Course Overview

ENGL 1101, Sections J5, G1, P2
Georgia Tech, Fall 2014

Lauren Neefe / Stephen C. Hall Building 009 (lower level)
Office hours: MWF 3:30–4:30pm or by appointment / 404.894.5011

Section J5
MWF 10:05–10:55am / Clough 123
Final: Fri., 12/12, 11:30am–2:20pm

Section G1
MWF 12:05–12:55pm / Clough 131
Final: Wed., 12/10, 11:30am–2:20pm

Section P2
MWF 1:05–1:55pm / Hall 106
Final: Fri., 12/12, 2:50–5:40pm

This introduction to multimodal communication and expression will emphasize the role of sound and listening in Georgia Tech’s WOVEN (Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal) approach to composition and critical thinking. Either taken for granted or else overshadowed by the visual, what we hear is crucial to understanding, misunderstanding, and making ourselves understood. Each of three units — on listening, silence, and speaking — will analyze primary (e.g., podcasts, film) and secondary sources (e.g., essays, blogs) as rhetorical models to be imitated and learned from as students develop an effective personal writing process as well as skills and strategies for effective communication across a variety of social milieus. The course prepares students to succeed in their academic work at Georgia Tech and provides the foundation for success in careers beyond the university.

I am a Romanticist by trade. That means I have a Ph.D. in English Literature, and it means that of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world of English literature, I chose to specialize my expertise in the culture, ideas, and writing of the Romantic period: that is, the turbulent, revolutionary, ambitious years between the American and French Revolutions (1776, 1789) and the institution of the Fugitive Slave Act in the United States (1850).

I am also a Romanticist in practice. This means that I want to help you cultivate, in Romantic poet John Keats’s inimitable words, your “negative capability,” that is, your tolerance for “being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” This is NOT to say that I want you to avoid “reaching after fact and reason.” Those two friends are essential elements of any successful rhetorical appeal. It IS to say that I want you to carve out space and time for taking risks in your thinking, your process, your writing, and your collaboration, because that uncomfortable space of uncertainty is precisely where you learn. Engineers and product designers like to call this space of risk taking “tinkering.” In this course, I will encourage you to develop this capacity for uncertainty both on your own and in your interactions with your peers. It is as important to me that you learn from one another what I can’t teach you as that you learn from me those things I absolutely can.

My greatest ambition for the course and for the class, therefore, is that you surprise me, you surprise yourself, and that we surprise one another with what we didn’t know we could think and do.

In addition to those outcomes determined by the Writing and Communication Program and Georgia Tech more generally (available for public viewing here), the following learning outcomes may be expected in this course:

  • An understanding of the usefulness and value of active listening to a variety of communication situations
  • An increased awareness of the rhetorical power of sound (i.e., sound makes arguments against and alongside images and words)
  • A developing sense of one’s voice, oral, written, and bodily
  • The cultural significance of standard, formal, and vernacular registers of a language

. The official handbook for Georgia Tech’s first-year composition sequence is available for purchase here or with a registration card through the campus bookstore. (ebook, $70)

Pascoe, Judith. The Sarah Siddons Audio Files: Romanticism and the Lost Voice. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 2011. Available at the campus bookstore. (paper, $26.95)

Dante. De vulgari eloquentia [On Eloquence in the Vernacular]. Trans. by Steven Botterill. Available free online at the Princeton Dante Project.

Additional readings will be made available on T-square.

You should plan to bring your laptop to class.

You should have access to the Microsoft Office software suite.

Software and resources for your pantomime slide show and podcast assignment are available in the media labs around campus.

The Writing and Communication Program at Georgia Tech teaches communication as a multimodal practice. In other words, we want you to develop a sense of communication as the synergy of several modes, assembled into the acronym “WOVEN,” which stands for Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, Nonverbal. You may therefore expect the activities and assignments in this course to engage you in rhetorical situations by way of several, but not necessarily all, of these modes. This course highlights the nonverbal and oral modes.

Written communication. You need to make writing your friend, and you need to learn how to get good at it. In this course, you’ll do a lot of different kinds of writing, directed at different kinds of audiences and structured around different purposes: blog posts, project proposals and abstracts, a sustained interpretive argument, a script for your podcast, and reflections on your process, strengths, and weaknesses for each. The final portfolio requires a 1,200- to 1800-word reflection on the work you did over the course of the semester. Your sense of what counts as “writing” will broaden and diversify.

Oral communication. You need to make speaking your friend, and you need to learn how to get good at it. In this course, you’ll be asked to speak effectively in a variety of situations while paying close attention to the way others speak. You’ll record an audio blog post, conduct peer reviews, participate in class discussion, speak briefly in front of the class to introduce a performance, and create a podcast dialogue about your “personal vernacular.”

Visual communication. You need to make design your friend, and you need to get good at making the form and the content of your arguments, in whatever mode or medium, work together. In this course, you’ll create a storyboard of communicative gestures, pantomime an argument in front of the class, think about how to tell when someone is listening, and curate a gallery of images (properly citing their sources if they aren’t yours) that visually plot your podcast.

Electronic communication. Software is probably already your friend, but you need to refine and advance your facility with the applications you know and expand your toolkit of applications. In this course, you will have the opportunity to learn the recording and editing software that enables you to make a podcast.

Nonverbal communication. You need to make sound and silence your friends, and you need to start getting comfortable in your body when it’s your turn to speak. You also need to become aware of your body when it’s your turn to listen to others speak and perform. In this course, you will perform a silent argument in front of the class, interpret how images advance arguments independently of words, think about how sounds advance arguments without words — and actively listen to your instructors and your peers throughout.