins. If a student is not present when role is taken, he or she will be considered absent. If there are extraordinary circumstances that will prevent a student from attending class, he or she must contact the instructor beforehand. There is no separate attendance component of the course grade, but any student who misses more than five class meetings without clearance from the instructor will fail the course automatically. Additionally, any work missed because of an absence cannot be made up. This includes project assignments. The class abides by the maxim that all members of the class should show respect to one another by meeting at designated times and places prepared to work.

Late Work:

Late work is not accepted under normal circumstances.

Statement on Academic Integrity:

All UNCW community members are expected to adhere to the guidelines set forth in the UNCW Student Academic Honor Code. Students are expected to produce original work in this course. Collaboration and incorporation of external material and ideas into original work is of course necessary and acceptable, but all students are ethically obliged to document external sources through appropriate citation practices. Students who are uncertain if some element of their work constitutes plagiarism or another honor code violation should speak with the instructor. The point of any class is to educate, not to punish; nevertheless, the consequences of honor code violations are appropriately dire. Please consult the UNCW Code of Student Life for more information.

Statement on Services for Students with Disabilities:

The university will make every effort to accommodate students with disabilities. Students requiring accommodations should contact the Disability Resource Center, as the instructor can take no action without its guidance. Students should do this as soon as possible, as accommodations cannot be made retroactively.

Statement Regarding Violence and Harassment:

UNCW practices a zero tolerance policy for any kind of violent or harassing behavior. Students experiencing an emergency of this type should contact the police at 911 or UNCW CARE at 962-2273. Resources for individuals concerned with a violent or harassing situation can be located at the UNCW Crisis Resources page. Students should be aware that all university employees, including instructors, are legally obligated to communicate any report of alleged sexual misconduct, on or off-campus, to the Dean of Students. Three university entities are confidential resources exempt from this obligation: CARE, the Counseling Center, and the Abrons Student Health Center.

Statement on Religious Observance

In accordance with NC SL 2010-211, students are entitled to two excused absences for religious observances per academic year. Students must inform the instructor in writing the first week of class if they will miss any classes due to religious observance. Additionally, students should inform the Registrar the first week of class who will then coordinate with the corresponding course instructors. Any absence for religious purposes will be considered unexcused unless a student submits the request in writing the first week to the instructor or Registrar.

Course Grading:

Grade Disbursement:

Each student will have anonymous access to his or her grades online. Unless they opt out of this policy, students will receive all grades through this channel.

Grade Components:

Organization Report = 10% of course grade
Tool/Technique Seminar = 10% of course grade
Reading Quizzes = 15% of course grade
Advocacy Initiative = 15% of course grade
Content Analysis = 25% of course grade
Network Analysis = 25% of course grade

Major projects will go through drafting and revision processes before they are turned in for a grade. The instructor will provide feedback on project drafts, but there will be very few or no comments on returned final versions. This is because the primary purpose of feedback is to improve student work rather than to explain why it earned a particular grade. Students are always welcome to visit office hours to discuss work at any stage, including after it has been graded.

Final Course Grades:

This courses uses the plus/minus grading system on final grade reports. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 92-100 = A
  • 90-91 = A-
  • 88-89 = B+
  • 82-87 = B
  • 80-81 = B-
  • 78-79 = C+
  • 72-77 = C
  • 70-71 = C-
  • 68-69 = D+
  • 62-67 = D
  • 60-61 = D-
  • 0-59 = F