Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1122
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
L13 203 The Sentence in English
Though it might seem mysterious why some kinds of writing are more effective than others, there is a technique for investigating how writing works at the level of the sentence. The Reed-Kellogg system of diagramming is a method of learning grammar and syntax by creating “pictures” of individual sentences. These diagrams show the logical relations between words, phrases, and clauses, and they illustrate the choices writers are making as they craft individual sentences. Using a recent book that extends and enlarges upon the Reed-Kellogg system, we will diagram sentences both famous and ordinary, both contemporary and of historical interest. Our aims will be (1) to learn the principles of the Reed-Kellogg system such that we are able to diagram any written or spoken “sentence” in English; (2) to use this knowledge to analyze how writers shape arguments at the sentence level, and how they achieve particular styles; and (3) to practice crafting and revising our own prose. Diagramming will help students understand how they can make their own writing more powerful, effective, and clear.
L13 3112 Writing and Medicine
For students interested in writing about health, illness, and medical care. The readings in this course will be essays, journalism, and personal narratives about the experience of patients and physicians in the modern health care system, including classic pieces by Susan Sontag, Richard Selzer, and Oliver Sacks. We will look closely at the form, diction, argumentative strategies, structure, and figurative language in these texts, with the aim of learning the techniques that make for effective writing. Students will use expository writing to think critically and personally about their own experiences with illness and disease. Frequent writing assignments, both long and short, will allow students to work intensively on their own writing, and peer review sessions will focus on strategies for substantive revision. Prereqs: Writing 1 and junior standing.
L14 391 Literature and Medicine
Because illness, disease, pain, and fear of death are essential features of the human condition, these themes frequently appear in major literary works, a survey of which we will read in this class. We will focus especially on the suffering, helplessness, insight, and enlightenment experienced by both the ill and those who care for them. Works responding to the devastating plagues in the medieval and early modern periods hold especial interest for those studying illness and medicine; we will read works on plague by Boccaccio, Chaucer, and Defoe, with Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor providing a starting point for our analysis. Two twentieth-century novels—The Plague, by Camus, and Blindness, by José Saramago—will show us the additional imaginative possibilities of plague as metaphor and allegory. We will also read shorter works of fiction by Tolstoy, Mann, Chekhov, Eliot, Gilman, and Porter, as well as Edson’s play W;t. Students will be encouraged to consider how illness, disease, and fear of death affect both individual human beings and entire societies. Prerequisite: Writing 1.
L14 472 History of the English Language
Though many English-speakers celebrate the prospect that English might become the “global language,” others around the world question whether this particular language—with its incoherent spelling rules, its confusing retention of some principles of inflection, and its history as a language used by colonizers—can and should achieve that status. In this course we will learn why English contains words like “won’t,” “its,” and “whom,” and how it happened that spelling and pronunciation parted ways. We will look at how the Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman invasions of Britain influenced the development of the language. By looking at primary materials such as dictionaries and grammar books, we will learn how seventeenth- and eighteenth-century grammarians continue to have an influence on how the English language is written and spoken today.
- L13 312 Argumentation
- L14 211C Chief English Writers
- L14 2151 Early Texts and Contexts
- L14 312 Medieval Allegory