ENH 370: Art of the Personal Essay


Patricia Murphy

Course Description : In the Introduction to his massive book The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, Phillip Lopate claims that the personal essay should be celebrated because it is "one of the most approachable and diverting types of literature we possess." Ask any author, and they will tell you that personal essays become approachable and diverting not through the inherent nature of this form, but through careful implementation of literary craft and writing skill. In this course we will read and analyze the writing of 32 esteemed essayists incluiding Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, JoAnn Beard, Wendell Berry, Bernard Cooper, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Albert Goldbarth, Anne LaMott, David Sedaris, Alice Walker, E.B. White, and Virginia Woolf. We will practice techniques of creative nonfiction such as dialogue, description, narration, and point of view. We will share our work with classmates and receive constructive criticism. Then we will produce revised work for a final portfolio.

Writing Workshops : I've been there. Back in the early 1990's when I was an undergraduate creative writing major, I was guilty of going into a Writing Workshop with a poem or story or essay I thought would blow everyone away. Once, in my sophomore year of college, I wrote a poem about buying a camera from an architect. I wrote the poem at around midnight in an inspired fit, and I made copies on the way to class, feeling certain that my peers and professor would receive the poem with joy and awe. Well, let's just say I left that workshop in tears. The poem was not clear. The poem was rushed. The poem did not make sense. Whereas I naively felt my poem was finished, the other Workshop members could easily see its flaws. Months later, when I was able to calm my emotions, I took the Workshop comments to heart. I revised the poem almost beyond recognition, and “To Meet an Architect” was published in a national literary magazine.

I am certainly not alone. Many students assume at first that the Workshop is an instant audience for completed work and that they will receive only applause and praise for their writing. That incident helped me learn that the Writing Workshop is not an audience, it is a tool. I learned to see the Workshop as a resource to help me reach my goals, not as a captive group who would immediately stand and applaud my efforts.

This course is a workshop where students turn in writing and receive constructive criticism from other students and the professor. Students then use that feedback to revise their work for a portfolio. The true purpose of The Writing Workshop is to gather with a community of writers to receive input on your work so that you may revise it and polish it for an audience. Therefore, do not submit work that you do not wish to revise or that you already feel is completed and you don't want to change. Instead, bring in the work you would like to discuss and improve. By doing so, you will benefit greatly from this community of friendly, interested writers.

The Writing Workshop exists to give you feedback. You must enter the Workshop willing to listen to the advice, praise, criticism, and the suggestions of the other writers. It is a true privilege to have a group of people who are willing to give you such feedback. Many writers pay thousands of dollars for such a service. So please respect and enjoy this Writer's Workshop, and take as much as you can from each of the careful readers who will respond to your work.

Course Learning Goals : Students can expect to gain the following skills:

Required Text : GET YOUR TEXTBOOK AS SOON AS POSSIBLE becasue they are hard to acquire and I won't take "no textbook" as an excuse for missed work. Our text can usually be found at all three campus bookstores: West, Tempe, and Poly, but please CALL BEFORE YOU GO to see if they have a copy. Here are the following customer service numbers: Main campus: 480-965-3191, West campus: 602-543-6800, Poly campus: 480-727-1168. If you are unable to locate books at the closest campus, you should contact one of the other bookstores and have them transferred to your location. You can also order the book online.

Miller, Brenda and Suzanne Paola. Tell it Slant. McGraw Hill, New York: 2004. ISBN # 0-07-251278-4

Required Work : This course requires you to not only practice your writing, but also to practice your reading and revising as well.

Reading - Worth 20% of your grade. For 10 weeks you will be assigned a chapter or two of reading. You will compose a response to the reading and post it in the Reading Discussion Board. In order to receive credit your response must:

• meet the word-length requirement of 350 words (or surpass it). This equals one double spaced page in 12 point times new roman.
• use short quotes to support your response
• provide analysis (using literary terms) rather than summary (retelling)

Reading Responses are graded on a pass/fail basis out of 10 total posts.

10 100% A
9 90% A
8 80% B
7 70% C
6 60% D
5 50% E

Writing - Worth 10% of your grade. It is very important to turn your writing in on time so that peers have time to respond. A Writing Deadline of Thursday night gives peers three full days to post thoughtful responses by Sunday night.

Writing is graded on a pass/fail basis out of 10 total posts.

10 100% A
9 90% A
8 80% B
7 70% C
6 60% D
5 50% E

Workshop - Worth 30% of your grade. Unlike face to face workshop classes where students bring in work each week but only get feedback a few times a semester, this online section allows us to get feedback for every piece every time. To accomplish this we use a Group Workshop method. In order to receive credit your response must:

• meet the word-length requirement of 350 words per group member (or surpass it). This equals one double spaced page in 12 point times new roman for each individual group member.
• use short quotes to support your response
• provide analysis (using literary terms) rather than summary (retelling)
• offer suggestions for revision

Portfolio - Worth 40% of your grade. Revision is an imperative step for even the most experienced and skilled writers. Revision is especially important for student writers, since successful revisions show mastery of literary terms and techniques. For the Portfolio you will revise work you have turned in throughout the semester. Grades for the Portfolio are based on the quality of your revisions and your ability to describe why you made the changes you did based on literary skills (see the full Portfolio assignment in the "Portfolio" area).

