The Core Writing Seminar

UCWR 110-104
Meeting in Dumbach 6, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 4:00-5:15 PM

(Be sure to check out the course schedule.)

Course Description

Writing is thinking. In this course we will develop our ability to clearly and effectively convey our thoughts, ideas, and concerns, by means of the written word. Because writing is as challenging as any other acquired skill, we will concentrate our efforts on various writing assignments (both in and out of class) and on reading and analyzing the work of others. This course should help to demystify the writing process (in academic and other settings) and enable you to become more skillful—and confident—writers.

Required Texts

The above books will be available at Beck’s only. In addition to these texts, you are expected to consult the course web page, which will contain additional reading materials, links to useful online resources, schedule updates, and class notes. The university also expects you to purchase The Bedford Handbook (LUC & 7th ed.). The Loyola-specific information in that book can be found at the same website as the course “Learning Outcomes,” below. It can be helpful to have this kind of book on hand as you write. If you choose not to purchase The Bedford Handbook, I recommend The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th ed., which should be available at most bookstores. In addition, you should obtain access to a decent dictionary.

Learning Outcomes

See the information on UCWR 110 for the official university statement of learning objectives and competencies for this course.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism or cheating of any kind will incur severe penalties that may include a grade of F for the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Chair of the English Department and to the Dean of the student’s college. For a brief explanation of what constitutes plagiarism and why it violates basic academic principles, see the section on “Academic Integrity” in the Undergraduate Studies Catalogue. Be sure also to familiarize yourself with the English department’s discussion of “The Use and Misuse of Source Materials.” If you have questions about academic integrity or the appropriate use of sources, please do not hesitate to speak with me.

Class Procedures

You are expected to attend every class session and actively participate in class discussion. Missing class will likely hamper your understanding of the course material; in addition, your class participation grade will be lowered 2.5 percentage points for each unexcused absence. Learning is a collaborative process: while I have my own interests when it comes to the course material, it is also imperative that we pursue your interests and concerns; I encourage you to come to class with notes and potential discussion questions.

Each writing assignment is due at the beginning of the class period. All writing assignments should be typed, double-spaced, and in 12-point “Times” or “Times New Roman” (I know what these fonts look like). Writing assignments should also have one-inch margins and follow the citation standards in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th. ed.; also discussed in The Bedford Handbook). Please do not use a separate title page. Electronic submissions of written work are not accepted; late submissions will be lowered ⅓ grade each day they are late.


Class participation: 10%
Response papers: 20%
Essay 1: 10%
Essay 2: 20%
Essay 3: 30%
Tumblelog: 10%

Graded Material


Set up a tumblelog and give me its address. I will add links to your tumblelogs on the course web site, so that your classmates can see what you’re writing about. Don’t worry—you can make your tumblelog anonymous, if you wish. At the same time, however, be aware that such writing is still public. (Try to avoid writing anything that you wouldn’t want your parents, grandparents, or future employers to see!)

You are expected to write at least forty words of “text” a week. Feel free to use our reading and writing assignments as sources of inspiration, but you can write about anything that strikes your fancy. Note that forty words per week is the minimum requirement to receive a passing grade for this assignment; you are encouraged to write as much as you wish. I will evaluate your tumblelogs on the vague criteria of quantity and quality. For this assignment, though, the point is quantity—we become better writers the more we write. I will read your tumblelogs several times during the semester, so do your best to stay on top of this assignment!

Essay 1

Adam Gopnik’s “Death of a Fish” is a prime example that interesting writing doesn’t need to come from an interesting or original idea. Good writing comes from attention to detail and a desire to tell a story. Write an essay about an experience that initially seems mundane or commonplace. Be sure to write as if your topic were the most fascinating thing in the world. This does not mean that you must tell your readers that your topic is in any way compelling. Instead, use the details of the event and the structure of your essay to show your readers how interesting your experience was or is. (A draft of this essay is due Thursday, September 13.) 4 pages.

This assignment is due Thursday, Sept. 27.

Response Paper 1

Pick any one essay that we have read up to this point in the semester and discuss how the author engages his or her audience. In addition, you should assess whether the author’s methods are effective for the essay’s argument and topic. Does she or he persuade you? Why or why not? Note that you should have strong feelings about whatever essay you choose—and you should attempt to communicate why the author (or the essay) makes you feel that way. 2 pages.

This assignment is due Thursday, Oct. 4.

Essay 2

Using your own experience and the essays that we have read for class, consider how people interact with each other to form (and perhaps undermine) a community. How do we associate with each other? What are some of the ways that we ignore or emphasize difference in order to feel some sort of common bond? How much of that feeling is genuine, and how much is imagined? These are some of the questions you may wish to ask as you develop a working definition of community. As with the first essay, however, your focus should be on a specific experience in your life—in this case, an experience that informs your understanding of what makes a community. (A draft of this essay is due Tuesday, October 16.) 5 pages.

This assignment is due Thursday, Nov. 1.

Response Paper 2

Discuss your reactions to the first two acts of Macbeth. What is difficult about this play? What strikes you as unusual or disturbing? Then, discuss how Macbeth comments on the nature of community. You’re encouraged to reference your work on Essay 2 (see below) as a foundation for this response paper. 2 pages.

This assignment is due Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Response Paper 3

Evaluate how your understanding of Macbeth has (or hasn’t) changed in light of the source materials that you’ve read. Do you believe that Macbeth is given a fair shake, considering the historical record? How do you view such issues as witchcraft or the supernatural? What is the function of nature in the play—and could it be considered a “character”? These are some of the questions you may wish to address—although you should feel free to pursue whatever questions interest you. 2 pages.

Update: In preparation for this assignment, you should read two selections from the “Cultural Contexts” section in Macbeth and their respective section introductions. Your choices are:

This assignment is due Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Essay 3

Good essays can come from more than personal experience or a discussion of a concept; indeed, many of the best essays involve a great deal of research. Using (at least) two outside sources, tackle an issue that you find particularly compelling. Use your research, specific details, and your essay’s structure in an attempt to convince your readers that the issue matters and that your way of dealing with or interpreting the issue is sound. We will discuss research methods and the elements of an “argumentative” essay in class. (A draft of this essay is due Thursday, November 29.) 7 pages.

This assignment is due Tuesday, Dec. 11.

Questions? Send me e-mail: .