[updated 08-22-11]

Dr. William Archibald's Engl 311 Advanced Composition

fall 2011

An Introduction to the Course

Course Basics | Course Papers | Technology

Brief description of the course:

In English 311 Advanced Composition online you will be reading and writing creative nonfiction: writing that positions the writer as an observer and chronicler of the way his/her mind works, on the one hand, around some personal aspect, and on the other, around some person, place or thing. There will be four papers assigned with two drafts each. There will also be several smaller assignments to prepare you to write the essays as well as discussions of the readings, peer reviews, and the paper assignments themselves.

Required Text:

Hitchens, Christopher, ed. Best American Essays-2010. Ed. New York: Houghton, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-54739451-0

F '11 Course sections:

CRN 9480 Engl 311.50D Advanced Composition (online)

Access course materials by logging into . . .

Desire2Learn and the Start Here! page (available 08/28)

Gmail account (see the Technology section at the bottom of this page)

Course begins Monday August, 29th, 2011

Contact information: e-mail: bill.archibald@millersville.edu

[top]A. Course Basics

Taking an online writing course. The first thing you should do when the ENGL311 online course begins is to login to Desire2Learn and take the online survey under “What to do first”. This gives you a chance to see what an online course is all about and what ENGL 311 online will require of you.

Your participation. Please participate freely in the discussions. Your participation in the class will make this course a rich and fulfilling experience for everyone.

Getting around the course: Use Desire2Learn as your starting point for the daily activities in the course. On the Announcements page of Desire2Learn there is a Course Schedule link. The course schedule is where you should go to find what is due for a particular day. In the schedule I will place important links to assignments and other course materials.

Reading and writing, discussion and collaboration. The course is made up of readings, discussions, and opportunities to collaborate as well as the course papers. The first three items above have a direct impact on the last item, the course papers. You need to carefully read and discuss the essays in the course so that you can more ably write the papers. The course readings provide various models for the writing we will do. They also provide techniques for writing the papers. When discussing the readings you should approach them from a writer’s point of view and not as literature to be appreciated. They are excellent as pieces of writing no doubt, but your work with them is to glean the methods these writers employ in order to write your essays. You will be asked to imitate these methods while using them to create your own voice as a writer. Most of all, you must think like a writer if you want to be a writer and the course readings will help you do that.

Contacting me. There are multiple ways of contacting me. My emails and phone numbers are in the syllabus. When you email me make sure that you take the time to

  • address me (e.g., Hi Dr. Archibald),
  • write a coherent & grammatically correct message (no IM-speak, please), and
  • sign your name.


B. Papers and Readings

#1paper: Reader Analysis (1ra)


Douglas Hofstadter . . . “Analogy as the Core of Cognition” (find it in Desire2Learn > Content > Readings

#2paper: Reflection/Imitation (2ri)


Graham Greene interview selection (find it in the 2R/I assignment sheet )

#3paper: Familiar Essay1: Personal voice (3fam1)


Joan Didion. . . . . . . . . “Why I Write” (find it in Desire2Learn  > Content > Readings)

Danielle Ofri . . . . . . . . “Merced” (find it in Desire2Learn  > Content > Readings)

Kathryn Chetkovich  . ..“Envy” (find it in Desire2Learn  > Content > Readings)

Ron Rindo  . . . . . . . . . . “Gyromancy” -156 (find it in BAE)

#4paper: Familiar Essay2: People, places & things (4fam2)


Brian Doyle  . . . . . . . . . . “Irreconcilable Dissonance” -33 (find it in BAE)

Jane Churchon . . . . . . . . “The Dead Book” -27  (find it in BAE)

Jane Kramer . . . . . . . . . . “Me, Myself, and I” -74 (find it in BAE)

Phillip Lopate . . . . . . .. . . “Brooklyn the Unknowable -115 (find it in BAE)

Note: BAE—Best American Essays-2010. Ed. Christopher Hitchens. New York: Houghton, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-54739451-0


