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PWR 1JU: Our House: Rhetoric of Community

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Maybe you’re excited, or nervous, or unsure about your first year at Stanford. All of these (and more!) are common reactions to moving into an unfamiliar community. In this course we will work together to build a collaborative classroom community where you will practice the thinking, reading, writing, and research skills that will help you succeed in your studies at Stanford and beyond. The theme of our course will be the concept of community and its importance in our personal and collective lives. Soccer players, Catholics, furries, death metal fans, Californians, gardeners, and socialists; all of us belong to numerous communities some of which overlap, some which never intersect, and some of which are in tension with one another. Some of the questions we’ll discuss are: What is community? Who belongs? Who doesn’t? Why or why not? How do the communities we belong to inform our thinking, guide our behavior, and define our identities? Do our communities teach us to talk, and does the way we talk impact our communities? To help us explore this topic, we’ll read a selection of anthropological and cultural texts, but I’ll also ask you to consider your own experiences: What communities have you left behind to join Stanford? Which social and/or academic communities are you excited to explore and possibly join? What communities do you want to change or create?

As we discuss these ideas, we’ll also talk about HOW to do this work effectively. We’ll try out active reading strategies to help process academic texts, we’ll break larger essays into more manageable drafts, we’ll spend time learning how to give and receive effective feedback, and we’ll explore the riches of Stanford’s research resources. In the end, you’ll hopefully have concrete strategies and skills to be a more confident and effective writer. 

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) In a few short reading and writing tasks, you’ll practice identifying and analyzing rhetorical situations and appeals and writing rhetorical précis (a specific kind of summary). In your essay you’ll introduce a text of your choice (an article, an image, a speech, an ad, etc.) and evaluate how the author’s rhetorical strategies express the concept of community. For example, you might describe how Stanford represent itself on its website and what kinds of students it wants to attract, or you might explore who is included in the “we” Donald Trump uses in his inaugural address. 

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) For this paper, you’ll identify a social issue relevant to your interests and connected to our course theme of community, conduct secondary and possibly primary research to inform yourself about this issue, and construct a literature review making connections between these sources in order to provide an account of the current state of conversation about your issue. 

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) Using the information and insight you gained from the Texts in Conversation assignment, you will write a persuasive essay aimed at an audience/community of your choice. You might argue that a specific video game Twitch channel ought to revise its language guidelines to be more inclusive, you might argue for the creation of a new student club on campus to give space to a neglected student demographic, or you might have ideas for how to update the UN charter to bring the organization into the 21st century.