West Chester University

Spring 2006 and Fall 2005

West Chester University

Fall 2004and
Spring 2005

Spring 2003

Fall 2002

Spring 2002

Fall 2001






Course Syllabi and Announcements
  LIT 165 Syllabus
  LIT 165 Announcements and Assignments
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  WRT 120 Announcements and Assignments

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Spring 2008)
  A Reading of THE TEMPEST

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Rites of Passage (Spring 2006)
  Goals of the Course
  Fundamental Questions about Literature
  Valuing Literature
  Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Literature as ART
  Approaching the Art of Fiction
  Defining the Short Story
  Evaluating Short Fiction
  Craft of Fiction: PLOT
  Craft of Fiction: CHARACTER
  Small Group Exercise
  ARABY by James Joyce
  A note about GIRL
  POE and the art of STORY OF A HOUR
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Fiction and Ambiguity - Your Questions
  Writing Workshop - Short Fiction
  Poetry Journal Project Assignment Sheet
  Defining Poetry
  Reading Poetry
  The Craft of Poetry
  Drama and Tragedy
  Study Questions: DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Spring 2006)
  Paper #4 Assignment Sheet
  Critical Thinking and Commentary
  Casebook: Evaluating Sources Worksheet
  Selecting Information
  Evaluating Arguments
  CASEBOOK PROJECT Assignment Sheet
  Approaching Persuasive Writing
  Topic Development - Profile Essay
  Generating Ideas for the Profile Essay
  Paper #2 Assignment Sheet
  Profile Exercise
  Objective Writing: Selected Readings
  Writing Workshop: Paper #1
  Expressive Writing in the NYTimes
  Writing Effective Introductions and Conclusions
  Paper #1: IDENTITY
  Expressive Writing
  Open Letter Exercise and Examples
  EMERSON on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Literature related to IDENTITY
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Fall 2005)
  One Last Look at Imaginary Worlds
  Franz Kafka's BEFORE THE LAW
  Paper #3: Assignment Sheet
  Paper #4: Independent Project
  The Problem of Stability in BRAVE NEW WORLD
  Analyzing Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  Defining Utopia
  Embarking on Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  A Reading of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST
  From today's news (11/3/05)
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #2
  Goodbye to Dante's Imaginary World
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 10-34
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 1-10
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 32-34
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 18-31
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 12-17
  INFERNO: Structure
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 1-5
  INFERNO: Analyzing Canto 1
  Relating to Dante's Inferno
  Approaching Dante's DIVINE COMEDY
  A Little Help with Dante's INFERNO
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Responses to LEAF BY NIGGLE
  ON FAIRY STORIES: An Essay by Tolkien
  Notes on Axolotl
  Reading Ovid's Tales
  From Myth to Literature: Approaching Ovid's Tales
  Functions of the Genesis Tales
  Analyzing Mythic Tales
  Defining Mythology
  Filtering the Introduction to FANTASTIC WORLDS
  Commentary on LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI by Keats
  Commentary on DARKNESS by Byron
  Handout: Imagination Poems Set
  What is Imagination?
  Our Course Theme: Imaginary Worlds
  LIT 165 Assignments: Fall 2005
  LIT 165 Announcements: Fall 2005
  Imaginary Worlds: Course Syllabus

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Fall 2005)
  Paper #4: Independent Thinking/Reading/Writing
  Casebook Preparation Checklist
  Casebook Assignment Schedule
  Evaluating Sources for the Casebook
  Casebook Project Assignment Sheet
  Notes on Rational Argument
  Assignment Sheet: Objective Writing
  Reviewing Elements of the Profile Essay
  Writing the Profile Essay
  Readings: Objective Writing
  Assignment Sheet: Expressive Writing
  Rubric for Evaluation of Writing
  Emerson on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Mind-map: Identity
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Assignments Page
  Announcements Page
  WRT 120 Course Syllabus for Fall 2005

ENG Q20: Basic Writing

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library


What argument is not:
Mere contradiction
A nasty, winner-take-all fight
A shouting match
A popularity contest
A bully beating someone up
Dishonest rhetoric (what sounds good “wins” even if its invalid or illogical)
A propagandistic spectacle (the best manipulator “wins”)

What argument is:
A series of statements leading to a proposition
An open-minded debate; the most convincing case “wins”
The pursuit of truth; everybody who favors truth “wins”
A rhetorical strategy used to persuade audiences in an ethical manner
A claim made convincing by logical reasoning and evidence
What people do when they implicitly or explicitly disagree but need to negotiate an agreement
A strategy for exerting influence or expressing conviction
A reasonable disagreement among freely held
Your willingness to articulate your relationship to others who have taken a stand on an issue
Your position on an “arguable issue” (of substantiation, evaluation, or policy)
Your attempt to persuade your reader through use of “the appeals”—ethos, pathos, and logos

What is a “rhetorical stance” with respect to argument?
Trimbur: the way writers coordinate ethos (the writer’s character as projected in the text; personality; attitude; the writer’s credibility, fairness, authority), pathos (readers’ emotions, state of mind, intensity of belief as aroused by the text), and logos (the writer’s message; the force of the logical line of reasoning) as interrelated components in persuasive writing

What are the “parts of an argument”?
The claim
The logical reasoning and evidence in support of the claim
The presence of opposing views, the counterargument(s)
A refutation of opposing views, counterargument(s)

Terms to know (Trimbur): claim, evidence, enabling assumption, backing, differing views, and qualifiers

Critical Thinking

As you probably have realized, argumentation is an important “critical thinking skill.”  In fact, it is all the critical thinking skills rolled into one.  Argumentation teaches you to question, analyze, respond, evaluate, and synthesize.