Grading Scale:

I use the My Grades function in myASU, but only as a "counting" system. Under Reading, Writing and Workshop I record a point for every assignment you complete out of the required 10. I also record absences as 1-4 out of 4 allowed absences. Please do not try to get a final grade from My Grades on Blackboard because I only use it to count--not to calculate final grades.

To determine your final grade for the course, multiply each of your Required Work percentages by its weighted percentage in this course and add these numbers equals your final grade. Here's an example for a person who completed 9 reading assignments, 10 writing assignments, 7 workshop assignments and got a 100% on the portfolio:

Reading (9 out of 10 equals a 90) 90 x (worth 20% of the course) 20% = 18
Writing 100 x 10% = 10
Workshop 70 x 30% = 21
Portfolio 100 x 40%= 40

18+10+21+40=89 Final Grade 89% = B+

Scale Lower Upper
Below 60

Final grades are available after the end of the semester at the Registrar's online site. I do not email final grades to individual students.

Important Dates: Point your browser to http://www.asu.edu/calendar/academic.html for semester dates.

Office Hours: Since this is an online course, I will not hold face to face office hours, but I am available by appointment. I check email once a day, Monday through Friday. I will answer questions through email usually within 48 hours except over weekends and on holidays. I am also happy to call you if you have a question. Simply email me your phone number and an appropriate time to call.

Attendance : This class meets online using myASU. The class asks you to complete the same work as other sections, but it has the added benefit of teaching you to communicate electronically with your teacher and classmates. This is an integral part of your grade. This course is not self-paced. There are set due dates. Work submitted after the due dates will not receive credit. Each missed assignment will result in an absence, and each absence will negatively affect your grade. If you miss more than 4 class assignments you will automatically fail the course. THERE ARE NO EXCUSED ABSENCES, even for emergencies or school activities. You have 4 absences to use for emergencies.

Protecting Work: While there are many benefits that come with using technology to conduct the course, there can also be drawbacks such as system outages, hardware and software failures, and inexperience with systems. Technology failures are NOT an excuse for late or missing work. I do not expect you to be an expert with technology, but I do expect you to observe some common sense practices. I also recommend that if you are new to online courses or if you are unfamiliar with the software I suggest you view the online tutorials available through asuonline. Here are some other tips:

. Never type directly into myASU. Type in Word and then cut and paste your work.

. Ctrl-S is your best friend. The more you save the less you lose. Make a habit of saving your work several times as you write.

. My degree is in English, not Computers, so there are many technical questions I am too dumb to answer. If you get stuck with a technical issue, call the computer help desk at 480-965-6500.

Late Work : Other students depend on you to post your work on time, and we often cannot proceed until all the work is complete. For that reason, the policies on late work are very strict. Late work will not receive credit unless you email me in advance of the deadline.

Plagiarism : To plagiarize is to present as your own any work that is not exclusively your own. Plagiarism of all or a portion of any assignment will be strictly penalized. Penalties can range from no credit for the assignment to failing the course. Repeated offenses can lead to your expulsion from the university.

Online Environment : You will need to pay attention to a few details in order for your work to be counted. For example, when you post your work online, you have to ensure that it shows up and we can access it or else you won't get credit. Always check your work to make sure it shows up as you intended. Also, be aware of how the things you're posting in online discussions come across--it's easy for something you meant humorously to be taken seriously in an online environment, so be careful. Above all, be kind towards and respectful of your fellow students. Any material that is viewed as obscene or profane will be removed from the board and you will not receive credit. Consider the class to be an academic audience.

The Public Nature of Writing and Confidentiality Issues : Part of becoming a good writer is learning to appreciate the ideas and criticisms of others, and in this course our purpose is to come together as a community of writers. Remember that this is a workshop, and you will be getting feedback from others. Avoid writing about things you may not be prepared to subject to public scrutiny or that you feel so strongly about that you are unable or unwilling to listen to perspectives other than your own. This class is about discussing the writing, not the subject of the writing. I have had several problems in the past with students posting obscene work. Please be sensitive to the needs of your peers, and treat our classroom with respect by refraining from posting explicit matierial.

Incomplete Grades : I do not offer incomplete grades.

Accommodations for Disabilities : ADA Statement The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal antidiscrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. One element of this legislation requires that all qualified students with documented disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation please contact the Disability Resource Center at ASU Polytechnic located in Student Affairs Quad # 4 or call 480-727-1039 / TTY: 480-727-1009.  Eligibility and documentation policies online: http://www.asu.edu/studentaffairs/ed/drc/

Student Conduct: Students are required to adhere to the behavior standards listed in Arizona Board of Regents Policy Manual Chapter V – Campus and Student Affairs: Code of Conduct), ACD 125: Computer, Internet, and Electronic Communications, and the ASU Student Academic Integrity Policy.