How the papers work together

We will be writing four paper in the course. The mode of writing will be loosely based in Creative NonFiction:

Reader's Analysis


Familiar Essay1: Personal voice

Familiar Essay2: People, places & things

Any writer worth his/her salt reads voraciously in order to know how the words work. And you need to know how the writing works for your reader, too, so that you can employ writerly techniques to reach your reader. The 1Reader's Analysis paper has you analyze a piece of writing from a reader's perspective. It's a chance to look at the techniques of a particular writer (Hofstadter) to see what effects his text has on a reader. It is also an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and appreciate a somewhat radical approach to written communication. The trick to reading this essay is not to evaluate Hofstadter's methods as much as experience his methods, understand them as a reader, so that you can borrow something of how he writes to use in your writing. This is what I call “reading-to-write”.

In the second 2Reflection/Imitation paper, we will read a short selection from an interview with the English writer, Graham Greene. It is a story of how he became a writer, a creation myth as it were. There are two parts to this assignment. You first have to thoroughly understand Greene's piece; and secondly, you are asked to write your own creation story that imagines the person you have become. This is not an exercise in recollection as much as a deliberate artistic act. In other words, you take the skills you learned as a reader in the first assignment, you put them into effect to understand a particular piece of writing so that you can imitate it, and this imitation creates a version of yourself that never existed before. This act of creation is essentially what Greene does in his brief excerpt.

In microcosm this process of reflection and imitation you will perform in paper two is what the last two course essays are all about, except that now you want to take the techniques of the writers we will read and use them with your own material. And this material will be focus by and through the world of sport.

These last two essays are Familiar essays: at their core this form positions the writer as an observer and chronicler of the way his/her mind works around some personal aspect and object of interest--a person, place, or thing. The 3Familiar1 essay paper examines the self as it deals with some issue or problem whereas the 4Familiar2 essay examines some person, place or thing.

These essays are in the tradition of essayists since Montaigne. The writer of these essays takes some aspect of his/her life and observation in-hand and looks at it from every imaginable angle, using research and personal experience, personal and family history. We (the reader) are taken on a journey of exploration and reflection when we read/write these essays.

Each essay builds off the one before to integrate reading into the writing process and to cull writerly techniques from the course texts to enable creative non-fiction writing that approaches fiction in its complexity and resonance.

C. Technology

1. Desire2Learn (D2L)

D2L will be your everyday entry point for the course. On the Home Page you will see these links in Course Links:

Start Here!: Instructions on what to do as you start the course

Schedule: assignments and due dates

Syllabus: course description and procedures

Daily Jing: daily announcements by video screen cast

FAQs: frequently asked questions concerning the course

Virtual Office Hrs-Chat: tba

Other D2L features we will be using are linked in the D2L ribbon across the top of every D2L page:

Content: find the assignment template (use to post the course assignments) and links and descriptions of course papers and the view&dos--the mini-lectures for the course. In addition, find the Readings link to sources to help you write your papers including a .pdf version of the Hofstadter, Didion and Ofri essay.

Dropbox: where you will post your assignments for the course

Grades: find your grades

D2L Discussion Boards

Discussions: where you will post questions and discuss the course content.

2. Gmail / Google Account & Skype

a. Google:

You need to get an unique Gmail acct for the course. If you already have a Gmail account you need to make a new one for this course. When you go to Google to sign up for your new Gmail account, you will be asked to provide a "Desired Login Name", follow this protocol:

lastnamefirstintial123@gmail.com (e.g. for Jenn Jones: jonesj123@gmail.com)

Here is a page that will work you through the process of getting a Gmail and a Google account.

Note: A Gmail account will help facilitate peer reviewing and revision. I will ask you to upload the rough drafts of your papers to Google docs and share them with your group members so they can give you comments.

b. Skype:

Use the same login name that you created for your Gmail & Google accts. Go to this site to make a Skype acct.

Note: I will be conducting virtual office hours in Skype and will conference with you in Skype when the need arises.