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  • Courses in the Spotlight

The department is pleased to offer the following courses:

Spring 2015 Offerings:


WTNG 303: Environmental Rhetoric
Professor: Paul E. Bender
MWF 10:00-10:50

Welcome to the Anthropocene. If this is the age in which humans become a world-wide environmental force, perhaps its time to examine the premises on which our relationship to the natural world rest. This course will examine important writers and thinkers from Henry David Thoreau to William McKibben for ways in which arguments about the human/nature relationship have evolved. The tensions in this relationship, this course argues, have forged environmentalism into a counter-hegemonic discourse that challenges fundamental assumptions about the centrality of man, the role and value of “progress,” and the utility of nature.  Emphasis will be placed on the rhetoric of Climate Change Denialism and the apocalyptic turn in environmentalism. Students will read, research, analyze, and produce environmental arguments with particular emphasis on arguments emerging from and engaging with the public sphere.

Prerequisite: Successful completion (C- or higher) of WTNG 102
Fulfills the second of two University Core Curriculum requirements in the University Writing Program
Fulfills a course in the Professional and Public Writing Minor


WTNG 311:  Technical Writing
Professor: Mel Topf
MTH 2:00-3:20

Students will learn to apply fundamental concepts of effective technical writing that will prepare them for writing in industry, government and other professional contexts in which technical documents help achieve major goals.  The technical writer, far from merely transferring technical information, must make judgments about his or her discourse community, purpose, and rhetorical situation.  Students will study key principles of rhetorical theory, the idea of genre, and the concept of a professional audience.  Technical documents studies may include feasibility studies, proposals, progress reports, and policy statement. 

Prerequisite: Successful completion (C- or higher) of WTNG 102
Fulfills the second of two University Core Curriculum requirements in the University Writing Program
Fulfills a course in the Professional and Public Writing Minor


WTNG 320:  Writing for Business Organizations
Professor: Mel Topf
TTH 8:00-9:20 and 9:30-10:50

This course explores the causes of the success or failure of writing for business organizations.  The course takes a case-based approach.  Students will study the theory and practice of business writing as a pragmatic effort to accomplish actual change in the world.  Included are the study of genres of business documents, ethical and social problems, the causes and consequences of writing failures, and the problems addressing the interests of business readers as a discourse community. 

Prerequisite: Successful completion (C- or higher) of WTNG 102
Fulfills the second of two University Core Curriculum requirements in the University Writing Program
Fulfills a course in the Professional and Public Writing Minor


WTNG 321: Multimodal Writing in Public Spheres
Professor: Dahliani Reynolds
TTH 11:00-12:20 and 12:30-1:50

This course explores the theory and practice of writing that serves public interests. Writers write for public audiences for a number of reasons: to advance the work of the nonprofit sector, to inform a public audience about a communal issue, to prompt others to take action or effect change, and to educate an audience about public policy. Whatever the motivation, writing for the public demands an awareness of audience needs, an understanding of the rhetorical situation, and a fluent command of appropriate writing conventions across a variety of media platforms. As writing in public spheres is produced across a variety of media—from blogs to tweets to visual images to print-based texts—we will produce and analyze multimodal compositions meant to accomplish a specific outcome for a particular audience. Our work in this class, then, will be to explore the theoretical, rhetorical, and ethical considerations of writing in public spheres through learning about and making use of a variety of rhetorical concepts and media platforms. Note: previous experience with digital or multimodal composing not required.

Prerequisite: Successful completion (C- or higher) of WTNG 102
Fulfills the second of two University Core Curriculum requirements in the University Writing Program
Fulfills a course in the Professional and Public Writing Minor


Recent Offerings

Fall 2014 Offerings:

WTNG 299  (Special Topics)– Writing on the Law for Non-lawyers
Professor: Mel Topf
TTH 12:30-1:50

Why can campus security people search your room without a warrant when Bristol police can’t?  Does the Second Amendment give students (or faculty) the right to have guns on campus?  Why did the Supreme Court rule that burning an American flag is protected freedom of speech? Or that false advertising is not?  All citizens should be literate enough about the law to engage in civic discourse about legal issues they’re concerned about. Students will investigate the role writing plays in public debate on legal issues, and they’ll write on several issues currently affecting the nation, including at least one that is the student’s choice. No legal background is required for this course.