Students are entitled to receive instruction free from interference by other members of the class. If a student is disruptive, an instructor may ask the student to stop the disruptive behavior and warn the student that such disruptive behavior can result in withdrawal from the course. An instructor may withdraw a student from a course when the student's behavior disrupts the educational process under USI 201-10 http://www.asu.edu/aad/manuals/usi/usi201-10.html.

Student Support Services
Polytechnic campus site: http://www.poly.asu.edu/students/services/

The Writing Center at the Polytechnic Campus: The Polytechnic Writing Center offers tutoring services to all students on any sort of writing project. Writing tutors can help with any stage of the writing process, including choosing a topic, brainstorming, clarifying a thesis, organization of ideas or paragraphs, grammar, citation styles, and more. The Center is located in the Academic Center Building on the Lower Level and will be open for the Fall 2008 semester beginning Tuesday, September 2. Tutors' availability will be posted on our website at http://studentsuccess.asu.edu/polytechnic/writingschedule . Although walk-ins are accepted, it is strongly recommended that you make an appointment. Please call (480) 727-1452 to schedule an appointment. Online tutoring is also available if you cannot come in. Visit the Writing Center 's website (http://studentsuccess.asu.edu/polytechnic /writing ) for more information.

ASU Libraries - offers 24/7 access to librarians through "Ask a Librarian" online chat and help by librarians in person at the Reference Desk during most hours the libraries are open. www.asu.edu/lib/ Polytechnic campus link: http://library.poly.asu.edu/

Counseling and Consultation – provides confidential mental health and career counseling services for all ASU students. http://www.asu.edu/studentaffairs/counseling/ Polytechnic campus site: http://www.poly.asu.edu/students/counseling/

Learning Resource Center – provides students with academic support services such as tutoring, peer advising, computer assisted instruction, and supplemental instruction. The LRC offers both free and fee-based services. www.asu.edu/vpsa/lrc/ Polytechnic campus site: http://www.poly.asu.edu/learningcenter/

Writing Center – provides on-site tutors to help students increase their confidence as writers and improve writing skills free of charge. www.asu.edu/duas/wcenter/ Polytechnic campus site: http://www.poly.asu.edu/learningcenter/WritingServices.htm

Career Services – offers assistance to students in choosing a major, setting career goals, interviewing and job hunting strategies. http://career.asu.edu/ Polytechnic campus site: http://www.poly.asu.edu/students/career/

Student Financial Aid Office – offers information and applications for student funding such as grants, loans, scholarships and student employment. www.asu.edu/fa/ Polytechnic campus site: http://www.asu.edu/fa/ (same as general ASU site)

Student Health and Wellness Center – provides non-emergency medical health care to all ASU students regardless of insurance status. Most visits with a physician or nurse practitioner are free of charge, but fees will be incurred for x-rays, lab results, etc., www.asu.edu/health/ Polytechnic campus site: http://www.poly.asu.edu/students/health/

Student Recreational Center – offers individual and group fitness opportunities, as well as information on nutrition and wellness, and massages. Use of the general facilities (weights, circuit training and cardio machines) are free, other services (yoga classes, massages) are fee-based. www.asu.edu/src/ Polytechnic campus site: http://www.poly.asu.edu/pac/

Student Legal Assistance – provides legal advice and counsel free of charge to all ASU students in areas such as landlord-tenant law, credit reports and collection issues, taxability of scholarships and grants, etc. Notary service is also available at no charge. http://www.asu.edu/mu/legal/

Help Wiki – provides a frequently asked questions resource for technology users at ASU. http://wiki.asu.edu/help/

Information Technology on the Polytechnic campus: http://www.poly.asu.edu/it/

EMPACT Crisis Hotline – offers free 24-hour support for mental health crises. Call (480) 784-1500 in the Phoenix area, (866) 205-5229 for the toll-free number outside of Phoenix , and (480) 736-4949 for the sexual assault hotline. All services are free and confidential. http://www.empact-spc.com/

Email Procedures: I cannot accept emails from non-ASU accounts. The best way for you to get around this is to use your ASU email account. This is preferable for many reasons, including that your email address will be in the global address system so that anyone at ASU can reach you easily. However, if you still want to use an outside email, simply set up your ASU email to forward to your outside account. You can also use the "Email" button on our website to email me. Here are some other general rules about email:

. Email is not simultaneous. Allow at least 24 hours for an answer to your message, or even more on weekends or holidays. Avoid overloading me with a barrage of messages.

. Email lacks cues that are available in face to face communication. Therefore, always begin each email with a greeting and close each email with a signature.

. Be very careful to phrase your email with a neutral tone so that it does not sound angry or rude. It is very easy for email to be misinterpreted.

. Get to the point quickly and make individual questions or comments clear. If you have several questions or comments, use a list.

. Always include a descriptive subject line with enough information to indicate what your email is about.

. Always use spellcheck, even when you are sending a quick note. Even though email readers are more relaxed, mistakes will still affect the validity and power of your message.

. Never use all caps. It means you are shouting.

Patricia Colleen Murphy, MFA * Arizona State University * 240M Santa Catalina Hall * 7271 E Sonoran Arroyo Mall * Mesa, AZ 85212