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PWR 1JU: Our House: Rhetoric of Community

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Catalog Number: PWR 1JU

Instructor: Julia Schulte

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: None

Course Feature: WR-1 requirement


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 feel comfortable practicing the thinking, reading, writing, and research skills that will help you succeed in your studies at Stanford and in life 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? How do our communities inform our thinking, guide our behavior, and define our identities? To help us explore this topic, we’ll read a small 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?

In this class, you’ll engage in an in-depth research and writing project spanning several weeks. I’ll encourage you to work on a topic that is interesting and/or important to you personally. For example, you might look into how gamers communicate with each other and propose inclusive language policies for a specific video game Twitch channel. Or, you might consider social life on campus and argue for the creation of a student club 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.

As you work on your projects, the main focus in our class meetings will be on HOW to do this work effectively. During the research phase we’ll explore the riches of Stanford’s library resources and we’ll try out active reading strategies to help process academic texts. During the writing phase we’ll break larger assignments into more manageable drafts and we’ll spend time learning how to give and receive effective feedback. In the end, you’ll have concrete strategies and skills to be a more confident and effective communicator about issues that are important to you.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) We’ll start by reviewing rhetorical concepts and in your essay you’ll introduce a text of your choice (an article, an image, a speech, an ad, etc.) and analyze and evaluate how the author’s rhetorical strategies express, build on, or challenge the concept of community.

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) This assignment marks the beginning of your research project. Here, you will identify and research a social issue relevant to your interests and connected to our course theme of community. You’ll analyze how different sources, voices, and perspectives inform the larger conversation about your topic.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) Your RBA is the final product of this course where your voice enters into the conversation. Here is where you’ll build on and expand the work you began with the Texts in Conversation assignment by integrating a variety of sources to produce your own complex, provocative argument as it relates to your topic.