All of these ways of responding to information involve critical thinking and problem solving.  When you argue a position you learn to examine the positions of others—the quality of their opinions, the quality of their logic, the fairness of their assumptions.  You also learn how to close the gap between you and those who are different from you—those who disagree with you—you learn to recognize and respect disagreement and you learn the value of establishing common ground.

Analyze the parts of the argument in the exchange of letters between Darcy Peters and Marcus Boldt (pp. 64-66). Explain each writer’s rhetorical stance by describing his/her use of the “three appeals” (pp. 75-76).

What image of Ms. Peters’ character is created by her letter? How would you describe her personality? Her attitude?  Does she seem fair? Authoritative? Credible?  Cite reasons why or why not.  Ask the same of Mr. Boldt’s character based on his letter.  What’s his personality, attitude, fairness, credibility?  

What emotions does Darcy Peters’ letter evoke?  Marcus Boldt’s?  Are these the emotions the writer intends, do you think?  

How would you sum up Darcy Peters’ message to Boldt?  Does she use a logical line of reasoning to make this message persuasive?  Explain. Analyze Boldt’s letter in the same way?  What’s his essential message? Is he logical in his response? 

Is the exchange of letters between Darcy Peters and Marcus Boldt an exercise in futility?

Trimbur says that the letter exchange between Peters and Boldt was a failure because neither side is likely to be convinced by the other.  What reasons do you think Trimbur would name if he were pressed to explain the reason for that failure further?  
Why isn’t Boldt persuaded by Peters’ letter, and why isn’t Peters likely to be persuaded by Boldt’s?  

  • Darcy Peters wants to write on behalf of all the families in her area, but her attention never wavers from her own situation.  She has no objective information that would help Boldt, who as an elected official needs to act on behalf of an entire community, see the larger picture.  She has only her personal case as evidence that this is a useful program.  It’s not convincing.  She assumes that Boldt should care about her, when his responsibility is to consider the needs of everyone in his community, not just her individual family.
  • Boldt claims to be speaking on behalf of “all taxpayers” while at the same time he makes it clear he only has the concerns of the people who voted for him in mind.  Other times he seems to hide his own views behind the anonymous mask of “the taxpayer.”  Both of these evasions make him seem disingenuous.  He floats seamlessly back and forth between speaking for the “taxpayers” and for his “constituency” (which aren’t exactly the same group).  Worse, Boldt’s assumptions about Peters and her family are offensive; his tone is insulting and degrading.  

The biggest reason is that the they make no effort to acknowledge their differences and find common ground.  They are working from completely different assumptions which need to be negotiated.

Neither writer makes his/her assumptions clear, but they can be summed up as follows:

  • Peters assumes that everyone (“other families”) should have equal access, equal opportunity to education enrichment.  She considers that her family’s lack of access to educational opportunities which other do have access to puts her in a compromised position; she reports feeling like a “victim” of the system.  The system isn’t working for her but against her.  The “haves” can choose to pay their way, the “have-nots” can choose to can apply for assistance, but the “have-a-little-but-not-enoughs” have no choices available to them.  This leaves her with a sense that the system is unfair.
  • Boldt assumes, on behalf of the “taxpayers,” that Darcy Peters and her family have arrived at their situation by choice and because they have been irresponsible, obstinate, lazy, and maybe even stupid.  He implies that she and her family have been freeloading.  (“What arrangements have you made to repay this program at some future date?”)  In the name of his “constituency” (not all the taxpayers, but just the ones who voted for him),  he implies that tax dollars have been wasted and that his mandate from the voters is to slash programs that provide “no discernable return” on taxpayers’  investment.  The Peters family may want the same educational opportunities  that others have, but they don’t need the same educational opportunities that others have.

Not until these kinds of differences are acknowledged and clarified can either side begin to negotiate and find common ground.  Once Darcy Peters becomes more aware that Boldt has to consider the whole picture, the whole community, she might find more effective ways to argue that the Readiness to Learn Family Learning Center is a worthwhile program that deserves continued funding because it benefits the whole community.  She will realize she needs to provide evidence that other families have benefited, not just her own.  She’ll see the need to present factual evidence that the families who do benefit are giving back to the community in various ways—that there is a “return on the investment.”  Such a letter would have a much better chance of being persuasive.

I’m not sure if it’s possible for Boldt to change the kinds of assumptions he’s making about Darcy Peters and her family. The prejudices he expresses are probably deep-seated and difficult to budge.  But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t address them head on and refute them as best as one can.  Is the Peters family an irresponsible, obstinate, lazy, stupid pack of freeloaders?  Probably not.  If you’re aware that your opposition is likely to prejudge you or your position in that harsh a way, if you see that coming, you can take some steps to fend it off, to acknowledge and refute those perceptions before they assemble themselves into an impenetrable barrier.  






Questions? Contact me.

All materials unless otherwise indicated are copyright © 2001-2008 by Stacy Tartar Esch.

The original contents of this site may not be reproduced, republished, reused, or retransmitted
without the express written consent of Stacy Tartar Esch.
These contents are for educational purposes only.