Prerequisite: Successful completion (C- or higher) of WTNG 102
Fulfills the second of two University Core Curriculum requirements in the University Writing Program
Fulfills a course in the Professional and Public Writing Minor

WTNG 270:  Travel Writing
Professor: Kate Mele
MTH 2-3:20

Like so many travel writers who have taken up residence in the places they write about, students in this course will tell the story of their home away from home:  Bristol, RI.  Bristol’s history, culture, natural environment, and favorite pastimes will serve as the sites of exploration and inspiration for travel pieces that inform, persuade, and reflect. 

  • Experience adapting to various professional and public writing situations.
  • Work with reference librarians to develop research strategies.
  • Learn ethical standards for writing about a people and place.
  • Experiment with various personae and stances.
  • Practice logical reasoning when moving from draft to draft

Prerequisite: Successful completion (C- or higher) of WTNG 102
Fulfills the second of two University Core Curriculum requirements in the University Writing Program
Fulfills a course in the Professional and Public Writing Minor

WTNG 305: Writing the CityLimerick as Text
Professor: Paul Bender
Special Offering at University of Limerick, Ireland
Information about this Honors Study Abroad Program

In this course, students analyze and write about the campus, the city, and the experience of Ireland – complex, multilayered environments that include densely textured landscapes, platforms for creativity and innovation, sites of systemic injustice and political struggle, as well as homes, haunts, houses of worship, etc. Built upon the metaphor of the city-as-text, the course prompts students to explore – physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and rhetorically – the discourse communities encountered while abroad; the situatedness of knowledge; concepts such as nostalgia and homesickness; the relationships between design, identity, and power; questions of displacement/dislocation, representation (e.g., mapmaking), tourism, and globalization; and the creation of publics and counter publics. Readings may include selections from Paula Mathieu’s Tactics of Hope, Virginia Woolf’s “Street Haunting,” and Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life among others; and students write reflective essays, local histories/ethnographies, and participate in walking tours.

Prerequisite: Successful completion (C- or higher) of WTNG 102
Fulfills the second of two University Core Curriculum requirements in the University Writing Program
Fulfills a course in the Professional and Public Writing Minor

WTNG 320: Writing for Business Organizations
Professor: Mel Topf
Section 1: TTH: 8-9:20
Section 2: TTH 9:30-10:50

This course explores the causes of the success or failure of business communications. The course takes a case-based approach. Students will study the theory and practice of business communications as a pragmatic enterprise to accomplish actual change in the world. The course includes the study of the nature of domestic and global business communication, the causes and effects of communication failures, the social, legal, and ethical nature of professional communication, and the problems in determining the professional interests of readers.

Prerequisite: Successful completion (C- or higher) of WTNG 102
Fulfills the second of two University Core Curriculum requirements in the University Writing Program
Fulfills a course in the Professional and Public Writing Minor

Spring 2014

WTNG 299 (Special Topics) WRITING THE ORGANIZATION

In this course, we explore the notion of “talking or acting organizationally” through writing. The semester begins by considering how organizations “speak,” taking up the case studies of Ford Motor Company and Starbucks. Next, students will work toward creating their own rhetorical analysis of a chosen organization while practicing library and archival research skills. Finally, students will engage in a group project that asks them to practice organizational communication within the group setting by constructing memos coordinating each week’s goals for the group, engaging in public address via oral presentation, writing status reports, and ultimately turning in a proposal portfolio that brings the individual research papers of each member into a single multifaceted plan for dealing with the group’s chosen issue. 

Professor: Tim Johnson

T/TH 9:30-10:50 and 11:00-12:20

WTNG 311:  TECHNICAL WRITING

Students will learn how to apply fundamental concepts of effective technical writing that will prepare them for writing in industry, government, and other professional contexts.  Technical documents help move industry, government, and the professions.  The technical writer must make judgments about his or her audience, subject, and purposes that go far beyond transferring information.  Students will study key principles of rhetorical theory, the idea of genre and its purposes, and the concept of professional audience.  Technical documents may include feasibility studies, proposals, and policy statements.  Professor: Mel Topf.

T/TH 11:00-12:30

WTNG 322: ADVANCING PUBLIC ARGUMENT:  CITIZENS READING RHETORICALLY

Beginning with readings that offer definitions of rhetoric’s role in the public sphere itself, students read a wide range of historical and contemporary public discourses that have sought to advance persuasive arguments to the American citizenry.  By analyzing a variety of public genres (letters, photographs, speeches, film, statistics, art installations) with attention to the ways authors deploy the rhetorical appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos, students gain fluency as critically engaged citizens, able to participate in the reading, writing, and resisting of on-going public arguments.  Writing projects privilege student interest but emphasize critical analysis of visual, cultural, and quantitative rhetorics. 

Professor: Jennifer Campbell

M/TH 2:00-3:20